There we sat in her childhood bedroom, except it was no longer purple like mine. In fact, it felt like her entire house changed. New pictures on the walls, new appliances in her kitchen. I felt like a stranger in the house I grew up going to every day.
You never realize you start to drift away from someone you love until you reconnect and rekindle the old flame. This feeling hit me recently as I started seeing my best friend from my childhood more often this past week.
We’d been best friends since fourth grade. We would ring each other’s doorbells to ask if we could play outside every day, sleepover at each other’s houses every weekend, sit next to each other on the school bus every morning, go on walks together every evening, gush over cute boys in our classes, paint each other’s nails — anything and everything you would think a pair of best friends would do. It felt like I had found my person. Imagine lighting a match and immediately seeing the flame appear, how bright that flame shines — that’s how the friendship felt. Bright and exciting.
High school came around, and suddenly we were no longer at each other’s houses every day. We weren’t texting each other everyday, playing outside, going on walks, talking about our crushes, painting each other’s nails. There wasn’t any of that anymore. We were still friends, don’t get me wrong, but the flame was starting to burn out right in front of us. Looking back, I never knew what triggered the flame to start dwindling. Some days I think to myself that maybe it was because we both got busy. We had rigorous course loads in school, we were applying to college and extracurricular activities took up a huge portion of our time too. Other days I think it was because we met new people. She’s a year older than me, so both of us were in different grades and made friends in our own classes and wanted to strengthen those relationships. It’s almost impossible to pinpoint when and why exactly things started drifting apart, and not knowing, for me, is the worst part. Why did the flame start to die out?
Then we both got to college. I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and she moved to Mount Pleasant, Michigan. We rarely texted each other and we rarely were home on the same weekends. She just turned into someone I followed on Instagram, someone who would slide up on my Snapchat stories. The flame was on its last legs. Again, we were college students living in different cities, and we needed time for our work and our extracurriculars. We also needed time to strengthen the relationships we were creating in our new homes. Though weak, I was hopeful the flame would persist.
But the match completely burned out. The flame was dead.
I kept telling myself that we were on good terms, we were just busy. I was making excuses to myself that everything was fine with our friendship when in reality we were turning into strangers right before our eyes. The reality of it didn’t hit me until all of a sudden she was in a relationship, and I found out through Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for her, but I felt like that’s something you would tell your friend in person instead, or at least over a text message, phone call or FaceTime call, not an Instagram story. Did she not think of me as a friend anymore? I couldn’t be mad at her though because I caught myself doing the same thing. I started trying new things, meeting new people and immediately showed the world on social media. It didn’t even cross my mind to text her anything about what was happening in my life and she didn’t text me anything about what was going on with her. We both moved along with our day-to-day lives without batting an eye at each other. We met new people, went on trips without each other and ultimately, we weren’t the ones in each other’s houses every weekend anymore.
The flame stayed dead. The most contact we had with each other was via social media, just viewing each other’s pictures, stalking the new friends we were tagging, occasionally sliding up on each other’s stories. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that we started talking to each other again. Out of the blue, she invited me to spend the night at her house on Halloween, just like old times. I was hesitant, of course. I didn’t know what to think of it. But we both had tested negative for COVID-19 and were both free that weekend. Plus, we were, at the very least, acquaintances. I decided to go, and immediately I felt out of place. Her house looked completely different, so unlike the home I spent every weekend at in fourth grade. But the night progressed, and I slowly started feeling comfortable again. The hours kept passing by, and we started opening up. We started with the shallow stuff: “I tried a new restaurant!” “I went to my first college football game!” And then it all vomited out of us. Everything we hadn’t told each other came spewing out of each of us. By the end of it all, we were in tears. She looked at me and said “Smarani, I thought you hated me.” I started sobbing even more. How could I hate you? If only you knew the number of nights I’ve stayed up tossing and turning, wondering what went wrong, and why I couldn’t manage to keep the flame. The number of sleepless nights I’ve spent silently shedding tears because I missed my best friend. The only words I managed to get out were “I thought you hated me.” We embraced each other, our tears staining each other’s shirts. I was able to get a good night’s sleep that night.
It’s impossible to relight a match that has been burned out. In the same way, it’s impossible to ever go back to the stage of friendship we were once at. We had drifted so far apart that at this rate, who knows how long it would be until we would get back to that stage. The fact that we’re getting older doesn’t help either. She’s getting ready to relocate for an internship. I’m working on my passion projects and taking classes over the summer. It’s a hard pill to swallow. But we’re both ready to try and take the baby steps necessary to get as close as we can to where we once were. Although we’ve grown up to be different now, we both want to go back to how it once was. Back to talking about our crushes again, taking trips together, painting each other’s nails and going back to spending every weekend at each other’s houses.
MiC Columnist Smarani Komanduri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org