When I think of “best friend,” the name that first pops into my head is Bailey. It’s always Bailey — except that Bailey and I really aren’t best friends anymore.
At the same time though, I’ve never been able to think of her as just an ordinary friend, either, so I always feel it necessary to use a qualifier: “high school best friend.” But high school was almost ten years ago.
Now she’s moving back home, and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it.
I hadn’t had a best friend like her in years. She was someone whose house I would eventually walk into without knocking and stay over at more nights than I could count, including for one entire week while my parents were traveling. It was a weeklong sleepover, even though they had a guest room.
On the first day of junior year, I didn’t want to walk in to the school by myself, so I texted her and we came up with a plan to carpool. We carpooled to and from school that year, until we had the kind of explosive fight that only the closest of friends can have. Eventually, like the closest of friends, we made up again.
We texted each other at all hours of the day outside of school. We exchanged notes and wrote back and forth to each other in a notebook that we passed in the hallway between classes. Years later, after I made digital copies for my computer, I boxed up those notebooks and sent them to her in a care package. I don’t know what’s become of them now.
After we graduated from high school, she and her then-boyfriend moved away for college, while I did not. For a while already I’d known that the two of them were closer than she and I were, and that hurt just a little — but hadn’t I essentially ditched her first, when I got involved with my own boyfriend? (Maybe it hurt because it felt like she chose to pick him over me, whereas I had often picked my boyfriend not because I wanted to, but because I risked a huge blow-up otherwise.) I couldn’t fault her; I could only be happy that she was happy. Still, that served as indication that our once tight-knit friendship was fraying at a faster rate than I’d let myself realize.
When they moved away, she and I naturally made the effort to stay in touch; we texted, we Snapchatted, we Skyped once or twice, and we visited. But eventually, I deleted Snapchat because I was annoyed that she Snapchatted more than she texted, and the texts came fewer and further between. She stopped letting me know when she would be home, so we stopped meeting up.
I knew from Facebook and Instagram that she’d made new friends while she was going to school to become a teacher, and the four of them were rapidly becoming very close. Likewise, I’d made my own group of new friends, five amazing girls that carried me through my years at UH. But, I couldn’t look at her pictures without feeling like she’d replaced me, and I resented her for that, even though I knew better. Sometimes when you miss someone, rationality isn’t as important.
She came home to get married, and brought those girls with her. Altogether, there were seven of us girls in the bridal party: five bridesmaids, one maid of honor, and one matron of honor. To this day, I don’t know why the MOHs were two of her newest friends, and I don’t particularly care, but I feel compelled to point out that it can make you question the validity of your status as “best friend” when you aren’t chosen.
When I let Bailey know that I felt like I’d been replaced and that part of me had resented her for it, she pointed out that she and I have a history that she’ll never have with her new college friends. That’s true — but how close we were in the past doesn’t make up for how close we aren’t in the present.
In a binder in my desk, I have the story that I wrote for her when we were in high school, that I was rewriting and planned to give to her when I finished. Perhaps as a wedding present. Then as a ten-year-anniversary-of-the-date-I-gave-you-the-original present. Then as a homecoming present… Until I stopped writing it. And for a while, I considered just mailing her what I had, unfinished, because I thought it felt like a metaphor for our friendship: unfinished. Stuck somewhere in the in-between of “best friends” and “just friends” and “hardly more than acquaintances.”
I don’t harbor any resentment toward her now. Honestly if I think about it, what I feel is hardly more than indifference. But I have mixed feelings about her moving back, because while I’m thinking about that, wondering what impact this new development might have on our friendship, I have to wonder if she’s thinking about it at all. I know not to expect anything. But now that we’ll be in close proximity once again, I can’t help wondering if we’re supposed to become closer in friendship again, too, and whether that’s even possible. Or whether, perhaps, I’ll spot her at the store one day, and so as to avoid any interaction that might be awkward for both of us, I’ll quietly turn my cart around and walk the other way.