Hello, readers! We had such fun with the sports-themed series that we’ve decided to continue the trend. To get you excited for the upcoming winter issue of Shameless, we’ll be posting a series of blog posts every Friday on the theme of love and relationships. What does love mean? Who are our relationships with? What kinds of love are there? Sound off in the comment section or email our blog editor with your feedback. If you like what you’re reading, don’t forget to subscribe.
Your Shameless team
Dear Old Friend,
It’s not that I miss you.
I don’t know you at all anymore and it’s possible I never really did, so it’s not that I miss you. Maybe I just miss the idea of you. I don’t know why I think about you at all. Our friendship was intense, but it was brief, and it ended more than half our lives ago.
I doubt very much that you think of me at all, Old Friend.
We met at summer camp: I had claimed a top bunk and you, smiling, asked if the bunk below mine was taken. You had a preferred nickname that no one got right, and I had an unusual last name that was spelled wrong on every bunk list and team sign-up. You wore colourful woven friendship bracelets and promised to make me one and teach me how. (I never got the hang of it. Did I make you a terrible bracelet? Was that an omen?) We shared the curse of the Nut Allergic Kid in a dining hall filled with peanut butter sandwiches. We made perfect swim buddies because neither of us wanted to get out of the water. We spent rainy afternoons lying on your bed and doodling with markers on the wooden slats of the underside of my top bunk. We were automatic partners for everything. We were inseparable. When the summer ended, we cried in each other’s arms and swore we’d keep in touch.
If we hadn’t, if the distance and the ten-month absence had been the end of things, I might have understood. We were young, after all, and summer camp was such a world unto itself. Some things can’t be brought outside its hallowed gates.
We mailed letters, doodles, stickers and postcards. This was in the early days of at-home computers, but we both had family email accounts and got permission to use them. We even phoned each other every now and then, mindful of long-distance charges and parental displeasure. We kept up on one another’s lives and requested to be bunkmates on our registration forms as the next summer at camp drew closer.
We were so excited to see one another on the first day of camp, and we chose beds side-by-side this time. We chattered non-stop as we unpacked, catching up as if the last ten months had never happened and we had arrived home. You had new braces and a tan from a family vacation. I thought you looked way older and cooler, but I don’t think I told you.
Half of the other girls in our cabin were new to camp that summer. Before the end of the second day, Kelly [not her real name] had become your shadow. I liked her too and wanted to help you show her all our favourite things about camp; she ignored me. And by the end of the third day, so did you.
It might have ended there, with me nursing a broken heart and floundering every time I needed to find a partner for an activity, but Kelly got homesick a couple of weeks into the summer and decided to go home. This is the part that kills me when I think about it now: I tried to talk her into staying. She had turned your head completely from me, but I couldn’t stand to think of someone giving up on such a great place. I wrote her a note telling her that the first few weeks can be hard, but she should give it a chance. I signed it with hearts and slipped it under her pillow. She never said a word to me about it and left a few days later. I don’t know if she said anything to you about it, Old Friend. I don’t know if you laughed together about how pathetic I was.
Of course, when Kelly left, you turned back to me. And of course I took you back with open arms. I don’t think you apologized, but you might have vaguely excused your behaviour by explaining that she needed you and I didn’t. Or maybe I decided that on my own.
The rest of the summer was much like our first. We dressed up as two of the Backstreet Boys and performed at the talent show (every now and then, I think about tripping over AJ’s rap in “We’ve Got It Goin’ On” and wonder if you remember the lyrics). We raced in the swim marathon across the lake. I never improved my friendship bracelet technique. (Did you hold it against me?)
The main difference that summer was the dynamic in our cabin. We had difficult bunkmates and there were constant fights. One night, one of the other girls screeched at me, “you always take her side!” and I replied, calmly, “because she’s always right.” Do you remember that, Old Friend? We pushed our beds together and buried ourselves under our blankets, shutting out the tension and sharing clandestine Oreo cookies.
When the second summer ended, I hadn’t exactly forgotten about your desertion, but it didn’t matter anymore. We were even tighter than we had been the year before.
That school year, my family moved and I got to visit you at home for the first time, since we now lived in the same province. I slept in a sleeping bag the floor because we couldn’t quite fit side-by-side in your single bed. We stayed up all night talking. You seemed to want to keep me to yourself and away from your parents as much as possible. I thought you were so sophisticated and independent, but I don’t think I told you.
The third summer approached, and I knew it would be our best yet. We had moved up into the senior camp, and we would finally be among that elite group that seemed, from the outside, to be so close-knit as to be unbreakable.
When I arrived at camp and reached my assigned cabin, I realized your name wasn’t on the list. It couldn’t be – we had requested each other! Didn’t we, Old Friend? You seemed unconcerned when I found you later in the day. I introduced myself to the two girls next to you, both new to camp. Then you went back to your cabin with them.
I was unrelentingly loyal, but I wasn’t as naive as you might have thought. I could see where this was going, but I wasn’t quite ready to let you go. I pasted on a smile when you passed with the new girls. I made small talk when I saw you, but you were in a different activity group, and senior camp was large. I met new people and soon had a tight group of new friends, most of whom I still keep in touch with today.
I did have the best summer of my life that year, Old Friend, but it wasn’t with you.
We last saw one another when we were in our early 20s. You acted as if you didn’t know me. I acted as if I knew you, but didn’t like what I knew. It hurt, but it was all I could do to keep my heart from cracking and my 14-year-old self from begging you to tell me why you only kept me around until a better offer came along.
It’s not that I miss you, Old Friend – at least, I don’t miss who you became, and the me I am today would have no time for you anyway. I miss the feeling of having that automatic partner every time someone said “buddy up!” I miss the feeling of us-against-the-world invincibility. I miss the feeling we had that made us write our initials together on my wooden bunk in a heart with the letters BFF. I hold onto those feelings and know that regardless of what you did, you gave me something precious for a while.
I doubt that you think of me at all, Old Friend, but if you do, I hope you think of me with a smile.