She's a touch-stone, a soul mate; being with her feels as natural to me as my own skin. It's a finish-each-other's-sentences kind of friendship, a lifetime of late night giggles, whispered secrets and knowing smiles.
We prop each other up, leaning steadily and sturdily on one another through soaring joys and crushing blows.
When I'm with her it's like two puzzle pieces clicking into place - separately we are colorful and interesting, but together the picture feels complete.
Over the years our paths have serpentined away from each other and back again, winding and twisting along different paths as lives do, but always orbiting the gravitational pull of our twin heartbeat.
One night, a little over three years ago, I called her. I was drunk, scared, alone and desperate for her love, understanding and friendship. "I'm in trouble," I told her. "Please come."
She'll understand, I thought. She'll know why I drink; we're two halves of a whole, after all. She'll tell me I'm okay.
An hour later she arrived, eyes blazing with love and pain, but with a determined set to her jaw. She marched into the kitchen and poured out all the booze, bottle by bottle. Then she turned to me and told me the hard truth: I had a problem, I needed to stop, I needed to get help.
It was not what I was expecting her to say, not at all. I knew in my gut, for the first time ever, that she spoke the truth. I needed to stop, and I needed to get help.
She stayed with me that night, and in the morning as she left she hugged me and said, "You can do this, El. I love you."
That day I checked into my first rehab. My journey had begun.
Today, as we stood trembling and teary in the intake area of the treatment center, my eyes were ablaze with the same determined love.
"You can do this," I said to her as we hugged. "I love you."
I opened her hand and pressed a little bronze medallion into her palm. Etched into it is the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It was given to me at one of my first recovery meetings by a woman I don't know, and haven't seen again. She had many, many years of sobriety, and told me she wanted me to have it. For strength, she said.
"This was given to me when I was new," I whispered to my friend, through tears. "And now I'm giving it to you."
Our eyes locked, and for an instant we were little girls again, finding our way through life together, always together.
Her journey is just beginning. But someday? I hope and pray that she will give it to someone else. She will pay it forward.
Because that's how it works.