When I was little I had a best friend. I don't mean my best imaginary friend, but a best real friend. She lived across the street. We walked to school together. We rode our bikes after school. We had birthday parties together, played together, read books together. As twilight came on I would ask to walk her home, then when we got to her door she'd walk me back home, back and forth until somebody's parents caught on, and then she'd run back across the two front yards alone, her hair caught the moonlight; she was magic. She was wildly different from me in many ways that were probably important -- she was sporty, tireless, not given to long periods of day-dreaming -- and we were brought up with radically different values and perspectives. I remember particularly playing badminton in her yard and every time I missed the birdie, which was often, I would go to retrieve it while she or her sister listed out everything that was wrong with me. But I loved her so fiercely and so completely and on days when she loved me back my world was perfect. Some days she played with other kids and I would fling my whole tiny jealous body across my bed and weep. How could she? Why? Why couldn't she just love me back as intensely as I loved her, why couldn't we be best forever and only friends? I read so many books about best friends and I guess I thought I could will it into being, that I could will her into loving me like Diana Barry loved her red-headed Anne.
When I was 13 we moved across the country and since unlike me she was not much of a writer we fell out of contact. I went back to visit the house where I grew up and the yards weren't nearly as big as I'd thought, her sacrifice in walking home alone might have lasted two minutes. There were not a lot of kids in the neighborhood, but there was a neighborhood and there were kids; I played with Kelly sometimes and with Sara, or with other girls from school, but it wasn't the same. Why was I so fixated on this one person, accepting no alternatives; why did I want one friend, one special friend, a best friend so much and why was I determined it should be her?
I've been thinking about this lately, that after the bottom of that basket fell out, I never again put all my eggs in one place. Not that I haven't had friends -- I absolutely have, intensely close friends, people I would honestly kill or die for. And having friends has gotten easier as I've gotten older, much in the same way that letting myself recognize and say "I love you" got easier when I realized that loving one person will not rob me of the ability to love another -- in fact, rather the opposite.
But sometimes I think there is a small Anne inside of me that still wishes for one person. We would know each other so well, where we were and how we got here, someone who would know me and still be interested in me. Someone who would be genuinely curious about hearing my dreams, someone who would be eager to tell me theirs. Someone who could not get enough of me, the way I can never get enough. And people do like to listen to me, and people like to tell me things, and I'm happy to sit and converse about just about anything as long as you don't want me to play badminton while I do it. The things I once did for love, the things I did to be loved. But I don't think it's possible now to put it all on one person, if it ever was. Poor small Anne, it was hard enough when you were eight and nobody could sit still now for your fifty years of metaphors and details, the intensity of the obsessions, much less the tiny day-to-day stuff, even if you could sit still long enough to tell them. I'm happy where I am now, happier than the little freckled girl soaking her pillows with hot tears could have ever imagined. I wish I could pat her back and tell her it's going to be okay, better than okay, just different, some day.