They sat in oversized arm chairs and talked about the Distance as it if were the 5th person in the room.
As if each one of them had felt the Distance curling close. As if they all had sat beside the Distance once or twice that month and watched it grow restless--switch, unswitch its legs-- before it finally sighed and said, "Will you pour the cider or will it be me?"
They were growing. Changing. Moved into a season of chaos & clutter & Grownup Things and just trying to keep up with the curveballs this Babe Ruth of a Life had been known to throw.
There were salaries now.
Events with RSVP's hitched to the bottom. Benefits-- whatever that truly meant to girls who just wanted to buy a good pair of heels and a salmon dinner.
There were bills arriving all the time. Less & less the mailbox was a place for surprise & serendipity; the mailman ousted from the "tooth fairy status" he held when it came Christmastime and the toy catalogs began pouring in.
There were obligations. And invitations. And all the "ations" it takes to make a girl grab her beach towel and head fleeting for the cape. There was laundry to fold. Lunches to be prepped. Time slots to be handled like eggs on the stove. Careful not to burnout, careful not to overload.
There were calories. Suddenly, calories-- poking out from the folds of tin foiled packaging-- meaning something more mammoth than ever before as metabolisms grew slower than old men in velour. Dresses to fit into. Workouts to uphold. And nights to just say "screw it" and pour another glass.
There was life.
& the truth that it was quicker these days. & harder, much harder, to catch the good fistfuls of it. Like golden locks. Like clumps of sand closer to the water, perfect for sculpting the sand castles-turned-mansions by sunset.
There was the life & the fact that lived above it all--above the calories, the salaries, the RSVP's & VIPs: No matter the Distance that curled at their feet, they never stopped holding this one prayer high, "Please keep them safe until I see them again."
That was friendship.
Stripped off from school & college & clubs. That was friendship. Minus the solo cups and too tiny crop tops and foolish mistakes turned rich with laughter by the morning. That was friendship. When the overtime flooded in & babies started crying & foreign lands began cooing to the ones who had the Traveler's Itch.
That was friendship to a group for girls who needed no explanation, no starting line, no rolling of the dice to indicate who would go first when they finally folded into one another again.
They came back. Carrying stories, they came back. Carrying stories like wise men from the east, they came back. Unearthing tales from the time capsules they buried in their own hearts until a time such as this. Unfolding & unfurling & every kind of "un" when it came to the conversations they'd snipped short like pixie haircuts just one week before, left as cliffhanger with the classic text message, "You have to hear this in person."
They came back-- from every angle of the map-- with all the space & gaps & gap-toothed boys that filled the time slots less precious than this one. The chance to be girls. Just girls again. In a world that made them executives & teachers & writers & auditors. Just girls with tales of the boys they'd loved. The lives so busy they'd forgotten to dream. & the pieces that had broken off between "the time I saw you last."
Always & always, the girlfriends came back. For the edging out. The sorting out. The pulling apart the mess from the sane like the stray red sock snuck deep into the pile of whites upon whites. That's what girlfriends were for. They came back, knowing more of this & that but never closing in on the questions they all ached to answer: who would go next. & why. When would this distance end. & how. When would friendship not be held to pinpoints on the map. & when would "together again" reach them after that night.
They came back, knowing nothing but a single prayer they'd learnt to whisper in an endless way, " Please keep them safe until I see them again."