The Heartbreaking Reality Of Having To Love A Friend From A Distance

by Lindsay MacMillan

We met during my freshman year of college. You were the guy in my Spanish class who was always cracking jokes, and I was the gal in the front row who was frantically scribbling down everything our professor said.

One fall day, we crossed paths outside the student center. I can't remember what it was that we said — maybe “Oh, hey there,” or “Hola, amigo” — but whatever it was, we said it at exactly the same time.

“Jinx,” we both said, again in unison. “Jinx double jinx, you owe me a soda,” I added. Your laugh reached your eyes, which were the same tree bark shade as my own. You told me you'd take me out for a soda sometime.

“I'll hold you to that,” I said, and I kept walking, smiling at the New Hampshire foliage around me. But you were the kind of person who made everyone feel special, from custodians to sorority presidents. I was just another face in the crowd.

You were never actually going to buy me that soda. So, I went out to a party and met someone else, a guy who fit the handsome prince character I had conjured up as a kid.

You were also at the party, and while I was making out with this other guy, I remember being concerned that you'd think I was one of those random hookup types of girls.

But, the guy I kissed that night became my boyfriend, and I plunged into a deep, crushing romance with sporadic buoys of euphoria. Still, I gravitated toward you, subconsciously pulled upward by your vivacity.

One winter day, you and I were walking to Spanish class, and a thought hit me as your warm laugh spilled over the frozen ground: You would be a fun person to go through life with. It wasn't in a "Holy sh*t, I want to marry this guy" kind of way, but rather a "This guy is going to make someone really happy someday" way. My boyfriend once asked why I always smiled when I saw you. I denied that I did.

I was too smothered by a toxic love to realize I had uncovered a healthy one. Love is not drama or darkness. Love is light, and that's what you brought, when you told jokes in the library to help me procrastinate or struck up a conversation with a dining hall worker.

You didn't ration sunshine; you spread it wherever you went. When my boyfriend and I broke up, it took me a while to find myself again. But gradually, I resurrected my bubbly self, and your face was there, brightening my thoughts.

For your birthday, I bought you a triple chocolate cake and left it outside your dorm room. I decorated the box with bubble letters and stars and a few hearts, too. But, I didn't sign my name. It wasn't because I didn't want you to know who had given it to you, but because it wasn't important.

I'm not trying to paint myself as an inherently selfless person. I'm often incredibly selfish. But toward you, I have always been selfless, and involuntarily so.

I've sent you good luck notes before your exams. I've talked you up to women you've liked. I've helped you find a job after graduation. I've made us matching T-shirts for a concert we went to.

You haven't done too much for me over the three years I've known you, to be honest. When we hang out, you spend more time staring at your phone than you do at me. When I've called you at 10 pm, crying about my parents' divorce, you've told me you were tired and asked if we could talk another time.

I'm not the person who stimulates you to be selfless, like you do for me. I'm not the one you're going to love like I love you. But that's OK; it really is.

I'll still give you advice on what quarterback to start on your fantasy football team, and I'll still listen to you talk about the women you date.

Now that we live on opposite coasts, I'll still send you postcards from time to time. If you call me at 2 am, I'll pick up every time. I'll be the best friend I can be to to you. I'm not deluding myself about what we are.

I'm not hoping you'll show up at my door and profess your love to me like a Taylor Swift music video. I'm not hoping you have a bad time on your dates. I'm hoping you'll have an amazing time and that you experience a love that electrifies your senses and makes you want to be better than you were yesterday.

While I'm wishing those things for you, I'm moving on. I love you so much that I'm falling out of love with you so I can fill the platonic role you want me to play in your life.

I recently began dating a guy who is sweet and handsome and makes me feel like I'm the rarest lady on the planet. My feelings for him are real, and most of the time, thoughts of you don't get in the way. They do get in the way sometimes, though. Then, I wonder if I should sever ties with you so I can live fully in the present.

I ask myself why I insist on giving you so much of my heart when I receive so little of yours in return. But then, out of the blue, you call me and fill me in your life. You ask about my mom and what kinds of things I've been writing about lately.

An hour passes in what feels like five minutes. As we talk, connected by more than phone lines, I realize I get a lot from you, too. I get the satisfaction of bringing an extra syllable of joy into your life every time I make you laugh. I get to hear our voices intertwine, even if our fingers never will.

I get to see the world more brightly knowing you're out there somewhere, bringing smiles to people's faces. I get to live more fully because you have shown me what it means to value someone else's happiness above my own.

This is the most beautiful, powerful thing I have yet encountered in my 22 years. So, I will keep loving you quietly from a distance, for as long as you let me.