by Kaylee Sergeant
“Friends are movable parts, Kaylee,” my mom used to tell me. We sat in the living room, drinking in the landscape that gazed back at us from the big picture window. I got so mad at that phrase. I didn’t simply want friends but permanent ones whom I connected with, and lasted, maybe not forever but for a while. My family was fine, but I loved my friends. I wanted many, and I wanted them close, but no matter how hard I worked towards it, it wasn’t my lot in life. After many years of struggle, I reached the place where I could appreciate that once ominous phrase. Through time and experience, what was once haunting eventually became healing. Now when I think of the idea that “friends are movable parts,” I am filled with hope instead of frustration. How did I get there? Lots and lots of years of friendships created and friendships eviscerated—by me or by the other person. All those friendships gave me something, though. My past friendships gave me imagination, femininity, and a thirst for knowledge.
My imagination took flight with the neighborhood boys. I remember my little girl years in a small white bungalow with blue shutters, on an alley where most of the houses were filled with drugs, alcohol, and broken families. Looking back, I never noticed how out of place I was as a pastor’s daughter playing on that street. I viewed those boys as my older brothers whom I looked up to. I would be outside for hours in the summer; my skin would go from a pale ivory to a bright red, and my blonde hair would bleach sandy white by July. When it wasn’t summertime, I anxiously awaited their return from school. Once they returned, we played regardless of the weather. I was always outside in a blue Cinderella dress with a toy weapon (light saber or Nerf gun) bouncing on my waist as me and five boys, including my little brothers, battled on a metal playset. I was army crawling across yards, shooting dart guns, and doing sit-ups in our boot camp. I was the medic on the battlefield as boys were falling left and right. The oldest boy pulled me around on the metal wagon as we made ambulance siren noises. “I think we’ll have to chop the leg!” I shouted in a grizzly voice as I inspected an injury. I loved it all. Regardless of my adoration of the alley and its inhabitants, it had to come to a close when I was nine years old.
Our three-bedroom, one bathroom house was too small for a family of six, and the four kids were only growing, which meant it was time to leave the alley. Mom wanted a place where she wouldn’t have to watch us so much. She worried about us when we were outside, so she rarely left us unsupervised. To fix this issue, we moved to a bigger house in a far safer location. We could walk or ride bikes around the whole block if we wanted! My family remained in the same town, but I knew that the friendship with the neighbor boys (as I called them) had come to a close. One day, it finally hit me that I was leaving and wouldn’t be returning to the house that was so filled with stories and memories. I felt like I was losing more than I was gaining. It all hit me at that moment, and I began to cry. I was soon discovered by my Oma, who was helping us move. She found me sitting on my bed-frameless mattress, shoulders sagging as if a weight was put on them, tears slipping down my cheeks like kids sliding down a steep water slide. She didn’t say much; she just sat down next to me and let me cry. There wasn’t anything to say, neither one of us had control over what was happening. I was so disheartened by all I was losing. I loved that house, loved those neighbor boys. I didn’t want life to change.
Despite my hatred for change, change still came as it always does along with my feminine best friend. Sierra was a gentle girl with dark brown hair and sparkling eyes. We would stay up until three in the morning talking about boys and watching Marvel movies or romances, huddled in Sierra’s basement while her fat feline sauntered around us. We would go to the mall and look at clothes and accessories we couldn’t afford. We touched random articles of clothing saying: “Oh, this is cute!” My style, though, was a bit more eclectic than hers. Even though time had gone by, my ties to those neighbor boys remained through my sense of fashion. Superhero T-shirts, camo pants, and combat boots were my staples, and they stayed until high school. The combat boots follow me even now (in fact, I have three pairs for different occasions). In contrast, Sierra loved jewelry, romance, and always looking cute, and this caused me to begin to like it too. With her, my short, choppy halo of hair grew into long rays of sunshine. She caused me to desire romance and to dream of beauty and being a woman, not a soldier or a tomboy. Sierra made me think that becoming a woman was a beautiful destination, not an obstacle to climb over.
