That Feeling

June 1, 2011
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It’s hard to place. Hard to describe. That feeling in your stomach when you’re seeing someone you love, someone you’re close with that you’ve been away from. You know you shouldn’t be nervous, why am I nervous? It’s just… you haven’t seen your friend in forever. What if they changed? What if she changed?
I walk down the boardwalk, counting my steps. Scanning the outside tables, there’s no sight of Jamie anywhere. She’s always late, I brush it off. The waiter comes over and looks at me, asks me where I want to sit. “Two people, and outside is great thanks.” The waiter nods his head and I follow him, weaving through tables and anxiously running my eyes over the people passing by. I sit, I wait, its been ten minutes. I fidget with my phone, order a glass of water for me and a Shirley Temple for Jamie, without thinking. I know that’s what she wants. Is it still what she wants?
Finally I see her, her blond ponytail bobbing through the sea of tourists. She sees me and waves, beaming. She looks tan, I think to myself. That’s not unusual. I wave back, calling her name loudly, partly so she hears me and partly so the waiter hears me too. I’m not here by myself, I’m not getting stood up, I swear.
“How are youuuuuu!!” she squeals. I’m still nervous.
“I’m great! Wishing summer was longer but great. How was California?” Jamie pauses for a minute, as if trying to monitor what was about to come out of her mouth. I’m hoping for the best, bracing myself for the worst.
“It was… Good,” she says it calculatedly. I’m scared. She’s never hid anything from me before. Has she? “My… My parents they… they,” Jamie stutters, tears welling up in her eyes. Her hands go straight to her face, trying to hide the tears that are now streaming down her cheeks. I understand her. She doesn’t want me to hug her, just to sit there. Not say anything to try to fix it, just tell her it’s going to be okay. It’s our unspoken language, I know her well enough to know just by her stutter that things aren’t okay. She doesn’t stutter much, only when she’s about to cry.
I lift my hands from hers and pass her my water. I’m not nervous anymore. She’s the same.
As Jamie cries, I look out to the ocean. The waves swell, crashing and rolling onto the sand over and over.
She stops crying, looks at me. She wears an apologetic look.
“Jamie, don’t. I’ve lived through this too. You’ve got me. Always.”
“You’re the best, Sarah. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried this hard…” She trails off, in thought.
“Benny Simon’s birthday party. 8Th grade,” we said in unison. Jamie looked at me, I looked back at her, and we broke out into hysterics. Jamie has this distinct laugh, squeaking and gasping for air, like a balloon letting out air. I remembered the last time we laughed this hard, (three days after the last day of school, finals grades) and laughed harder. We were back. We were fine.
Like the crest of the wave, we’re up and we’re down.
Your stomach clenches and unclenches. Your insides twist themselves into knots; your cells feel like they’re running a track meet in you. So what if they’ve changed? Have you changed?

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