He might be the person I’ve cried to the most. But he never comforts me.
He was there in the driver’s seat, his once–shiny, now–beat–up white car parked in front of my house, after the first of our friend group had left for college. And then again after the second. He sat there and stared at me, eyes never looking away, and I knew he was thinking the state of our friendship akin to his car: once shiny, now beat–up. “It’s the end of an era,” he would say again and again. I always scolded him for that, choosing to see the shiny silver lining in our beat–up white car even through the tears clouding my eyes. But he only saw gray. I never saw the tears on his face, but I heard them in the words from his mouth.
He was there on the tiny screen I held in my hand at two in the morning. Sometimes three, sometimes four. I would be in tears over something stupid, and he would reply with something equally stupid, something random, something that made me laugh. He knew that comfort was a stranger to both of us, so he invited our dear friend laughter to my pity party instead. The three of us always had a feast.
He might be the person who gives the worst hugs I’ve ever had. But he knows that.
He towers over me. A difference of one foot and two inches had him always leaning down to the side to give this awkward, one–armed hug. If you could even call it a hug. After many more complaints on my part, and many more rolling eyes on his part, our hugs now constitute his bony arms wrapping as loosely as overused saran wrap and his hands patting my back twice before releasing. He would smile brazenly afterwards, and I knew there was no point in complaining.
He might be the person who cares about his friends the most. But he never admits it.
He would drive forty minutes to pick up one of our friends, and another forty minutes back, all after leaving tired from work. When I would send him my poems, he’d talk to me about them, compliments flowing from the cracks between the lines. He’d make us laugh, he loved to make us laugh, once claiming he would survive the apocalypse if Greta Thunberg was by his side. He gave us a cookie cake and a handwritten card on Valentine’s Day, but you’ll never hear him say those words out loud.
He is, however, definitely my friend, and definitely 869 miles away from me.
There’s a bubble tea store right next to our high school where we used to go very often. When he found out that I sometimes go to another bubble tea store on the other side of town, his mouth fell, and he shook his head.
“So much for loyalty,” he sneered.
“I go to ours way more often!” I gasped.
“Still. Disloyal,” he insisted.
We’ve had this argument often, in many different places, at many different times. And every time I walk into TeaDo, I could almost swear I see him standing in line next to me. I hear his voice in my ear, scoffing at my decision to get bubble tea somewhere other than “ours.” Ours.
Yes, ours are the nights we stayed up talking to each other on the phone. Ours are the terrible hugs and rolling eyes and cheeky smiles. Ours are the late night drives, the tear–stained laughs, the unspoken words.
Ours is that once–shiny, now beat–up white car that has no functioning temperature control and had to get mold removal for a whole two weeks.
But ours is not the love that was once shiny, now beat–up. No, our love is the love that shines so bright I can see it from 869 miles away.
When I came home for winter break, our first stop was our bubble tea store. After months of not seeing each other, I had expected the warmest embrace in the world. He did, in fact, disappoint. But maybe deep down, I appreciated his sloppy, clumsy, fleeting hug. I had feared change—a change to him, to me, to our friendship, really a change to anything. But that remained constant.
I haven’t properly talked to him in a few weeks now, both of us living busy lives. Sitting in that once–shiny, now beat–up white car parked in front of my house, he was right. It really was the end of an era. It was the end of our late night drives, brazen hugs, bubble tea hangouts.
But it was the start of our funny Instagram memes, call–out TikToks, random pictures. And maybe in the summer, we can begin the era again.
Until then, I’ll continue seeing him at TeaDo, arguing over definitions of loyalty and good hugs.