With forty-four ounces of diet soda apiece we’d make our way out of the county, sometimes, twice a week. And the way she drank hers annoyed me and I tried not to do it, and vowed never to drink like her. And I think that day, as I sipped from the straw in the center of my mouth, she stopped being my only friend.
It was a small and not so gradual change. From friend to not friend, fueled and fanned by the extensive amounts of time I spent with her. Time that before we were both glad to share that was becoming a loathed thing somewhere between habit and punishment. We endured, and since I couldn’t so easily tell her what was wrong, I made up other reasons to for being estranged. Maybe I wasn’t even sure for myself why I needed to push her away. But every mangled sentence reminded me of my own. Every gesture that spoke of ignorance and poverty were not just hers but mine. And then I thought of the others.
I thought of the people whose life she had touched and who had become her over time and I feared being one of them. Feared losing myself to what they called family. And so I changed and rejected things that were important to her in the name of individuality, behind the mask of innocent curiosity. And she rejected my rejection and said that she loved me. And she spoke of how I used to be her only friend and how there must be a God. And I agreed but looked longer at the sunset than she did. Expecting it to be my only friend. And I became angry with her for finding fault in the way I live. And I lived in secret and only out loud when I knew she was listening. And I threw my rejection at her like the Bible. And I was angry because she had God, and mother had me, and Cherol had Omar, and I had nothing. And I was cherished simply for my obedience. And I hated being lauded for being the blind sheep, for following. I dyed my wool black and took myself to a city where there are no mountains to drive down from. And I became New York and embodied those things my family had stood against for years.
And I dared them to stand against me. The black sheep never cries wolf. He listens to noise, reads filth, and participates in grand orgies of psuedo-politics and unmerited complaints. Some complaints were merited, I admit. But, I made new friends. In bottles and vials and strangers’ pillows I found sunsets. And she only hoped that God would find me.
It’s hard not to be her friend anymore. This calls for a new kind of love. One that is void of car rides and laden with secrecy, double standards, and phone calls. And I miss being her friend; but hate car rides, and dogma, and things she gives that can’t be eaten or spent. It’s okay, though, real loves is never dependent on getting along. It was about four years before she realized what had happened to me; that I had left her behind. Or at the very least, it had been four years before she mentioned anything of it to me.
Finally the mistrust that was only ever alluded to in high school, when we lived together, was purged in an emotional tirade of spit and tears and silence. And I thought then, how she used to be my friend, and felt like she still was. And when I allowed her to go from stranger to friend, I was able to label her anger as betrayal. She became the friend that called me a liar, the friend that accused me of stealing. And I cried and denied.
I told her that she was no longer my friend, and she reminded me that she used to be my only friend. I blacklisted her and told her and made my once best friend into an acquaintance with which I dealt with as infrequently as possible. And I loved my acquaintance immensely.