She moves too fast to look over her shoulder.
I knew this about her when I met her. She burst into my life demanding from me stand-offishly. The more she pushed, the more I slowed down to spite her. Then one day in the lab, as she handed a white rat to me, she said please. We had not parted since. She’s a compendium of everyone she has ever met, and spends every moment on superficial obligations. When she gets a moment to breathe, she comes to me. She’s had to learn to stop running if she wanted to stride beside me.
Her deepest truths and chapters she’s shared with me on long walks during balmy summer evenings under lampposts and streetlights. She’s cried on my office floor, and slept on my sofa, and drank wine with me on wool blankets on my concrete driveway in the frigid southern February. We earned our degrees together, two souls so different but somehow with the same outlook. I earned privileges her closest friends didn’t have, and listened as she raged about her mother and stood back while she let her husband break her heart. She once thanked me for always knowing exactly how much space to give, which questions to ask, and how much liberty to take. I’d take the blame when we were caught texting in class since I never get embarrassed, and she’d cut in during angry conversations with professors before I said something I shouldn’t. She never apologizes, but I don’t mind being wrong. I won’t reconsider when my mind’s made up, so she compromises. I never cry, and she always needs to. I don’t ask for advice, and she doesn’t need to be asked for it. I did her homework when she had to spend weekends in the field and came back muddy, soaked, and tired. She was always sleeping and I never did. She acknowledged my sorrows and took me on midnight drives when I wanted to cry, but I never did. Somehow she saw through me when no one else ever did.
Once, in her garden, she gave me a purple plant and told me were going to plant it in my yard so when she moves away, I’ll remember all the time we spent in her rocking lawn chairs with text books, sips of vodka and cigarettes. We are the only close friends that I’ve made after growing up; she’s my only close friend that never visited my childhood home, or met my father. She was less than three years of my life, but she was there for the biggest parts. She was part of the biggest parts. I saw her every day, and she eventually became just another permanent fixture like the little, purple plant that has now overrun my yard. I knew this day was coming but time creeps so quickly, and she moves too fast to look over her shoulder. Her thoughts rarely catch up with her.
We knew things wouldn’t stay the same forever, that someday we’d go our separate ways. She once told me while drunk on margaritas at our favorite mexican joint even if we grow to only ever speak to each other once a year, and even if she begins a new life with a new man and has the kids she’s always wanted and I’m busy being a famous writer and traveling the world, that I’m the best friend she’s ever had. We said we were going to meet up at our infamous study spot before she left, the one where I joked and she laughed so abruptly she spit lemonade all over me and the family behind me. We didn’t get the chance to meet up as I’m forgetful, and she never has much time. I have plenty of time, though, and sit and let it all sink in. She’s in her truck right now, the same truck we both lived out of with our exercise equipment and lunch boxes, and she’s headed down the highway towards the west coast. And if she were here right now, she might finally get the opportunity to see me cry but she can’t because she’s gone.