my best friend is dead, long live my best friend

Before Zack, I had best friends.

Then it was just him. Not in an isolating way, not because of a lack of other dear friends, but in a “this one person knows and gets me better than anyone in the universe and also happens to be my life partner” way.

He never used to use the term, even found it a little repugnant. I think that was because it implies a hierarchy or exclusivity and doesn’t give you the nuance to describe that different friends can be important to you in different ways. When we talked about it when we were first dating, he would say “you are one of my best friends; x, y, z are some of my best friends.” I agree, philosophically, yet I find it such a convenient shortcut that I use it anyway.

So for a long time I’ve reserved the term for saying things like “oh, he was my best friend before we dated.”

And then the other day I caught myself saying it while describing something I did or talked about with, well, one of our best friends — our oldest mutual friend, who knew both of us nearly our entire adult lives and now knows me better than anyone alive.

It felt normal to say it at the time and it was only later that it felt like some sort of treasonous offense to use a term I had unthinkingly reserved for Zack.

Even if Zack would roll in his grave (okay, in his wooden box on my closet shelf), which he wouldn’t, but even if — he’s dead. He said he didn’t want me to live based on what he would think, after he’s not alive to care, and I know that.

Yet I still feel so conflicted about it. Another little type of erasure, or maybe it’s repulsive to me because I would never want them to feel like they’re some sort of runner-up or that I would expect them to be some sort of replacement.

But maybe I need to say “my best friends across the country,” or “my best friend and I watched Star Trek” or “my best friend came to visit.” I feel like I’m downplaying their importance in my life if I don’t use some term like that that people understand. “Friend” feels insufficient when what I’m trying to say is “don’t worry, I have someone, not just parents but a peer, who witnesses my grief and takes my middle of the night crying phone calls and who’s still here for me every day after 14 months of widowhood and who sends his husband to visit me and makes me laugh at the absurdity of the universe and tells me to get more sleep.”

It doesn’t matter if they’d use the same term for me just like it didn’t matter if Zack did. But if the shortcut is useful to me…

Fuck it, fuck what anyone else thinks.

I have a long weekend planned to visit my best friends this fall.