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  • It wasn't fireworks and friend crushes when Nhi and I first met in seventh grade. But I knew, really knew, that we would be good friends two years later, during freshman year of high school. We had the same P.E. class: sixth period with Mrs. Sunseri.

    In P.E., we played different sports each month. May's sport was swimming. At fourteen years old, I still couldn't swim and was very frightened by deep water. I gave the 12-foot pool a wide berth when making my way to the lap pool. Problem with the swimming unit was that in order to pass, we had to complete two laps in the deep pool.

    I was terrified.

    If not for Nhi, I might still be two feet from the edge of the deep pool, peering in. It was she that jumped in first then turned back, waving me in with a smile and some cajoling. Nhi could always strike that delicate balance of knowing when and exactly how much to push.

    Once I had eased into the water- via the ladder, of course- Nhi spent the rest of class encouraging me to "swim" from one corner wall to the next. This meant letting go of the wall for a split second as I pushed off to the adjoining wall. We did this again and again, forgoing games of Marco Polo and surreptitious flirtation in the lap pool.

    Gradually, I let go of the wall for longer stretches of time, even flailing my arms and legs, echoing some semblance of swimming. With some strain on my sanity and my lungs, I passed the swim test. By the end of May, Nhi and I were diving off the high board, laying down at the bottom of the deep pool, seeing how long we could stay underwater. On more than one occasion, we skipped our last period (Pre-Calculus) so we could have an extra hour of pool time.

    That was over thirteen years ago, but I am still so grateful to Nhi, not only for kindling my love for the water (I went on to swim competitively, become a lifeguard, and teach swim lessons), but to take the time and have the patience to hold my hand through a hard moment. It is so much easier to ignore the difficult, to screw it and go play Marco Polo. It takes a special, rare kind of friendship to persevere.

    Throughout the past decade, we have dreamed of so many futures, breathing some into life while gently laying others down. There have been thousands of miles distancing us, then none, then some again. Sometimes many months pass before I hear her voice. But this doesn't worry me. We have helped one another navigate so many deep pools in our friendship and I know that we will always be giggling as we dive in head first.
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