She locked the door to her room and slid the Like a Virgin cassette into her sticker-covered boom box. “Dress You Up” blared, and we danced till our legs turned to jelly. Pink ballet tights were tied across our chests and stuffed with socks. We decked ourselves out with necklaces and charm bracelets and took turns wearing that one Madonna glove we owned between the two of us. We got into the groove. We danced. We sang. We did our thing.
We met in third grade, and we were instantly drawn to each other. We exchanged notes and eye rolls in class. We walked around the recess yard talking and talking, lost in our own world. We had sleepovers every weekend and became members of each other’s families. We shared our hopes and fears, our secrets, our failures and triumphs.
When I got my period at 10, she was the only one besides my parents who knew. She would come with me to the school bathroom and stand guard by the trash can while I threw away my maxi pads.
We knew the minute details of each other’s elementary school crushes. Once we liked the same boy, but the jealousy didn’t last too long (she kissed him lightly on the lips, but I only moped about it for half of a day, and they stopped speaking the day after that).
In sixth grade, we went to our first concert together—Madonna, of course, the Blond Ambition Tour. Although we had awful seats, couldn’t hear a thing and were completely exhausted by the end, we danced like we had in her bedroom all those years ago—with utter abandon and joy. Going to a real concert felt like a rite of passage, and it felt so fitting that we got to experience it together.
The summer before seventh grade, when I moved across the country from California to New York, the sorrow we felt was momentous. She wrote me letters from camp with dried-up tears smearing the ink. We stayed in touch as best we could, but middle school and high school swept us up in their respective storms. Boyfriends, breakups and college followed suit.
She ended up going to college in New York and spent a few years there afterwards. But even when we lived in the same city, it was never just like it was when we were kids. How could it be? We were older and had other ties and commitments.
Despite it all, we stayed in touch over the years, and we were always up-to-date on all the important milestones in each other’s lives.
We recently met up after not seeing each other for a few years. I had made the long trek out to California to visit friends and family, my two sons and husband in tow. She picked me up from my dad’s house. As soon as I closed the car door, we giggled. I got to skip out on an hour of family obligations; she had left her two sons at home. It was just like old times: We were locking ourselves in her room, huddling together in the school yard, running away from it all.
As we walked from the car to the coffee shop, she asked me how it was visiting my dad. Even with my good friends who live nearby, I have certain filters I use when talking about things like this. But I could tell her everything. She knew our whole history together—the old wounds, the tremendous love and the way these coexist in my heart. She had been there through my parents’ divorce, the custody battle, everything. The words and tears spilled out within five minutes of seeing her.
She took my hand. We switched from talking about family, children and marriage to laughing at an overpriced pair of boots in a store window. We reminisced about old times. We talked about our deepest desires, our most crushing fears. There was no surface talk: We got right to the heart of it all. I watched her big blue eyes, the eyes I had known for 30 years, fill with tears. We took turns crying. We drank our coffee. We cried some more.
Before we knew it, I had to get back to my family and she to hers. It was a tough goodbye. We vowed to stay in better touch, to see each other sooner than later, knowing how hard it would be to fulfill those promises, considering the endless obligations of children, marriage and work.
But your first best friend is your best friend for life. No matter how much time passes until we see each other again, we know it will be like no time has passed at all.