What does care look like? 

This battered camel cover protects blue scrawls, and my book bag protects my beloved journal. I carry this soft notebook with me every time I travel, taking care each night to spend time with my dear friend. This cahier extends grace and kindness to a heart that is much quicker to condemn itself than others, a comfort blankie I tote everywhere.

Like my journals, my good friends make it easy to point out what care looks like. The intimacy that comes with having a wonderful friend is invisible. I can’t point out the moment someone started to become my friend, but I know when they proved that they were a good friend, cementing a future ease with which we could care for each other. I see friendship not as interdependency, but rather knowing someone will help you find the fortitude within yourself to do the right thing when life gets hard. 

When you see friends every day, as is often the case in settings like Yale, the nuance to the scenery becomes less and less discernible. It becomes harder to pinpoint just why this person matters to you when you spend so much time taking that friendship for granted — hell, when you spend so much time with them to begin with. When I feel I matter and can’t quite say why, I start to effortlessly soak in the details of my surroundings; the world becomes more vivid, the internal chatter softer. Only in loneliness can I describe this belonging.

Nell calls me in the middle of her after-school run, panting as she takes her usual route down the river trail, and I spill about my day and thoughts on the burgeoning metaverse. It’s late here in New Haven, and my weariness fades as she describes her pottery project (baby goat figurines) and what it’s been like deleting social media (easier than expected?). I laugh when she asks if I still have the jar of marjoram she gave me as a parting gift before college, aptly labeled by her neat hand “NOT WEED” such that I’m not apprehended by TSA. “It’s on my desk,” I tell her; how could I ever throw away this little aromatic herb, the one we bought at the overpriced grocery store one late-summer evening driving in circles around our hometown? She helps me fall back in love with my sport, with being an athlete after mental and physical struggles. She takes the time to respond to the texts I send with New York Times articles and quotes from Mary Oliver and the books I’m reading, the ones even my mom doesn’t “thumbs-up.” 

Emma meets me at the boba shop wearing the exact same outfit, except the pants are different colors (hers are pink, mine are green — on-brand for our personalities and friendship). She wears more jewelry than me, long blonde hair always neat and styled. We laugh under a maple tree on the river, moms and joggers and cyclists whizzing by until we drive back up opposite hills towards home. Her house feels safe; it’s where she got me ready for high-school dates and baked my favorite pumpkin spice mini-muffins. With this said, I remember a time where we both nearly broke each other’s noses playing fourth-grade basketball; her mom mopped up the blood on the court. I remember the clumsy box cake we baked on March 20, 2020, my 17th birthday and day 10 of pandemic lockdown. She would not let me feel alone on my special day. Our friendship has had its rough patches, mostly predictable consequences of adolescence, but it is still her I text at 6:10 p.m. on a Monday: “thinking of you and missing you right now.” 

Lizzie checks in on days that are hard, sends good luck texts before my big exams and picks me up when a soccer ball to the head gets the better of me at a game in Rhode Island. She messages me the next morning, checks in at lunch and makes sure I’m okay. Her kindness soothes paralyzing stress. She reminds me of what it means to be content in myself and my ability, to be proud of who I am at a place where who I am feels smaller than it did back home. My mom told me that it only takes one great friend at college to make the world feel as if it’s on its axis. Lizzie, I still don’t know how you holed up in the Branford library for so many consecutive hours before that chemistry exam, but thank you for being my personal East Rock.

My gals are all talented in ways I don’t understand. Nell cruises to the finish line of our 4x400m relay and beats our rivals as I huff and puff from an earlier leg; she wears effort like a uniform, so vital to the team yet something that fades into the background. Emma dances the most gorgeous ballet, leaping and bending in ways that astound me every time I see her stretch her feet with an abominable contraption on her bedroom floor. Lizzie hands me the hilarious dog calendar at our club soccer mixer that now hangs on my common room wall and makes me laugh at dinner when she doesn’t know I’ve had a rough day. The wonderful thing about these friends is that I can be completely alone and know that they are with me. I can see their faces when they are most in their element, reminding me to reconnect with mine.

When I miss these friends, I don’t scan crowds looking for glimpses of black or blonde hair, for petite figures in neon-green Patagonia hats or Loyola Marymount University sweatshirts or for the Florida Elite slicker Lizzie dons to club soccer practice. I go on long walks alone, trying to find a feeling of company that is so warm I cannot help but fall into myself. I search through pictures of us together: Nell and I climbing Mt. Constitution in the San Juan Islands through feet of snow and freezing cold temperatures, Emma and I jumping into crystalline Bahamian water, Lizzie and I dancing to our hearts’ content at Sig Chi, the picture of us in the Branford basement in front of an inflatable cow wearing a Santa hat (!?). I love reading these “and I’s” when I go back through my journals. I carry all my friends with me, those who I see every day and the ones I meet for coffee every few months — in the pages of my journals. Both the books and the people within them serve as my constant companions.

There are no strings attached to these refreshingly real people who make every nuance of my surroundings clearer and brighter. I sometimes turn to my journals because they don’t offer some quip about an errant thought or poorly-considered word choice, and understand that when I pause it is because my brain is whirring too fast to put thoughts into words. But I turn to my friends because they don’t do this either: we’re all on this unruly journey that is growing up together, giving each other the grace and kindness to figure out who we are with the understanding that none of us can do it alone. These are the friends of now, filling the space between the known and unknown, past and future. It is easy to forget guys and romance when you feel so whole: in these people, I have everything I need.

Anabel Moore edits for the WKND desk. She previously wrote for the WKND, Magazine and Arts desks as a staff writer. Originally from the greater Seattle, WA area, she is a junior in Branford College double-majoring in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and the History of Art with a certificate in Global Health.