One of my favorite people in the world is a charming young brunette named Bailey, who is almost as short as she is sweet. For clarity's sake, let me be blunt: Bailey is only a friend, nothing more. But a very dear friend.
We first bonded by passing sarcastic notes to one another in English class, and I guess that playful banter just never ran out of steam. Now, a few years later, we practically finish each other’s sentences. Still, there is one unfortunate foible in our friendship, which prevents us from having one of those idyllic storybook relationships. We happen to disagree about everything. I’m not talking about the really important issues, like whether those little peanut-butter-filled pretzels are tastier than the honey mustard kind, or which comic strips are still worth reading, or even who among our other friends is actually funny and who just thinks he is. No, Bailey and I agree completely on most of these quandaries; this, along with our parallel personality types, is much of the reason we are friends.
Our discord stems from far more subtle topics, the type that don’t rear their ugly heads very often, and have little tangible effect on our day-to-day interactions. See, she believes with all her heart and soul that she already knows the only possible explanation for how the Earth and its moon and all the 200 billion or so other visible galaxies might have come to be; she found it in an old book. For me though, the jury is still out.
It makes me truly sad to watch such a good friend of mine use this seemingly esoteric belief about the universe to justify all manner of irritating practices: from knee-jerk denials of expert scientific conclusions; to a cold, unsympathetic rejection of such modern amenities as emergency birth control (an issue about which she fully admits she would feel completely differently if it weren’t for her religious beliefs). To be fair, it probably makes her truly sad to know that in a few relatively short decades, I will begin my endless damnation in some fiery pit.
As much as the two of us may smile and shrug, our disagreement on the single issue of religion is a strain on our friendship. Despite everything we love about each other, I’m afraid there will always be a certain distance between us. This is not because we are unable to communicate about our beliefs. In fact it is precisely the opposite – our similarly outspoken and articulate natures create a tragic inability for us to fully ignore our differences.
I used to harbor this secret belief that somehow, the obvious truth in my arguments would free Bailey from her convictions that I saw as so arrogant and disdainful. The closer we grew, though, the more apparent it became that mine was a child’s fantasy. In a way, I was devastatingly (and perhaps profanely) jealous of that other man who would always be a better friend to her than I. She calls him “Jesus.” Or perhaps “God.” Or maybe some other name inside her own head – the only place I feel he really exists. But what’s important to me is that he has never hugged her when she was crying; and they’ve never so much as shared a joke.
Yet this silent specter means something to her that I never will, and because of him she will always – must always – keep me cautiously at arm’s length. Or, maybe it’s not her doing. Maybe it’s mine.
Emerson Hardebeck, junior class president at Timberline High School and an editor of Timberline’s student newspaper “The Blazer,” is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.