At 10 years old, we became friends. I didn’t like you much at first.
You went to church every week. At first I did, too. You talked about God and you seemed to pay attention. I didn’t. I became cynical about it at a very young age and I wanted to spend my Sunday mornings in bed. Eventually, you were asked to teach Sunday school. I wasn’t. (Obviously.)
You loved helping and participating in all of our village’s parties: dancing, hosting, organizing. For years I saw you stand in front of crowds, I saw you sing in the church choir, I watched you become a huge part of the place we lived in. Everyone knew who you were.
At 13, I couldn’t imagine my life without you.
We must’ve watched Amélie, The Devil Wears Prada and Moulin Rouge about 20 times each. We celebrated our birthdays at the cinema with Darth Vader and Harry Potter. We did horror-movie nights where no one slept and those who did always woke up with painted faces. We did insane dance marathons.
It was never just about you and me. We are two individuals that grew up together, but we also grew up with a lot of other people. Except some came and went. They were a part of our lives for a year or two (sometimes 10), and then they left. It doesn’t matter whether they returned or not, because for a while we were without them. And I was never without you.
At 15, you made me feel comfortable in my own skin.
We wrote Valentine’s Day letters to each other in the school library. You accepted me for who I was and didn’t judge my adolescent crises. You spent recess telling me jokes in the infirmary while I got over my panic attacks. We made plans to marry rich people, steal all their money and run away together.
I made new friends and I had my first relationship and we didn’t spend as much time together. We went on a field trip and people blamed you for something you didn’t do. I switched schools the year before college.
At 17, I didn’t see you every day in class for the first time in 7 years.
You became an essential help to our town’s President, you became part of the church youth group and went on church trips to other countries. We had lunch together every other week and still saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince together at the movies. You grabbed my arm as Dumbledore died.
I felt terrible about leaving you — I never knew what it was to go to prom with you, going through college options or going on senior trip with you. I got in the university I always wanted, in a different city. You stayed home, and we stayed in touch.
At 19, you were there for me anyway.
You wished me a Happy New Year and spent the next two days holding me, watching me cry uncontrollably over my grandfather’s death. It was a rough start of the year. The roughest I’ve had. I had to suddenly learn about grief and utter weakness, and you were the only one who knew what to say, when to be quiet, when to make me laugh and when to wipe my tears. I will never, ever, remember that day without feeling incredibly blessed to have you as my friend.
Our long-distance friendship became permanent.
At 20, the world couldn’t break us.
I went to Spain, you went to England. I left first, so I was the first to freak out. You stayed on the phone with me for hours, listened to me sob about wanting to go home. I was but a lost child, nervous to the bone. You went on to have your own worries, feeling homesick and lost, too.
We finished our degrees and quickly enough, you left on another adventure. I bought a ticket to visit you for a week and saw you for the first time as a real adult. You taught in a French school and asked me to attend one of your classes. I spent my days visiting local villages, and at night we got drunk on cheap wine and sang songs from when we were kids. I was still the only one to always know when you were joking.
After you were done teaching, you got a temporary job in Paris and told me you were thinking of moving again.
At 22, you are volunteering with the church in Africa.
You told me you didn’t have a home anymore, but you weren’t going to settle anywhere unless you were sure that’s where you wanted to stay. You’d keep flying, even if you were tired of moving, of making friends just to leave them. For once, I was scared I’d become one of those people that might never see you again. I snapped a picture of you the day you said goodbye because I want to remember you before you let a place change you a bit more.
I made a promise to send you weekly reminders that I love you and we chat more often than we have for a long time. I’m writing my master’s thesis and you’re taking care of 150 kids. Your tasks include: tutoring, washing dishes, bathing, cutting hair, getting rid of cobwebs, teaching at the local school, being the goalkeeper, using made-up weapons to battle the kids, storytelling, making up games, trimming nails, general cleaning and burying frogs and snakes.
I fumble through infinite paper sheets, books and articles as I talk to you. You tell me you don’t notice the ants in your food when you’re eating anymore and you send me pictures of that painful paradise. I feel stupid. I put down my work and my college assignments and spend the next hour living through you. I feel like crying because you are the bravest, most honest person I know.
I got to share so much with you for all these years and I don’t stop enough to be thankful for you. If anyone ever made me want to be a better person, it was you. I can’t think of anyone better to do what you’re doing, even though I’m sure there are many other kind souls out there working for a greater good, leaving their countries, their families and friends behind to become selfless. I would say the world needs more of those people, but I can only talk about you — and I am 100% certain that the world needs you a lot more. You, with your twisted sense of humor. You, with your ability to be the best friend anyone could have. They are so, so lucky to have you, too.
This is this week’s reminder that I love you. I just wished I stopped missing you.
Alexandra Gandra, a freelance writer and aspiring filmmaker from Portugal. She holds a bachelor's degree in New Communication Technologies and is currently pursuing a master's in Digital Audiovisual. Her obsessive interests include traveling with a camera in her hand, scribbling notes in overcrowded coffee shops and developing crushes on characters from tv shows and films.