The One That Got Away
I woke up out of a dead sleep thinking of her.
If I’m honest, I was dreaming about her. What was the dream? It doesn’t matter.
I woke up out of a dead sleep, heartbroken.
The one that got away was my best friend. I remember the day that she asked me, after Sunday school in the fifth grade, if I could spend the night at her house sometime.
And in seventh grade, getting ready for a football game at her house, our cheer outfits wrapped around our small, self-conscious bodies, eyes glittering with excitement and, well – it was the late 90’s, so – actual glitter.
I remember in 8th grade when I sort of went out with a boy that she liked and she wrote me a note asking me not to. I laughed, felt cheated for a microsecond, but suddenly found that he no longer interested me.
Sometimes we saw a lot of each other. Other times, for reasons only partially dictated by geography, she was surrounded with friends and activities in her life in town and I was alone a lot, excluded a lot, in my life in the country.
But year after year, our friendship persevered. Through impossibly tricky teenage years, dating drama, parental tension, college, pregnancy, and marriage. We stood up in each other’s weddings, and for months before each one, we showed up for each other: picking out accessories, planning hairstyles, researching venues, carefully writing out place cards.
Best friends to bridesmaids. At that point, we’d officially grown up together, cemented our nearly lifelong bond of being there for one another, through anything. Even as careers, family, and distance made our connection more complicated and less frequent, we found a way to be there for one another. Laughing, remembering.
That’s why, about a year later, when she stopped returning my calls, I knew I must have done something wrong.
The weeks and months that passed after texts and calls went unanswered left plenty of time for me to lie in bed at night sifting through memories, trying to find the key to what went wrong. Eventually, I found it. The small, but significant piece of information that I had shared with someone else. The betrayal.
I held it up to the light, nearly a year after I’d last spoken to my friend, and understood that the friendship was over. I understood that she couldn’t move past it, and now, with me living across the country, why should she bother? The late night brownies, the hours spent getting ready together, the secret-jokes and hysterical laughter – they just didn’t matter, didn’t stack up to how I had failed her. That is what I was forced to conclude from the empty space between each of my “how are you? miss you” texts.
So the part of me that had fought fiercely for that friendship for fifteen years laid down inside my heart. Gave up. Surrendered. The friendship was already lost. When circumstance blew news of her life through the corridors of my awareness, that part of me lifted its head a bit to see the picture of her daughter on social media, looking exactly like her. And months later, that part of me ached to show her the tiny bundle of pink in my own arms, that in a few months would seem to look exactly like me.
Five years have passed this way, since my friend-for-life gave me up and got on with her own life. I understood it. I accepted it. What could I do? We were such different people now, anyway.
But last night I woke up from a deep sleep, memories of her face and her voice still hanging in my mind like a dream fog, and my heart immediately focused on this one truth: I had to try. The part of me that had loved her so fiercely as a friend, and who had laid down wrapped in a white flag of surrender, stood up. It took both fists and banged on the wall of my heart, crying “You must ask her. You must.”
And I knew she was right. I must ask her. For forgiveness.
I typed out these words as I waited for the sun to rise, steeling myself that this might be another message sent and unanswered. That this might not be enough to heal what was broken. That she might actually answer, that she might actually forgive. Sparks of fear leapt up from all of these possibilities, until, when the hour became decent, I called.
Adrienne Garrison is a writer, mother, and educator living in Bloomington, Indiana with her daughter and husband. She is currently working on her first novel and completing her MFA in Creative Writing with Pacific University in Oregon.