This was written for a creative nonfiction university class.
I met Bryan through a mutual friend of ours at the time, John. John was a funny and friendly kid, and though I was generally nervous to be social in first grade, I liked him and felt comfortable speaking to him in class. Turns out he liked me too, and he invited me to walk home with him and his friend Bryan, who was his friend from another class.
My neighborhood, which was located right in the middle of a southeastern Detroit suburb, wasn’t a very “clean” place to live, if you catch my drift. And even though the three of us only lived two blocks away from our school, there was a certain comfort that came from facing the length of those two blocks with your fellow man.
So, I walked with them. And thus began my friendship with Bryan.
He was a year older than I was (I was seven, and he was eight) but he was shorter than I was, and slimmer, too, with short and light mahogany hair and freckled, fair skin. Bryan also was into many of the same interests as I was, including video games, reading, and watching good movies and TV. Together with John, we talked about these things each day after school on our short walk home. This was how it was for about a month.
All of a sudden, John told us that he had to move to a new state soon. Within a week, he had said his goodbyes to us and left. Neither Bryan or I would ever go on to see him again — but we still remained friends afterward, and still walked home together every day.
Eventually, we began to actually hang out. He would come over to my house and we would eat salty snacks, run around in my grassy backyard, talk about Star Wars, and watch Avatar: The Last Airbender together, among several other things.
After a year, we had become close. Bryan would come over every Friday night after school and watch the new Avatar episodes with my family and I, who ordered delicious and greasy pizza for the occasion every week without fail. Then, he would stay over for the weekend, and would play all sorts of cooperative games with me, go with us to play putt-putt golf, or whatever else the family wanted to do. Bryan wasn’t just a friend anymore; he was becoming my brother, and he was considered a fully-fledged member of our family in our household.
Two years later, on the tail end of my time in elementary school, Bryan’s family had to move to the northwest city of Pontiac for financial reasons, and my own family had transitioned to Auburn Hills, which was still in the southeastern part of Michigan. This put distance between us, but both of us (and our families) vowed that we wouldn’t let that impede our friendship. Bryan still came over every weekend that he could, and we frequently enjoyed online games together whenever both of us weren’t busy and didn’t have any homework. This is how things continued all the way through our middle school years, and by this point, we had a bond of hardened steel. Nothing could break the friendship between us. As high school approached, I moved for one final time to the city of Shelby Township that was far to the northwest of Detroit, and he moved closer to the city of Detroit itself.
Once we both entered high school, though, is when I think we first started to drift apart.
There was nothing wrong; we didn’t have any issues with each other, and we still saw each other as brothers. Unfortunately, high school demands a lot more of its students’ time than elementary or middle school does, and our families didn’t have as much time to help us see each other, either. I had a little sister who was starting to go to school herself, and Bryan had at least five brothers and sisters in total. We still saw each other and played games online together, but not nearly as often as we used to. When you don’t live near somebody during high school and have a lot on your plate, it becomes incredibly difficult to see them frequently or to spend time with them.
Of course, this didn’t really improve over the next few years, as high school classes only got more challenging and time-consuming. I thought things might change when we graduated, but we’ve continued to spend less and less time with each other instead. We are still drifting.
After we reached manhood, I came to realize that we really are different in some major ways now. Bryan is a man who wants to live independently; he left his home as soon as he could to get an apartment and a full-time job, to get a car and to explore and to just simply be free. I feel most comfortable in my family home, a place I know, and am focusing on finishing my education, working only part-time. He leaped out of the nest and into the world; I still get anxious when I start peeking over the sides.
Though we both share similar interests and have that unbreakable brotherly connection, I can tell that at the end of the day, Bryan and I simply have different lifestyle preferences. That’s completely okay, and if living his life that way is what makes Bryan happy, then I’m happy for him. I want nothing but the best for my best friend of 14 years and counting.
But as I stare at my phone and realize that neither one of us has texted or called the other in nearly a month and a half now, I feel a pang of sadness that I haven’t felt the urge to do so in the first place. I feel like I’ve been a terrible friend for not even making the effort, even if there isn’t any ill-intent behind why I haven’t spoken with him.
I’ve been told that this is a natural occurrence, that it’s normal for people who were inseparable at a younger age to sometimes lose that drive for frequent contact as time goes on. Maybe that is the case. But I don’t want that to be the truth.
If it turns out that one or both of us is ultimately happier with how things are now, then the way we are drifting apart may be for the best. But I care about my brother too much to not try. I love him too much to not make an attempt to course correct the trajectory of this drift.
I’ve picked up the phone, and I’ve punched in his number.