One of my friends is in Atlanta this summer for an internship, and her apartment is right behind a Kroger. So picture us, at sunset, opening the gate that separates her complex from the strip mall and crossing the parking lot, suffocating heat rising from the asphalt, Marylee complaining about needing to clean the apartment, me leaping onto the sidewalk and trying to convince her she just needs some wine and it’ll be fine.
Nothing really happened there, except that I caught a whiff of the pizza parlor and we emerged from the little patch of woods into the sunlight while having a conversation.
But these mundane moments are the ones I travel for, and the ones I’ll miss as new habits and conversations rise in their place.
This particular moment was part of a road trip I took to my hometown with another close friend who’d never been to Greenville before. Since Cole had shown me around his hometown, I figured it was only fair to return the favor.
He had an old blue Jeep Cherokee since high school and this would he her last adventure with us (we named her Saphira a few weeks into our friendship — I’m still the five-year-old who named every single one of her Beanie Babies), as well as the last time we’d hang out before I head off to Vietnam and parts unknown for time as-yet-undetermined.
It was one of those momentous occasions, the whole thing really. Cole tried his first Carolina barbecue, I began openly hating Atlanta, we bid farewell to the trusty steed that took us the length of Texas and beyond, and we finally confronted the beast that was saying goodbye to one another.
The idea of goodbyes is a strange one. With effort, goodbyes never really mean what they imply. We will see each other later, or soon, or maybe in a few years, and continue to text incessantly. There’s still value in a modern Internet friendship.
The luxury of an in-person friendship is what we said goodbye to, though. We’ve spent the past three years in each other’s apartments and dorm rooms, taken vacations together, always been present for a crisis. That’s what’s over.
Marylee is in a long distance relationship with a guy she met during study abroad in London, and he’d just left before we arrived after a three-week-long visit. We caught her during one of the times where she calls him at six in the morning London time and asks him whether or not it’s worth the long shot.
And of course he answers, and they talk. She knows it’s worth fighting for. She’s applying to grad school across the pond (for reasons other than the guy as well, don’t worry. But also, why is moving somewhere for someone you love so suspect?)
Their relationship is strong, but it’s not ideal, and that’s what was difficult about sitting in a park in downtown Greenville and talking with Cole about the future.
I’m headed in a different direction from everyone I know, so from here out, all my former relationships won’t be ideal. I want to travel for the foreseeable future, and I’m going alone. I’m excited, but it won’t be easy on any of my relationships.
I’ve left enough places to know how friendships fizzle. It starts with the promise to Skype, which dwindles to an email or a long Facebook message every now and then and eventually ends up with a couple unanswered texts and never-ending likes on Instagram.
People move on, and it’s no big deal unless you’re confronting that from the beginning of the process. As much as I want to stay in touch and keep current levels of communication open, I know it’s not possible. I’ll be halfway around the world, and we’ll have different lives.
It will be an evolution, and we’ll become different types of friends. But I like to believe if it ever reaches Instagram-like levels of detachment, I’ll pick up the phone and call from wherever I am, time difference and phone bill be damned.
Then that moment will join the many walks to grocery stores and trips to far-off goals in some film reel of friendship, and we’ll move on.
I’m thankful to have such amazing friends, and even though I wouldn’t marry any of them (though I love them all dearly,) this song captures the feeling of permanence I hope we hold on to in one another’s lives.