This time of finding my feminine side was delightful, but over time, the friendship began to splinter. She would spew my secrets to a boy she liked, in front of me, and tell him all my insecurities. I pulled Sierra aside and asked what she was doing with a feral look in my eyes. She apologized profusely and then did it again. Because of this problem with secrets, I stopped sharing them. I didn’t want to let our friendship go, but I wasn’t stupid! Due to this withdrawal, she accused me of lacking emotion, and I started believing it was true. I locked up inside. Looking back and thinking about that time, I think that the contrary was true. I feel profoundly. I don’t have frivolous, fleeting feelings; mine are genuine, and when they are hurt, it’s a piercing pain. I couldn’t cope with the betrayal, and there was betrayal in so many areas from many friends. The conflict grew, and a war amongst friends exploded. I suddenly found myself fighting a battle I couldn’t win. No matter how hard I defended myself, it was to no avail. That summer, I accepted defeat by severing ties with tons of friends (almost all of them) and started at square one in the friendship department. This was one time I couldn’t shake; it was personal.
A wave of distress slapped me as I recognized that I was back at the beginning. There were many conversations with my mom about it because I didn’t really have anyone else to turn to. My heart was locked up but not to her. Your own mother can’t turn against you. We sat in the living room as the sunlight streamed in from the picture window, and I poured out my frustrations and disappointments. “I read in one of my books recently that friends are movable parts,” Mom commented, as she lounged on the gold couch; “that they come and go, and that’s normal. Isn’t that a freeing thought?” I just kind of shrugged with glassy eyes. No, I thought, it is not freeing! I just want things to go back to the way they once were. I want it all back. Well, I didn’t get anything back, and I even tried almost two years later but gave up when I saw things hadn’t changed. I had to move on. While I was moving on, the darkness began to recede, and sunshine glowed on the horizon as I got to know Kai.
Kai showed me what it is to be an intellectual. We would talk for hours about everything from religion to politics to personal dreams and aspirations. I talked to him about everything if we didn’t agree or got into a heated debate. I wanted that friendship to last for all eternity! Our outward appearances were that of two thin, blond teenagers sitting at a table, but inwardly, we were two sixty-something people reclining in a study discussing the future of our declining culture and society. We shared an old soul. At first, I thought he was quiet and awkward, which made me resistant. Yet once we really got to talking, I saw how much we had in common and that we could talk about anything. He was the first friend I had ever had that I would just ask the most arbitrary questions to, and he would take them seriously. I would ask things like “If the sky wasn’t blue, what color would you want it to be?”, and after thinking about it, he would have an answer that was thought out. After he explained his answer, we would have a conversation about the color of the sky and what colors would be interesting. Despite our closeness, our friendship eventually took a turn and not for the best.
Things went south when I discovered that he wanted the friendship to last forever too but as something more. He confessed his love for me—that isn’t an exaggeration—and told me of his intentions. Kai told me he felt that we were destined to be together. He begged me over and over to reconsider his offer, to give him a chance, and each time I would refuse without giving an explanation as to why. One day he asked me if I would ever feel for him. I struggled deeply with my answer. I knew it was a ‘no’, but I didn’t want to say that out of fear of losing him and our friendship. At the same time, I didn’t want to play with his heart. It wasn’t fair to him nor fair to me to keep acting like maybe it could work, so I told Kai I wouldn’t ever feel for him. That was when our friendship died. Soon after, he told me he couldn’t keep talking to me because it hurt too much; it was a constant reminder of rejection. So, the friendship was over. I mourned that friendship in a way I never had before. It hurt differently because it wasn’t a betrayal or anything personal. It was all about feelings, the ones I didn’t have.
Even though my friendship with Kai ended, I found that friends are movable but that that’s a good thing. Some friends need to go. Not everyone has your best interest at heart, and that’s difficult to decipher in the moment, especially when your feelings are involved. As the saying goes: “Hindsight is twenty-twenty.” When I look back at the relationships I lost, I can see that they were for the best, and I did gain from those relationships! I gained a sense of adventure from the neighbor boys, my femininity from Sierra, and a desire to chase after knowledge from Kai. If those relationships stayed longer, I am afraid they would’ve stunted my growth as a person. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, but I wouldn’t be who I am today if they stuck around. If one relationship fails, many times another one is just around the corner. All is not lost. Now, when I lose a relationship, it still hurts, but it’s okay because I know that there is another one in store for me that might just last. If that one doesn’t turn out, what can I say? “Friends are movable parts.”