Despite living in a world that’s increasingly (and, perhaps, overly) connected, it’s still incredibly easy to lose touch with people. The older we get, the more our paths seem to divert from others’, flowering off in separate directions that take us to different states, countries, and sometimes even continents.
I’ve always prided myself on staying in touch with people, believing that when someone really, really means something to me, I won’t allow any literal space between us to transform into distance that’s figurative, too. But sometimes that ideal is simply that, and ends up caving to the ambivalence that seems to creep in after enough time has passed since I last spoke to a certain friend. The idea of reconnecting starts to feel uncomfortable, and I wonder if it might even be unwelcome, so I file it away and move forward into a future that’s quickly slipping away from my past with said friend.
This phenomenon doesn’t seem so sad while it’s happening, especially if you have lots of other people in your life to love. But after running into an old best friend on the street the other day, after a year or so of silence that I had presumed was a permanent drift, I was reminded of why checking in again can often be worth it.
It’s rare to look forward to unexpected run-ins on New York City streets. More often than not they’re with someone I don’t have much to say to, or they happen when I’m half-asleep and definitely look it, too. This was different. I spotted my friend’s very identifiable stroll from far away and would have run into his arms all movie-like if I wasn’t a little scared he had changed drastically and might not appreciate the gesture. But the minute he opened his mouth, I could tell that nothing important had changed, with the warmer parts of nostalgia quickly taking over and rendering my evening suddenly wonderful.
Would this have happened with just any acquaintance? Not at all. But this was a friend who’d grown up beside me, navigating the labyrinths of middle and high school in an equally sloppy way—the friend who I met late at night to indulge in Ben & Jerry’s and naive whining, or a less caloric ugly cry. We complained to each other endlessly, made lots of embarrassing mistakes in each other’s presence, and still managed to love each other despite it all. Consider that we were two grossly judgmental, hormonal teenagers, and that’s quite a feat.
I glimpsed all of this the other night when faux-destiny brought us together again and hit me over the head with my idiotic willingness to lose touch. We got drinks, and no time had passed—even if reality says it did. “I’m beyond trying to impress you,” he said after I picked on him for something, and it was absolutely true.
There really are certain friends who you can always count on to take you as you are, sans any serious judgments, even if time and space begin to push you apart. Sometimes, apparently, you get lucky, and that guy in the sky (or whatever’s up there) drops them in front of you again as a friendly reminder not to stray too far. But, just in case fate is unreliable, I highly recommend reevaluating all your platonic “one’s that got away” and reaching out to any who make you feel that unmistakable twinge of I miss you.