The other day, while tidying up my bookshelf, I was thumbing through a book, and an old photograph fell out. It was a picture of a college friend and me, both in the college uniform of a plain white shirt and purplish skirt. I haven’t seen that friend for years, nor have I heard from her. Seeing that photo made me wonder what had happened to her.
The young woman in the picture was my best friend in college. We had the kind of friendship that I thought would last forever. But unfortunately we drifted apart over time.
I had another friend who had been there for me through thick and thin. Our friendship lasted for many years but also ended abruptly. The sad thing is the friendship broke off after I performed an unequivocally kind deed for her. So I didn’t see it coming at all. Even though the friendship ended years ago, it left very painful feelings for me to this day.
I always wonder if this kind of breakup only happens to me.
Regardless, it makes me sad to lose a once-best friend, especially when it’s one-sided against my choice. Old friends, those we grew up with, high school or college friends are virtual reminders of our lives. They are the ones that share precious memories from the same past.
I used to move quite often. And that was one of the reasons that I couldn’t keep old friends.
But living in China enables me to re-connect with some friends that I had lost. With the ease of distance, an ordinary day here can be turned into a delightful surprise when I have found old friends who got away over time and have myself been found by friends who I would never expect still thought of or remembered me.
I was surprised the other day when I received a phone call and had no idea who the caller was. It was a friend in my high school years from my hometown Shahe. This friend learned from my brother that I moved back to China two years ago. Even though my brother reminded me that this friend wanted to get in touch, I was uncertain that would ever happen. My thought was the friend was just being nice and that was it. I had my reasons of doubt. We hadn’t seen or heard from each other for thirty years! What could we possibly talk about? A lot of things happen in thirty years and we know nothing about each other during that period of time. Besides, my high school years was in the early eighties in north China, at a time when boys and girls barely spoke and had nothing to do with each other. All I know about that friend was he went to a good college in the capital of our province after graduating from high school.
But my worries proved to be groundless. As soon as I learned who it was on the phone, the awkwardness only lasted for the first couple of minutes, then after that, the conversation was a smooth flow. We had a lot to catch up! It was easy, and the familiarity was bound by our hometown: its dialect, the provincial food, the local culture and customs. We talked about our old friends, teachers, our old school. We were like time travelers, living the life of thirty years ago.
It felt very nice. I am so grateful for that phone call.
Maybe that friend is like me, longing to find a piece of the past, so that he could complete the puzzle.
Let’s face it, friendship is complicated, that’s why it’s so fascinating some friendships can stand the test of time, against the odds of move, priority shift, and other changes in life, while other friendships just burn out, fade away and end badly.