I have a good friend who’s no longer a good friend. We’re no longer on speaking terms, and I don’t know how much longer this will be the case. Even though we only met last September, they became one of my closest friends, and I became one of theirs. A lot can change in a year. Everyone knows that.
One of Bowdoin’s greatest strengths is its community, and one of its community’s greatest strengths is its closeness. You see the same faces everywhere you go because there aren’t a lot of faces or places here. That’s good news when you’re on good terms with everyone. So what happens when there’s someone in that tight-knit community you’re no longer tight with? I’m figuring that out now. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
First, it seems like they’re everywhere. Not because they are, but because I’ve become the unwilling recipient of a radar fine-tuned specifically for them, downloaded straight to my brain. A pair of shoes. A gait. A laugh. Whenever we happen to be in the same space, I become acutely aware of their presence in relation to mine. Oh shit they’re here. Do I wave? No, then they’ll see me. Wait, then they’ll see me. Wait, how do I look right now? Do I look good? Like, unbothered good or sad good or hot good or actually good good? Maybe just a smile? Wait, am I allowed to do that? Don’t, that’s weird, just look. Wait, no, that’s even weirder. And whenever this happens, it sticks with me for a while. Did they see me, too? Did they see me see them? Do they think I didn’t see them? Do they think I’m thinking about them right now? Are they thinking about me right now? Or, better/worse yet, are they not thinking about me at all? And these questions inevitably lead me down a familiar road. Reminiscing. Regretting. Re-wishing.
Second, time only moves in one direction. This simple fact has become one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn only now, when I wish so badly it was another way. My second night on campus, I found myself almost believing that if I closed my eyes hard enough and wanted it bad enough, I could open my eyes and things would be different. I would find myself not in Quinby but in Maine Hall. I would check my phone and it would be September 2020, not September 2021. I wouldn’t be where I was: here, in the painful, irreversible present. I would be back then. I would have another chance. Only in hindsight do I see the pivotal moments for what they were, branching points that permanently shifted the story. How different might things be now if I had only done something different then? But, here’s the other thing: you can do what you genuinely think is the right thing each step of the way and still end up in “the worst-case scenario.”
Third, it gets easier. We stopped talking early this summer but hadn’t seen each other since last November and hadn’t talked in person since sometime in October. Seeing them for the first time was a rush of the darkest tenderness and brightest despair. The wound was suddenly fresh again. For those first days, with my body in an auditorium, my mind was free to wander, free to wonder. Everything was in the air, myself included. Things were unformed and uncertain, and as unpleasant as this situation was, it was something that I knew. But eventually, my world opened up a little more: I adjusted to College House life, met with old friends, made some new ones, got involved with clubs and started classes. The world kept turning.
But, sometimes, they just walk into my mind—or across the quad. I’ll admit, each time this happens I’m left a little fazed, but it’s gotten easier to resettle myself. And the thoughts are different, too. I’m still sad about how things are. But I’m also more accepting. And that acceptance has given me peace. Even optimism for some tomorrow where things might be different. Until then, I’ll make my home in the present. Where else can I be?
I talked with them recently. I talked with a stranger in the shape of a best friend. And though the conversation was strange, strained, and “nothing new,” it gave me some stability. It firmly established what our relationship would be moving forward. All that’s left is to move forward.
They’re still a star in my sky. But the night has deepened and more lights have blinked open, new constellations have bloomed. Still, they are a star.
And if you’re reading this, Hi. Hello. I hope you don’t mind. I hope you are well. I hope one day it is what it isn’t.
Nora Sullivan Horner is a member of the Class of 2024.