Friends Forever?

January 22, 2011
Throughout my life, I’ve learned the funny thing about words: once you say them, for better or for worse, they’re out there and you have no chance of persuading them to come back in and stay a while. And when a friend who’s slowly been fading away from you takes her rifle-like words and aims them at a good friend repeatedly, it might be best to step in before everything just gets worse. But there’s a catch. My revolutionary tactic: instead of ganging up and kicking a man down, crouch down to their level and slowly persuade them to stand up and brush themselves off. My hope was that it was revolutionary and rarely used for a good reason.

As my worn gray sneakers slapped the wet pavement of a rainy day, I stared at the ground, going over and over again what I would say in my head. I ascended the last few steps to the doorway that would lead to hopefully so much more than just a friend’s house. Lauren answered almost immediately after I knocked. Just as I was about to begin my well rehearsed introduction, my mind went blank. Her cheeks, nose and eyes matched her rose pink fleece jacket and the multicolored hat covering her long brown hair. Despite her efforts to hide it, any idiot could’ve seen that she’d been crying. So I did what any angry confused teenage friend would do; give her a big squeeze around the middle.

“I’m sorry for being mad at you for something you didn’t do to me directly,” I let out, a little muffled in her jacket. “I will always be there for you.” Something to keep in mind is that I didn’t truly know the meaning of that phrase. That would have to wait for a while.

With all anger put aside, we started off down the road on a path we both knew all too well.

“I don’t know what’s happening with me,” Lauren started, sniffling now and again. “I’m angry and frustrated all the time and I try to control it, but I just can’t. Once I say something mean, I feel bad about it, but I can’t take it back.”

“Yeah, that’s the funny thing about words,” I said, maybe to myself.

For a while it went on like this; her explaining and sniffling and me listening and comforting. We both examined the ground and our shoes, every now and again looking at each other or at the wet wake of a passing car. Then she came to her dad. It always did. It was a story we all knew too well. Lauren’s father died about 3 years ago. After that the domino effect set in. She moved to Oregon, feeling miserable with no friends, no father and no real home. Sure she had a house, but a home? Not yet anyway. She met us over that summer and we all opened up to her. But sometimes she’s understandable homesick. So this would be a touchy subject. Like a minefield, one wrong move could ruin your entire mission. Instead of letting her continue and wait like a sitting duck to get blown out of the water, I decided to cut in.

“Yeah I know,” I started. Here we go. Here was my time to give a little to get a little. “I mean my Grandma and I were really close. I just couldn’t believe it when she died.” Wham. I hoped that hit home. Yep, there are other people who have hardships too. I went on explaining how it’s been for me and my family after she died. We were both silent for a while, looking around at the gray shoes, gray skies, and gray feelings.
I suddenly remembered the now crushed paper in my pocket and fished it out.

“Here,” I said as I offered it to her. “You don’t have to read it now, but it’s for you.”
“Thanks,” she said as she received my now folded note of encouragement. Then an idea struck me. I had never been able to tell her about my church or religion in a serious conversation. But I knew she needed someone to. She was currently confused and wandering what to do while stumbling in the darkness of everyday challenges. She desperately needed a guiding hand. What better time to talk to her than in a time of need? I thought this might work, especially when our biggest supporters in our time of need were our church friends.

“You know what was really awesome?” I hesitantly began. “I was so sad after my grandma died. But before I even really had time to react, our friends from church were there; giving us hugs and just letting us cry.”
And so I went on explaining, stifling the tears, sometimes repeating myself and always letting Lauren put in an extra comment or two. I was so surprised at how easily it flowed from me and how comforting it was to know that my story might be able to encourage a wounded friend. Now there’s some irony; a wounded friend wounding others. Not uncommon, but still ironic.
Before we knew it, her house was in sight. Time to wrap it up.

“So I’m sorry if I repeated myself,” I laughed because we both knew I had repeated myself a lot. “But I hope you know that I will always be there.” There. That was the moment that I truly understood and respected that phrase with gratitude and serenity that only comes from being in the position so often talked, written, and sung about. We hugged then went our separate ways, as we had finally circled back to her driveway. I walked away feeling confident and remembering the gray shoes, gray skies, and gray feelings.
It’s true that once you say something it’s impossible to take it back. But I think that if you forgive and put it behind you, you’ve just achieved the next best thing.

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WriteTheYearAway2011 said...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm
baby, you did a fantastic job!!! im so glad you put this on Teen Ink!!! im so proud of you, honey! love you tons!!! --guess who hehe :P
coolbeans8 replied...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 9:53 am
Haha! Thanks... :)
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