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Friendship Coming of Age Contemporary

“You look like you need a cup of tea.” Ripley crosses her arms and looks at her friend sitting at the bar-like kitchen table. Ripley pulls her hair into a low bun, strands hanging down in her eyes over her thick-rimmed glasses. The small woman stands on her tip-toes to get a box of tea out of the cupboard and reaches across the stove to flip on the burner. The light shines in through the window, the weather is cool and damp but mild enough to take a walk outside in a light jacket. This made the simple warm drink seem all the more appealing to the duo.

It’s been a while since they have seen each other. Alison was in medical school and Ripley was pursuing a master's degree in journalism. As Ripley looked upon Alison, she thought of the times Alison had a lively hopeful look in her eyes. She used to swallow her feelings and fake stoicism so everyone would depend on her. It made her an excellent doctor and team captain, but bad at vulnerability. In recent years, Ripley had seen it as best that they share that yoke of personality. It was a level of maturity that Ripley had grown to more than the early years of their friendship.

“I need vodka, not tea,” Alison snarled. Ripley can remember a time when her friend came off as pious and snobby and would not touch a glass of alcohol. The feminine and curated withdrawal in the future doctor’s personality was now replaced with a biting and jaded reality. The fear and restraint once so highly exercised in undergrad was not completely gone but was now replaced with a pragmatic attitude. The sarcastic nerd still had her morality intact but if you didn’t go to school with her, you would think she is any high-performing person who was willing to step on people. Alison sat at the table rubbing her temples and burying her head into her hands. 

“You need to chill out and not indulge your alcoholic habits.” Ripley never thought she would be saying that to Alison. It had always been Ripley to drink too much or be vulgar. Over the years their roles had become more fluid, with one person playing a role for the other when it was required of them. Sometimes Alison was still the mature one, holding everything together, but more recently Ripley has been able to be of aid to her friend. The friendship had become less one-sided. It was a good change, it was no longer one person on the teeter-totter, but two playing the game fairly.

Alison leans back in the stool, her tall figure apparent as she stretched out.“Fine, I’ll take jasmine.” Ripley picked out the teabag for Alison. The brisk sunlight streamed through the apartment window. The water boils as the knob for the burner clicks off and a high-pitched bleed comes from the teapot. Ripley walked around in a crewneck with their alma mater on it and Alison sat in scrubs, still having yet to change. Ripley thought to herself how the two were an odd pair. Despite the oddity, she knew Alison’s nature though and Alison knew her own. 

Ripley sat down at the elevated table and slid the drink of hot water and leaves across the table. Alison picks her head up and takes a sip. Ripley still believed her friend to be a hopeful and optimistic person, but the difference was that Alison had experienced life like all of them. Ripley had become aged by the years as well. “I think you’re burnt out.”

“I don’t have the option to be, I’m fine.” Alison quietly snapped back to Ripley. Her voice is quiet and gruff, she’s not trying to be mean but can’t help to retort in the way she did. Ripley feels momentary annoyance, then seeps into pity for her friend. Ripley remembers the time she trashed their apartment and Alison cleaned it up without saying a word, affording a grace and forgiveness that Ripley now felt undeserving of. 

“I really don’t think you are,” Ripley slides over to Alison, putting a hand on her shoulder. The emotionally exhausted medical student looked directly into her drink. It was less like tea with a friend and more like a well-deserved happy hour. Alison’s hands wrapped around the mug, Ripley could feel her friend begin to shake.

 It’s been a while since they have seen each other. Alison was in medical school and Ripley was pursuing a master's degree in journalism. As Ripley looked upon Alison, she thought of the times Alison had a lively hopeful look in her eyes. She used to swallow her feelings and fake stoicism so everyone would depend on her. It made her an excellent doctor and team captain, but bad at vulnerability. In recent years, Ripley had seen it as best that they share that yoke of personality. It was a level of maturity that Ripley had grown to more than the early years of their friendship.

“What makes you think that?!” Alison snaps, her brown eyes narrow, and her hair whips as she turns her head. Ripley noticed the small peaks of grey threads in Alison’s hair. A biting glare on her face. For Ripley, little snips from Alison and vice versa were nothing new for the friendship. The most admirable outcome of the friendship was that they held one another lightly. They never left one another while allowing each other to grow. That kind of companionship was needed in life and a gift to those who found it.

Ripley gently moved her hand back to Alison’s arm,“...There are bags under your eyes, and you look exhausted to the point of tears. You look like you need a hug or like you’re going to puke or both.” Ripley’s quiet words elicited almost silent and exhausted sobs from Alison. Quiet and suppressed tears hit the table in a small puddle. It was vulnerability Alison would not have shown in her early college years.

Alison grows in sobs. “Dude, I’m sorry to be a jerk, I’m so tired and I feel like I’m carrying a giant rock on my back. I just feel like collapsing.” Her head is buried in her arms as Ripley pats her friend on the back. The last time Ripley had seen Alison cry this much was when Thomas dropped out and broke up with her. Alison had always been the one to take on others' problems. The sobbing woman was not a robot, and even robots would break.

Arguments from the past aside, friendships are a beast many do not see. It’s a comfort few can afford or are willing to give themselves to. While it is not the be-all end of life, the true thing is a beautiful sight to behold. “You don’t have to hold up the world on your shoulders alone. I can’t hold everything together for you but I am here for you.”

January 10, 2022 01:51

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