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Puzzle Pieces

by Megan Sullivan

I gradually learned the true meaning of companionship when I was eighteen years old. It spans distances, encompasses years of memories, and leaves nothing to be desired. However, it will take my lifetime to assemble a definition for friendship, but I know the people from my childhood will create the guidelines.

Julie -- my "tiny" buddy, we grew up playing in the woods, and even though we separated somewhere in between sixth and seventh grade, we still ran out of our classroom together and cried on each other's shoulders in the girls' bathroom on September 11th. Last I heard, she's doing well at UCLA and doesn't call D.C. "home."

Gwen -- we made clay pots for our Egypt project in fifth grade. Every other weekend, she would spend the night at my house. In second grade, it was by her microwave that we discovered how marshmallows exploded. In sixth grade, she moved to Germany, and when she returned to D.C. two years later, we had grown apart and found new best friends.

Martie -- her father coached our soccer team for eight years. Somehow, though, we were only close friends in seventh grade: we got caught passing notes during English class. When I returned to Hayfield my senior year, she had "transformed" her Asian beauty into a bleached-blonde, colored-contact, size 1 magazine ad. We said hi to each other in the hallways, but that was all.

Paula -- her rebellious nature balanced my responsible behavior. She gave me the Matchbox 20 CD for my birthday -- after she had opened it and listened to it. When bored, we used to flip off the Military Police and run. After I left Hayfield in Middle School, I heard she had "turned" lesbian and hung around "drama" kids. I still don't know if either rumor was true, because she disappeared in high school.

Richard -- when I got home from school, he'd immediately call my house and either leave a random message on my answering machine, or if I picked up the receiver, he'd sing the Titanic theme song at the top of his lungs. We lost touch after Middle School, but his mother still sells Longaberger baskets to my mother.

Stephen -- both in the Middle School production of Wizard of OZ, he was the Wizard, I was a Munchkin. The only day my mom had ever sent any of my friends home was when Stephen, Richard, and I rode the Little Tikes car down my street and into oncoming traffic. I cried after he moved to Japan with his family-- I never said goodbye.

Stephanie -- we met while trying out for the High School soccer team, standing with our water bottles in hand, complaining about the August heat. We played soccer together for two years until she was cut from Varsity. On the lacrosse field, she put me to shame, and pretended not to notice. Together, we were the duo that was never asked out on a date, or invited to parties. Still, she was always the best friend of the football team and had crushes on teachers while I sat on her sidelines. She plays for a college lacrosse team now -- and is still a guy's "best-friend."

Anna -- I met her on the hell-weekend that was my Junior Retreat. I held her head while she threw up in the toilet after drinking too much, just as one of our counselors walked by. I lied for her -- I said she was sick from dinner. From then on, random nights driving under the stars and attending protests and shows in DC made up our weekends. After distancing ourselves in opposite directions from "home," we promised to stay in touch. Someday we'll get over our insecurities and prevail.