Friends of Three Thousand Miles

By , Rochelle Park, NJ
Clichés are all around; most of them being involved with love and relationships. Relationships either begin with first encounters, or with stalking; most often, the former. This essay is about one of those terrible clichés, I’m sad to say. This, however, will be a bit different. It will be about my first impression, of course, but it will also be about what happened as a result of the first impression.

First grade is mostly a blur to me. Beyond a couple of birthdays and field trips, I don’t remember much. However, I do remember when we had to perform in front of the school for All Saints Day. We all had to portray a saint, and I was fairly happy when I got to be Saint Rose, the saint I requested. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about her; I just liked the name “Rose”. Nevertheless, I wasn’t too thrilled about sharing the part of Saint Rose. I had to share the part and quotes with a quiet Filipino girl named Alia.

I’ll say it straight out – I didn’t like her at first. I didn’t even know she was a student. She was quiet, withdrawn, and barely talked. Back when I was a child, those were three attributes I sincerely did not like. Maybe I was being judgmental, but at six years old, I knew no better.

We never talked; even sharing a saint’s role, we didn’t talk besides sharing a few words here and there. It never once crossed my mind that we would turn out to be any definition of the word “friends”. Even standing on the church altar in front of a couple hundred students, she was a complete stranger to me. After the Saints Day performance, we didn’t talk for another long, four years.

Flash forward to fifth grade, and to when we all felt like we were at the top of the world. We were now to be seated alphabetically, and that means that Alia was sitting straight in front of me. Still, I hadn’t talked to her; so I figured it would be good to say “Hi!” to the person who I would be staring at for the next few months. We talked for a bit, and found some things we had in common; our love for Japanese animation was the big one. We talked about it nonstop, and I mean that in an almost literal way. Alia is the person who got me into drawing in a Japanese-inspired style. She was, of course, far better than me, and still is, but was never arrogant about it. In fact, she encouraged me to keep trying. That’s always meant a lot to me.

Alia and I hit it off instantly, as you can tell. We ended up hanging out every other weekend, and sometimes after school. Even at school, she and I were nigh inseparable. Not only that, we befriended a girl named Julia. The three of us practically defined the word “close”. We could all relate to each other well. Then, in the middle of fifth grade, something happened that would make my personality do a complete one-eighty degree turn.

We were half-way through the school year, and I was sure that Alia, Julia, and I would be best friends into middle school, as well. There had to be a jinx on me that day, because it was then that Alia announced that she would be moving in April. Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that her moving destination was Murrieta, California. My best friend was moving almost three thousand miles away. You can’t imagine how emotionally scarred it left us, particularly me. If I could go back in time, I would’ve told myself to brace for heavy emotional turmoil in the future. Even though our friendship really only began that year, we had become great friends. Not only that, but fifth grade was to be Julia’s last year at our school.

Essentially, I was being left alone. It felt horrible. Two of my best friends leaving, one of them my best friend in the whole world, and there was nothing I can do. The first school day after she left, everything felt different. Let me assure you, it wasn’t a good kind of different. If I had to compare my disposition at the time to something, I’d say that I was like a flower dipped in liquid nitrogen – Fragile, frozen, and likely to shatter at a simple touch. In a word, I was miserable.

There was no way in seven hells that I was okay, and there was no way that I was getting out of this event unscarred. My attitude changed, my character changed, my whole outlook on life changed from love to hate, and everybody could see it; especially my mother. She admitted me to a therapist shortly after school ended. For all records, I’m still in therapy.

Right away, upon entering the sixth grade, I thought I had escaped my depression for a little while. A new student, John, became one of my best guy friends; he still is. Among him, I also became friends with two other boys named Michael and James. Middle school was a new start for me; I became one of the guys. If you’re asking why, it’s because my depressive state made it impossible for me to act like an actual girl again. It doesn’t make sense to me either, for the most part. Let’s just say I was “rebuilding my character” after being thoroughly miserable. That would be the best way to put it.

Despite having made some new friends, it never stopped me from missing Alia. During gym class one day, while I was sitting on the auditorium’s wooden stage, I started crying. It was entirely arbitrary; it never crossed my mind to start crying in front of everyone. It just happened. Maybe it was because my cycle had come again, or maybe I was having such fun that I was reminded of my best friend, but whatever the reason was, I started bawling my eyes out. In order to try to conceal the sign of weakness, which, by this point, is what I thought of tears, I curled up in an Indian sitting position and hid my face in-between my legs and crossed arms. It took eleven minutes before people started crowding around me, and even longer for them to ask what was wrong. A girl named Sheila was actually able to coax me into the bathroom so we could talk. She told me not to cry so much, because one of her friends had died on her, while mine had simply moved. The conversation didn’t make me feel any better. It did the opposite; it made me feel like a selfish brat who was only feeling sorry for herself. That must’ve made my therapist happy; she was getting more business.

It wasn’t until years after the fact that I started to get over Alia’s leave. Now, in high school, I’m still in contact with her; I still talk to her on the phone, but we mostly interact through Facebook and deviantART. We even video-chat from our computers when the time difference allows. As a bonus, I’ve even gone to see her and her family in California, twice – Once before sixth grade, the summer after she moved, and last July. As anyone can plainly see, even three thousand miles isn’t enough to stop our friendship. In fact, I think it’s made us better friends. We were so excited to see each other after three years, last summer, and I can tell that, as many times as we meet, we’re going to just keep getting closer and closer. The more we’re away from each other, the more we enjoy each other’s company when we’re together. Unfortunately for me, Alia has plans to head over to New Jersey, but her parents do not. For a while, it looks like we’ll have to stick with my family going to live with hers every so often.

Alia is one of the most important people in the world to me. She’s the first person I’ve ever written into a story of mine, and I’ve drawn up a character based off of her. Some points of this essay are to explain two important morals: One, those that you least expect to, become your friends for life. Two, first encounters do not always give correct first impressions. Although, being honest, if it wasn’t for being partnered with her at age seven, I don’t think I would’ve bothered to speak to her in fifth grade. In the time from then until now, I’ve realized that my life would not be the way it is if I hadn’t met her.





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