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Featured Submission

February 13, 2013

Beyond the Written Word

By Natasha Small (Contributing Writer) 

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The door to the ancient bookstore creaked loudly as I entered, and I took care to shut it softly so as not to disturb any of the avid readers within its walls. I was glad to be escaping the heavy snowflakes that danced about outside as the wild wind whipped them here and there and oftentimes straight into my face. As I moved forward into the bookstore, loosening my mittens, scarf, and coat, my senses were revived into a state of wonder; the soft lighting of the room, delicious aroma of fresh coffee and hot chocolate, as well as the warmth of the space in general gave me a comfy, cozy feeling that I could not deny as one of my favorite feelings in the world.

I was on a mission to find the perfect birthday card for one of my dearest old friends, Alexandra. Her twentieth birthday was coming up the following week, and I refused to let any of her special days go by without at least sending her a card. Since I had begun college two years before, Alexandra and I had seen very little of each other. Our lives paved different paths after graduating high school, leading us in opposite directions. This may seem totally normal to most people; one friend goes off to a big university, the other stays in town and attends a community college, and they slowly drift apart as time pushes forward. But for us, this was anything but normal.

Can you imagine a friendship where there was never more give or take on one side than the other? Where the participants acted more like sisters than friends, sharing absolutely everything with one another; the good, bad, happy, sad, silly, courageous, and even depressing times were never experienced by one, but always by both because one never let the other go through anything alone? Where you could be the disgusting, pessimistic, most horrible version of yourself and it would be okay? Alexandra and I shared this type of relationship with one another, and I would be surprised if I ever have another friendship of the same continuity. We remained the best of friends for ten full years before we were torn apart due to a series of life-changing, unfortunate events. Although we have regained our connection, it will never be the same, and we know this. But we still take time to catch up every now and then and relive our grand memories. A birthday card is just one of the ways we still show that we care and that we have not forgotten.

So this was no ordinary birthday card I was searching for. I was looking for something that would cily. But I alsoonvey all of my inward sentiments for Alexandra to her in a way which she could understand. I wanted to express my hope of her well-being, my excitement of her turning a year older, and my love for her and her fam wanted her to know how much I missed her friendship and remind her of how close we used to be. Ridiculous desire, I know, but I felt like there had to be at least one card that did justice.

I searched the racks of cards in the bookstore for a good half hour before finally choosing and purchasing a card I thought was cute. On the outside it read: “Today is ‘Send Sunshine and Love to a Wonderful Person Day’.” The inside was  decorated with adorable sunshines and hearts, and it simply stated, “So I did.” Below the décor I wrote a simple sentence or two wishing her a happy birthday and signed my name very official-like. Having completed my task, I sat back in my chair and observed others reading as I sipped on my delicious, steamy coffee.

Something inside of me didn’t feel quite right. I took the card in my hands and looked it over and over again, wondering what it was that was missing. It was sweet, lighthearted, and friendly…everything that a birthday card should be. And that’s when it hit me; it represented everything that our friendship had been on the surface, but it didn’t represent what we had really shared with one another. I realized how extremely odd it was for me to be sending Alexandra such a shallow card, one that didn’t contain a single inside joke or sarcastic remark, no depth or display of the close affection we once shared. It was odd to be sending her a card at all, for we had experienced the past ten birthdays together in person. I felt my heart sink deep within my chest as a great sadness and longing pulsated through me. It had been some time since I had let myself miss the amazing friendship we had once shared, and I couldn’t help submissing at that moment, as I sat alone in a cozy coffee shop, to all of the emotions I had suppressed for so long.

I felt like I had so much to tell Alexandra. I wanted to tell her things about my life and ask questions about hers; serious things that I had never been able to talk to anyone else about came to mind, and I missed her so much it hurt. I wanted to relive our memories together. Maybe look through old photos and read old letters, anything to bring a small spark of life back into my soul. I seriously thought about writing her a letter to go with her card, but my heart melted when I realized that we were no longer those girls. We weren’t close enough anymore for that sort of deep communication.

I slowly placed the shady card back into its envelope and collected the shattered pieces of my heart off of the dirty bookstore floor before making my way out into the blizzard that was waiting for me, realizing that everything I needed to say was far beyond the written word.

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