I’m frantically tidying up my childhood home while simultaneously brushing teeth. My pace is manic, partly because I’m running late and partly because I’m nervous: I’m about to see one of my best friends from high school for the first time in 10 years.
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Will it be awkward? Will we have anything to talk about?
As I spit out my toothpaste, my phone lights up with a text from Anna; she’s five minutes away.
“This came on while I was driving. Always makes me think of you,” she added. There’s a photo attached, a picture of her radio, The Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away” playing.
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“OMG. This meeting MUST be serendipitous then,” I type. And as I press send, it all comes flooding back.
Anna and I met in upstate New York when we were 15; we were both attending a summer ballet intensive. Though she was there with three other girls from her Texas studio (one close to my own Texas studio) and we all became friends, it was Anna and I who were drawn to each other effortlessly.
Her room had an extra unused bed in the corner like it was somehow waiting for me. When I wanted to escape my assigned living quarters, I’d head up to the Texas Girls’ room and “my bed.” They even hung a sign above it that read “Skylar.”
One night, while everyone was asleep, a loud “pop” woke me. I lay there, willing myself to fall back asleep when I heard a small voice coming from the other side of the room. “Are you awake?” someone whispered. It was Anna.
“Yeah. I am.”
She then crawled into my bed, and we opened the curtains to reveal a flutter of unimpressive fireworks. Together, we watched in silence. It felt like magic, the comfort of each other’s presence.
I finally understood what my favorite band, The Dixie Chicks, were saying when they sang about the refuge of “easy silence” a person can make for you, a “peaceful quiet” that could keep the world at bay. Anna quieted my mind, and I had a feeling I did the same for her.
Few things had been as effortlessly easy in my life as my friendship with Anna: I forced my turnout in ballet and I worked like a beast in school to hide by dyslexia. But Anna and I, we were easy in the best way possible.
Our relationship continued once our lives resumed in Texas after that perfect upstate Summer. I lived in Dallas, and Anna was 25 miles away in Coppell. As new drivers who were too afraid of highways, we’d take the backroads down to each other’s houses, doubling the time, but we didn’t care. Once we got to each other, we’d continue to drive — to Starbucks, to the grocery store, to a little place called Taco Bell I had NEVER visited until Anna came into my life.
We’d sit in parking lots and take turns picking songs. Anna introduced me to Tim McGraw, while I’d crank The Dixie Chicks. We were each other’s perfect escape — escape from school where we lacked friends, escape from the cruel pressure of trying to be perfect in the ballet studio, and escape from the back injury that was threatening Anna’s ballet career before it even started. Together, for once in our lives, we felt like normal teenagers.
It’s been 10 years since those long car rides. And somewhere along the road, we took separate paths. As Anna faced the reality that she’d have to stop dancing because of her back, leaving the only life she’d ever known, my ballet career was taking off. It’s easy to see why the road trips to each other, just like us, began to fade and eventually end.
Ten years later, I found myself clicking on my long lost friend’s Facebook profile. From a distance, I saw her engagement, her wedding, and then finally her birth announcement. The pain of missing her burned in my chest, but what could I possibly say to Anna? “Hey! Sorry I missed every major event in your life! Wanna be friends again?”
That’s exactly what I did.
Within a few weeks of reaching out, we scheduled a phone call. We spent two hours, not a single awkward pause, connecting the dots of our lives for each other. It was official: We planned to see each other the next time I was back home.
And today, that day had finally come.
I peek out the window and see Anna pull up, knowing her four-month-old baby girl, Parker, is in the backseat. I’m ecstatic to meet her. Forgetting to put on shoes, I sprint out to the car. Anna looks exactly the same, except older, more confident. And from the way she swoops up her sweet baby girl’s car seat (“It’s this new trendy way to hold it. All the moms are talking about it on YouTube,” Anna explains) it’s clear motherhood looks great on her.
I was silly to be worried we might not have any new topics to talk about. It turns out having a four-month-old really is a full-time job. Our conversations start and halt, start and halt; we never really get far on one subject, as Anna transitions to the floor to change Parker’s diaper, to outside to calm her fussiness, and then back inside to amuse her with the fire. The latte I’ve made for her sits untouched — motherhood in one sentence.
I’m in awe of Anna, The Mother, and am entranced as I watch her caregiving. But as I sit in awe, I’m also acutely aware that maybe things are different. Maybe they aren’t like we thought they’d be after our phone call, “like no time has passed at all.”
“Wanna grab lunch? I’m thinking a car ride will help her fall asleep. Sorry, she’s normally not this fussy,” Anna says.
“That sounds great,” I say.
Once we’re all strapped in, we begin to drive.
“Actually, do you mind if we just keep going? I think she’s almost asleep.”
“Of course not. Take a right here,” I say.
There’s a silence, and then:
“So, when is this boy of yours going to propose?” Anna asks. I look at her and laugh.
“It’s complicated,” I say.
“I’ve got time,” she says.
And just like that, we’re back in high school. Talking love, life, and our over-anxious minds while cruising our old streets.
Anna turns the music up. This time, it’s not The Dixie Chicks, but rain noises that help Parker fall asleep. I look in Parker’s car seat mirror and see her sweetly nodding off.
Everything has changed and nothing at all.
Later that evening, after we’ve said our goodbyes, I get a text from Anna. “I’m SO glad I got to see you. Literally made my year.”
“Had so much fun today! Please please please stay in touch,” I text her.
There’s an odd sadness that comes over me as I send my reply. Will we stay in touch? Or will another 10 years go by? Can I handle losing her again?
I’m sinking into a spiral of “what ifs” when my phone lights up again. “Oh! Send me that photo you used for your haircut. I think I’m gonna do it! Time for a change.”
I smile. She’s right. It is time for a change. For something new. Something full of possibilities.