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The Drift

May 27, 2015

Drift is a part of life that is little talked about. We all drift through the years getting farther and farther away from cherished friends and treasured memories. We drift away from our parents. We drift away from the crushing worries of high school. We drift toward college and career and new friends and, if we’re lucky, new family. It is a natural fact of life that no one really likes to talk about, like death or poop.

The Drift has carried me to places and people I could have never dreamed existed while at the same time pulling me steadily away from people and places I thought I would never be able to let go.

Chelsea and I were best friends only two years ago. We met in freshman year of college and we have been inseparable for nearly half a decade. We are on opposite sides of the wild/mild spectrum. She helped me to loosen up and I helped her to stand up. She had a hard time in freshman year adjusting to life alone in a new place with new people. Her parents had raised her to be helpless, spoiled and entitled. She never had a choice. She was never a bad person. I can’t count the number of times I comforted her, cuddled against her shuddering form as she cried into my soaking shoulder. When the flow of tears dried up, she began to look around, as if waking up from a dream. The old self dies and the new self is born.

She found her confidence. Beauty is often the perfect conduit for confidence. I was her friend throughout our college years while she discovered herself. I could never live her wild life, but her spontaneous spirit inspires me. I envy and admire the ability to make decisions quickly, some might say rashly. You can get through a lot more living in little time if you skip the step of contemplation. Everything’s a 50/50 chance anyway. Save yourself the worry and jump. The very thing that drew me to her is what pulls us apart.

Last year, she met someone. I’ve never met him. She’ll only tell me his name is Jake and he’s a lawyer of some sort. She met him in the coffee stand she was working at, making all the use she can out of her college degree. He was half-caff, soy latte. Somehow, she ended up at his hotel at the end of the night. He was in town on business.

“Just how old is this guy?” I asked.

“How old is Paul?”

“35. How old is Jake?”

“58.”

I didn’t know what to say. She told me about their sex and the choking and I told her I didn’t want to know any more. As long as she’s happy.

She started to fly to San Francisco on the weekends to spend time with him. He bought her tickets and jewelry and extravagant clothing.

“Nice,” Matt said when I told him about it later. “Sugar daddy.”

I worry about my friend. I can’t help it. As I said about the impulsive decision-making: someone has to worry. I tried to find out more about him. She told me he was an patent lawyer. It didn’t take much Googling to find a Jake in the San Francisco area who matched his age and occupation. His profile says he’s married.

“Yeah,” Matt said. “That’s sort of the whole sugar daddy thing. You don’t advertise your… sugar daughter?”

“Gross.”

I gave myself an ulcer worrying and drinking whiskey. Paul was annoyed that I drank so much of his Black Label. He helped me plot my next move.

“You have to tell her,” he said unhelpfully.

He was right of course.

I tried to soften the blow by buying dinner. She kept looking at her phone. I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“He’s married. You know that, right?”

“What’s your point?” she said looking at her phone.

“What about his wife?”

“They’re estranged.”

“They didn’t look very estranged on his profile.”

“Look, Sally. I know you’re trying to be a good friend and all that but you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Jake is the senior partner in a prestigious law firm. He’s not going to marry a barista.”

“Then what’s the point?”

She looked up from her phone. She looked amused, like a bully watching unsuspecting prey.

“Just what I’d expect from you, Sally. This is why I didn’t want to tell you about him. You wouldn’t understand.”

“I get it, Chelsea. Good sex is hard to come by. But a married man?”

“They’re estranged.” She went back to her phone.

That was one of the last times I ever saw her. She started to stay longer and longer in San Francisco until two months ago, I discovered she had moved there. I checked Jake’s profile. Still married. I texted Chelsea, “What’s up?” There was no reply. That was two months ago.

I got a long email yesterday. She moved back home. She is living with her parents. Jake was cheating on her. He had another girl on the side. Chelsea scratched his face and drove all the way home, three states over.

“I wanted to drive to you,” she said in the email, “but I didn’t want to see your superior sneer, Sally’s sneer. I love you, Sally. But it hurt too much. I am not saying we can’t be friends, we just can’t be friends right now. I need support, not sneers.”

“She’s got a point,” Matt said. “You can’t hide what you’re thinking.”

They’re both right. I want to say I told you so. Once a cheater, always a cheater. I want to tell her she’s wrong and I was right. But I will hold my tongue, because they are right. A friend needs support not extra worry. I unintentionally pushed Chelsea away. I can only hope The Drift will bring her back.

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