Say It First (one of us has to) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ

It’s cold; it’s so cold that it drowns out any other feeling. The chill is so intrusive that I can’t evoke any other thoughts, can’t force myself to go back to sleep despite layers of fleece pajamas and soft blankets and down comforters. Cold, cold, cold. My socks were abandoned somewhere during the night and my toes have become red, raw blocks of ice. I’m relying on instinct rather than coherent thought as I jump out of bed and scramble towards my sock drawer. I don’t even bother turning my light on, as the radiance from my alarm clock is enough--4 A.M. Little girls shouldn’t be awake at 4 A.M.


It’s dark, too; suburbs are dark at night, as dark as deep space if you’re sleepy as I am and believe it enough. It’s the sweet spot of the night, just before dawn starts to trickle in, when there’s an uninterrupted and unprecedented silence. Most people find solace in silence, though these few dark hours have a knack for making even the happiest people feel lonely. I’m restless and cold and lonely and I’ve got a simple mind at twelve years old, but it’s an ungodly hour and nobody wants to be bothered at 4 A.M.


It’s a good thing, then, it’s not 4 A.M. on the other side of Earth, where she is. But one problem lingers--it’s been years. There was a time when I kept an exact count, would recognize certain days as anniversaries of departures, but these days I just leave it at that--years. What I know now is that we’ve known each other longer than we haven’t, although most of that time was spent apart. It’s nobody’s fault that we lost touch, but still, we’re twelve and somebody has to take the blame. I don’t know if she feels it, but I certainly do: that tense connection (or separation) between the two of us, waiting for the other to say something first. I don’t know if we even like each other anymore; distance makes it hard to say and time makes it hard to know.


But it’s 4 A.M. and I’m restless, so I’ll say it first. One of us has to. Bravely--or stupidly, maybe, I’ll soon find out--I run the numbers in my head, and the letters. I type something eloquent, something witty, something to remind me why I wanted to rekindle an erstwhile friendship. I type: Hi.


Years later, I would remember a two-character message, fifteen seconds of courage in a hazy, sleepless stupor, and I’ll be grateful that my former self got over her bullheadedness. Just this once, at least, a long time ago. Years later, we’ll laugh; laugh because what were we thinking? Friendship is too valuable to be disrupted by something as insignificant as a few thousand miles. Years later she’ll thank me, and I’ll say that she’s lucky, having a friend as gutsy as me--I’ll be lying, of course, I’ve always been just as scared as she was. I still am. It’s been years and neither of us have forgotten nights like those: when we talk until we’re slurring and map each other out until we’re so familiar that we fall asleep feeling like we’re in the same room.


But for now, from across the table, from across two continents and a few oceans and two years of forced conversations and strained silences, my phone begins to ring. When the caller ID that seems more familiar than the girl behind it appears, it’s all I have to say: it’s been years, hasn’t it?






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