I sit in the circle of wriggling, giggling girls, all of us snuggled deep into our sleeping bags. The chatter floats between us like happy butterflies. We’ve gone from talking about movies, to magazines, to school, and after that we’re off to everyone’s new favorite topic.
Yes, because it seems that we have, in this room, all crossed the bridge from dolls and tea parties to this new strange land. The land of, among other things, boys. Or rather, Noticing Boys as More Than Irritating Buggers.
The other girls have all taken turns spilling their souls to everyone about all their unrequited loves and crushes and all semi romantic experiences. I listen, enthralled, to what they say. So enthralled, I am, that I don’t realize it’s my turn to share.
I look to the girl on the other side, expecting her to go. I have nothing to say. But she shakes her head. I bite my lips together and think hard, racking my brain for stories of this chosen genre. Apparently, though, memory lane needs to restock, because I come up empty. Except. There is one story. That story. These girls are my friends, they’ll understand. But something inside of me wants to keep it to myself. It’s mine. I close my eyes and picture his face. That lovely, lovely face. His lovely, lost forever face. He’s telling me to share the story of us. It’s not mine, I know, it’s ours. I open my eyes.
I open my mouth and start to tell the story of William.
“William was my best friend ever, and my soulmate. I met him when I was a mere baby of, oh, six or so. Instantly, we were inseparable. That’s what they said about us. It was as though, at birth, we had been torn away from each other and now had to spend our every waking moment making up for our lost time. If it is possible to be soul mates at age six, then we were. We knew each other’s words before they were even thought. We would side together against all odds. It was just me and William, together against the world.”
The girls press on, and the story gets easier to tell.
“I remember we used to jump down the stairs, hand in hand, to keep from falling. It’s how we were.”
As I tell, more memories rush forth. “And on Fridays, the school would always have food, and I remember we used to get pizza and sit on the doorsteps and talk or eat. Or both or neither. I liked them all.”
The smell of pizza comes and curls in my nose like a strange cat.
“Go on, go on,” chide the girls, curiosity tinting their voices. I hadn’t realized I’d stopped.
“Well, yeah, and we had other games too. There was this one human body model in our classroom. It was one with removable organs and all that, and we’d just sit for hours and make up horrible things and stories for the model to suffer through. But no matter what we made up, William always found a way to fix the model up. I loved that so much, because William could always find a way to solve any puzzle, fix everything. He was my ultimate solution, and that was the ultimate problem.”
I drift off, not wanting to muddle the happy memories with the painful reality. But the girls want an ending, and only I can give it to them.
“One day he came to school and he looked different. Ruffled, maybe? He looked like he’d been crying. So I ran to greet him, to make sure he was okay. And then, he turned away. He cowered away from my hello. This nearly knocked me to the ground. And he hadn’t even said anything yet.”
Now the words are thick again; stuck in my mouth like a peanut butter and molasses lump smoothie. I look to the sky, as though someone may come and take me to the moon, but when no one comes I keep going.
“He said to me, in a tone of voice I’d never heard him use before, that we could never be friends again. I asked why, of course, and he said his parents wanted schoolwork to be more important than friends. Meaning best friends. Meaning… me. With those words, I was crushed like an old can. The space between us grew and grew until there was a chasm so deep and so wide you could never cross it. His words were the first to hurt me, even though I had always thought of words as my friends. William’s words were supposed to be soft and funny, but somehow they had come out wrong. Stiff and cold and serious as no cake on your birthday. My teacher came over to me. She saw what had happened. She knew why my heart was imploding.
“‘He’ll come around.’ She said that, and I believed her. I believed her every day until I thought the moon would fall into the ocean and the birds would cease to fly and I believed her even after that. I believed her as I got on the airplane and left him and my old world in Bolivia. Maybe I still do. I just don’t know when or how or where, but I know why. I just have to keep waiting.”
My friends look at me. “Why? Why would you wait like that for someone? Why don’t you just move on?”
I answer without blinking. “Because soulmates always wait for each other.”
Saudade. “A deep emotional state of nostalgic or melancholic longing for an absent something or someone a person loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. Saudade.”