It was the seventh grade and I was the new kid. Sitting in Orchestra one day, the fire alarm went off. Filing outside, my class stood underneath the maple tree in the front of our school that was just beginning to lose its leaves. That was when she introduced herself to me.
“Hi! I’m Emily. You’re Abbey right?”
Her confidence was obvious. And her personality seemed to radiate out of her body. She wore a Jets sweatshirt, cargo capris, and green etnies sneakers. Her curly light brown hair was pulled into a low ponytail, and green eyes peered through glasses to look me over. She wanted to know where I came from and how I was liking school. It was typical conversation that the new kid (which I happened to be) experienced, but for some reason ever since we filed back into the school after that fire drill, we were inseparable.
We became stand partners in orchestra, which encouraged our friendship to grow as we both realized that we were passionate about the violin. We dreamed of going to Juilliard and playing fiddle shows across the world. In our imaginations, our futures looked something like this:
After months of talking in orchestra class, we finally decided to hang out outside of school. It was wintertime now and Emily’s mom dropped her off at my house. While our parents talked outside, we walked up my front steps and into my house. I could tell we were both a little nervous to be hanging out outside of the safe environment of school. What if we had nothing to talk about? Slowly though, we each came out of our shells and started talking and laughing about all the people in school we found particularly strange and all the movies we discovered we both liked. For lunch, I made us both frozen pizzas and we ate them on my bedroom floor with glasses of apple juice. When her mom came to pick her up later that day, we wished we had more time.
On the last day of seventh grade, I took Emily’s bus home to her house. We ran into her bedroom and cried our eyes out because we were afraid everyone would forget us by September. Secretly, I think it was just fun to be a little dramatic. We felt our lives were a television series; a network just hadn’t picked us up yet.
That summer we created the memories that lie at the foundation of our friendship. Despite Emily’s habit of sleeping with the television on, forcing me to wear a sleep mask, I began sleeping over for days at a time. While staying up till all hours of the night that summer, I discovered bagels with cream cheese; nearly broke my nose on her kitchen chair while ducking from a moth that was flying towards my head; played games of chess that lasted hours; developed a love-hate relationship with her cat; learned Emily’s passion for all things Disney; and became a member of her family. I met her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her cousins. They all treated me as one of their own. Even now, eight years later, I love staying at her house where I know I am safe and supported by not only her, but her whole family as well. They give me a place where I feel like I belong. Where I feel I am a part of something bigger than just myself.
In the following years, we developed a sisterly bond. And like all sisters, we had our fair share of fights. What is a good television series without a little conflict, anyway? Looking back, I’m pretty sure adolescent hormones fueled most of our arguments. However, through our fights, we learned that we don’t want to live without the other. It’s awfully hard to stay mad at the person who will sing classical music while riding the Ferris wheel at a carnival to distract you from your insane fear of heights; who will hold your hand through an entire movie no matter how stupid it is; who will take care of you when you are sick; who will become as insanely passionate about a book series as you (or more so); who tries out for softball with you despite both of your athletic inability; who makes you a better musician; who believes in soul mates like she believes in air; and who doesn’t punch you after you’ve thrown a glass of water in her face.
This past October, Emily came to visit me in my college town. I knew something was wrong, but waited for her to tell me on her own time. Sitting at a restaurant with people constantly streaming by our table, televisions with volumes was way too high, and conversations buzzing in the room, she told me that one of her relatives was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. I was devastated. In my mind, I thought I had taken the brunt of all bad things that could happen within my circle of friends since my dad died of cancer. I never thought any of my friends would be affected by what I had gone through. Unconsciously, I had the feeling that what I had been through was somehow worth it, because it would protect all the people I loved from having to experience the same thing. Sadly, I was mistaken.
It was in Emily’s time of crisis that I realized just how much I truly loved her. Not romantical love; companionate love. Because Emily was in pain, I felt it within myself. Knowing that she was hurting and knowing how it was affecting me was proof that I truly loved her because I wanted to do anything to take her pain away. In my opinion, this is one important signifier of love. Love involves being willing to do anything to keep the other person from feeling pain, even if it means feeling it yourself. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do. I was helpless. And I realized how she must have felt for the two years my dad was sick. It’s hard to be the friend of someone going through painful experiences because nothing you say or do can really truly help. It can’t fix the root cause of their pain. But what I’ve learned, from Emily’s example, is that simply by being a friend, checking in, and making the other person laugh, you can ease it.
Unlike my dad, Emily’s relative is doing very well now and I couldn’t be happier for her and her family. Things can always change, and if they do, I will be there beside my best friend to help her along the way.
Emily and I have a lot of years ahead of us. And it’s great to know that we’ll be by each other’s sides no matter what. I look forward to the memories we will create and can only hope they’ll be as outrageous as the one’s we’ve already shared. Emily may dream of finding her prince charming one day, but until then, I suppose she’s stuck with me.