Paint By Numbers

Some creative liberties were taken in writing this piece. For the most part, however, these snapshots are memories from seven years of friendship and represent my friend in the truest way. I read somewhere that after seven years of friendship, it is extremely unlikely to ever stop being friends.

  1. a tiny bicycle

She rode in loopy circles around the gymnasium, her knees pulled awkwardly close to her chest. The vehicle was meant for children with mild disabilities, but everyone in fourth grade knew it was the best toy the school gym had to offer. And this girl, this ten-year-old brat with pink-streaked hair, had the audacity to stay seated and dizzy long after her ten minutes were up. She was rude, and in that moment you decided you didn’t like her.

  1. prohibition

They both knew more about speak easys and bathtub gin than anyone their age should have. After the assignments was turned in, you found your paper tacked under her name, the round, loopy letters mistaken for someone else’s.

  1. goodbye for now!

The bus pulled up, and she turned to you in her denim shorts, her summer sticky hair pulled high into a ponytail. She was so strong, standing there without a tear in her eye. She touched the charm hanging around her neck. It’s only four months, she said, so confident, Christmas is just around the corner. You smiled in the August heat and hugged her tightly. Later that night, when you got into bed, your windows thrown wide open with flies banging against the screen, you found a note. It was written on a gum wrapper, tucked surreptitiously under your pillow. I love you more than words can say. The writing was still round and loopy, four years later. That is when you cried. Sometimes you wonder, how you went from seeing her as a spoiled, offensive girl with vocabulary like a sailor, to seeing her as the bravest person you’d ever met. It’s a strange feeling, that kick in the heart realization of love.

  1. hold up

The border agent wouldn’t let her through. Behind the closed doors, past last minute duty free and baggage claim, you leaned against the thick metal bar. You checked your watch and sighed in exasperation, nervousness fluttering around your hands. When your phone rings, it’s her, voice laced with fatigue and desperation. I’m an unaccompanied minor, they’re holding me in a tiny pen because they think I’m running away from home, a tired joke. You talked her through some details, gave her your mother’s number. A slightly irrational paranoia closed around your heart, a worry that they’ll make her get on the next plane back to Seattle. Everyone else from the flight left with their loved ones, reunited in that Love Actually way that Heathrow’s terminals create. But then she’s there, drooping slightly from her day(s) of travel, in sandals and socks and looking so much like home.

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