When I was very small, I had a best friend who lived in my neighborhood and her name was Vicky. It was a match made in heaven–we both had younger siblings the same age to terrorize and our names rhymed. Nicky and Vicky. The Icky Twins. There was half a block and one corner and one half block more between our houses and we wore the sidewalk out between them, running back and forth every summer day and after school.
By high school, my white sandled feet smacked the hot pavement no longer, we had moved to a different street and my twin lived a few towns away. But she lived also in the little crooks of my bones, which were growing like little girl bones often do. And the bones were stronger with the hard marrow of the memory of a first friend who had shared my secrets and laughed a laugh in harmony with my own.
And while I grew and my bones remembered, I made high school friends. Boys this time. And girls who loved each other like young women, on the cusp of understanding, love each other, with ferocity and sometimes melancholy. We played the saxophone together, we liked the same boys from the marching band, we went to dances in limousines and hurt each others feelings with the carelessness of youth. But we loved more fiercely than we hurt and in the end we cried to say goodbye, kept hold of each other over the seasons. Somehow, some of us will eat lunch together this week after 15 years.
And all that time we were friends, not the call-you-everyday-see-you-tomorrow kind of friends, but the kind that know each other well enough after 15 years of not knowing, to see each others faces in the restaurant and send the years away like a bad meal, gone and replaced by a new plate, a new future.
And there were men who were my friends–a lover, a husband. Friends with benefits, in the purest sense of that phrase. A friend to sleep beside, who might wake with me in the middle of the night to get a glass of water if I was terribly thirsty, who might go and get the baby and hush him to sleep when I was snoring loudly after 3 days of no sleep at all. A friend with freckled skin who looked in my eyes and said nothing but spoke all the words that swam around in my chest. A friend who cried at the first chords of Joe Cockers, “You Are So Beautiful”. A friend who held me softly when I cried after we made love.
It would be years past high school before I made a grown up girlfriend. It was fine though, I was waiting patiently and when I found her it was all clear why I had been waiting. She lets me love her without hesitating, loves me back without questioning. She is my neighbor, my friend. If I get lost somewhere, crying in the streets between her house and mine, she picks me up and takes me home–the long way so we can talk it through and I am always, always laughing by the time we find my driveway again.
I am a sum of all my parts: most of all, the people who have loved me and those I have loved. All of you, I have known.
These bones don’t grow anymore, I am not getting any taller. But they are stronger, because I have loved you, my old friends, my new friends.
Your friendship is solidified in my past and present, I promise you.
All that love is ossified in me.