I've been fortunate enough to have never lost someone without whom my life would be completely shattered. My extended family is a very loose-knit and smelly old blanket filled with holes and stains and condescension. Three members have died and left behind little holes in me. My grandmother's voice is clear in my head. She gave me my first latch-hook rug and sewing box and instilled a love of fiber art in me. My great-aunt Bea's absence left a giant void at family get-togethers. No one's laugh was as infectious (I also liked watching her skin… she was a grand gesticulator and it danced on her collarbones and was endlessly intriguing to me as a child). And perhaps dearest of all for the least amount of palpable or explainable reasons, my great uncle Harry, for whom I'm determined to name my son (if that's ever a thing?) Harrison. While I miss those people, their deaths didn't crush me. They were all in their 80s and I'd become familiar with the concept of death through many a fish and frog and guinea pig.
While death has not taken those important to me, other things have. I know that people change. I've heard it a million times in songs and TV show scripts and dumb fat 4th grade teachers. I know I have changed since being in kindergarden or high school or even since January of this year, but my favorite part about people is how they can grow and change and still love each other and stay in each other's lives. I have this amazing luck when it comes to friends most of the time. The ones I have I am madly in love with and have had for years and years, through many a change of hairstyle and interest and general "being". They visit me during my unsettling first month in a new city. They make me laugh solely with facial expressions. They get me six boxes of candy for my birthday. They call me out on my shit and send me double-chin Snapchats and draw tattoos for me and remember to text me on important days even if we haven't spoken in months and months. Losing them would be impossible.
But while I have a good group of friends who are present, some have slipped through the cracks. And I remember each slippage as it happened. You take for granted how solid friendships are and how much time is allowed to pass before contact gets strained or you find you have nothing to talk about anymore. You say things you think will be forgotten or forgiven the following morning and it's not until years later you realize that that feeling of security, that friendship is completely dissipated. You don't even know their phone number. You don't know where they live. You have boxes and boxes of memories as vivid as if they happened yesterday, but you don't have that person. And what stings the most is that they are somewhere out there. They are sitting at home watching the TV show you're watching or listening to a song that you used to sing together. But they're there. And while the feeling of hopelessness that couples death must be the worst feeling in the world, the frustration that couples losing someone figuratively isn't far off.
I've spent a lot of time regretting losing touch or letting too much time pass and all of that. I've spent a lot of time being bitter that the other person didn't bother reaching out. For what, though. Things happen. People lose touch. Good friends never speak again, at least not with the great familiarity they used to. This is just a fact, and one that need be accepted. And approved of, even. If everyone I'd ever loved had stayed in my life, I wouldn't get to feel a lot of emotions that I strangely treasure. Some nights when it's cloudy and miserable, I think of childhood friends or past love interests and I cry like a stupid baby and get tears on my snacks and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cry for new and exciting reasons. But then I focus on my favorite memories with someone, think about how many years ago it was, thank fuck I have good memories from that long ago and then wonder where they are now. I hope they're doing something awesome and I hope they occasionally ugly-sob about those same memories. And sometimes those nights are needed. They remind me that you're allowed to keep loving the people who don't stay with you. You're allowed to remember everyone for the fonder things and let go of the bitterness that the relationship fell apart, whether with a big fight or a slow progression of "it just did".
I guess I'm feeling nostalgic and cheesy this Labor Day afternoon, sitting alone, about to embark on a terrifying journey called Starting a Brand New School Where You Know Not a Soul. I'm feeling nostalgic for every relationship I've ever had. As "meaningless" as some were. Regardless of duration or circumstance or crash-and-burn ending. I'm nostalgic for the two girls who lived in my neighborhood and were my best friends for many years growing up. I'm nostalgic for my best friend in high school. I'm nostalgic for online friendships that got me through tough years. I'm nostalgic for people who I had conversations with to pass the time waiting in line or in awkward circumstances where small talk need ensue to not lose mind. I'm nostalgic for people who've smiled at me when I was close to crying in public or who held doors when I'd just been thinking the human race was a giant turd. I'm nostalgic for the times I've made strangers laugh or strangers have made me laugh. I'm nostalgic for nearly every positive human interaction I've ever had. Because I remember a great deal of them. I remember your face. I remember what you said or did and I hope I don't lose it. If you are or were ever important to me, I will love you until the end of time.