Saying Goodbye

20 Feb

Saturday I said goodbye. It was quick — a hug and a promise to call after the honeymoon. She had many other hugs to give, many other promises to make to the faces surrounding her.

Then she left, and the last thing anyone saw was a waving hand in a car window. Afterwards there were just tables, littered with old cups and dirty plates, and people wandering, exclaiming how wonderful everything was.

As we put our makeup on that morning, I think about how we got in trouble in the eighth grade for passing our secret notebook covered with sparkly stickers. As she sits in the salon getting her long blond hair curled, I think about how we speculated in high school who would get married first and to what kind of boy.

As she walks down the aisle, and everybody looks at her, I think about our summers together in my back yard, when we laid in the sun until our skin turned brown and swam so much it wrinkled. I think about the slushies we always made afterward and how she always chose the flavor blue raspberry.

As I hear her say her vows, I think about how she’d call me up to see if I wanted to go Rollerblading or for a bicycle ride or  come over for a campfire. I always did. I think about the time we got stuck on an island while camping and had to row back with one paddle. 

Mostly  I think about how opposite we are, yet we’re the best of friends.

Flashing back and forth between then and now, then and now… My mind is a skipping movie reel, and then, it ends.

“I now pronounce you man and wife!” Music and clapping erupt. Bright faces on either side of the aisle beam. She walks through it all, smiling, radiant, wiping away tears, the new Mr. and Mrs.  Jared Ruddy. She’s so happy.    

She’ll live in Scranton, Pa., with her husband, who planted a church there. It’s four hours away, which she says isn’t that far. It is. She’ll never again be a bike ride down some  bumpy sidewalk.

There will be the slow, inevitable drifting. People say it might not happen, but it always does. We won’t share much  anymore except the past, our memories. There will be cards for special occasions and occasional phone calls and  later, children. There will be visits every now and then when she’ll talk about her life, and I’ll talk about mine.

We won’t know, so we’ll ask each other, “What’s new?”   

 As I watch her  husband dance with her for the first time, I wonder what time really is and how it plays tricks on us. Where does it go? And why so fast? He twirls her, and she glides back to him. Why does it seem like not so long ago that we were little  girls with nothing but our youth stretching endlessly before us? 

Before she walks down the aisle, I tell her to take deep breaths. She looks shaky. She worries about the moment the doors open, heads turn and eyes lock on her. It is the only thing I can tell her: “Breathe.” 

I cannot tell her not to walk, to turn back around, reverse time forever and remain my best friend around the corner. I cannot ask for one more summer. They’re all used up now. Things only last for so long before becoming memories, and then someone, somewhere, writes them down. It’s only through words that time slows. 

So instead I give  her, and everyone else, my best smile. It’s what we do for friends, even after they’re gone.

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