Don’t you remember being nine years old, chasing each other around the playground at recess as if we were the only two kids in the schoolyard. Everyone used to tease us, saying we were boyfriend and girlfriend. They were wrong, we insisted. You and I were just friends. Best friends. Until your family moved away, and all that you left me with was a hug in the backseat of my parents’ Subaru before disappearing from my life for good.
Don’t you remember when we were ten and spent our afternoons wandering through the woods behind our homes. Our hands would be left scraped from the hearty branches of plants we would rip out of the ground, clearing a plot for our secret fort that we would return to day after day. We’d bike through the forest like our lives depended on it, being chased by a danger that we made up in our minds to make suburban life feel a little more exhilarating.
Don’t you remember when we were eleven, and we rode our bikes into town for the first time without our parents. It was the most liberating feeling. The rush of wind against our faces. Cars flying past. The trees a blur all around us. It was a thirty minute trip if you pedaled hard enough. All to be rewarded with a blue-raspberry slushy paired with a candy bar from the convenient store at the bottom of the hill. We felt on top of the world eating our snacks alone in the park gazebo. This was the epitome of getting older. This was freedom.
Don’t you remember when we were twelve and you stopped answering my phone calls. You were growing into yourself, which translated to growing apart from me. Our sleepovers and inside jokes turned into awkward smiles in passing and avoidance on the school bus. I missed drinking root beer in your basement and playing basketball in your driveway. You were the keeper of my secrets, until you were suddenly nothing at all.
Don’t you remember when we were thirteen, and I told you I loved you over an e-mail. I couldn’t say it to you in person. You were too far away. But god, I was scared. My body shook for nearly an hour after I hit send, and it took you two days to write me back saying you only loved me like a sister. My heart sank as the rejection set in. You were my first love, but you certainly weren’t my last.
Don’t you remember coming to the lake with me when we were fourteen. We swam for hours before tie-dying shirts that matched the color of the setting sun. Marshmallows burned in the flames of our campfire as the smell of smoke and bug spray intertwined and hung in the air. How easy those summer months were. Our only responsibility: enjoying our time together.
Don’t you remember being fifteen and trying to fit in. Everyone was cooler than us in high school, or so we assumed. Lunch tables were always full and bus seats were usually taken, but I was grateful that you made space for me. Days you were out left me feeling empty and lost. Why do teenagers feel like a pack of wolves out to kill you the moment you’re found wandering the halls alone? It was so relieving when we finally found a pack of our own.
Don’t you remember being sixteen, driving us around in your first car. Your passenger seat was my favorite escape. I couldn’t believe the places we now had access to. The ice rink, the movies, our favorite diner down the road. You took us everywhere. What a life-changer it was to spend time with our friends outside of our family homes. How adult it felt to pay for gas with our own cash made from bussing tables and selling clothes. A bike was freeing, but four wheels were infinitely better than two.
Don’t you remember taking me to prom at seventeen. I talked to your mom in the kitchen, letting her compliment how perfectly my deep blue dress matched my eyes. When you came downstairs, you took one look at me before running back up to change your tie because you wanted it to match my gown, and the color you chose was just slightly off. We ate, we laughed, and we danced to that one song that, to this day, still reminds me of you. You told me you had a surprise for me when we came home, and I was delighted when you pulled an ice cream cake out of the fridge for the two of us to share in the dim kitchen light.
Don’t you remember when we were eighteen and sat parked in my driveway, crying in your car for an hour because we didn’t want to say goodbye. We were best friends, consistently turned towards each other like two sunflowers who could only ever find the light in each other. As we left for college and our roots were ripped out of the ground, I feared the distance would break us. You taught me that a bond won’t break if both parties are willing to keep it alive.
Don’t you remember the day we met under the orange tree when I was nineteen. You were sweet like the fruit hanging over our heads. You took the seat next to me in class and slipped me your number in the middle of a lecture. I loved seeing your name light up on my phone, asking where I was and if you could see me between classes. The smell of coffee filled my apartment every Tuesday morning as I brewed it for us both, knowing you always carved out an hour of your day to drink it with me.
Don’t you remember getting drunk in my living room when we were twenty. It was two in the morning, and we were laughing about nothing as we sat on separate couches despite me wanting to be closer to you. The air left my lungs when you told me you were going to break up with your girlfriend over Thanksgiving. You said you just wanted to let me know. But I was too reserved and broke our relationship before it even began. Falling asleep with spinning vision, I told you to stay for breakfast once the sun rose. I’ll never forget waking up to the sound of the front door shutting as you left the next morning without a word.
Don’t you remember the late nights we spent working on school projects together when I was twenty one. You grabbed my arm and put your watch on my wrist as I played you some of my favorite songs in the study room. There was no one outside my college apartment that night when you brought me home and told me to take my backpack off so you could give me a real hug goodbye. My heart beat with a hopeful glow as you promised to take me to a million places. We never went to a single one.
Don’t you remember the day you picked me up from the airport when I was twenty two. We were both strangers to one another, but you were kind to me from the start as you brought us back to the apartment we’d be sharing. I had nothing to say to you in the moment, nor did I have any idea how much I would end up sharing with you in the future. I don’t think either of us could’ve expected the sister-like bond we formed with time.
Don’t you remember waking up in Zion when we were twenty three. The crisp October air blowing life into our tired bodies. The smell of morning dew triggering the appearance of a blissful smile on your face. It was both of our second times at the park, but our first time going together. You fell asleep in the passenger seat as I drove your car through the desert for seven hours on the forth day, taking us back home to a reality that I was dreading returning to.
Don’t you remember the day you moved out without warning when we were twenty four, erasing your existence on a Friday afternoon as if you had never lived there at all. The spaces that you occupied, empty, like the amount of love we had left in our hearts to give each other.
Don’t you remember the day I gave you a gun and helped you aim it at my heart, trusting that you wouldn’t pull the trigger. But somewhere along the way your finger slipped, the bullet left the barrel, and you killed me without meaning to. The recoil had you injured, but at least you walked away with your heart still intact while I bled out alone, wishing I had never given you the power to fire.
You build friendship.
You break it.
You find love.
You lose it.
You make a memory.
Hold onto it.
Don’t you remember all the people you’ve loved, and all the memories you’ve made with them. The innocence of our pure hearts ruptured by the earthquake of adulthood. The joy in the small moments that level out the heartache. I know you remember it all. You and everyone else. Don’t let any piece of it, good or bad, slip away.