the one hiding in plain sight

There are some friends you click with the moment you meet, because you’ve had friends like them before. It’s something recognizable, driven by circumstance – a common hometown, or a college roommate perhaps. There’s also friends who hide in plain sight, near you quietly for years until you both grow into people who are ready to be in each other’s lives, ready to need each other. Friends thrown into your life because of your shared passions rather than your shared proximity. Abby was one of those.

College brought Abby and I nearer and nearer toward each other with each year, overlapping in circles that never quite touched. We lived on the same part of campus, chose the same major, applied for the same organization, passing like planets in ever-nearing orbits, until we crash-landed onto the same executive board senior year. She was a doer, calm and logical, the one everyone could turn to with their half finished plans and dilemmas of all sizes. Her position, Executive Vice President, had been created to give me support as a VP. I had no idea how long-lasting and ultimately personal that support would turn out to be.

In the midst of a time that seemed to be all about lasts and endings, we made strides and firsts in our friendship with every passing week. We traded songs, stories, and books that said so much about way we saw the world and the people we hoped to become. I wondered if I’d get tired of my fellow exec members when I first took the job, considering all the time we spent together, but Abby only grew on me. I’d always liked her — she was so clearly respected in our organization — but like every good friendship will show you, there was much more to her story.

She was funny; sharper and more sarcastic than I’d ever realized she was from a distance. She had this ability to create meaning wherever she went, deeply aware of the kind of nostalgia only the end of college can have. She understood the weight of the moments that other people let slide right past; the quiet walks home from the library in the rain; the brilliant, numbered sunsets over the Oval. She didn’t miss a thing, and you wouldn’t realize she’d been so keenly watching until her short, right-on-the mark Instagram captions captured exactly how you felt, too. Like the famed quote from The Office, Abby knew she was in the good old days before she’d left them. I found myself wanting to spend more and more of those waning days with her.

As the fall semester slid out from under us, the emotions and pressure of the coming spring intensified. There were goodbyes looming and job interviews to hustle for, but with Abby there I didn’t face those things alone. She understood how it felt to watch everyone’s medical school acceptances and finance job offers roll in without a clue as to what a public health degree might turn into come May. While we lounged on couches in the student Union, sleep deprived and slap happy, we made jokes that turned into plans. We said yes, a lot, to concerts and happy hours, and we skipped class to hang up hammocks in the sunshine. We devised a brilliantly organized bar crawl, complete with pretzel necklaces and timetables, to keep all our friends close as the year’s end came. Our bond over all that here was to miss about college turned us into a pair determined not to waste a single minute of it.

In a blur of cookouts and hugs and pictures, graduation came and went, and Columbus began to change almost immediately. A lot of people left. Our favorite bars sat empty. But when the dust settled, Abby was still there.

We moved into a brick house in a young neighborhood, with a porch and hardwood floors and empty rooms waiting to be made into a home. Even in a city we’d lived in for four years, things felt different, unfamiliar, upended. But the comfort and trust we’d built over the past half year was there with us, too. We took to lighting candles and pouring wine after work, dreaming and commiserating with the sort of unfiltered honesty you come to crave after spending all day in an office. We played our favorite music and jokingly blamed full moons for all the wild post-grad ups and downs we found ourselves having. All the questions we thought our first jobs would answer were still there, big as ever and demanding to be explored. I imagine those candlelit porch chats will make up a whole new set of good old days when we look back years later.

Looking out from our porch, out towards whatever was out there waiting for us next, nothing seemed certain anymore. Maybe we wanted to move to Chicago or Philadelphia; maybe we wanted to go back to grad school; maybe we just missed our parents and wanted to go home. But as my questions about what I wanted for my future piled up, I felt unflinchingly sure about my present with Abby. The strong, sentimental, passionate friend, who is a force for good, who never lets me be anyone other than my true self. The exec member and classmate turned soul friend and roommate. The one who fights the good fight, who I nearly missed out on but thank the universe for every day. The one hiding in plain sight.

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