Once, I had a really good friend. The type that was fiercely loyal, spontaneous, not afraid to be silly and knew me best. Most of my cherished memories from the past five years involve her in one form or another. In fact, I am positive that I could fill a book with our memories and what they mean to me.
One of our more recent adventures took place at an all day, outdoor summer concert festival. My friend had reminded me repeatedly to return to her a certain pair of shoes that she was bent on wearing to the festival. In typical fashion, I repeatedly forgot. It was now the day of the festival and I still had her shoes. I was driving forty-five minutes, while she was driving over an hour to meet in the middle at the festival. We would park, meet at the front gate, quickly exchange shoes and be on our way to a day of fun. Unfortunately, as history would repeat itself, things would not go this smoothly. Getting from point “a” to point “b” for us was always complicated.
I was about half-way to the venue when I got a frantic telephone call from my friend.
"I am so lost!" she exclaimed, without even saying hello. History was repeating itself. I was not familiar with the side of town she was on and could not offer directions, which only heightened her panic. I advised her to ask for directions at the nearest gas station and she would be fine. "You didn't forget my shoes, did you?" she did not forget to ask. I assured her that the shoes were right next to me, awaiting their reunion with their owner.
About twenty minutes later, I got a second telephone call from her.
"I am stuck in traffic and you will probably beat me there," she relayed to me. Thank you for the update, I was sarcastically thinking in my mind. And, because i was thinking it, I said it out loud. Little did I know my friend had a terrible morning, had been in an argument with her mother, had already been lost twice and was now stuck in traffic, alone. She proceeded to vent all of this to me, finished it with what she thought of me and my bratty attitude and ended with a sharp "Goodbye!". About two minutes later, I received an apology text message, which was typical. Fine. I'm sorry too. Let's just get there and we will have a good day, I replied.
Finally, I arrived at the venue and it was packed; people on top of people, music blasting from speakers and a sea of cars in the parking lot. I quickly realized it was going to be difficult to find her; like a needle in a haystack. My phone rang.
"I'm here. I'm in the gravel parking lot in the front." she informed me. I told her to follow the plan to meet me at the front gate and I would bring her the shoes. "I can't meet you there. Please meet me in the gravel parking lot. I will be inside my car," she said in one breath. There was a long pause. I asked her why she could not just meet me outside the gate. "Because!" she so vaguely explained. I requested more information. "Just do it! Please!" she exclaimed. I explained that it would obviously be more difficult to find her in a sea of cars than to just meet at the gate.
"I am not wearing any shoes!" she finally shrieked. Another long pause ensued, while I waited for the punch line. "I forgot to put any shoes on before I left and I just figured I would get mine from you when I got here." Forgot? To put shoes on?! I was thinking. "Yes, I drove over an hour here barefoot. Yes, I walked into the gas station to ask for directions barefoot. No, I will not walk across this gravel parking lot to meet you barefoot," she stated. I was speechless. How could someone be so clueless? So forgetful? I was infuriated as I stomped around, scouring the gravel parking lot for my friend. Everything she had done was unnecessary, annoying and ridiculous and there was nothing surprising to me about it. Finally, I saw her car and she was inside, pouting. I walked up and yanked open the driver's side door. She stared straight ahead.
"I am sorry. I don't know what I was thinking, not wearing any shoes," she said, without making eye contact with me. I shook my head and sighed as I tried to think of a suitable reply. Finally, I could not help but smile, as she was looking so pitiful. I began to chuckle, which turned into a giggle that exploded into a genuine laugh. My friend followed suit and without saying a word, we laughed until we cried. I told her she was crazy as she recounted the story to me again while lacing up her old shoes. "One thing is for sure, I will never walk barefoot into a gas station again," she promised, with a shudder. I shook my head again with a smile and we set off to finally begin our day of music in the sun.
After that day, we saw each other less often. She moved. I moved. Phone numbers were changed. Life got complicated and eventually, we lost touch. I still regard her as the best friend I have ever had. Life was always interesting when she was around. The preceding was one of my last memories with her. I hope, wherever she may be, that she has a similar friend who would give her shoes when she is barefoot, share a meaningful laugh without saying a word and meet her in the gravel instead of the grass. For me, there is no replacement for her. Yet, I often catch myself searching for a happy medium; a seat filler, by comparison, until the time is right that we should meet again.