Friday, November 16, 2007

When It Happens

People come and go during our lives. Some people come and you wonder how you ever survived before them. Some people go and you're left standing there wondering what the hell happened. And then there's the group that started out as those people who made you wonder what you would do without them and end up leaving you without a clue to explain their absence. It's this kind that seems to stick with you the most. If it hasn't happened to you yet, I'm sorry to report that it will someday.

Sometimes, nothing happens that causes these special people to leave your life for good. Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes things add up, and sometimes things blow up. Maybe you both stopped talking and sharing things, and then you both have the responsibility. Maybe just one of you stopped communicating. Maybe someone moved. Maybe someone else came into their life who was more important than you. Sometimes, these things can't be helped, but most of the time, I think they can.

I'm thinking of a friend who I'm going to call Sally. I met Sally in the spring of 1989. Her family had just moved into the newest house on my street. Brenda and I and one other of our friends had taken it upon our young selves to knock on the doors of the people who were knew to the neighborhood and welcome them. This was a clever way of finding out if there were any children new to the neighborhood who could be our friends. I certainly don't recommend doing this in this day and age! But back then, us kids felt safe in our own small neighborhood. Whether it's true or not, it should feel safe.

Anyway, we had watched them move in and knew there was someone there who appeared to be our age. A couple days after the moving trucks had come and gone, we gathered after school, when we knew they would be home, and boldly knocked on the door. "Welcome to the neighborhood" we sang as Sally's mom answered. Sally's mom looked overjoyed to see the three of us standing there. She invited us into her box-infested home and introduced us to Sally. I was quite happy to meet her. You know, sometimes when kids gather in threes (also in uneven numbers in general) how two will essentially gang up on the third? That happened quite a bit with me and my friends. I somehow felt that a fourth person would stop the other two from singling me out. That did work, to a point.

Sally and I became great friends. We played badminton and tennis in the back yard and were on the same Boys and Girls Club soccer team for several seasons. People used to ask us if we were twins because we looked so much alike. We loved those moments, and how astonished those people were to discover we weren't even related. She was the sister I never had.

I was never in the same school as Sally. She had gone to private schools and I went to public schools until high school. Of course, we went to different private high schools. I guess it was here when our relationship really started to change, but I wouldn't admit it for another twelve years.

When I learned that Sally was going to the same university as I, I was overjoyed. We couldn't room together in her first year, but we did for the rest of my three. Several things happened during those four years that should have been clues to me that Sally and I didn't have the great friendship we did when we were younger, but it wasn't until her bridal shower in 2006 that it really hit me that I didn't know her anymore. And it also hit me that it started in high school. That's a long time to be believing I had this great friendship that I really didn't have, and I'm still not sure exactly what went wrong. I don't think it was something I could have prevented.

I don't talk to Sally anymore. Once I realized she was like a stranger to me, it didn't seem worth it to pursue. Sure, I miss her. Some days I miss her a whole lot. But then I realize that the friend that I am missing so much isn't really the friend that I had. I lied to myself about it for years. Too long, because it really is a silly thing to hold on to something that isn't there anymore. I wonder how many things I would have done differently if I had noticed that sooner.

I will always love Sally. I will love the image I had of her and I will love woman she became too. But circumstances beyond my control put us on different paths.

Sometimes, that's just the way it has to be.

No comments :