“This friendship will self-destruct when you open that box,” Katie says as she hands me a box and waits for a response. I wonder what this means, what is so important in this little box. Do I dare open it? I don’t want to lose her as a friend. We’ve been through a lot together: medical crises, boyfriends, girlfriends, her parent’s divorce. I don’t want any of that to change. It’s such a small box; how could something so small have such a huge impact?
Oh… oh, wow. Is she? Does she…? Wait a minute. I need to sit down for this. She’s never… I’ve never said… Where is this coming from? I must have been blind this whole time. The whole time? I’ve known her for the past fifteen years and not once has this come up. Well, maybe that one night in summer camp when we were talking at the lake. But not since. We were so young then. The sun had just set over the lake, Katie confided her parent’s were in the midst of splitting up. She was sure her future was bleak. What was the point of love if it just ended one day? I told her that love is complicated, but true love is forever. She kissed me and I never thought of it again.
Now here I stand with a box. Oh dear, I want to slowly pull on the ribbon. But I also want to throw this box far away as possible. What did she put in here? Maybe it’s just a keepsake. She always wanted to make a time capsule for us look back on when we are older, when we have had our own adventures and want to look back on how far we’ve come. She’s wanted to backpack across South America and volunteer in orphanages. Maybe this is her goodbye and she’s finally taking that trip. Well, good for her.
I pull on one strand of ribbon, look up at Katie, and meet her eyes. She’s been patiently waiting. I hate to keep her waiting. She must be in as much suspense as I am awaiting my reaction.
“Katie, I don’t know what this is all about but trust me, our friendship will not be destroyed,” I reassure her. She half smiles as I proceed with the ribbon.
If I’m honest, and this is her proposing – no matter how forward it is, I can’t think of anyone better to grow old with. Katie is the first person I think of when things go right, or terribly wrong. Her kindness and laughter have helped to heal the deepest wounds. She’s my rock. She was there for me when Cassie left after five years. Cassie and I were heading nowhere, she wanted marriage but something between us was off. And Katie, well she knows I will drop everything at a moment’s notice for her. Maybe that’s also why Cassie left. She felt as if she couldn’t compete with our friendship. I don’t blame her, but it’s not something to let go of so easily when you’ve been friends for so long.
“Jack,” she begins, “do you remember when my parent’s split and my mom gave me her wedding ring? Well, I found it while packing up my apartment and I thought you should have it.”
“I don’t understand,” I tell her. “Why would you want me to have it? And packing your apartment? Where are you going?”
She explains that she has been assigned to a task force in Colombia. “They asked me to head up the training program for delivering influenza vaccinations. They are facing a major influx of Venezuelan migrants and they need our help. I want my mom’s ring to be kept safe for when I return.”
“Absolutely, you can trust me but have you talked to your mom about this? You should give it to her.”
“I’ve tried but she doesn’t want to see that ring ever again. It’ll trigger too many bad memories of what she’s lost. Anyway, I should be back in six months.”
“Six months?! Katie, are you sure about this? I mean, it’s dangerous down there.”
“It’ll be fine! My company is scheduling to have security set up around our camp and besides, now all my years of learning Spanish will finally pay off.”
Her infectious grin makes it hard to stay mad at her. I tuck the box into my pocket and throw my arms around her, inhaling all of what I almost had, all of what I’ll miss.