the origins of love

The first time I watched my favorite movie, at the tender age of 14, seated between a close friend and the boy who had a strange and uncomfortable crush on her, I hated it. Reviled it. Love Actually? Abomination Actually. I couldn’t figure out why we had wasted time or money or energy on it. It made me feel weird. (Especially given my seatmates.) I told everyone about how awful it was. I went on and on about it at length. Probably too much length.

Now, I watch it at least once a year and cry happy tears and fist pump from my couch at the end.

Similarly, both of my best friendships began with some level of hate.

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My cousin and I have a rocky origin story. I remember this only peripherally, mostly from family lore rather than my own experiences. I have one memory of sitting on my grandmother’s lap, sobbing that Matt and Aly were being mean to me, but other than that, our early animosity seems to have left little imprint on me.

Not so the years of love and companionship that followed. There was a simultaneous discovery of Harry Potter (well, truthfully, she beat me to one of my truest loves, informing me that Quidditch was amazing and giving me a knowing, oh-you-don’t-know-what-you’re-in-for look when I said, “What’s Quidditch?). There were extended shopping trips, and a loving snarkiness when I would babble on, happily using words like “daft”, and she would say to me, “Why do you use such big words?” and I’d respond, “Daft is only four letters, Aly,” with a withering sarcasm that hid my self-consciousness.

© Kaihla Tonai
© Kaihla Tonai

There were the long, lazy summer trips to the lake that seemed to go on forever, where we shared a bunk bed and mooned over the hotness of David Boreanaz while we snuck my stepmom’s Cosmopolitan magazines into our room and locked the door, laughing uproariously over the stories of blow jobs and sex in the backseat of a cab, horrified and thrilled and wondering if our lives would ever be like that (thankfully, not really). We horrified my siblings with stories of the Turtle Lake monster (which I thought we made up, but there is a Wikipedia page for it, so maybe not!). We stayed up late, talking far into the night, sometimes while she slept and I didn’t even know it until the next morning.

And later, we celebrated the births of her children, and my marriage, and many other things together. On visits, we make peanut butter cookies and talk about everything, stuffing our faces and laughing. She is my best friend and as close as a sister. Our origins are overshadowed by the bright love that we share now.

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The tumultuous beginning of my friendship with Bri is a lot clearer for me. We met in grade 10 English, and she was smart and pretty and popular, and I loathed her. I remember muttering, “I hate that girl,” one day in class after she gave a (perfect) answer, and the guy next to me gave me a look of surprise. “Who, Bri? She is so nice.” I brushed it off with a disbelieving grunt, but I slammed up against that surprise again and again and again, at which point I had to grudgingly admit that perhaps was the one being hateful. I tentatively reached out after yet another friend of mine had insisted upon Bri’s wonderfulness, and we began spending a bit of time together during class projects. I clearly still hadn’t gotten over my initial aversion to her awesomeness, though, because one day, while working on a project in the computer lab, I made a comment about thinking that Diane Kroger was the most beautiful woman in the world, to which Bri responded, “I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the world,” obviously meaning to be sweet and complimentary. I gave her the most cutting look I could muster (and my cutting looks can be razor sharp) and said, “I think you should go die.”

She still tells that story.

But we became closer and closer, and I have been lucky enough to call her my best friend for years. Nearly a decade, in fact. We have had our share of rough patches (some rougher than others), and there have been times when our friendship teetered on the brink of utter destruction. But we have always come back from those times stronger and better than ever, and in the last five years, as we have grown and matured together, those times have become fewer and further between. In fact, I don’t remember the last time we had one. Though she lives far away from me, across the country and several time zones away, I still text her every day. To share news, to ask her advice, just to tell her I am thinking of her.

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Origins are important. Knowing where we come from is essential to our identities. But our origins do not tell us where we are headed. They do not tell us who will we become. The way something begins does not predict the way that it will end. Assuming that it does would have robbed me of the two most exceptional, beautiful friendships in my life. Know where you come from, so that you know where you are starting from. But then turn and face forward, and walk into the future, knowing that it will probably still surprise you.

the origins of love

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