Georgia latched onto me from the minute we met. We were both fourteen, and it was the first day of high school. She was the kind of girl who needed - who required - relationships to satisfy her life. Solitude was not her companion. And so, for four years, I was there through it all. When the boy she liked told her that he just wanted to be friends, I let her cry on my shoulder. When she got caught cheating on her chemistry test, I was the one who talked our teacher into letting her off with just a warning. When she drank too much at our senior prom, I took her home early and sat with her until she fell asleep. It wasn’t until I got my acceptance letter and she got her rejection that I realized just how happy I was to leave her. I felt horrible about it.
“Don’t worry about me, Dina. I’ll be fine,” she told me as she helped me pack up my bedroom. The truth was, I was not worried about her. In fact, I did not care the slightest what happened to her while I would be away. I wanted to care - I really wanted to care, but I didn’t.
“I know you will be,” I lied. She looked at me with her sparkling navy eyes. For a moment, I felt something, but it quickly went away.
Don’t get me wrong, I really did like Georgia when we first met. It was the kind of friendship where you really don’t notice anything wrong until it’s too late - too many years pass by to say anything. So I just stuck with her. Honestly, it wasn’t like I had many other friends to lean on if I were to suddenly summon the courage to leave her. Being friends with her was safe; she was one of those people that found friends in every group at school. I knew as long as I stayed friends with her, I would never become a social outcast. Maybe I was just as afraid of aloneness as she was.
But now - now I crave independence. Looking at Georgia in my room telling me which mini skirt I should wear to which party, I can say with certainty that I would rather be alone than be with her. I find it funny now when she almost convinced me to give up on my dream college so that I would go with her to school. I concede we did both use each other as crutches. The only thing is that she never realized that I was her crutch, and I did not realize it soon enough.
“You’ll call me, right? When you’re away?” she asked wistfully. There it was, that dependence she had on me. If she asked me this even a year ago, I would have replied an ecstatic “of course!” in a heartbeat. Now, I have no idea what to say.
“As long as you call me!” I said with a cracked voice.
She smiled at me, a real smile. I had to look away.
I remembered just then being sixteen and having a crush on the guy that sat in front of me in geometry class. I never said anything to Georgia, and to this day, I have no idea why. Months passed, and every day I would stare into the back of his head, imagining what it would feel like to have his hair curled around my finger. One day at lunch, Georgia surprised me by pointing him out in the cafeteria. “See that guy over there?” I nodded. “Well, I think he likes me,” she said smugly. Without showing too much emotion on my face, I asked her why. “He’s in two of my classes, and whenever I look over at his side of the room, he’s always meeting my gaze. Today, he asked if he could borrow my notes.” I told her that might not mean anything. She shook her head. “You see, Dina, that’s what I thought at first too, but then I realized that he sits right next to Travis Foster, who is like the smartest kid in our class. Why would he walk all the way over to me just to ask for notes? He doesn’t even know if I’m smart or not!” I said nothing. That was the day when my crush for that boy ended. I felt nothing for him from that moment forward. I no longer longed to touch his hair; in fact, all I could notice sitting behind him was how oily and tangled his hair really was. Even if he did ever ask me out, I would most definitely have said no.
I wondered if I would meet a guy in college. It made me nervous, I’ll admit, the idea that there will be a sea of people untainted by Georgia. No one will even know who she is. I also wondered who Georgia would meet at her college. I wondered if she would find a replacement for me. I wondered if I was replaceable.
“I was thinking I’d come visit one weekend, and then you could come visit me,” she suggested, then looked to me for validation.
I had a moment of panic. This was it - this would be how she’d get me. I would be hundreds of miles away and still be caught in her grasp. “Yeah, definitely,” I said with a forced smile. I was already thinking about the possible excuses I could come up with if she ever called me. I could say that my roommate doesn’t like visitors, or that I have too much homework, or the weather isn’t good, or there are no good parties to go to - anything to keep her away.
Our friendship was held together by a few thin threads just waiting to break. Georgia was blind to this, and this was what made me feel bad about leaving. She really thought of me like a true friend; she had no idea what true friendship was. I really didn’t either. I always hoped she would realize it at some point, our threadbare connection, but even as we were about to say our last goodbyes, she was teary-eyed.
“Oh, Dina,” she stammered, “I’m going to miss you so much.”
I stared at her. We were both standing outside my front door. I felt the need to cry, to match Georgia’s visible emotions, but my eyes were dry. My face had never been more stoic. “I’ll miss you too.” It was all a lie, but what was I supposed to do? I had to make my escape, and I had to do it quickly. I had to cut those last threads, otherwise, my life would never be separate from Georgia’s.
She hugged me, and I hugged her back. “I hope you do well, Georgia.” That was the truth. I really hoped she did well without me. I hoped she realized that she needed to escape as much as I did. I hoped she realized that she could be strong enough without relying on other people.
“You too, Dina.” She hugged me for a long time. I tried to loosen my grip at one point, but she only held on tighter. I was worried for a minute that she would never let go, but eventually, she did. She looked at me, her eyes surprisingly dry. I didn’t watch her walk away, not wanting to see if she would turn back. I went inside quickly and closed my eyes, feeling a sense of relief wash over me. It was a new feeling, something I had not felt in years - and I liked it.