I have the best neighbor

September 15, 2021 — by Jayne Zhou
Photo by Jayne Zhou

It was two months into my freshman year English class, I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when my friend next to me struck up a conversation. The subject of our conversation was something we had learned about in Bio while attempting our first punnett squares, rolling our R’s. 

She couldn’t do it. While we were talking, the quiet girl next to us chimed in that she couldn’t do it either. She introduced herself as Anhmy. I thought she was weird and her name was kinda strange. I didn’t like her. So I decided to show off that I could roll my R’s. Fast forward three years, I’m her nextdoor neighbor and we’re literally inseparable. 

In elementary school, I met my childhood best friend at a Halloween block party. I asked for a Tootsie Pop and she gave me hers, so it was meant to be. After that party, I found out she lived two houses down from mine, which meant play dates every day after school and endless sleepovers every weekend. This felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, living next to your closest friend. For a kid, it was the best thing in the world. Then she moved to France and I was just an ordinary kid again, having to actually make my parents drive me to go see my friends. 

Never did I think that I would be next-door neighbors with a best friend again. 

After that one conversation with that weird girl from my English class, I guess we kind of became friends, although I still thought she was really quiet and strange. A few months into the year, we only started bonding after deciding to do a class project together since we found out we were both lazy; we chose the easiest option. Our only job was to act out a scene from “Of Mice and Men” once a week and we couldn’t even do that right, which angered our teacher but created the basis for the hundreds  of inside jokes that were to come. 

Sophomore year was when she actually became my best friend. I had to travel all the way from my home near the Golden Triangle area to her house all the way down Highway 9. The commute was a solid 8 minutes long, and neither of us had our licenses yet, so I would have to beg my parents to drive me to her house and then go back to pick me up. Very inconvenient to say the least. 

Then came junior year. My parents decided it was time for us to buy a new house. They thought it would be a great idea to get a house that needed to be almost completely remodeled. In the meantime, we needed to find somewhere to stay while it was under construction. 

It was junior year and I was pretty caught up on homework and studying, so I couldn’t have cared less where we’d be living for the next year. Imagine how surprised I was when my parents pulled up one day and told me we would be moving right next door to my best friend. 

It was super exciting at first, being able to see my best friend’s house from my front yard. We could talk across the tiny valley between our houses. The new lack of distance between us brought along a new set of adventures for us especially this year, our senior year — and surprisingly it still is despite the quarantine. Being next door neighbors definitely has its benefits. Her strict parents finally allowed her to spend more time with me at my house, knowing that she was only a 10-second drive away from home, which meant more freedom for us. 

We began to take the most advantage of this at the start of our second semester senior year. While I was forced to stay home for two weeks after I came back from a trip to China, I always had Anhmy by my side. During her free first, she would come over and make breakfast with me and we’d watch TV and eat breakfast in bed. We really were living the life. Then, she’d come back after her last period and we’d do homework together, but then our whole afternoon would be off. Since we lived together, we could easily carpool to meet with other friends, or even spontaneously take a beach trip after school. 

Our being neighbors was the exact factor we needed in our equation for the perfect senior year. Little did we know that it would be cut short. Still, in our isolation, we practically live together and quarantined ourselves together while exploring new hobbies together like art and cooking. I wouldn’t trade this experience with my best friend for the world. 

Next year, with me going to New York and her staying in California, we’d be as far from being neighbors as possible, but I know even when there’s a huge physical distance between us, we’re neighbors at heart. She’ll always be next door, or one phone call away, for me to lean on.