Saying Goodbye to Sara

Sara walked into H&M and into my life about three days into my first week here in Granada, those September moments that already feel like a lifetime ago.  She was calmly perusing the racks with a friend, and I remember being so struck by her; she is striking, about 5’9″ with deep-set brown eyes and high cheekbones and a cascade of gold-flecked brown hair.  “God, the women here are so gorgeous!” I said to my shopping partner (Magda, who turned out to be another totally unexpected gem of a friend).

A few days later, I went on a day-trip to the beach with one of the Erasmus student groups.  I spent the afternoon chatting with a French girl and checking out the tall guy with the wings tattooed on his back, who I never did see again.  As the day wound down and we all headed to the street to wait for the bus, I found myself standing just outside a group of girls — one of which I realized was the same one I’d seen in H&M.  She met my eyes and smiled, and I smiled back and said in Spanish, “Hey, didn’t I see you in the store the other day?”

I had no idea that I had just met one of the best friends I’ve had here.  Sara is Italian, wickedly smart, fluent in four languages, a lover of travel and quality over quantity.  We found we both loved books and quiet conversations over red wine more than staying out until 7:00 in the morning at the club, and that we worked in great harmony when traveling because I am the meticulous organizer, booking hostels and dividing costs and coordinating flights, and she is the cultural researcher, the one who reads the guidebooks out loud at the sights and makes sure we see every museum worth our time.  A great team.

I guess all friendships happen in those little moments that you don’t even consider as they’re happening:  the quick hugs between classes, the daily texts to check in with our stress levels, the catharsis of trash-talking our bad classes as we walked home.  (I still can’t believe that four of us all lived along the same route and all got off class at the same time so we could walk home together every Monday and Wednesday.)

There were the big moments, too:  the grand trips to Sevilla, to Portugal, to the Czech Republic.  Dancing salsa while dressed as zombies on Halloween.  Standing together in the Old Town Square in Prague as New Year’s fireworks exploded over the Astronomical Clock Tower. The morning in Lisboa when we used our last 10 minutes to walk along the river and share our dreams for things to come. The night with the UCSB girls where she laughed until she cried at Kendra’s retelling of The Poop Story.  The day I sobbed on her shoulder because of Modern Greek, and the day she sobbed on mine because she was leaving.

A thousand little moments that compose this amazing friendship — and the result is that today, her last day in Spain, has been so emotional.  I spent the afternoon writing her a card, trying to express how much her friendship and support has meant to me and how many experiences I still feel we have to share together in this world.  We went for her last churros con chocolate with another good friend of ours, and of course when it came to goodbyes we both ended up in tears and hugged each other about a million times.

It’s crazy to me, because it’s like seeing myself in reverse.  We had her goodbye party last night, and she was emotionally all over the place, crying one minute and laughing the next, and I understood it perfectly because it was the exact position I was in when I left Brazil.  But this time I’m the one who’s staying, and the heartache’s a little different but still powerful.  And probably more sweet than bitter as well, because now I’ve lived through enough to see everything as both an ending and a beginning, and that everything has its natural cycle of ebb and flow.

My heart’s full because I’m so grateful to have met her and spent these past five months becoming great friends.  I’m proud of her because she rocked her classes here in Granada (all five of them!) and she’s almost done with her undergrad and is such a stellar person with incredible passion for Arabic and Middle Eastern culture and I have no doubt she will meet with success in her future.  I’m excited because I still owe her a visit in Venezia at the end of this semester, and because she owes us norteamericanas a visit to the United States, for which I am planning to show her all the best of New Mexico and beyond.  And my heart hurts knowing that when I wake up tomorrow, she will be gone, and that although I have a great feeling about this semester, it will be just a shade darker knowing that she won’t be here to share it with me.

We will keep in touch of course, but… ah, you know how it is!  Sometimes our lives are graced with the presence of people who teach us wonderful things about ourselves and the world, and I’m simply giving thanks.