Reflections on Identity

A Brief Moment in the Life of a Teenage Friendship

Unvoiced envy and longings

Laura Friedman Williams
Published in
4 min readFeb 26, 2023

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Photo by Abigail on Unsplash

Decades ago, when following directions meant reading a map and making a wrong turn could result in extra hours of driving, I drove six hours to visit a friend who lived two hours away. I had completely cleared the state she lived in before realizing my error; when I finally pulled into her driveway as the sun was setting on the day we were supposed to spend together, I glanced again at the directions I had carefully written on a sheet of paper as she had dictated them to me the day before and saw that she had said to take the road east instead of west. It had not been my mistake at all, except that I had trusted her enough not to double check her directions.

She laughed as I relayed her mistake, but I didn’t join in. I had wasted half a tank of gas and hours of my time and I was annoyed. She was eating candies from her cupped hand; they were small hard candies with miraculously soft caramels inside. I asked for one. I loved those candies and also, I was hungry.

She shook her head no. Now it was my turn to laugh; I assumed she was joking. I waited expectantly for her to put one in my hand.

“No, really, these are all I have,” she said.

It’s been over thirty years since this incident, and I still remember the heat of the fading sun on my shoulders, the distant chirps of the crickets that were about to descend with nightfall, the way I tried to smooth my unraveled curls that had been blown wild by the open car windows. I had been relieved to get out of the car only a moment ago; now I wanted to fold myself back into it and drive away. She had led me astray without even a whisper of an apology and now she closed her fist around her candies?

I saw our friendship in that moment for what it was: complicated. We loved and trusted each other, to a degree. She was jealous of me; I had silently acknowledged this over the few years we had known each other. She struggled with her weight and had not yet had a boyfriend. I was slender and hopped from one boyfriend to another.

I was jealous of her too. Her family was uncomplicated and very wealthy. My family had steps and halves and a tangled web…

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Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.