Best friends (by Billy Coffey)

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Every morning on my way to work the road takes me up a hill that offers what may well be the best possible view of our town. It’s a scene I never get tired of appreciating, though for the past week or so I haven’t taken the time to turn my head and do so. Because that’s just about the time Randy crests that same hill in the opposite direction, and I want to see if he waves.

We worked together in my previous job, suffering alongside one another through shift work and factory life. We were close in the way guys are, which means we’d laugh share our gripes and make fun of the other’s favorite sports team and punch each other in the arm. Male bonding is a complicated thing.

When I quit to take my current job, we kept in touch through phone calls and emails. A few months later, the phone calls stopped. The emails stopped soon thereafter.

He was laid off from the factory about a year ago and took a job that brought him my way every morning. I’d pass his jacked-up Chevy along the road and we’d both throw our hands up and wave. That’s the way it was for a while, our once close friendship reduced to a two second mention of the hand every Monday through Friday.

Then last Monday, I was fiddling with the radio station and he snuck up on me. No wave.

The next day, he was on his cell phone. No wave again. The day after that, I sneezed. Another no-wave.

There were no complications the day after that. We saw each other coming, my radio was good, there was no cell phone, and my nose was clear.

We passed each other as strangers.

I was thinking about all of this yesterday as I listened to a message on the answering machine. Thirty-seven seconds of observations that covered everything from lunch to clothing to the newest must-have technological doodad. I played it twice to catch it all and was impressed to notice that it had all seemed to be done in a single breath. The caller identified neither herself nor to whom the message was for, but her tinny, high-pitched voice could only mean it was one of my daughter’s classmates.

Her rambling continued, brushing up on the latest Suite Life episode and some juicy classroom gossip. Satisfied that all bases had been covered, she then said goodbye, but not before offering this one promise:

“We’re going to be best friends forever, I just know it.”

I smiled to myself at those words and saved them on the machine for my daughter to hear later. It may not have been the most important message of the day on our telephone, but it was without a doubt the most interesting.

Such phone calls have become pretty regular in our house in the weeks since school has started. My daughter is quite the social butterfly, a facet of her personality she did not inherit from her father. As such, she has a steady influx of friends who seem to have our phone number on speed dial.

But the girl who left a message? She’s different.

Her and my daughter have been classmates since kindergarten. There have been sleepovers, play dates, birthday parties, and even an exchange of gifts every Christmas. Given that both of their names begin with M, they are known by students and faculty simply as M & M. Where you see one, you will see the other. To say they’re close would be an understatement.

At seven, they’ve known each other for more than half of their lives and about three quarters of their memory. It stands to reason that to them, it will always be such. There are no doubts and no hesitations. Life is simple, like one long and unbroken line that stretches on forever.

That’s how it is when you’re young. Everything seems so certain because there’s so much you don’t know. And a friend is a friend forever.

Maybe M & M are right. Maybe second grade will turn into high school and then college and then, one day, bridesmaids. I hope so.

One of the harshest lessons we must learn is that the tides of time will wash some into our lives and then out again. There are those in our lives destined to remain on our shores, and others meant only to find rest there before sailing upon other seas.

But rather than mourn the many those tides take away, we should rejoice in the few left behind. For they are the ones who walk alongside us.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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