We had to write a story for the NYTimes Lives Story. This is what I wrote:
I am six years old and there is a boy next to me who’s holding my hand and telling me, “I won’t let go.” I miss a bar and tumble onto the sand – he falls with me. Our hands destroy the remainder of a girl’s castle. There are grains underneath all of our nails for the next two hours.
I am seven years old and sitting underneath a round table. The boy is to my right and the girl is on my left. Our teacher is asking me to speak. We all burst out laughing. We’re sent to separate sides of the room and yet, we’re communicating in our own little language.
I am eight years old and there’s a spelling test right in front of me. I am alone at my table – the girl and boy are lucky enough to be on what feels like the other side of the room. The word is “always.” I can’t spell it, but from behind me, I hear the boy spell it out. I thank him, and he says, “always.”
I am nine years old and standing very awkwardly next to an overgrown mouse. Say “cheese,” it says – we pose together. The girl is nowhere to be seen and the busting noises of children winning games are all around us. The boy turns to me with that cheeky smile; there’s chocolate frosting on his nose.
I am ten years old and I’m joining them in gifted. I don’t like the way my teacher says, “Only because of perfect FCAT scores” and sneers. The boy and girl defend me – they laugh at me when I chase a cat around a tree. We’re stuck underneath it when the unpredictable rains of Miami come – we’re jumping puddles and messing with leaves.
I am eleven years old and there’s a lot to be said. We have PE together for the last time as the boy packs his bags and leaves. He pulls my pigtails and gives me an awkward hug; he bumps into the girl and waves goodbye. He does not see her reach for my hand as it follows him out – the boy only sees us as he trips out the doorway.
I am eleven years old and starting school again. The girl is laughing with me as we picture what the boy would have done on his first day. We cannot divide the bag of crackers between two. We finally have a term for us – “Best friends.”
I am twelve years old and middle school really is the dark ages. My hair is short, hers is growing longer. The last time we spoke to the boy, his hair was losing its golden color. The sun glints off the car across the street and we blink.
I am thirteen years old and this is the final year. The girl is better at soccer, but I make the team because of her. Our friend group is bigger – everyone knows who we are. No one remembers the boy who stole our strawberry milks.
I am fourteen years old and actually start using Facebook for something other than photos. The girl calls me – “spell out his last name,” she demands, and for a second, I have no idea who she’s talking about. We’re at different schools now. But then I remember, it’s the second day of high school and there can’t possibly be a new boy. We find him and all I see are castles.
I am fifteen years old and we all know each other. “Remember how I used to give you candies because I liked you?” he texts. I call the girl a second later – we finally have a term for us. “Soul mates,” she says. I am not easily convinced. There’s an ocean between him and I, there’s three blocks between her and me. Best friends seems better.
I am sixteen and the concept of time evades us. We lose touch. The girl is off doing college courses and he is missing one year until graduation. And one night, we plan a road trip for our senior summer, two best friends taking on the world. We imagine what would happen if he could join us, we sigh.
I am seventeen and the last time I spoke to either of them is to tell them I got into college. I turn eighteen. He has graduated and is off in Spain, she is looking at California. Different coasts of the world and still, they are my best friends. I hear their laughter when my feet touch the sand. Twelve years is only the beginning.