What is a best friend when you’re 31 years old? Is it your friend you see once a week to drink margaritas and gossip about work? Is the person who always says yes to every party invitation? Is it the friend that keeps inviting you even though you keep having to say no (Don’t give up on me, friend!)? Is it the one who visits once a year for a weekend of “You know, inside I feel like I’m still twenty-one but MY GOD THIS HANGOVER”?
I’m not sure what a best friend is, but, god, do I feel lucky to have these amazing people who take up so much room in my little heart.
Two weekends ago my friend, Carla, flew up from Austin. We realized we’ve been friends for almost a decade. The end of this summer will mark ten years since I returned to Abilene from spending the summer in Guatemala. Luckily my closest group of friends at the time created a bible study and kept kicking me out of their house to pray. If they hadn’t provided me this holy ejection, I never would have walked next door to hang out with the girl one of them had started dating.
Carla was baking and welcomed me in. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember that it wasn’t long before we were sharing our stories, me sitting on her counter top and her whizzing around her flour and eggs and oven. I remember the smell of brownies that filled the whole kitchen and the yellow heat of the West Texas afternoon which fought it’s way into the window above the sink. I remember the feeling of discovering a new friend’s laugh. I remember after weeks of feeling like my friends didn’t want me around, Carla listened to me, laughing at my jokes, reflecting on what was happening with me, talking to me like I mattered.
It’s ten years later, and almost every time Carla and I are around each other feels like the first day in that Abilene kitchen. We talk. We laugh. We dig in to the tough parts of our lives, and we find a way to make each other feel safe, to feel the promise of the future, to keep each other afloat. And now we need no time at all to fall right back in to that place. You don’t know what a friend like that can feel like until you’ve held on tight to them for ten years.
A ten year old friend can remind you what you’ve been through. Almost every time we’re together Carla and I bring up all the old stories, not just because we love them, but because they remind us of who we are, a collection of everything we’ve each been through. Every time I’m with Carla we talk about that night I ran down the beach on that Panamanian island, ripping off all my clothes and throwing myself at the moon before falling into the ocean. I remind her of the time we stayed up all night while she was so sick and chugging barium for a medical scan because so much was happening all at once in her body, and how she drank and drank and taught me how to hold it all together. She reminds me of the afternoon I came out to her. She always jokes because it was her birthday and somehow I made it all about me. But I remember her kindness, the space she made for me knowing she was the first friend I told. She let me have that night and helped me put my flag in the ground and claim that day as the first of a more honest living.
Now we talk about our senior year of college, how it felt like the biggest year of our lives and how we look back and can’t even measure it in the distance.
I don’t know what a Best Friend is, but the best kind of friend can see you and help you see yourself. The best kind of friend doesn’t just show up, they show up looking for you, and when they see you, they let you know how magnificent it is that they found you again.
Thanks for always finding me, Carla.