When I met her.
When I first met Alexandra, I was 14 years old. Our brothers had become fast friends when her older brother moved back to our small town in Southern California for college and ended up attending the same church that we did. The boys were convinced that since we were close in age, had similar tastes in music, and clothes, and a similar teenage angst in both of us that we just “had to meet” when she came to visit him in the summer.
The boys decided to take us on a hike.
You see, while Alexandra and I may have had many things in common, a love for exercise was sure as hell not one of them. She was athletic, and loved the sun, and stupidly steep hills. While I preferred staying indoors lounging around watching anime, and not making a complete spectacle of myself as I gasped up the trail in a pathetic attempt to keep up.
But there I was.
Trailing behind (no pun intended). And close to tears, because I felt like I was going to die. Whether that death would come by mortification, or lack of oxygen, I had not yet decided.
Alexandra was walking with the boys, yet to notice my struggle, and carried on determined to make it through the canyon before the sun set.
I had forgotten my water, and was wearing black jeans, and a band tee, in 87 degree weather. My hoodie long abandoned, tied around my waist, and my terribly box died hair clinging to my sweat soaked neck.
After about an hour, we came upon a bench overlooking the hillside, and I sat, giving up completely on trying to hide my exhaustion. Alexandra called to the boys, and the paused looking back to where I was bent over sitting on the edge of the filthy, bird **** covered bench.
She offered to stay, but seeing that I was determined to not face another moment of humiliation with a total stranger, left to join the others.
That was the first time I met Alexandra.
After that horrible hike, we politely added each other on Facebook, and she left for home.
It wasn’t until a few months later, when I spoke with her again. Messaging on Facebook, out of what began as polite interest, due to her brother’s nagging, but turned into a genuine friendship. I spent most of my time talking to her and trying to make sense of high school. With her living in another country, I found myself able to open up to her in a way I couldn’t with anyone who was close to me. My fear of judgment from those close to me was something I could ignore with her. She lived so far away, that I felt safe with her.
It was a strange thing.
A strange friendship.
But a friendship nonetheless. And one I desperately needed at that time in my life.
The next time I saw her in person was around thanksgiving. She was visiting with her mom, and her mom didn’t like me very much, so we were only able to meet up once. She came over and met my family, and we went for a walk around my neighborhood. It was nighttime, and I showed her around where I grew up.
Our last stop in my little tour, was my elementary school. This was my special place. We hopped the gate, and I brought her straight to the playground. There was a tower here, surrounded by just enough dark, and just high up enough that the stars were visible enough through the light pollution so that we could see the constellations. We sat squishing our two teenage bodies together in a space meant to fit only one small child. And I told her about the bullies from school that followed me around and would tear me apart. I told her about how this tower, and how I would hide here, and reach for the sky, begging the birds that flew overhead to take me with them. And dreamt of how I would make a new home in the clouds, safe from my tormenters.
I told her about how those people followed me to middle school, and then high school, and how I kept coming back here. Sneaking out of my room at night to walk here and sit in my tower.
We talked and talked and talked, until finally we neared my curfew and had to go back.
That night felt like an eternity had passed, but also felt like it was only a minute.
She left for home two days later, and it was back to virtual contact only. Only now it was different. We were closer, and I somehow knew that even with only seeing her twice in person, I knew her better than anyone, and vice versa. And I knew that I would do absolutely anything for her.
The night she left, she had pointed out my scars. And then to hers. And we made a pact. A pact that we would always be there for each other.
I was elated and relieved to finally have someone by my side. But also terrified. Terrified because I knew that if she ever did leave me, I just might be destroyed.
It’s been seven years. Seven years since she became my best friend. And one year since she abandoned me. And looking back I can’t help but think on that night.
Because that night I realized, as I watched her leave me for the first time, mug of hot cocoa in hand, and staring out the window, that I realized it was poison. This friendship was a poison that would slowly drain me and leave me for dead.
And it did.