I get her text, and pull myself from my nest of quiet and stories, built to erase myself from the world. Brownies for breakfast, empty mugs of tea, coloring pages of fawns and armadillos, pencil peelings lost in my sheets. Piles of books I haven’t read, audio stories of Mistborns burning metals, vigilantes in hoods shooting arrows across my computer screen (Oliver is way hotter than Barry, in case you were wondering). I’m all too good at ignoring the world, and the world is all too good at forgetting about me. But hours wear monotonous and lonely, and I know I need her.

She’s there, smiles and long curly hair, the same smell I remember from childhood, when we’d get our team hoodies mixed up and I’d know which was hers. A hug catapults us into conversation, like we’re picking up in the middle of something already started, still familiar with the language only we have shared for over six years. Our feet move as we talk, picking up speed, following the mirrored blues of the river beside us, propelling us across dirt paths, over bridges, balancing on roots. We’ve always talked best on the move, in the places we love, letting nature tease out our happinesses and hurts, easing the process of sharing and connecting.

Like a breath of sweet spring wind, the remembrance of how we talk the same, laugh the same, finish each other’s sentences, speak the same words at the same time. How something integral about our souls is the same. I let the feelings and thoughts that have been building up inside of me just spill out, and she does the same, affirming, questioning, just being there. Accepting. Caring.

There is so much I keep inside. So much I hide from everyone around me. I feel so much and share so little. I think so much that I only allow the journal by my bed to know. I hide behind the anonymity of screens and the privacy of a closed bedroom door. I bottle up who I am, the good and the hard, because it’s less scary than venturing to let another human being in. And yet I forget how the unspoken, the secret, eats away at everything that is alive inside of me.

But now, I let it all flow free, feel a safe space to welcome all that I am. I don’t need to hide here, and neither does she. We aren’t trying to fix each other, because we know we cannot. We aren’t trying to be exactly alike, because we can’t do that either, although we are insanely kindred. We aren’t trying to explain or prove or dissect. We just need to be understood. To be heard. To be loved. To beĀ seen.

Finally feeling unalone opens my eyes again, and I feel something inside me trying to wake up. I see the forest, see it’s beauty. Green and brown arches, delicate and reaching. Clouds mirrored in water. Earthy scent of the air. Calm expanse of silver and blue. My fingers reach out to brush bark as I walk, daring to touch the world again. Laughter feels good. Honesty feels better. Embrace feels best.

I thought I had lost her once. We’d made it through high school, but college broke us apart. It was the greatest hurt I had yet felt, and it floored me. It took travelling to another country on the opposite side of the globe in order to feel like myself again, and still I missed her. Still, I hoped. (I have found that hope is something that sticks closer to me than my own breath.) My heart knew she couldn’t ever truly be replaced. What we had was too special, too unique. We meant too much to each other. Even as I didn’t understand, I made sure she knew I was still there for her. I always would be. And miraculously, with God’s help, we made our way back to each other. Now, each of us is walking through the darkest times of our lives. And she has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me through it all. We have needed the reassurance of the other’s hand in the dark. We have needed someone who sees the true self and the struggles and is not intimidated by the mess. Someone who says, I feel it too. Who says, I am not going anywhere.

Love and pain, climbing and questioning, hope and fear, waiting and following our hearts, we talk about it all, no holds barred. Minutes bleed into hours, light fades from the sky as cars hum over the bridge, and we could talk through the night if we wished. I wish I could have her every week, instead of a handful of days a year. I wish we still lived in the same city. I wish we were fourteen again, running out into rainstorms and spinning beneath the thunder. But we have this moment, and the promise of years of moments to come. She sees me. I see her. This is how we’ve always been. This is how we are. And with God’s grace, this is how we always will be. I’ll return to my world, and she’ll return to hers, but we have this to hold on to–

I see you too.