The Slow-Cooked Sentence

My oldest friend

Rachael Conlin Levy
Photo courtesy of Seb Przd

It was fifth grade and we weren’t friends.

She was part of a group of girls who developed a music number for the school talent contest that involved dancing to the thumping rhythm of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” I performed a solo — singing Pinocchio’s song “I Got No Strings.”
She had curves and feathered hair and boyfriends who were too old and too fast. My body was a series of angles and plains, glasses and braids. The thought of ever having a boy’s penis inside my vagina was disgusting.

She lived in a trailer with her father, a morbidly obese man who used the CB moniker “Big Mac” and rarely moved from his seat in front of the TV. I lived one bus stop away, across the railroad tracks and down a stretch of dirt road in another trailer, crowded with kids.

But inside both of us was a black hole, a giant, empty thing that echoed with loneliness, and somehow — despite our differences — we recognized that and became friends. She pulled me out of books and invited me for sleep-overs and afternoons listening to her record collection of Styx and Michael Jackson. In return, I shared my innocence. Between classes in junior high we passed notes filled with loopy handwriting and signed BFF — Best Friends Forever. In high school, together we struggled through chemistry and pre-calculus, and sewed our own dresses for senior prom.

We were two planets circling a shared sun, but after graduation our orbits swung wildly apart. She moved to Los Angeles and, within two years, was married and had a son; I was in college. She had her second child and I was a budding journalist, intent on my career. When her third arrived, I was newly wed and planning a move to Europe.

Now, her youngest son is entering seventh grade, mine is 7-months-old. While I’m tied to young children, she is experiencing the freedom and choices I tasted in college. Although the time between our phone calls and letters has stretched to years, the elliptical paths of our lives continue to cross and recross as we share, albeit delayed, experiences.

So she remains my friend, forever.

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