She was always the first one to notice.
“You’re bleeding again!” she’d yelp as she dug through her backpack for a Band-Aid. No matter how many times I drew blood, I never learned to carry them around with me. When she was there, I never had to.
She learned to solve a Rubik’s cube somehow. I was too impatient to figure it out on my own, so she taught me too. “It’ll give you something to do with your hands,” she said. “So you won’t destroy your fingers.”
My history teacher took it away because I wasn’t paying attention. She handed me a Band-Aid, marched up to the teacher, and got it back. “You need this,” she whispered as she slid it across my desk. I spent the rest of class quietly spinning the faces of the cube under the table. I didn’t need the Band-Aid, but it was nice to have it, anyway.
I thought, “this is what it’s like to have somebody you can count on.”
She slept three nights at my house during the Great Ice Storm of 2008.
The days we spent together were full of jokes and musicals and molasses cookies. Then at some point after dark, unexpectedly, she’d slip. Her face would suddenly be devoid of emotion, her voice high-pitched and soft. She’d curl herself up into a ball at the foot of the bed and just lie there, unmoving, until whatever it was had passed.
“Is there something I can do?” I asked once, helplessly, desperate to fix her somehow.
She was quiet for a moment, and I heard her breath hitch before she spoke. “No. There isn’t.”
When she was like this, she never looked at me. She responded to questions sometimes, if I was lucky. But she wouldn’t turn around. I didn’t get to see her face.
I was there, but that wasn’t enough. I turned out the lights and tried to sleep while she kept drowning two feet away.
She made me a card for our high school graduation.
“Don’t forget about me, okay?” it read. “I’m nothing without you.”
I didn’t make her a card. I didn’t even say thank you. I was never good at that sort of thing, and I figured she knew how I felt already. She was my best friend. She’d always be my best friend. Isn’t that how it works?
I took her for granted. I forgot.
And she wasn’t nothing. She was something more.