Ode to Joy

“She said you was a ho.”
“She WHAT?!?!” I shriek, the end of my sentence jumping up an octave sounding like the crash of plates on a marble floor.
“Yeah,” the girl repeats. “She said you was a ho.”
My mouth feels like sandpaper and butterflies start to dance in my stomach. My butterscotch skin flushes deep crimson with embarrassment and shame.
“That bitch don’t know me to be talkin’ about me like that,” I say, a lil bit of the hood I try so hard to keep hold of seeping out.

On the inside though, my bravado is nonexistent. She didn’t know me, the frigid Catholic school girl who was afraid to kiss a boy, let alone screw with the magnificent numbers I was being accused of. Who was she to call me a ho?

She hadn’t called me a ho of course. But I wouldn’t know that until later.

But that’s how I first met my best friend, the first and most important love of my life. After actually taking the time to talk to her, I realized that she hadn’t, and never would, call me a whore and that I liked her. So, she became my friend. And we haven’t had an argument since.

In those early years, we’d sit in her room and be silly, throwing stuffed animals at one another while we ducked behind well placed furniture. We’d harmonize to lofty melodies in music genres that “real black people” didn’t listen to. We’d read magazines and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. We’d share our poetry with each other, self important, verbose stanzas that soon drifted into beautifully simplistic arrangements that more reflected the women we would become. We’d share our past pains, way too deep and too various for children, but present nonetheless. And sometimes, we’d just sit. Maybe one of us would sleep (usually me as I never really slept at home) or maybe we’d both be awake and off in our own little worlds. But it was comfortable. It was a silence you could walk into and feel at ease. Even when we were quiet our worlds were intertwined.

What’s most important to know is that we have been friends for at least 10,000 years.

It’s a running joke of ours, but I feel like I’ve known her forever. I know that I’ll know her for eternity. She is my better half, the part of me that makes me complete unto myself. She is the one that saved me, and has brought me closer than ever to the woman I’ve always wanted to be.

When we were younger, we went through our own growing pains, separate but still intertwined, filling each other in at the moments we could find. I remember being in high school and her having a boyfriend that monopolized a lot of her time. I felt that acute loss, as though the colors in my life were less vibrant. The harmonies were less haunting. I realized then, however, no matter what I’d never lose her, as she’d become too vital to my everyday life.

She’s been there for everything. She bears witness to my life, taking on the responsibilities of remembering details that even I have long forgotten. More often than not, many of our conversations about the days of yore will go something like…
Her: That’s not what happened.
Me: Really?
Her: No, honey, remember…
Me: Oh, yeeeeeaaaaah

And then it’s better.

I love her. And she loves me which, perhaps might be the greatest feat any human has ever attempted and accomplished. I’m harder than landing on the moon. But she does, for some reason I’ve yet to put my finger on. She is the one person in this world I can talk to about everything and never fear being judged. The only person I can disagree with without arguing. In 10,000 years of friendship, we’ve never had a fight. Not one. We’ve never gone long stretches without speaking in some form, with the exception of once when I was going through more than I thought I could bear. And even then when I finally realized how selfish I’d been to abandon her attempts at helping me just to drown myself in my own misery, and I came back ready to grovel and beg at her feet for forgiveness, all she asked me was, “So, how was your day?”

She made me learn to be responsible for others besides myself. Loving her forced me to realize that although I’d never known selfless love, love where it was possible for one to be more concerned with another than themselves, that it existed and that I was responsible for making it last. She made me learn to care for people, to allow them to care for me. If I ever married someone, I’d have to love him the same way. Because once you’ve been exposed to what real love feels like, you can never go back.

She has a boyfriend whom I adore, for whom I thank God everyday for sending to her. I keep telling her to hurry up and marry him, and not just because I wanna see her in a pretty dress. But because he is the only person I trust with her outside myself and he takes such wonderful care of her. Because her marriage would be cemented proof that love like ours flowers and flourishes, and can be forever, if we work at it. It would be evidence that love is out there for me, and that if something should ever happen to me, she’d be taken care of in the manner I’d like.

I’ve never been one for making myself readily emotionally available to others, but she knows me inside and out. The only person that doesn’t make me feel weak for crying, that listens when I bitch about things, that can tell me I’m wrong without hurting my feelings. She is my better half, the representation of all the things I that I am and want to be, all wrapped up in a beautiful package that can make me literally laugh out loud on days when I can barely manage a smile. The sound of her ring on my phone, or seeing her name pop up next to a text message she’s sent still never fails to get a smile from me. She gets my jokes. She likes my shoes. She encourages my enchantment with shiny things and believes in my talent. She loves my friends, and screens my boyfriends, because meeting her is more important than meeting my parents. She finds me pretty makeup she thinks I’ll like, and sends me random pictures of things she knows I’ll wanna see. It makes me feel like I’m more a part of her everyday life. And I miss that. If she were dying, I’d give my life to save hers. If she couldn’t have children, I’d carry them for her because I know she’d be an amazing mom. And only a little because it would be a really cool story to tell to my niece or nephew. If I got married, she’d be the only person that the wedding couldn’t go on without if she couldn’t be there. If I died, I’d want her to take care of my husband and children. And to get all my shoes. She’s the sole beneficiary on my life insurance policy, and her opinion is the only one that really matters when I’m picking out cars or potential suitors. If she doesn’t like them, they have to go. As long as I have money she is never poor. As long as I have food she is always fed. As long as I have a house, she has a home. Come hell or high water, she is the person I’m gonna spend the rest of my life with.

So this week (next week? I know, I’m the worst with the dates) is our Frienaversary, a celebration of our friendship that we do annually that I came up with last year. I realized I’ve celebrated an anniversary with every boyfriend I’ve had (when I remembered) and she’s far more important than any of them. So, this is a celebration of us. In 11 years I’ve only written a handful of things about her because even I can never seem to do us any justice. I hope everyone knows love like ours at least once in their lives. If I were to die tomorrow, she’d be the one thing I know I got right.

So I celebrate us, the life we’ve shared, the worlds we’ve intertwined, the little ladies we’ll one day be, sitting in a room quietly, you knitting and me reading a book, not speaking because we’ve shared a volume of words over our lifetime and our friendship has transcended mere companionship. I thank you, too, because without you, I can’t imagine who’d I’d be or even if I’d be. So, I owe you my everything. And yet, you ask me for nothing.

And that’s what real love is like.

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