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On Old Friends and Lingering Memories

Very early in the morning, in a sleep-deprived state, my thoughts stopped, and I asked myself, “How many friends have I lost along the way?”

At a glance, it may seem like a trivial question. A bit silly even, when it prompted you to actually count with your fingers the number of friends you used to have. But there is just something about withered friendship that leaves you feeling sentimental in a way no other kinds of past relationship make you feel. I’m not talking about a broken, forcefully severed friendship that creates a gaping wound and leaves you hurting. I’m talking about the kind of friends whom you used to be so close with, but one day they stopped calling you, and you stopped texting them, and suddenly there is a big question mark hanging between the both of you as you both parted ways without any notice.

It feels like a reminder that you used to be a part of someone else’s life–and how much of a big deal that can be. I mean, how do you describe this particular feeling of passing a picture of an old friend on your Instagram feed and be reminded of how you used to call them when you need a shoulder to cry on; when it’s been years since you actually talk to each other? How do you still thank someone whom you barely met for being on your side all those years ago when even a simple conversation will leave you both stiff and awkward?

It never occurred to me before, but there is something bittersweet about not being with someone who used to be a part of your life anymore. You’re not exactly present in each other’s life anymore, but you can’t erase the remnants that act as a witness to your friendships, like the fact that you still wear the t-shirt they gave you on your birthday or how they still collect books from an author you once recommended to them. It’s bittersweet when the next time you see them, they’re smiling and laughing next to people you’ve never met; and that acts as the evidence that you are both living a life where the other is no longer a part of. A different life, perhaps lived by different people, yet you can’t help but to still love them for the people they used to be[1]  and the person who you used to be when you were with them. 

It is not until I ask myself that very question that I find myself not being able to express the proximity to which this has left me feeling; the correct words to describe how an old friendship can still linger and follow you even as you grow old, the sentiment of knowing how big your love to each other must have been for it to endure the passing of many years. The books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and songs I’ve listened to have taught me about romantic love when it ends, but nobody ever taught me how to get over the traces of a friend.

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