The Red Strings That Intertwine Our Hearts
October 29, 2021 / Tamara Rodriguez
An exploration of lost friendship through an ancient Japanese myth connecting our hearts through our pinkies.
The first time I heard about the Red Strings was in fifth grade. At 11 years old, I went down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos and came upon a Japanese myth. It stated that we as humans have a certain channel within our bodies that connect our hearts to our pinky fingers - it is so special that it takes the form of an invisible, red string. The thread then continues from your pinky and weaves with the red strings of others, signifying the connection of two hearts.
Fast forward to high school, I hastily chewed on my baby-pink Hubba Bubba gum as I darted my eyes back and forth. Still no sign of you. The cramped hallway was filled with students and their roaring, meaningless chatter. I switched stances and leaned my back against the worn-out, faded cream wall. I continued to search for you as my eyes hopped from face to face. Then, I spotted your head within the crowd. Butterflies seeped into my stomach in herds, migrating throughout my body in different directions.
My mind subconsciously wandered back on a fond memory.
“Best friends?” you asked, with such emotion that I can still remember how my chest heaved. My glowing eyes shining back at yours, I whispered, “Best friends!” Our pinkies crossed, connecting our red strings.
I quickly kicked off the wall and waved at you with the warmest smile on my face, hoping you would see me. The moment your eyes had met mine, it felt electrifying.
Oh, how those times were precious. The thought of having a best friend during that age; countless sleepovers, being boy-crazy, going to any and every event together, and practically being a part of each other’s families. Endless memories were made.
But throughout the years, I began to notice shifts within our friendship.
I ran, scrambled, and chased desperately to hold on to the red string that was entwining us together. At the time, I didn’t know it was one-sided. And at the time, I didn’t know that the red string was supposed to hold on by itself. I do believe that there was once a time where that red string between us was taught and sturdy. It seemed that it was incapable of breaking then.
Maybe it was the time where I was biting my lips, phone in hand, and my eyes glued to my phone screen.
Hey, you want to hang out this weekend? It read.
I couldn’t remember if it was the third or fifth time that week that I had asked her and all I got in response was “read.” My mind was pooled with doubts and anxiety.
It left me wondering, “Am I annoying? Is she mad at me? Why is she ignoring me if we’re best friends?”
The next day, all I recieved back was, “Sorry, I have plans.”
Maybe it was the time I was over at her house and sat there for hours. I listened to her talk about the latest rumors swirling around class, how her cat learned to pee on the toilet, and what she bought from Forever 21. Is it still a conversation when only one person is talking?
At some point, her lips became inaudible and faded into the background as I continued to look at her, but not with shining eyes. I looked at her in a glazed manner, bobbing my head up and down every few seconds to make it seem as if I was paying attention. She didn’t notice.
Or, was it the time where she was sprawled across my bed, scrolling through her phone with a blank stare? I lost count of the moments of silence that passed as I tried to think of something to say.
“Hey look at this video,” I said after mustering all the confidence I could, trying to get her to talk to me. My heart clenched when the only response I got was a nod, her eyes never left the screen. I’d rather have her talk about herself than have her not talk to me at all. Or was that too much to ask for? I didn’t know.
I eventually stopped chasing the red string between us. I was no longer by her side, desperately trying to pick up the red string from the ground. Maybe I pulled and pulled until there was nothing left, like a ball of yarn. Or maybe the distance between us made the red string snap. That red string that had connected us so innocently in the past was now being dragged on the floor, each veering on different paths. There was nothing connecting us anymore, only distant memories that we used to share.
It wasn’t the same. Every time I looked at her, I had a wistful look on my face. It pained me knowing that our bond I had cherished and kept so close to my heart became little to no meaning to her. I had little to no meaning to her. I tried to understand the situation, the red string, her. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of letting go of a whole person. The thought scared me.
College ultimately came around, the red string still being dragged, noticeably shorter and slightly touching the floor now. However, I slowly began to realize that my feelings were valid- it was okay to not feel the need to be attached to something anymore. I could be independent.
I gained the ability to see that over the years some red strings have faded away, nowhere to be seen. Some are lengthy and enduring. And some fresh and short, faintly growing longer day by day. Now, I stay at my end with each red string, because I realized that healthy bonds go both ways. In order to keep a sturdy line between two individuals, each is responsible for keeping the end of their red strings from dropping to the ground.
Sometimes, red strings can be attached again - each thread, one by one, spun back together. The time and distance away from each other shapes us for better or for worse, and opportunities for reconnection always arise. We can all grow and mend.
Maybe the red string that held us together so innocently can connect us once more again. And maybe, one day, we can both keep it from falling between us this time. ■
by: Tamara Rodriguez
graphics by: Amanda Garza
graphics by: Amanda Garza