When I think back to when we met, it feels like another lifetime ago. I can't imagine what high school would have been like if you weren't there to live it with me, and it's still so strange to see how much time can change people—and how much can stay the same.
If I'm being honest, I never thought I would grow as close to you as I did when we first met. You were a friend of a friend, and it seemed like nothing would bridge the gap between us that was inevitably created by being introduced to each other because everyone around us thought it was cool that our names were almost the same.
But it came naturally, our friendship. We were always around one another, and even though we weren't exactly instant BFFs, it was easy to feel comfortable with you. We created so many memories at the bleachers, under the bridge, and at the park, and it felt like they would only continue to multiply as time went on and we grew older.
We weren't perfect by any means. When you're fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, you let things that don't matter become the only things that matter without even thinking twice. We fought, we made up, we fought again, and we made up again.
I can imagine we gave quite a few people whiplash throughout those few years.
In the end, though, you were always there for me when I needed you to be. Whether we were closer than ever, or at each other's throats, I knew that I could always count on you for whatever, and you could always count on me for the same.
I don't remember exactly when it came to be, but before we both received that little piece of paper with our names on it, you were my best friend. And I was OK with that—more than OK, actually.
We didn't talk every single day, all day long. We didn't need to. We were still finding our ways and our lives were slowly taking shape and it was understood that communication wasn't necessary for us to know where we stood. I always appreciated that.
I remember clearly the day that I came to you with my biggest problem, and how you were there for me like no one else was (after I told them, of course, because you went first.) I didn't know it then, but that would someday become one of the most vivid, integral memories of my life and it's anything but coincidental that you were there with me for it.
But even though I can list all of the good memories between us off the top of my head (or most of them, anyway) I can list the bad ones just as easily. And even though a lot of them didn't add up to anything, and a lot of them we can both laugh at now, there's one that can't be forgotten.
It's hard for me to remember exactly what was going through my mind that made me think I didn't need you. Maybe I thought I could handle things better on my own; maybe I was ashamed of what had to be done and didn't know how to face it, and since you knew about it, I ran from you. Or, maybe I was envious of what you had that I didn't, of what I had given up.
And the more I've tried to place it over the years, the more I've realized how uncaring and unaware I was of your end of things.
In life, everyone has their own battles they're trying to win, and while on some level I knew this, I never showed empathy or even plain worry for your own problems. I was the epitome of the friend who only talks about themselves and never gives a f*** about anyone else, and I cringe every time I think about it.
I guess that's why I did what I did. I was too wrapped up in my own life, my own problems, my own fears to spend any time worrying about yours. I dipped out on a friendship that was five years in the making, and I didn't even have a good enough reason for it, considering you were probably the one person who would have understood what I was going through at the time since you were going through the same thing.
For a while there, I didn't really think much of it. I always knew that we didn't have to talk 24/7 to be friends, and I assumed we were still on the same page. A few days, a few weeks, what harm could it do? Our friendship would sustain it all, I thought.
But as you and I both know, once you check out in someone's life when they need you the most, there's really no checking back in.
As time has gone by, we've both said our peace about it all and found a way to move forward. I apologized for walking away when you needed a friend, and you apologized for overreacting when everything came to a head and we said words that have now been forgotten with time.
And while I know that as two soon-to-be twenty-four-year-olds we are much wiser now than we were at the age of nineteen, I can't help but wonder what life would have been like for me if I hadn't acted like a child when I was facing the most adult situations I've ever had to face.
I look back at memories I have with friends, the ones I didn't take for granted (or maybe I did and they just let it slide) and wish you could have been there with me.
My twenty-first birthday dinner, where everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me in a Mexican restaurant as I looked down at a table filled with people most important in my life. Where would you have sat?
An unplanned, last minute road-trip to Colorado, where I spent three days in an Airbnb with friends that let me slide in and out of their lives as I pleased, or so it seemed. Would you have sang along to songs on the radio on the drive there with me?
The older I get, the more I learn how big of a mistake it was to walk away from someone who always showed me compassion, loyalty, and what it meant to be a friend, a real friend. Not the kind that follows you around like a lost puppy, but the kind that walks with you.
Because no matter how many friends I make, no matter how many memories fill up the scrapbook that resides in my mind, and no matter how much effort goes into rebuilding our friendship, the regret of going M.I.A. remains.
And I just wanted you to know, I am forever sorry about it.