“VAMPIRES?!” my BFF texted. “You’re writing about vampires?! And I had to find out about this on Instagram?!”
“Sorry,” I replied. “It’s for Halloween.”
“I hereby declare that we have not been speaking nearly enough if I had to hear about this on Insta,” she said.
“I concur,” I texted back, along with an appropriate gif. She lives 700 miles away. It’s not like I can drop by her house and tell her about the vampires. And yeah, I should have told her a day or so ago, if just for her predictable and immediate reaction (total disbelief followed by a demand to know, in-depth, the mythological framework I’d decided to use and where I’d taken it from).
Sure, she’s a long-distance friend, but I can always count on her, even when she clearly had to put the phone down for a half an hour to do something, to answer me, make me laugh, or cry along with me.
That’s what long-distance friends do.
When people ask who your friends are, they tend to mean “the people you see on a regular basis.” When I tell them that my BFF lives half the country away, they look at me like I’m bonkers. Like, how can we possibly be BFFs if we live that far apart?! But there’s this thing called a phone? And text messages? There’s also an internet. We use them all. I remember, when we were kids, that it cost her huge sums of money to call our other friend, who lived maybe 25 miles away. Now my long-distance friend and I can call 700 miles on our regular phone plans without counting the minutes. Plus unlimited texting, with gifs and pictures.
We talk to them because we have all these amazing tools at our disposal, they’re easy to use, and why not use them to talk to the people we care about the most? So simple to snap a photo and send it to long-distance friends, or have a conversation totally in gifs from your mutually favorite TV show.
Some of us talk to our long-distance friends more than our close-by friends. I know my BFF’s work schedule and commute time. And this mitigated space sometimes makes it easier to, well, tell them things. Like things you wouldn’t really tell people you have to look in the face the next morning. Not because you love them, or because they’re strangers, but because long-distance friends are far away, and that distance is just right for embarrassing stories, or sad stories, or the chance to cry over something you’d never, ever admit to someone else.
Long-distance friends can be there for things you wouldn’t tell anyone else.
I have a mental health issue I’ve been struggling with for a while. Almost no one close by knows about it. I haven’t bothered to tell them, even though it’s fairly obvious. But my long-distance friend knew. She knew long before any of my close-by friends. Don’t you dare say she doesn’t count because she’s far away.
You don’t casually have long-distance friends. There’s a reason for that friendship. Maybe you met them on the internet, and you had so much in common that you became really close — you have more in common with them than almost anyone else you know. Maybe your long-distance friends are people who moved away, and you loved them enough to keep up with them. But whatever the reason, they mean a lot to you. They have to, because even with all the internetting and the texting and the calling, it’s not easy to be long-distance friends. You have to commit to calling, to remembering, to caring enough to pick up that phone or send that message. At a time when it’s much easier not to care, when it’s much easier to say we don’t have time, when we’re all stretched so thin, that can be a big deal.
In my case, I’m the one who moved after college. And after a long, long hiatus, one of my former high school bestemies (best friend + enemy, see what I did there?) and I reconnected and became BFFs, but for real this time. We’re long-distance friends for a very, very good reason. And we make the effort. We put the time in. We send birthday presents and kid pics and actually care enough to check up when the other one is sick.
Their presence is just a different kind than that of close-by friends. Close-by friends sit at your kitchen table. Long-distance friends sit with you too, but you’re at two different kitchen tables. And though you don’t see them randomly throughout the day, you never know when you might get a little message or text from your long-distance friends. They’re like little presents, just for you, that you never know are coming. I never know when my phone might ding, and I might see a screenshot of my BFF’s spotify playlist playing some weird song from high school we used to giggle about (I’m looking at you, Deep Blue Something). I never know when I might get a text message reading, “VAMPIRES?!”
She’s here. She’s just a different kind of here. And that’s a whole other kind of gift. You can’t compare long-distance friends to close-by friends.
But when I finally got Hamilton tickets, guess who I texted?