We were friends for almost as long as I’ve known myself. We’d finish each other sentences. Even from across the room at a glance we read each other’s mind and would often burst into spontaneous giggling when a teacher or fellow classmate said something we both thought was utterly stupid.
I remember us disguising Mills & Boon and Harlequin novels by wrapping and deceptively labelling them as our current literature books for fear of incurring the wrath of our St Hilda’s teachers. I remember us walking hand in hand and sitting right next to each other the very day after our form teacher cautioned our parents that we must be separated because together we were trouble.
We have celebrated each other’s success as if each were our own. We embarked on fad diets together, we abandoned fad diets together. When we had money, we were rich together. When we were broke, we were poor together. We studied together, even lived together.
We knew each other’s secrets. We still know each other’s secrets. Secrets we’d never dare to reveal even if tortured to death. In college, I remember how you tried to shield me from the fact that my then boyfriend was outside in his car with another of our girlfriends. I remember our inside joke and how we’d smirk at the widely shared rumour that I had a boyfriend on Chancellor Hall when in truth I was merely swapping rooms so that you and your boyfriend would be left alone. To this day many people still think that I was his girlfriend.
Together, we embarked on many adventures. I remember the pranks we use to pull at UWI, calling poor unsuspecting males on various blocks convincing them to traverse halfway across campus in a futile attempt to meet up with a fictitious secret admirer. Not to mention how we’d struggle to control our laughter as we secretly followed and watched them wait in anticipation then disappointment and sometimes anger as they dejectedly made the trek back to their blocks.
I remember the crazy parties; you helping me to shop for my first “batty rider” (shorts); you holding my hair back as I threw up from consuming too much rum at our college “Drink Up” (party) and later making and feeding me soup as I recovered from my first hangover. I remember the clothes we swapped or permanently borrowed. I remember our malice (or rather you refusing to speak to me for almost a year) and then our make-up as if nothing had happened.
You were my best friend. Rather, they were my best friends for in the above, I describe not one but several women who have been great friends; friends with whom I’ve experienced many of the most extraordinary moments of my life. Women, I will always hold dear to my heart, even though for some, our friendships are now lost or so broken they could never go back to what they once were.
For no matter how we try to comfort ourselves or make light of the situation, when we lose someone we once considered a true friend, one we may have loved like a sister, it’s like losing a bit of ourselves. We can feel our hearts break.
The reality of lost friendships hits home when I scroll through Facebook or Instagram and realise that but for social media, I’d have no clue what was going on in the lives of people who were once my closest friends, my BFFs. In those moments, I often experience deep nostalgia, almost wishing I could go back in time and mend our friendships. When did we grow so far apart? Was it when you moved away? When we got new jobs? When we got married? When we started our own families? When I felt you hurt me or when you thought I betrayed you? I don't remember.
And then reality sinks in. Some people are really only meant to be in our lives for seasons. Not everyone was meant to be in our world forever. People change or drift away and like any other relationship, friendships sometimes fall apart.
It has taken me a while, but I’ve come to realise that losing my friends doesn’t make me a bad person. It also doesn’t make the lost friendship any less meaningful. My best friends, the women I described above, have all helped to shape me into the woman I am today. I’ve learnt from them. I’ve cried with them. I grew up with them and they have impacted my life in many different ways. I cherish and hold dear to my heart those friendships that I still have today. I treasure the memories of those that I have lost.
But most importantly, I’ve simply learned to love and let go.