I would still give anything to go back to that moment in time, to force my twelve-year-old lips to ask a simple question: To just say “How are you?” “I’m always here.” “I love you.” But I was twelve and those words never left my lips.
A few weeks later, your name blared on an announcement, sharing with the world that you were lost and looking for your family. I practically jogged to the place you asked your family to meet you… but I stopped just out of reach to see the scolding, the yelling, from what was supposed to be family. I saw your hunched back. I stopped… Not out of nervousness that time, but out of shock. I still remember the rest of the family walking your way. There was a brief moment when your eyes caught mine and there was an understanding in that moment I can’t describe. I knew you were unhappy. I knew you were in pain. I knew they were part of the cause. I didn’t know how I could help…. And with a slight nod of your head you walked away.
How do nights like these make it all so vivid? You were my best friend and we were to always be friends—the best of friends. We weren’t supposed to be friends in a romantic, gushy, over-the-head kind of way. But we were always going to be friends. We had always backed each other up. We were partners in crime; getting into so much trouble; fighting constantly with our brothers. We saved the lives of frogs—what were really toads—but we called them frogs. And we were there for every birthday, every party, and most of our childhood firsts. We played Cops and Robbers, raced, got muddy, threw footballs and tackled each other… until we collectively decided the tackles felt as awkward as being a pre-teen itself.
We made messes. Sometimes we hinted at our crushes, but we were too great of friends to come out and disclose them. You once said to me, “We don’t even know what it’s like to kiss.” But we didn’t find out then. I’ll never know what it would have been like for that twelve-year-old girl to kiss you. But that’s not what gets met. What still hurts after all these years is that we’ll never know if we could have always been friends.
I don’t know if I’ve ever forgiven myself for not being there for you. I was twelve. I was trying to look out for your little sister too. I was confused… And I was scared. But I would give anything to give you the words I didn’t say. I would give anything to give you the words which needed said to your family.
Life is a funny thing. It changes us all in ways we don’t plan. But we must learn to live and to let things, places in time, experiences, and relationships end. Life comes and moments pass so quickly… I never had all the answers and I never will. I just hope you know how much I cared. You were my partner before I really knew what a partner was. But partnerships end, sometime forcefully and without expectation. But at the end of it all, years later, if you were to ask for my help, I’d give every belief, fist, and word I never did. No matter how awkward or too late it might be.
–Written by Sandy Heights