Letters to my Best Friend, 2019

Thea Henderson

1. Palm Cove

Today, we decided to catch a bus to Palm Cove. As soon as we stepped off the bus it felt as though we’d wound up in a tourist resort. The street was lined with big hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. There was an unspoken shared desire to somehow distinguish ourselves as locals, although this was made difficult by our overstuffed bags and DSLR cameras. We wandered down the main street, unconsciously exaggerating our accents to ensure people knew we were ‘from around here’. We bought ‘natural’ slushies from the young hippy guy with piercing blue eyes, later discussing how ‘his eye contact was so intense I didn’t know what to do’, and eventually a bowl of chips from which I only took one, desperate not to perpetuate my image as a greedy guts. Finally, we crossed the road to the beach, and after ten minutes of snapping pictures of each other, we stripped off our clothes and ran into the water. At a distance it looked turquoise, but upon closer inspection it was a murky brown, on account of the swirling sand. Nonetheless, we dove in, spluttering and shouting, riding waves to shore until they dumped us in the sand, and screaming ‘I love the ocean!’ in Jamaican accents. We swam further out where we could safely strip off our bikinis, waving them above our heads in triumph, feeding off the confidence of the other. As the sun began to set, we reluctantly clambered out of the water, and in the few short steps to our towels, we already felt the sticky residue of salt water on our skin. We walked home from the bus sometimes chatting, sometimes in quiet companionship. The elation of such an idyllic day was felt from our head to our toes, filling us with the delight of good memories and those yet to be made.

 

2. Wish you were here...

Daydreaming in class, I picture her walking in, imagining how we would run up to each other and hug so hard we almost lose our balance. Sometimes I hear her voice in my head, a dry, sarcastic comment that makes me laugh. Even in my imagination does she manage to be funny. I can see the way she frowns when she concentrates, hear her laugh, feel her hugs that are so purposefully tight I push her off me.

I walk around Copenhagen only partly me, partly awake, because I don’t have her with me. How can you be so close to another person? Do we share the same skin? My nerve endings connect to yours, I feel the electrical currents flow from your body over to mine, I stand up straighter, my fingers reach out for you, but they grasp at nothingness, because my arms are made of skin and bone and can’t stretch 16,000 kilometres.

I miss you. My heart is tearing at the seams and your name flows out through the breaks in the stitches, carving itself into my bones, materialising in the love lines on my palm. Sometimes I feel like I’m mourning the loss of you because you’re so far away from me, a speck in the horizon my eyes are incapable of focusing on. Yet I see your name in my phone, tangible and reachable – but there are invisible walls that separate us now, endless corridors cast in long shadows that never lead me to you. How do I survive without you? How do I go through hundreds of days and thousands of hours without seeing you?

The world is a tornado of movement around me, a chaotic maze of choices, coincidences and fate. But when I peel away each layer of my life’s artichoke, you’re sitting at its heart; eyes glued to the screen of your phone, and I sigh a little because you never put the damn thing away. Our rafts float further and further away from each other, but my arms are so sore from trying to paddle closer to you.

Eventually, I have to give in to the current.

 

3. You and me against the world

You are my gravitational pull. We were meant to be friends forever, but tendrils of doubt rope themselves around my heart. Years of bottled-up hurt manifests itself in anger and resentment, and I find myself not knowing how to forgive you. I can’t make you need me. But I also don’t know how to be friends with someone who doesn’t.

I have been captivated by your humour, idiosyncrasies and individuality since our very first play-date: your shamelessness in still watching Play School at age nine screamed, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks’. All I ever needed was you. We created our own universe that no one else could enter, an impenetrable and indestructible bubble of androgynous ladybirds, My Little Pony and home videos. You and me against the world.

But now we’ve grown up, and I question whether we would still be friends today if I wasn’t so determined to stay in touch. People coming and going is one of the core essences of life, but I never applied that to you. You were a part of me, our beings intrinsically linked. But it’s late and I miss you and I don’t know how you’re doing, and we’re not kids anymore. I can’t keep waiting with outstretched arms, because there’s only ever empty space between them.

I pick up the phone, but the line is dead.
I look at old photos, but we were so different then.
I thought it was you and me against the world.
But I’m pooling on the floor in a puddle of sorrow, because the imbalance in our friendship towers above me, tapping me on the shoulder to say, she’ll never need you the way you need her.

That night on our camping trip, when we sat on the beach looking up at the luminous sky, I felt we were the only two people alive. You’re all I’ve ever needed, and I’m lost without you. But I’m losing myself in trying to find you.

Thea is an arts student with a passion for languages, currently learning her fourth. If she’s not dancing to Spanish music, reading or writing, you’ll probably find her indulging in her guilty pleasure: reality TV (the trashier the better).

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