You & I
By Emma Childs
Everyone used to talk about how remarkable it was that we never fought. We didn’t need to, we were best friends and we existed in our world. In our world, there were midnight tea parties and fairy houses and cherry jello for breakfast.
In our world, we had our own language. We operated with glittery winks, eye rolls, and giggles to send our messages from across the dinner table. It drove Dad crazy. We existed together and never worried too much because that’s how it was, us against the world. It was always gonna be you and I.
But then we grew up and the imagination games became childish and the inside jokes forgotten about. You entered middle school, and I, the little sister, staggered behind. You’d have your friends over and I’d sit in the corner watching you guys play video games. I never joined in but I liked my corner. It meant I was included and wasn’t falling too far behind. You eventually outgrew the videogames and instead, would go upstairs into you room, with the door shut.
There was no way I could sit in the corner up there so I’d stay downstairs. It wasn’t a bad thing, we were growing up, and I knew it was okay because eventually, the friend would leave and you’d open the door and I could come in. We’d lay on the floor and scream angsty pop lyrics to each other. We’d paint our nails and laugh ourselves into ab
workouts. We were still there, together, communicating side by side.
But then you got into high school, and eventually, a few years later, so did I. We outgrew our angsty pop phase and I learned about eyeliner. You tried every activity possible and I stuck to the one that fit. We fought a lot, usually about who could use the bathroom first in the morning, but that was normal, we were teenage girls. We were busy and had
our own schedules, but every morning we’d drive to school together at 7am. During that groggy, 15 minute ride, we were together again. We played along to the radio station trivia contests and made fun of our teachers. Once we got to school, we’d part ways, off to first period, and start our separate days.
But then those rides stopped. You graduated and went off to college in Pennsylvania and I stayed behind on our peninsula. You got a boyfriend and I did too so then they entered our worlds. You’d come home on holidays and on some nights, when I wasn’t with him, you and I would sit by side on the couch and watch Will Ferrell movies. We’d laugh into the darkness and eat way too much toffee popcorn. Something was still there between us, between you and I.
But then one summer you came home and something was off. I don’t think either of us knew what happened but we both knew something had. One night you suggested we go to dinner, just the two of us, to that Italian place that we both love. On the car ride there, I racked my brain for conversation topics that would seem natural; the recent
celebrity meltdown, our parents, that show we both watched last year which we agreed was decent.
We got to the restaurant and let the silence fill the clammy air while we looked over the menus. I mentioned how I might get the gnocchi, you said you were craving seafood. I was examining the marina stain on the tablecloth when you said my
name. I looked up at you. I stared at your moving lips while the words “I feel like I don’t know you anymore” fell out of them. There we were, across the dinner table from each other, just like we had been countless times before, but this time was different. Our giggles had been replaced with frowns and absolutely nothing was glittering. You were
speaking in a dead language that I was no longer fluent in. We’d never had that problem before: a language barrier.
I stared out the window the whole drive home and watched the moon tag along behind us.
We moved on from that dinner and got to a place that was comfortable, a point to where we could exist simultaneously. There’s no animosity between us, I know that, but sometimes that hurts more. It’s the absence of anything at all that stabs me awake in the middle of the night. I had a dream a few weeks ago where you and I were young, back at the old house. We were playing tag outside and yelping with joy in front of the old cherry tree. I awoke and stared at the moonbean on the wall next to my bed, feeling chills spread on my skin. Those girls were so far away, the goofy ones who had fun together.
We live in our own worlds now and it’s been weeks since I’ve last heard
your voice. I wonder if we’ll ever get back to how it once was. Back to the world of fairy houses and nail polish and trivia and toffee popcorn. Back to the world of us. Back to when we thought it was always gonna be you and I.