She was so beautiful that young men gazed at her longingly. They often asked me to intercede for them, put in a good word. She had many followers and suitors but before all of that she had been my friend. We shared secrets as young girls so often do. We dreamed together and plotted the direction of our futures. We both devised outsized plans, imagining that we would each somehow have a major impact on the world. We were inseparable and thought we would always be that way, but things changed, slowly at first and ultimately so rapidly that we began to feel uncomfortable when we were together. Our relationship unraveled as we moved almost in opposite directions and one day we found that we had little in common. Our conversations were stilted, unnatural. We were not angry. We didn’t have a fight. We simply had outgrown the childhood friendship that we once had. We parted without rancor.
The months, then years went by with each of us busy fulfilling our separate destinies. Entire decades passed. Once in a blue moon I would think of her and wonder how she was doing but I was busy raising a family and forging new friendships based on the person that I had become as an adult. Still I hoped that life had gone as well for her as it had for me. I suspected that it had. I knew that she was brilliant with a mind that was sharp and creative. Surely she had used all of her many attributes to forge a trail toward the realization of those plans that she had shared with me when we sat together whispering and giggling and sometimes even crying.
She had been a generous friend, as good as they come. She gave me one of the most wonderful Christmas presents one year, an extravagance that proved to me just how much she knew me and cared about my feelings. In fact, she had the ability to look into my very soul and imagine exciting possibilities for me that back then I didn’t believe would ever happen.
I have often wondered why the two of us had not tried harder to keep the flames of our friendship burning brightly. Perhaps our time with some people is meant to be brief. We had served each other well during the years when we were developing into the adults that we would ultimately become. Maybe that was all that had ever been intended for us. We could not have known that the fates would set us apart so that we would grow old not having seen or contacted each other for most of our lifetime.
The Internet is filled with information. A google here, a click there turns us into amateur sleuths. We are able to locate people and find out about their lives. It is a curious hobby that most of us pursue on those afternoons when we find ourselves with a bit of time on our hands. It was when I was doing my best to fight off boredom that I began trying to find her again.
I knew the name of the man she had married and that for some reason he was jealous whenever she was not giving him her undivided attention. Perhaps like me he realized that she possessed a charisma that attracted people like moths to a flame. Maybe he feared that he might lose her if he set her free. He had disliked my phone calls to her. He would interrupt our conversations and ask her not to spend so much time with me. He had been the catalyst for dooming our friendship.
The very last time that she and I had talked was at a party that had proved that the world is indeed quite small We encountered each other with delighted surprise, happy that the fates had seen fit to provide us with one more chance to bask in each other’s company. We picked up our friendship as though it had only been a day or perhaps a few hours since we had last met. Her husband glared at me from across the room and finally angrily insisted that she leave my side so that she might mix with the other guests. He reminded her that she had not come to spend all of her time with me. She apologetically walked away with him and we would never see each other again.
It didn’t take long for me to find her image online. She had become even more gorgeous than she had been as a young girl. Maturity and an air of professionalism gave her an elegance that no doubt had helped to propel her forward in her career. She had apparently been very successful. She had worked in important jobs across the country. She had traveled the world in style. She and her husband had lived a life of luxury, filled with trappings and toys of wealth, but for whatever reason they never had any children. I found that odd because she had always spoken of her excitement in one day being a mother. I wondered if nature had been unkind to her or if perhaps he had not wanted to share her even with a baby. Maybe she had become so busy climbing to the top of her game that she never had time to pause for the role of motherhood. Whatever had been the case, she and her husband were a dynamic team and didn’t appear to need the more traditional ways of living. I was happy for her and hoped that she had found joy in the role that she had created for herself.
I also learned in my detective work that her life began to unravel a few years back. Her fortune became misfortune. I wanted to reach out to her but I didn’t know how to do so after so much time and distance had befallen us. Still, I remembered those childhood days when she had been so kind, so inspiring, so determined. I would never be able to forget about her and I hoped that somehow she would find a way to fix the problems that plagued her. I believed that if anyone had the power to rise again like a phoenix it would be her.
Just when I had finally screwed up enough courage to contact her I discovered some shattering news. She had died. Her obituary held no details. It was succinctly devoid of any personality. It simply stated that she had passed and that her family would hold a private service, period, end of story. Somehow it was not the ending that I might have imagined for her. It was too quiet, too mysterious. It didn’t seem to befit her bigger than life personality.
I felt gloomy for days and kept returning to that terse obituary hoping to find some evidence that it was written about someone else, not my girlhood friend. Sadly those same words etched in black print never changed. I knew that it had to be her. The name was exactly right as was the date of her birth. All I could do was regret that I had never made that contact with her if only to let her know how much I appreciated those precious times when we were still young and we saw each other as best friends forever. She taught me so much, enlarging my world view and building my self esteem. I doubt that I would be exactly where I am today without the gift of knowing her.
Life is fleeting and during our journey we encounter so many individuals who contribute to the sum total of who we are. Sometimes they walk by our sides until we reach the end of our days. At other times they are just part of a brief history of our totality, but important just the same. Thus it was with my friend. I did not know her as an adult. I am not sure if her essence remained the way I remember it or if she changed so much that I would not have recognized her if I had indeed found a way to reunite with her again. Perhaps such a meeting was never meant to be. Maybe I am supposed to simply treasure the remarkable times that we had when we were still naive and certain that each of us would set the world on fire. We reached a fork in the road and amicably chose different paths. Mine has satisfied me beyond measure. I hope that ultimately her choices provided the same level of pleasure to her. I’d like to think that she knew even when we had not communicated for all those years that I would never forget her. Now that she is an angel in heaven surely she understands.