Requiem For A Dying Friendship

I never meant for us to drift this far apart. I'm not the sort of person who makes friends easily, so I generally do my best to hang onto the ones I have.

 

We've known each other for probably fifteen years or more, though in the beginning we weren't friends, really, just co-workers in a mid-size plant in the Valley. We knew each other's names, and that was about all. Then a new contract came in. Workers were assigned to new tasks, and seating assignments were re-adjusted to suit the new work load.

 

She told me later she had confided to her then-seatmate, "I hope they don't put me next to Kathie. She's weird." Well,they did put her next to me, and she was right. I am weird. Unconventional, anyway. I've never been one of the group, any group. I have my own peculiar way of doing things, and my opinions are frequently at odds with the conventional wisdom. I have my own style of dressing which is never quite in fashion, and my sense of humor can sometimes be highly strange indeed.

 

Anyway, we worked together, and while we worked we talked, and in time we got to know each other quite well. We had very little in common, actually, aside from being about the same age. We both liked to read, but she liked Danielle Steele, while I preferred Steinbeck and Dickens. I was married, no children, she was divorced with a young son. She had gone to public schools, I went to private. We both had early and thorough religious training, but she had stayed on the straight and narrow, while I had wandered far into the forests and fields. We came from different racial and cultural backgrounds as well.

 

Still, we managed to find some common ground. We liked mostly the same kind of music. We both liked Mexican food, old movies, and long walks in the sunshine. But most important, I think, we both felt trapped in a dead-end job. We wanted something better, something challenging and stimulating, even exciting. What kind of job? We didn't know. We just knew there had to be something better, and we'd find it someday. Someday.

 

More and more we found ourselves confiding in each other, our hopes, our dreams, our disappointments. I could tell her things I didn't dare tell anyone else, not even my husband. Secret things. Wonderful things. Terrible things. Things I had never told anyone before, and maybe would never tell again. She was my best friend.

 

Time passed. We didn't always sit together at work, but we always walked together at lunch. We talked about going into business together, maybe a little dress shop down on the boulevard. I would design and make the clothes and she would run the store. It would be great. But it was just talk, of course. Neither of us had money enough (or nerve enough) to do it for real.

 

More time passed. She found a better job. I found a better job. We were both still in manufacturing, but the pay was better, and the work more challenging. We still kept in touch. My house was less than two miles from her apartment and we could visit sometimes on the weekends. When we couldn't visit in person we talked on the phone, an hour, two hours at a time. We went to the beach together once or twice a year, went shopping together and to the movies. There were still plenty of things we both enjoyed.

 

A couple of summers ago we drove up to the mountains, a six-hour drive, and talked all the way. We slept in a tent and cooked our meals over an open fire. (Actually if the truth be told, we re-heated food I had prepared at home and frozen for the trip.) We hiked the easy trails in the mornings, and in the afternoons we sat under the fragrant trees and read our books and talked.

 

We had so much to tell each other. I was trying to get pregnant. She had a new boyfriend. My sister had written mea hurtful letter. Her brother was in trouble with the law. She was studying to be a medical assistant. I was going to be a writer. Hopes and dreams. Problems and disappointments.

 

So when did it all change? When did it start to fall apart? No, we didn't quarrel or anything like that. I left my assembly job and started a child-care business, hoping to earn enough to make ends meet and still have a little spare time to do some writing on the side. Her boyfriend moved out of town, so she spent most of her weekends visiting him. Our phone calls became less and less frequent, and when we did talk we seemed to have little to say. Nothing new at her job. Nothing new at my end, either. No earth-shaking developments in her romance. I still hadn't sold any of my stories. It was increasingly difficult to find anything to talk about. Had we already said everything there was to say?

 

She hasn't called me for several months now, and I can't seem to find a reason to call her. I got a Christmas card from her the other day. No letter. No personal message. She just signed her name.

 

The End

 

copyright 1999 by Kathleen Mc Pugh all rights reserved