I never really learned how to be friends. When I was younger, my friendships were obsessive, consuming. I had a group of girls that I liked, and one friend who was my everything. In elementary school, that girl was named Nicole, and I thought she was beautiful and perfect. I wanted to do everything she did. I wanted her to think I was perfect too.
I left Nicole for a girl named Kiersten, who was Nicole’s opposite. Tomboyish and rough, she played with the guys more often than the girls. I took to following her around the playground, awkwardly trying to join in games for which I did not know the rules. Eventually, I contented myself with cheering her on while she tackled boys and got first downs and other things I didn’t understand. One day, Kiersten told me she didn’t want me following her anymore and I spent the entire recess mourning. Nicole found me and tried to explain that how I felt was how she felt when I suddenly stopped hanging out with her. I didn’t know what to say.
Our elementary schools started busing students to another building in the third grade, and I found that Kiersten and my friendship didn’t survive the summer. I started talking to a girl named Lesley who had moved up from the south, which I found to be exotic. We spent all our time together, alternating weekends at each other’s houses. Our friendship lasted through middle school. Once in youth group (I had started going to Lesley’s church) I cried because she spent more time talking to our mutual friend Taylor than to me.
Then there was Kyra, who was a confident and talented musical theater buff and avid Christian. I started attending the youth group/theater troupe she was passionate about. Sandy, short and personable and hilarious. I more or less moved into her house over the summer.
The most prominent in my mind was Liz. Liz was everything I wanted to be. She could do no wrong and I wanted nothing more than her approval. We moved in together as adults and I think it destroyed our relationship. I still grieve for her, though we’ve made steps toward repairing our friendship now.