What Happens When You Outgrow Your Childhood Best Friend


She said her name meant “in Christ” as she took another drag from her cigarette, the eyeliner around her eyes making her look like a raccoon.

“What a fucking joke, right?” She laughed as she reached for cup shared between us — rum and coke mixed, always just enough so her parents wouldn’t notice us taking it.

Our legs dangled off the edge of the dock, a frog croaking somewhere in the distance, the stars filling the sky and circling before our eyes. The drink was too strong. She’d poured in a lot this time, filling the bottle with water so her parents wouldn’t know. Smoke tendrils twisted above us. She flicked the ashes into the water. I thought about how some poor fish was probably going to eat them. It made me laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. I’m drunk.”

“God, I wish I were. When are our lives going to get fun?”

This was always the question with us. When are we going to have something to do other than drive around late at night, screaming at the top of our lungs to our favorite songs? When are we going to stop having older guys buy us cigarettes and rationing them between the two of us? (Better yet, when will we stop coughing every time we take a hit of those cigarettes?) When will we get hot boyfriends? When will our lives be like the movies?

We wanted to try drugs. We wanted to get drunk at real parties. We wanted fast. We wanted fun. We wanted too much. We wanted crazy. We wanted something, goddammit. And we deserved it, didn’t we, for the hell we put up with? We wanted chaos. We wanted stories to tell.

“I don’t think my name means anything,” I told her, draining the rest of the cup, loving the way it burnt on its way down my esophagus. I wondered if I was actually drunk. Probably not.

“It has to mean something. Everything has a meaning.”

“I guess.”

“Let’s go to bed,” she said, rolling her eyes at her cellphone, which had remained dormant all night. “I’m tired and clearly we aren’t going to do anything tonight.”

The next morning we got up around noon, made banana pancakes, and lay out on the boat. We fell asleep in the sun and got angry sunburns. Then she took me home, because she had her license and I didn’t. I’d owe her once I got mine. We’d always take my car. She got to choose the music, though. I didn’t care. One night we listened to the same song on repeat the whole thirty-minute drive from my house to hers. Just because it, “spoke to her.”

“Do you get what I’m saying?” she asked, brushing the hair out of her face. The windows were down and the sun was setting. It had just rained, and the back roads were covered in water. Sometimes songs just connect with your soul. And it’s like they were written specifically for you.

I did know what she was saying. But I still wasn’t even sure what the lyrics to the song were, even after listening to it ten times. I shrugged though. If she thought it spoke to her, then it spoke to her.

This was our lives our sophomore and junior years. Smoking 27s in her car, driving around at night, wishing for something more. Whenever I remember high school, I’ll remember her. Remember the way she laughed at her own jokes, which no one else seemed to really understand but me. Remember the way she cut all her hair off into a short, boy cut, which again, no one understood but me. Remember the way she always had the coolest clothes. Remember the time we drove an hour away to buy her a black and green corset that she never actually wore. Remember the time we stole money from her dad to buy food and gas and drove until we were lost. Remember the time she stole her dad’s credit card, that mischievous smile on her face when she said, “Wanna do something crazy?” Remember that time she swore my house was haunted and stayed up all night waiting while I slept peacefully. Remember the time we ran around a graveyard, breathing in the dead night air, wondering what kind of lives these people lived. Remember the time we crawled through a drainage tunnel, swearing to God it was either haunted or a homeless person lived in it. Remember the time the cops yelled at us for being in the park past 11. Remember the times we were late for curfews. Remember the time her parents found her lighter. She swore it was for candles. Remember the time we jumped into her lake butt-ass naked. Remember the time we pretended we were in a band and had fake interviews with Rolling Stone Magazine. Remember the time we made a list of everything bad that had happened to us, everything we hated about ourselves, everything that made us ashamed, and we burned it, saying we were going to let it go?

Remember the time she got her first boyfriend and ditched me at the movie theaters to make out with him. Remember the time she told me I didn’t understand because I was a year younger. Remember the time she got pissed at me because I was hanging out with other people. Remember the time I told her we all didn’t have rich daddies to steal money from. Remember the time she bought we that ugly bag I pretended to like. Remember the time she moved the picture frame I made for her to make room for pictures of her boyfriend. Remember the time that boyfriend hated me and hated when she hung out with me. Remember the time I became not enough. Remember the time we went a whole year and half without hanging out. Remember the time we became strangers. Remember the time I barely knew her because her boyfriend wouldn’t let her know anyone but him.

So one day I was walking through my college campus when I saw her from afar. And I became ashamed, because such a large part of me wanted to run away. This girl used to be the best friend I ever had. She’d seen me cry. She knew my fears. She knew my secrets. And I hers. We shared pieces of our soul. We got each other through all the messed up shards of our lives. This was the girl who taught me to not give a shit. This was the girl who taught me how to misbehave. This was the girl who taught me that it was okay to be yourself and to say “fuck you” to the world if it thought otherwise. This was the girl that wanted to die young so she could be a beautiful corpse. This was the girl who wanted to lose her virginity at 17, because it was a magical age, she said. This was the girl who made lies feel real. This was my best friend, forever. And I wanted to run from her.

The thing is, despite all of those necklaces we bought in eighth grade, the broken heart pieces that claimed we’d be “best friends forever”, forever doesn’t really exist. We grew up together, but not the same. I thought she had outgrown me, but the reality of it was, I’d outgrown her, too. There was once a time where we were so similar, it was scary, but I was hardly that person anymore. It took me a long time to realize this. Some friendships, no matter how real and enduring they might seem in that moment, belong only to that moment. We blame ourselves; wonder where we went wrong, what we could have done to change it, but the truth is we couldn’t have done anything.

We were exactly what we needed then, but not now. Sometimes things are better left perfectly in the past.

That night that we burnt the pieces of paper that held our every fear, she saved the best for last. The fear that she’d never be loved. We let them burn, watching in silence the whole time. It really didn’t do anything. She was still constantly afraid, insecure. The gesture was nice, but we still had all that shit inside of us. But, that day, as I watched her walk towards class, I had a strange desire to burn a list just one last time.