There is a time for everything under the sun.
All good things come to an end.
For months now I’d been thinking, when I come back home I really should take that photo off my wall in my old bedroom. We do not speak, we do not write, I don’t miss her and I don’t think about her much. It’s done, it has come to an end. Why keep her frozen face next to my pillow, as if she was watching over me, as if there was anything tying us together?
We met in September of my Matric year, 2007. Within a few months it felt she’d known me all my life. In 2008 I moved cities and the girl who’d been my best friend since the age of 12 moved continents. One role to fill, one person to fill it, it seemed. So we get to know each other, we share the secrets, the gossips, even the crushes. Our friends thought that having feelings for the same boy would tear us apart. But he fucked us both over, bringing us closer together than I actually believed possible. I like to think we’re both strong young woman, an alarming force. The kind of girls weak boys are afraid of, scared off by.
She took a lot of my burdens, and I like to believe I listened to hers. But half way through last year I noticed my part in her life was dwindling. Our conversations dwindled, mostly pivoting around my broken heart, a distant and drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, my anxiety, my ever-shaking self-esteem. I don’t think it was very easy to breathe while reading my messages. I know I was probably selfish. But you kept saying you were always there, you wanted to listen and you cared. I wish you’d told me to fuck off, if that is what you were thinking. I do not know what you were thinking, but I’m beyond worrying about that, now.
There were many conversations where I just did not know what to say. I asked my other friends, sometimes it seemed you were listless towards everyone, and sometimes it seemed I was just being paranoid and clingy, and every other friendship you had was hunkydory. I was the clingy one, the woeful, anxiety-ridden one. I was making simple friendships complicated.
Then I would come home from university, and you would be here too, visiting your friends, “our” friends. I have never really been a part of that group, but that’s another story, another viewpoint. My friendship with you went from you not knowing I existed, to you placing me at the centre of your thoughts and actions, including me in everything, messaging and phoning me like you would a lover – I don’t know if that was ever healthy or not, but self-analysis requires an empathy I sort of lack, so screw that – to you writing less and less, and I telling you less and less, until that night, last December, you were staying at my house with your new best friend. I knew in my heart you weren’t staying here for me, to see me. You needed a place for you and her, and Marty is ever the sweet doormat for the people she loves.
We had an argument, I believed you had humiliated me, you and everyone else present thought I was overreacting, I considered returning instantly to Grahamstown and signing into the mental asylum there. I still don’t know what to make of that night, but I know it changed everything. Or better still, it made clear what we’d both known for a while.
You left after a few days, and although we tried to clarify and pacify, it was more out of tradition than actually caring. I reckon.
The months passed, the distance increased. It hurt but 2009 was teaching me all about the importance of being cool, calm, and internally bleeding. Academia was challenging me, digs life was wracking my nerves, religion tearing my soul apart…contemplating the loss of one of my closest friends wouldn’t help me sleep any better.
And the months passed, and the seasons changed, and I realised the past can never be repeated. We can take similar photos, we can kiss similar lips, we can write similar songs, but once one thing is done, it’s gone. Just like you.
I come home in July, one day before your farewell, three weeks after you arrived here for a holiday. I’m invited to it, but not by you. I’m not surprised, in fact my emotions are so stilted and tied I can barely describe them. I arrive, I see people, acquaintances, more people I call friends, my mind reels with labels, tearing them off one and attaching them to another, all the while being told my boobs have grown since going to Rhodes, and who would have thought Marty would try weed.
And then you arrive, late, and it is only after you greet me that I notice you. I’d walked right past you and hadn’t seen you. We hug, we say hello, I say how are you, you are great, and you ask how I am, I am awesome. Funny choice of word, Marty, I think. Usually it is her who is awesome, loudly confident and visually perfect. She does the usual routine of closing her eyes and declaring she is not drunk, before anyone has even claimed she might be, and then I proceed to my seat to talk to other people. It’s been a minute, I’ve already run out of words for her. I used to have so many. But that was a long time ago, and now I turn to other conversations and faces.
This morning I remember the friendship bracelets I’d bought us, and I wonder if you are still wearing yours. I’m glad I didn’t check when I saw you last night, that might have punctured my armour. But I know it’s over now. You left early last night, I don’t know why, I didn’t really care. I was having a good time with a dozen other people. I hugged you goodbye, asked when you were leaving, who you were staying with. I listened to the answers, nodded, my eyes and smile probably gave away more than I intended. I think if I spoke at all last night it was because I was scared of the silence. And because I wanted to give you a chance to enthrall me again. But you didn’t, and that’s really fine by me. I don’t wish you anything bad. I see now your life is made up of extremities, of blood sisters and passionate crushes, which burst into flame, and equally powerfully burst into dead ashes. My life is similarly structured, though I like to think there are some hands I hold onto throughout my life. Some hands, but I guess not yours.
As she picked up the scissors to free the old string from her arm, she felt as much melancholy as peace. This was only one more wave in the eternal wavescape that is Life. There are peaks, there are troughs.
Just as one wave reaches its lowest point, it turns around and heads upwards, breaking through the axis line, rocketing.
The rainbow-coloured string fell free into the memory box.
The lid shut. She put on her takkies and went to dinner with another friend.