6: Three Dimensions: My Unexpected Best Friend

6: Three Dimensions: My Unexpected Best Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Three Dimensions: My Unexpected Best Friend

A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand.

~Kahlil Gibran

I sat on the plane and wondered if I would end up hating her. That same part of me also wondered if I should have gone at all. What if I was stuck for three days wearing a false smile and pretending I found her halfway tolerable? Or what if, instead, I was the one who ended up on the receiving end of the false smiles, being regarded with minimum tolerability? What if we found each other so unbearable we would never speak again? There were so many things that could go wrong.

First of all, she was Jewish. And she lived in an entirely different part of the country: Alabama. I had never been to a Bat Mitzvah before, nor had I ever visited any of the southern states, except for Disney World, which hardly counts. I had no clue what “opening the ark” entailed. And I had never been very graceful—what if I tripped and knocked something over in the middle of the service?

Then there was also the fact that I had never met her.

In person, at least. In theory, I knew her better than anyone. We had been writing back and forth as pen pals for two or three years, and we shared so many similar interests, primarily horseback riding and writing. Most importantly, we could tell each other everything and vent all of our problems without fear that we would be judged. I assumed I would never meet her, so there was never any reason to hold back any thoughts that seemed insane or dreams that seemed improbable. After exchanging messages daily for those three years, she invited me to her Bat Mitzvah, which was three months away.

Somehow, although I’m not exactly sure how, I convinced my parents to take me to a different city and spend three days with a family they had never met.

After arriving in Alabama, we checked in at the hotel where most of Emily’s family was staying. When we got in the elevator, I wondered if I was standing next to Emily’s sister or cousin. But I had no way of knowing.

We had agreed to meet at a nearby restaurant. Unfamiliar with the city, my parents and I arrived at the wrong restaurant—one with the right name but an incorrect location. I remember walking in with reluctant excitement. I was so thrilled that I was going to meet her, but I was also kind of scared, too. When I realized we were at the wrong place, however, I was really disappointed, because I had never really doubted that Emily would be exactly the kind of person I thought she was.

When we finally arrived at the correct restaurant, I was able to spot Emily immediately in her trademark rain boots. I recall my dad making some comment about a rooster to break the ice, because at first it was kind of like: Whoa. You are a real three-dimensional person. To me, she was always the person who replied to my letters and spoke to me through the magic device called a telephone. Somehow, I don’t think it sunk in that she was going to be here in all her three-dimensional glory. And then my thoughts slowly changed. It became, instead, Oh my God! You’re here! Yay! I’ve wanted to meet you forever!

That weekend, I went horseback riding with Emily, stayed at her house, and attended her Bat Mitzvah ceremony, where I was honored to open the ark (without tripping), as well as attend her amazing party.

In other words, one of the most important events in my life was a Bat Mitzvah. It wasn’t my own, but the Bat Mitzvah of a girl I had met over the Internet who lived halfway across the country. When people ask me how I know Emily, I just smile. Some people don’t understand how I could possibly have gone to visit a girl I had never met in person. But in many ways, I know her better than the friends I see every day. We still keep in touch, and I hope that we continue to do so forever. She’s one of the few friends I can imagine calling when I am a little old lady living in a nursing home (or in my own house, with a walker, if I’m too stubborn).

I almost said no to her pen pal request when I was ten years old. At the time, I was very busy, and I wasn’t sure if I had time to write to another pen pal. If I had said no, I never would have met my creative, intuitive, smart, and funny best friend, Emily. But I said yes. And I can only say I’m glad that I did.

~Julia McDaniel

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