At what point does a friend become a best friend?
Is it measured by how well the two friends connect? Or is it simply by the amount of time the two spend together?
If it is the latter, then I would like to tell you about my very special, long-lost best friend.
You see, he was not always my best friend. In fact, he had had a lot of best friends. I mean, a lot. He was the type of guy who you always saw hanging out with a different person. It was like he got tired of one particular clique—or perhaps they got tired of him—and then he was on to the next group. As if he always needed someone fresh, someone different—a brand-new sucker to latch onto.
And if you haven’t guessed it, that sucker just happened to be yours truly.
I met my best friend in the prime of my middle school years, around the age of 11 or 12. I often saw him around school, but he was not of any interest to me. He seemed rather fictional—if that makes any sense. People talked about him a good bit, and I would always see posts about him on social media—oh, so many posts! But to me, he just seemed…unreal. We had talked once or twice before, but he never so much as crossed my mind after our short encounters.
It was in one of my tougher classes—Biology or Civics, I cannot for the life of me remember. We were asked in advance to give a presentation about some random topic, and I nervously approached the front of the classroom.
Now, I was not shy, by no means, but lately—and maybe it was a just natural part of aging—I had found myself becoming more self-conscious of who I was as a person. I began to notice things about myself that had previously never occurred to me—my height, my body shape, the way I stuttered when I had way too much to say.
I do not remember what happened during that presentation, but I can remember the scene that followed as plain as the moment it happened: the class, every single one of them—even the teacher, I swear!—laughing, or at least trying to hide the smirks on their faces. It was the most insecure I had felt up until that moment, the lowest I had been in a long, long time.
As the laughter continued and the faces in the audience grew more judgmental, and urges to cry flooded my eyes like a roaring waterfall—he walked in.
My best friend—then just the “people-hopper”—approached me, wiping the tears from my eyes and whispering kind words to me. “You don’t need them,” he seemed to whisper softly below the chaos unfolding in front of me.
It is strange looking back now, I must admit: though I remember the moment so clearly, it was as if no one else seemed to notice him comforting me, like a figment of my imagination I created to feel a little less secluded.
From that moment on, he and I became inseparable. We were like peanut butter and jelly, peaches and cream—like two peas in a large, vicious pod called Middle School. We had built the type of friendship where people looked shocked when we were not together (though, oddly enough, I cannot recall a particular time when anyone actually asked me—at least to my face—where he was).
It is funny how friendship builds, isn’t it? You find another human, exchange a few words and discover similar interests, and before you know it you are spending countless time together. Friendship truly is a strange thing.
We began doing everything together: playing video games for hours upon hours, watching “just one more episode” of Breaking Bad, staying up too late and staring outside at the night sky, wondering if man had actually ever set foot on the moon. And there were the many times where he and I ate lunch together in the school cafeteria, just the two of us.
We had classes together, attended the same college together. Heck, we even got an apartment together on our journey to getting diplomas. We were the best of friends, inseparable, destined to be side-by-side forever.
Or so I thought.
I cannot pinpoint the moment our relationship turned sour. Was it because of the other friendships I began to develop in college?
Or maybe it was the day I met the girl of my dreams, laying comfortably by the school fountain with her hair tied back and her polka-dotted backpack pretending to be a pillow. He was always oddly jealous when I tried hanging around newer people and creating new relationships.
Whenever it was, and whatever it was, it began to create a noticeable strain on our friendship.
He confronted me about it one night. He liked to come in my room and play Call of Duty or watch me slay dragons on Skyrim, but tonight he seemed oddly distant –almost as if he had never lived with me, like he was never truly a part of my life. He busted into my room, mad as a hornet, angry as a wet hen, releasing every unsettled emotion that stirred relentlessly inside him.
“Do you not realize what a good friend I’ve been to you?” he shouted. “Do you not understand all we have been through? I was there when no one else was! I was around when no one else cared. How can you replace me as if I never existed?”
Though wildly confused by his claims and startled by his unexpected accusations, I apologized profusely, while also admitting that I had become too comfortable with him being my only true friend. While I had had other friends in middle school and high school, I always seemed to spend most of my time with him. Even in the midst of hanging out with other groups of people, I found myself feeling as if I did not belong, as if I was giving that middle school presentation all over again, wanting to be with my best friend and around no one else—knowing full well that that was not the healthiest mindset.
“But times have changed!” I cried out back to him. “I have made new friends; I have other people that care for me now, just as you do.”
Taking a deep breath and trying to calm his anger—but failing quickly— his head dropped and it shook slowly, side to side, and I thought I saw a tear fall to the ground. But before he had turned his back and left the room, he uttered, softly but rich with emotion: “I thought I was the only friend you would ever need.”
After our talk, it seemed our friendship began to fade.
I saw less and less of him, and a lot more of my newer friends. He quickly found someone else to be around—as he always did—and I found myself feeling oddly better without his presence in my life. He was clingy—way too clingy for any friendship to be considered healthy. And over time I noticed that I never fully felt alive when I was with him. It was like he was only and always around at my worst.
So, to my dear friend of old:
I write this to you to say I am sorry for our fading friendship. I think of you from time to time, though I must admit that the people now in my life—the concerned and genuine friends who care deeply for my well-being—have replaced almost fully the memories that you and I had created.
I do not write this to tear you down—I simply write to say thank you for the season of life we enjoyed together. There were nights when no one was there, and you always showed up. Always. You were the most loyal friend I had, the most devoted acquaintance I could ask for. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, for the experiences we had that have made me into the person I am today. For the friendship we shared that taught me to deeply care and invest in the people that are placed in my life.
For now, I will continue to talk about you. You always seem to come up in my deepest conversations—how could I not mention my very first best friend, my old pal Loneliness—and the impact you have had on my life. I am eternally grateful for you. Cheers.