A few nights before the first one of us was set to leave for college, my closest high school friends and I went down to the docks. In our small, Long Island suburb, the “docks” meant the parking lot behind the Venetian Yacht Club. The tiny boardwalk faced Babylon Cove, and we looked out across the bay as Chris suggested we make a pact.
“Before you all go off to your shiny new lives, I think we should all tell each other one secret that no one else in the world knows,” he said. “And it has to be a real secret.” He was adamant that it be something of personal significance, preferably something a little embarrassing. The confession would be a symbol of trust, as cheesy as it sounded, or collateral of sorts.
So we each told a secret. Nothing extremely juicy was revealed, but it had its intended effect. We entrusted each other with a little piece of blackmail, knowing we would never use it for evil.
Though the number of people I call when I am home has dwindled significantly, I still keep in touch with the people whose secrets I have kept. My closest high school friendships managed to survive the long periods of separation, albeit with more cracks than there used to be. Pieces of information I would have once known within an hour now take a week to obtain. Constant texting turned into the occasional text when something big happened. Phone calls and Skype dates were made and then missed. We turned to Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, clicking through photos of people we had never met and reading about hang out spots we had never been to.
Thankfully, my friends forgave me for not calling (or texting, or visiting) enough when I immersed myself in the BC bubble. They understood. I think these are the kinds of friendships that last—they don’t require constant maintenance to keep the wheels turning. When we are all home, we flow seamlessly back into our routines, catching up over Dunkin Donuts coffee and our choice of fast food (our town has every fast food chain you could possibly want on the East Coast, except Denny’s).
This summer, my high school friends are scattered across the East coast. A couple of us are nearby, either in New York City or at home on Long Island, but one of us is in Washington, D.C, and one in Boston. Our work schedules don’t match up, and our chances of seeing one another have gone from everyday to once a week, if we’re lucky. But even as we’ve moved out to different cities, we continue to think of each other as part of our hometowns, as part of home. My “home” friends will always carry a shared history—we survived our love-to-hate-it public school together and withstood the emergency bus drills resulting from bad pranks. We saw each other through the awkward years and family dramas, and knew each other’s childhood bedrooms almost as well as our own.
The first time my worlds clashed, I was nervous. The worst is when your home friends don’t get along with your new college friends. I had this expectation that they would meld flawlessly into one giant, loving group of friends. But personalities clash. Environments and inside jokes are incompatible, and references are missed. I remember trying to explain the Mods to my friends from home, only to get blank stares in response.
Meanwhile, my friends at Boston College had a hard time comprehending the dynamics of my high school life in its “ghetto” south shore Long Island glory. I’ve also been part of the other world, the one meeting my BC friend’s high school friends after months of hearing about them. The people whose names I’d only heard in tales of late night misadventures suddenly became real people I had to interact with. More often than not, I have liked these people, recognizing why they were friends. I’ve found that many times, home friends and school friends find common ground, and it's not just the mutual friend shared.
Inevitably, something that one of my best friends from school says or does will remind me of a good friend from home. Warmly, I will tell the BC friend that they should meet my North Babylon friend. I think they would like each other (or, I hope they would). I’ll make a mental note to text my old friend, and sometimes I will, but too often, I forget to. Nevertheless, it makes me remember home, and the friends I still have there.
We may never have lived with our high school friends, or had to begrudgingly deal with their idiosyncratic cleaning habits, but we grew up with them. I can’t speak for everyone I know, though most of my friends from BC have stayed close with at least a handful of friends from high school. But I don’t think that I could ever replace my North Babylon crowd, and not even just because I will always know that one “real” secret about them.