Missing home

A few years ago, my sister said to me: “I wish I had a soulmate, like the way you do with Jacob.”

I was 16 when I first really met him.

I had already known his brother for two years and he’d been friends with my sister for about the same amount of time. So of course I had heard stories about him and he had heard stories about me. We had seen each other in passing but I didn’t really know him. After all, he was my younger sister’s friend.

Growing up in our Sacramento suburb with perfectly manicured lawns, we weren’t a pair that the people around us expected to become friends, let alone best friends. Even overlooking the age gap, I was a studious outcast, with no real close friends or social life. He was an accomplished athlete and popular, although he was still awkward in the way that 14-year-old boys are.

The late September sun was shining down on us as we were exiting school through the same gate. I was walking with my friends and with their encouragement I overcame my usual shyness and quickly introduced myself to him.

Our friendship began with a “hello.”

A few days later, his brother gave me his number. We started chatting via text, and our conversations would go on for hours — about school, gymnastics, our siblings, our dreams and what we wanted from life — and they always left me with a smile on my face. As the seasons changed, texting and waves in the hall turned into FaceTimes and walking each other to class.

During spring break, I asked him if he wanted to walk my dog with me. Something that, over the next few months, would become our thing. Since neither of us knew how to drive yet and I didn’t know how to ride a bike, we would take hours-long walks together to the local Starbucks or Boba Tea House, even when it was 100 degrees Farenheit out.

Jacob was the first person I had been this close to. I’d always had a crush on his older brother, but during that perfect summer, a part of me wondered if I had romantic feelings for Jacob. I pushed the feelings down; after all, I didn’t want to be a junior dating a freshman.

But one June night, we talked about how we only saw each other as friends. How I still cared about him and loved him in ways that I had never cared about anybody else before, but it wasn’t in a romantic sense. And I realized that we could love each other and have a platonic, intimate friendship. The kind where you can talk nonstop without worrying about making a fool of yourself. The kind you’re willing to put ahead of boyfriends and girlfriends when the other gets their heart broken. The kind people write books and make movies about.

But as Parachute sings, “Nothing perfect ever lasts.”

I graduated high school. We stopped seeing each other every day. The pandemic hit, and we didn’t see each other for over a year. I transferred to a school that was a 14-hour drive away from home. He started at the University of California, Berkeley last fall. He’s really, really bad at responding to messages.

Throughout our four and a half years of friendship, hundreds of my texts and Instagram DMs have gone completely unread or unanswered. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times we’ve talked since I moved to Vancouver. But, when I was making plans to go home in December 2021, I messaged him saying that I wanted to visit him and meet his girlfriend in Berkeley. That conversation led to me offering to drive him back to Sacramento for the holidays.

When December 17 rolled around, I was nervous. I had seen Jacob for all of one boba run since February of 2020.

I stood there in the courtyard of a Berkeley residence hall, anxiously wondering what our dynamic would be. But then I saw him, and we hugged and it felt familiar.

I met his girlfriend, and the three of us went on a mini-adventure to neighbouring Richmond before we packed up my Toyota Prius, and Jacob and I began the long drive back to Elk Grove.

As we drove, sitting in non-stop traffic, we caught up, sharing our crazy stories from college. Four and a half hours later, we pulled off California State Route 99 at exit 286 and we were home. I was home.

Even though we had both changed, the best kinds of friendship can withstand that change. I’ve wondered a hundred times if ours was that kind.

It’s not perfect. But I think we can grow together. ❦

This article is part of Intimacy, The Ubyssey’s 2022 sex issue. You can read more here.

Even though we had both changed, the best kinds of friendship can withstand that change. I’ve wondered a hundred times if ours was that kind.
Even though we had both changed, the best kinds of friendship can withstand that change. I’ve wondered a hundred times if ours was that kind. Isabella Falsetti