the death of a friendship

We always thought we'd look back on our tears and laugh, but we never thought we'd look back on our laughter and cry.

-- Unknown.

It's a heartbreaking thing, this loss; this wrenching, tearing thing. This death of a friendship.

Especially when it's a quick death. When there are no lingering cancers of resentment to fester and eventually alert you to the rotten state of your relationship's Denmark. Enough time has passed since the dissolution of something once so dear to me that I can prod these memories, this issue without the disablingly sharp pangs of hurt, regret, and confused betrayal. (Or so I thought when I wrote that sentence. It's taken me several more days to finish writing this, as at times my emotions would wax and wane and occasionally get the better of me. But hopefully it has not affected this little written nothing too much. Forgive me if it has.)

The death of a friendship always makes me rethink things. There have been people I've cut out of my life because I knew they were bringing what amounted to emotional poison into my life. While I'm saddened about the circumstances that led to such an end, I know without a doubt it was never caused by our relationship itself. They were the ones tracking mud into the house, so to speak. And despite feeling callous, I can make my peace with the departure of these people from my life fairly quickly and painlessly. I've learned to recognize the type early on, and have definitely learned the hard way that the faster you exorcise these emotional black holes from your life, the better.

But this time was different. He was not a casual friend. He was not a short-term friend. He was my best friend.

Ours was an instantaneous friendship. Upon meeting, we launched into conversation and only came up for breath over an hour later, when circumstances gave us no choice but to head our separate ways to opposite ends of our shared campus. We started hanging out regularly, and grew quite fond of one another. A year passed. My closest other friend developed new interests in her life that didn't involve me, and I found myself being edged out. I turned to him. He was there for me; he could cheer me up and make my day wonderful in the matter of a few sentences. Often it just took a hug. I knew his family. He knew mine. I was the person his sister would call when she couldn't track him down. I loved him. He was family to me, held dear in my heart like few people ever were or could hope to be.

And then everything crashed.

It was another summer; we were living off-campus while taking summer classes. It was hot. We sniped at each other occasionally, and then more frequently. I became increasingly upset with what I saw as his abuse of our friendship. He constantly criticized me, made and then canceled our plans, and took out his unrelated frustrations and stress on me. I eventually reached the limit of my understanding and patience, and developed a much quicker temper where he was concerned. I became very frazzled by his constant abrasiveness. I told him I needed space. He gave me the opposite of space, and began contacting me several times a day by phone and instant messenger. He said my request meant I was mad at him, and he was just "trying to fix it". Long story short, I decided that while I was out of town for a week, I’d also block him from my instant messenger program so as to completely give myself the emotional distance I’d so repeatedly requested.

Over that week, something in our friendship broke.

Perhaps he felt betrayed by my actions, despite pressing closer and closer every time I asked for distance. Perhaps something else happened over that week of silence, I don't know. He has refused to talk about it from that day on, over a year ago. He blocked me on that same messenger program and let me know in every certain way but with words that he had no intention of resuming our friendship ever again. Not long after, maybe a few weeks later, prideless and heartsick, I made my first attempt to reach out to him to reconcile. I was pathetically willing to overlook so many of his offenses in order to maintain a friendship that meant so much to me. But after several apologies, overtures of friendship, and verbal olive branches, I realized that he had made his choice. He had chosen a world without me in it. A world in which our friendship no longer existed. Or perhaps a world in which it never did, I don't know.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was (mostly) in the right, that I should not have simply let someone get away with treating me so badly. And as expected, it didn't help. (Okay, maybe a little. Assured self-righteousness can be soothing at times.)

Almost 8 months later, he texted my phone to wish me a happy Valentine’s Day. It seemed he wanted things to pick up where they left off, for everything to be alright, for me to be my usual self. But I refused to pretend the previous 8 months hadn't happened. I wasn't interested in smoothing over the rough spots by ignoring them yet again. If he wanted to acknowledge that things had gone terribly wrong, and that he had (at the very least) partial responsibility in that, maybe everything would have been different. Then again, maybe not. I'm slowing learning the (seemingly obvious) lesson that it takes two to fix a relationship, and I guess ours just wasn’t worth the effort for him.

He has not contacted me again.

I've spent a year fighting the tears that would threaten to spill whenever I’d be caught off guard by a postcard he’d sent me or the photos of us that used to adorn my walls and are now packed away in boxes. I've spent a year ignoring the pang of hurt that arises when someone else brings up a time or place that is so tightly intertwined with him in my memories. I've tried to ignore all these things for so long, but the truth is I've been deeply hurt. I AM deeply hurt. And I, Janelle, the emotional rock for every friend I've ever had, am now devastatingly insecure. If it was so easy for him to leave behind our friendship, could it have possibly been as deep as I always thought it was? What does it say about me that someone I loved could walk away from me seemingly without a second thought or backwards glance? Am I so forgettable? So reprehensible a friend as to make such a choice easy for the leaver?

These are the things I've been pondering since the day I realized our friendship really was dead. It took several months to sink in that this time there was no emergency medical technician on the scene; no one to apply shock paddles to the bruised egos and inflated prides that stopped the beating heart of our friendship.

I haven't come to any conclusions yet, and I'm not sure I ever will. Going over past events from our time together ~both the happy moments and the not-so-happy ones~ is, by now, pointless. Instead I'm attempting to take with me ideas and experiences on how to be a better friend to the next person I let into my life and heart. That doesn't mean it's stopped hurting, or that I don't occasionally still fantasize about a happy reunion full of hugs, forgiveness, and great Japanese food. His sudden departure was by far the hardest blow in a series of events that have shaken -
to the core- my ability to place trust in others.

But I have to believe that I can grow from my mistakes, and in that growing, grow closer to the people around me instead of further apart. To believe that I can choose to be around people who are willing and able to invest as much time and care into our friendship as I am and don't use me purely a person to give support and never receive it in exchange. I'll have to work on that.

It took a year, but I've made my peace with this death. The next step for me now is to believe in life.
This is my eulogy. Goodbye, Friend... I wish you the happiest possible afterlife.