Philosophizing Over Pizza
The last time I saw my best friend was the first time she saw me cry. It was natural, of course, that this happened the last time I saw her, but it struck her that she had never seen my face blotchy and tear-streaked in the more than four years of our close friendship.
This made us laugh with sharp, uneven breaths of hot August air. We were standing in the parking lot of her favorite pizza place, where we had lunched together almost every day of senior year. I liked its thick-crust square slices less as the school year progressed, but by graduation, she was ordering boxes of it for her party. I had three slices and a sliver of cake.
We knew this day was coming in a sort of unspoken yet shared way. The same day that she keyed my name into the wooden tabletop of our regular corner booth to my urgent pleadings that she not get me into trouble, we wondered aloud about the next year. I figured that she would somehow convince me to mail her Kit Kats weekly, since pizza wouldn’t make it to the opposite side of the country. She theorized that I would find a boyfriend at some party I hadn’t planned to attend in the first place and made me promise to send her pictures. Her life as a missionary for the next year and a half would certainly be lacking in drama.
The night that she received her mission call, her family members and I gathered around her, managing six phones to accommodate everyone wanting to hear her reading the letter — her two best friends from church, her mother’s family and her boyfriend. Even with the already-wrinkled letter and its accompanying map of Arizona between us as we fell asleep in her bed that night, the truth of it all was not yet fathomable. We woke up in the morning to cold slices of pizza, which we ate haphazardly on the drive to school.
We did everything there was to do the day before I left for Georgetown. In the morning, we drove up to Syracuse, playing “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical” loudly to accommodate her hearing aids and my enthusiasm. She won the go-kart race. We made teddy bears resembling each other and buckled them into the back seat of my car for the drive home. Every time we passed a truck, she signaled to the driver to blast the horn, and the one time she was successful, I threw my hands up from the steering wheel in victory as we looked at each other and screamed happily.
We didn’t eat dinner at the pizza place that night, instead choosing a locally owned diner near our high school that was everyone’s favorite. It was understood between us that pizza was reserved for the last day.
It struck me that we had rarely spoken honestly about our friendship. When we first became friends, I was ending an unhealthy friendship and was hesitant to call anyone my best friend. She had other close friends anyway, so when we did seem to fit that label, it wasn’t one that we took on in any high school-grade official capacity. That is to say, we did friendship more than we were part of a friendship. We came up with a theory to explain it when we were walking into school one day. We had already coined the term “proximity friend,” which we used to refer to those friends with whom we were, well, friendly, but only on the basis of being in the same class or garnering likes on Instagram. She and I, however, were friends because of something deeper. When you thought about it, she pointed out, our personalities were quite different — she was outgoing and the first to make friends, while I was quiet and serious. What we largely shared were the same values, which formed a much stronger bond between us than calculus or social media ever could.
When we tried to put all of this into words on the last day, it came out in short, uncertain bursts of my “these last four years” or her “man, high school is a long time.” A woman walked across the parking lot of the pizza place, watching as we embraced. We let go and got into our separate cars, my tears falling faster as I waved her ahead of me one last time.
I write to her almost every day, sharing all the details in the same way that our never-ending stream of texts used to. Though she can only email once each week, her emails tell me everything. I have found comfort in remembering all of these little things that defined our friendship for so long, which have changed. Mostly, though, I remind myself of the things that truly make us close, which won’t. Ever since I first cried in front of her, I am assured that she knows what our friendship means to me. And though I had seen her eyes rimmed in pink before, I know who I am to her too.