Dear Friends Who Didn’t Stay,
I don’t know where you are right now, but wherever you may be physically, on whichever continent, whatever city or town, and wherever you may be in life, blissfully wandering or rooted, I hope you are well in mind, body and spirit.
I don’t know why, but at some point life pushed us in different directions, or we chose to part ways.
I don’t know how, but somehow you’re now a person I used to know, someone I used to laugh with and have inside jokes with, and now you are someone who crosses my mind maybe just a few times a year, maybe, or perhaps less, or possibly more, or not, and always at random times, or monumental times, like a pandemic, where the world is crouching into itself and suddenly feeling very small and very collected.
We used to smoke in cars together. Make music. Take fuzzy photos of each other on those early-day cell phones from the early 2000’s. Or even before that, we used to play snake on those small fat Nokias. Remember those?
We used to sit around a make-shift table on a building roof for hours at night where we’d occasionally glance up at the stars, or our watches, and in those moments (I don’t know about you) I wondered what would become of us years from then, and if those stars knew that secret.
We danced together, cooked together, shared mix-tapes on CDs, shared taxis, shared secrets, drank till all the bottles were empty and all our vulnerabilities shone on our skin like sweat. Here, look at me, we’d say to each other in this haze; look at me because I love you and want to be seen and loved by you in return. We always texted or called each other the next day or week because we were friends. We wanted to know when we could do it all over again.
We were friends and now we are strangers.
Mere photographs in a Facebook profile.
And we barely have any photographs together, if any, because that’s not what we used to do back in the day… back in those wonderful pre-social media days, which, because they were so undocumented, feel more like dreams.
I don’t know how or why, but the stars continued to move across the skies as we moved out of each other’s lives, physically at first then mentally then emotionally, then… suddenly we didn’t have each other’s phone numbers (or no longer felt a pull to use them), and the years layered on and on, and our absence in each other’s lives became new soil for new people to take root, and stay.
We’re no longer planning the next time we will meet. No longer seeking each other’s advice or opinions. We’re simply, no longer. Not because you or I were bad friends to one another, but because that’s just life.
And even though I don’t know you anymore, I do sometimes miss the “used to be” of us that we were for a time, even if it was only meant to be for that time. We shaped each other, and whether we realize it or not our impressions still live in each other’s minds. We had such good conversations.
One day we might pass one another on a street, or not, and the spark of familiarity will flicker in the form of shock and maybe even adrenaline, or not. And what is that spark of familiarity but a mirage of the past? Like the faint scent of baked bread that lingers in a kitchen long after the bread has been eaten.
It’s not a longing that I feel for you, dear “used to be” friend, because even if we were to meet again we couldn’t possibly connect like we did before because you and I are no longer that you and me of yesterday. Too much space and time has swelled between us; we didn’t grow together we grew apart, and that’s the difference between a friend who stays and a friend who doesn’t. Friends who stay can grow separately but not apart.
But again, it’s nobody’s fault.
We’ve been moved by different years, events, and people. What we need from friendship today is different from what we needed yesterday. And that’s okay. It is how it should be.
I only want you to know that I’m thankful for the person you once were in my life, however it is we parted ways, intentionally or consciously or not. You’ll always be a part of my story, a part of cherished memories that I go back to from time to time, at random moments, or epic ones, for no reason at all, or for specific reasons, where I wonder, in a fleeting moment that lasts as long as a birthday candle’s flame: how are they today?
(And yes, some years I do remember you on your birthday.)
I hope you are well.
Your Friend Who Didn’t Stay