When I was in sixth grade, the girl who ended up becoming my best friend sat behind me, over in the row to the left of mine. I do not know why I remember that exact location, but I guess there are certain things you never forget, especially things close to the heart.
We had never met before. I was new to the school that she had been attending for a few years already. At that time in sixth grade, students stayed in one classroom all day and did not change classes. For some reason, as I have heard it happens often with people who are destined to be great friends, we kept staring at each other when we thought the other was not looking. We began hanging out at recess and lunch, and the rest was history.
I do not know if it was our goofy, obnoxious personalities that made us inseparable, or if it was because we were such dramatics that every time we watched Oprah Winfrey and Oprah would cry we would both, too, fly into teary hysterics, that made us joined at the hip. All I know is that while I was going through the most crucial stages of adolescent development, Clair was going through it at the same time with me.
She was in the car when I had my first accident at 16 (and some will even contest that it was partly her fault). She was there when my mom flipped out and threw my sister and me out of the house on Christmas Eve five years ago because all three of us were having a sprinkle fight in the kitchen, and there when we were let back in laughing two hours later. I was there in the hospital with her when her grandmother had open heart surgery and when her grandfather underwent his first successful operative battle against cancer. When Clair went to England one summer, I spent the night over her house all the time anyway, because her mom missed both of us when she was gone.
Although we went to different high schools, I saw her every day anyway. Since we have been in college (surprisingly we chose the same one), we have both become busy people and it is not as easy to find the time to spend together. Now that I think about it, I do not know if it is that it is not as easy or that we both do not see our friendship as a priority anymore, because we both kind of know that it will always be there in one shape or another.
But it is strange how suddenly you open your eyes one day and realize that everything is different, and may have been for quite some time. It can dawn on you that you and your best friend are not little girls anymore. I find myself grasping for those days when we said boyfriends could never be more important; before time was an obstacle, before life’s circumstances became too constricting to be dropped off at the mall, spending the whole day shopping with $30 each (weaseled off our moms of course), talking about the many dramatic episodes of of our adolescent lives.
It happens so fast, growing up. I do not believe there is an exact moment when it actually happens, but it seems that once you realize it is gone, it can never really come back. Nowadays, I find myself no longer friends with many of those who once seemed so important to me, partly because I choose not to be, and partly because I seem to be embracing a different mentality that involves simplicity and loyalty as opposed to scandal that sets people within the same circles of friends against each other. I find these recent years of adulthood flying by so quickly that I would rather have one or two friends who are loyal as opposed to 15 who are still riding the clouds of competition and conformity, trying to find out who they really are.
I do not know what will become of the friendship Clair and I have cultivated habitually and happily for almost 11 years. We are both as separate as we have ever been, but something tells me that we will be okay. Sometimes I make it home in time to see Oprah and I want to call her up and discuss with her the topic of the day like we used to when our only concerns were lounging on the couch, eating Rice-a-Roni and barbeque chips. We screamed at all the pregnant teens, cheered for every family reunion, laughed at the macho guys in cowboy hats… and we always cried when Oprah did.
Raechel Fittante, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.