I showed up to school in seventh grade eager to see my best friend.
It had been a long weekend and I was excited to catch up and tell her about the new fantasy book I’d started reading. I walked up to her and the group of people she was talking to.
“That’s odd,” I thought. She didn’t usually hang out with these people, but I assumed there was a good reason. As I approached, I immediately felt like I had made a big mistake.
They all stopped talking, looked at me, looked at each other, and giggled. Then they walked off together, glancing back at me and whispering to each other. My best friend looked at me with disgust, and left me standing there—all alone.
What the f*ck had just happened? I felt a cold chill run up my spine, my armpits felt wet and sticky, and I had to steady myself as I the blood rushed out of my head.
What followed was a miserable week. I went to school each day on the verge of tears. My best friend, my confidant, my sister-from-another-mister…she was ignoring me and shaming me. Each time I looked at her and her new group of friends, I imagined she had just told them one of the deep, dark secrets that only she knew—like how I had a crush on Marcos, the hot eighth grade basketball player. Or how I was doing exercises to make my boobs grow.
I ate lunch alone. A bird nearly sh*t on me while I was eating my sandwich on a bench in the courtyard, and I cried just from thinking about how embarrassing it would have been and how they all would have made fun of me.
I waited for my parents to pick me up, alone. Everyone chatted and played and made weekend plans, and I sat there with my head down, wishing for the day to end.
I did my homework in my room alone, each minute dragging on as my brain couldn’t focus on the algebra problems in front of me.
I had never felt So. Damn. Alone.
The weekend passed, and I dreaded having yet another week of loneliness ahead of me. It didn’t occur to me to try to hang out with other kids. No one was reaching out, and I was too devastated and embarrassed to try to hang with a different crowd. I went to class, sat down, and waited for the long day to begin.
At the beginning of the year, my best friend and I had ensured our seating assignments were next to each other—permanently. But every day, I felt the distance between us like I was perched on the precipice of a cliff, ready to tumble down a great chasm. Then one day, I felt her move closer. Her arm was reaching across the aisle to hand me something—a note.
I didn’t want to open it, afraid of the humiliation it would cause. But I did. Why delay suffering any longer than I needed to?
I unfolded one half of it and could see the faint sign of a heart written on the other side. My own heart leapt.
I unfolded the rest, and read the words she wrote in purple gel pen: “Dear Ana, I’m so sorry for being so mean to you last week. I thought I wanted to be friends with new people, and to have more friends. But you are my best friend, and I really missed you. I don’t want lots of friends. Just you. I love you. Your best friend (I hope), Ella.”
I bolted up and walked to the door. “Where are you going?” my teacher asked.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said as I held my breath and fought back the tears.
I pushed the bathroom door open and let out my sobs, tears falling like a late summer rainstorm onto the floor, tears so large it was like I could hear them hit the floor. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. Was it joy? Happiness that my friend was back?
In the end, I think it was relief—relief that I wasn’t walking this world alone.
Life is hard enough. So much suffering exists in this world, even on a good day. The day I opened my friend’s note, I learned how much we, as humans, need one another, how much I needed a friend, and what a blessing it is to have someone to stand next to, who will hold our hand.
Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.” Those words ring so true when I think of this story. We were not meant to walk this world alone. How terribly isolating and devastating it can feel to be alone. We must reach out when we see loneliness, we must reach out when we feel loneliness.
We need one another, more than any of us would likely ever admit.