It’s been a year since I’ve spoken to my former best friend. It was an abrupt ending to a friendship just weeks away from being officially a decade-long. Over the last year I have had to cope with the bizarre way that her psyche invades my own. How any bit of world or pop-culture news in the vein of our past conversations, prompts me to wonder, what would she think about this? I have literally had dreams about her, where we hang out like nothing happened. But even in my dreams, I’m still angry, angry that I let her off the hook for the way she dropped me as if our friendship meant nothing. And when I wake up I’m relieved that I stood my ground.
I haven't had one of those dreams in a while and I’d like to think it’s because I’m slowly moving past this "breakup." On the surface, it seems like it only took a couple months for the demise to unfold. Those two months started with an email in which she unleashed as much as two years worth of resentment towards me for little moments in time she felt I wronged her. Clearly troubles in our relationship started long ago and it was only during our year of separation that I was able to recognize some of them. To borrow a favorite phrase from my former best friend, “in retrospect,” our friendship was bound for this end.
In retrospect, I should have known this was coming. For most of a decade I had watched as she questioned every other friendship she had, always a question of the other’s loyalty. Maybe it’s because I lasted so long that I thought I was exempt from these doubts and therefore I took my place in her life for granted. In retrospect she definitely questioned our friendship too. In her email she told me I was withholding and that I did not care about the friendship as much as she did. Shocked as I was to learn how many grievances she held against me, I trusted that our conversation afterward was enough to move forward. Two months later when her birthday rolled around and I was explicitly excluded, something neither of us would have ever thought to do to the other in the past, I took my cue that it was over.
In retrospect, I had my own resentments. I truly was withholding when it came to what I shared with her. I often felt unsafe to share my feelings with her. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be heard and that she would overwhelm me with her opinion, as she often did. She saw this withholding, meant to protect me, as a character flaw, instead of a character trait. A flaw unacceptable until I changed for her comfort. I had always accepted that she and I had very different personalities. I trusted that our common core beliefs and morals would be enough to sustain the friendship, even though our methods of navigating life were different. It was after we stopped speaking that I realized she did not accept this difference. In retrospect, she needed something I was unable and unwilling to give her: a perfect version of myself, rid of any character traits she did not like and that she chose not to accept.
In retrospect, we were both insecure. In different ways we both felt inadequate for one another. I was not strong enough to express myself against someone with good intentions but an aggressive personality. I chose to retreat and hold back from her, not giving her a chance to learn as my friend. Partly a result of this, and partly a result of her life completely outside of me, she felt insecure as she compared her friendship with me to my friendships with other people. Many of these comparisons and theories about my other friendships she completely made up in her mind and accepted as truth, which was unfair to me. It felt like she wanted me to pledge my allegiance to her above all others, as if my support and consistent presence over the decade weren’t enough. This neediness made me more guarded, afraid to be truly bound to a friendship where I felt unable to completely be myself.
In retrospect, I was relieved. I was relieved when we stopped speaking because even if our problems weren’t vocalized, they were still there, creating rifts in our friendship. Rifts that manifested through misunderstood harmless texts and advice gone awry. For some time it had become exhausting, the way anything can be when you ignore what’s going wrong.
When I look back at this list of troubles in our friendship that either went on ignored or completely unnoticed, I have to ask myself, why do I still care? Beyond the ego part of me that still feels hurt and rejected, there’s the part of me that just misses my friend.
I care because, she was the only friend I spoke to on the phone, the actual phone, for hours at a time.
I care because, we once danced to the extended version of Beyoncé's “Get Me Bodied” in her dining room.
I care because I’ve spent more New Years Eve’s with her than with any other friend.
I care because when I was thirteen years old, I went to a summer day camp program at the YMCA. The camp counselor welcomed me, introduced himself, and then led me over to her, also thirteen. We spent those weeks becoming friends and realized during that time that we went to the same church, which ultimately helped us reunite later that year.
I care because she was my friend and I was willing to continue to look past every problem and suppress parts of myself until the very end, which apparently has come.