Friendly Training This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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F-5, this is L-7, we seem to have encountered a bit of difficulty in our maneuvering. Shift to gear two on three; 1-2-3, quick, shift! I’ve got you, change view, bear hard right, one start, now! F-5, shift to gear four, gear four now! Shift, shift, quick, I’m losing you; I’m losing you …

In sixth grade, we invented this game. We had just exited a movie theater on a “double date” with two of our classmates. Instead of “girl talking” about which one was cuter, we sat down at two arcade games, the car-type with seats. Neither of us wanted to spend two quarters on a 30-second game, so we decided to pretend we were astronauts on a mission in outer space. The game occupied us while we waited for her mother.

We kept playing. Every time we hit a bowling alley, arcade or movie theater, we played. She is the only one who knows how to play, and together we mastered outer space. I thought I could always save her by shifting into a different gear, calling mission control or hitting the quarter return button four times. It never occurred to me that I could really lose her.

We’ve gone to school together for 12 years, meeting in kindergarten. We made our First Penance and First Communion together, and even made Confirmation side by side. She was the only girl with whom I could play tackle football (until I broke her nose), act out “The Lion King” or give live telecasts from the middle of a severe hurricane, also known as her pool.

Our other friends don’t know about my red boots in second grade, how she got sick on “Visit Your Pen-Pal Day” in third grade or how her fifth-grade map of Texas didn’t have enough rivers. We played softball and basketball on the same teams. We sang in the children’s choir at church. We were in the same Girl Scout troop, and quit the same year. I was even her doctor during a tragic fall off the balance beam at our “Olympic Gymnastics Competition” in the woods of New Hampshire – when she fell into a tree that ripped a deep cut in her leg, I bandaged it on the spot with duct tape and gauze. She still has the scar and I’m pretty sure the cut deserved stitches.

We went on vacations, had sleep-overs, took piano lessons and did every project together (except the science fair in third grade when we both made a solar system. Hers was obviously better, but I won because I dressed up like an astronaut. She retaliated in fourth grade with a killer project on weather systems, which surpassed my bird-feeding experiment). We watched hockey and football games together, had movie nights, made each other Christmas and birthday presents, and even won the title “Best Friends” in our eighth-grade yearbook. We always said we would be friends forever, yet never admitted we were each other’s best friend.

She almost moved away in sixth grade, but didn’t. We almost went to different high schools, but didn’t. Those things just didn’t happen to us. I thought I could do anything with her by my side. I thought we would go to school together forever. I thought we would always be best friends.

As high school began, we clung to each other, making the same friends and even having lockers near each other. I was lost when I learned we only had one class together. I’d never gone to class without her.

She didn’t play soccer. I didn’t play tennis. We made different basketball teams. I asked her to join the church youth group, but she didn’t like it. She made other friends and so did I, though we sat together at lunch and still hung out on weekends.

Sophomore year, we were lucky even to see each other during the school day. I went on a vacation with other friends, not her. We went to Florida with our softball team, but weren’t roommates. I rarely called her and when I did, she wasn’t home. My mom asked if we were still friends. I laughed and said of course we were. It never occurred to me we were growing apart. Or maybe I just refused to accept it.

During junior year, she found a new best friend. I’d call, and they would be at her house. I’d ask her to go out, and she’d say, “Sure, as long as she can come.” They were together in school all the time, with the same classes and activities.

The most severe punishment came in English class. The teacher told us to write about friends, family, love or relationships. I didn’t want to write about my best friend, and instead wrote a simpler piece about my family. At lunch, classmates began asking about each other’s topics. The new best friend informed us that she was writing about her “new best friend.” I was crushed.

I was never very good at sharing as a child, and I’m still awful at it. I couldn’t understand how I had let this happen. I guess I never realized that my new friends probably made her feel neglected, and she probably never thought I felt the same. But there are so many things that only she and I share. Her new best friend does not know about our pretend brothers and sisters, where the best hiding spots in the church choir are or how to play McDonald’s with oddly shaped trees. I thought I had lost her, but in truth, reality had won. We aren’t little girls who watch Disney movies together and we can’t be together forever, but we can hold on to our memories.

I’m almost positive that we will attend different colleges. No matter how alike we are, we’re two very different people. As I reflect on the past year, I tell myself that this was a learning experience. I’m going to have to learn to let her go sometime, and the training has already begun.

F-5, this is L-7 reporting. If you shift back into two with a quick start, I won’t lose you. I’ve got you; don’t worry. I won’t forget anything; I won’t give you up; I’ll never let you go.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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