In my room I have a folder that is filled with treasured notes. Some are from ex-boyfriends, some are from co-stars, and two are from you. One you wrote me when we were in college. You had an assignment to write a letter of appreciation to someone who makes a difference in your life, and you chose me. The other you wrote for my 23rd birthday. They both say how grateful you are for my friendship, and how you don’t know where you would be without me. You thank me for being there for you through thick and thin, and how excited you are for the years to come. Love always. We signed everything that way. It couldn’t be more different from the last things we wrote to each other.
It’s been two years since we were in contact, and even longer since we spoke. I got married. I got pregnant. I have a daughter.
I am different.
I am the same.
Who are you?
Almost immediately I had regrets. Not about what I said, but how I said it. I still don’t know how I would change my delivery, but I should have known how hurt and defensive you would be. I was confused, disappointed, upset, and angry, but I loved you. No matter what I said, I needed you to know how much I loved you, and I failed.
It was easier for me to pin all the blame on your boyfriend than to talk to you about yourself. I was so afraid of what would happen if I talked to you candidly, but in the end we lost each other anyway. I wanted you to be with someone who wasn’t afraid to be in a picture with you. Someone who would proudly introduce you to his family. Someone who would make it obvious to everyone he met how much he loved you.
Not only did you deserve better, so did he. Even though I didn’t like him, no one really deserves to be lied to. You were looking for all the things you needed elsewhere, and after almost 5 years of that, I wanted you to admit that he wasn’t it. I wanted to tell you to take better care of yourself. Take your medicine. Always use protection. Find guys who respect you. Love yourself. Know how amazing you are. I didn’t know what you were trying to prove or who you were trying to be. When did everything change? Was it just me? I hate the fact that it all came to a head under the umbrella of my wedding. What horrible, ironic timing. I want you to know that what happened had so little to do with my wedding. I was missing my friend, and I thought you didn’t care.
I’ve also thought about how you might respond to this. I’ve imagined you calling me a hypocrite. Judgmental. Self-righteous.
I’m no saint. I haven’t forgotten all the stupid things I’ve done in my life. You know as well as I do that I spent my late teens and most of my 20s adding to a list of sins. We always had a 100% no judgment policy. We laughed and cried together as we grew up. My question is – when was that policy going to expire? In your last email it was clear that there were many things you had kept to yourself over the years. Why? Because of the policy? Because you felt it wasn’t your place? Because you were afraid? If we were as close as we thought, shouldn’t we have been able to tell each other difficult truths? I wish you had said those things to me. I really do. Maybe if we’d done that from the beginning, things would be different.
At some point I found myself on the other side of our policy and there was no going back. Tom changed my life almost overnight. It was time for me to settle down. It was wrong of me to expect you to be in the same place. I also realize that it probably wasn’t that much fun to be around me anymore. We didn’t want to do the same things or see the same people and I was finding it difficult to relate to you. There were a few times we went out that I felt pressured by you to drink more or stay out later. I felt ashamed at the possibility that you found me boring or embarrassing.
You kept on telling me that you were fine and happy, so I understand how annoying it must have been that I kept on questioning that. It seemed to me that it was all an elaborate cover-up. I didn’t see how you could be happy when you were always sick, always at a bar, and stuck in an incredibly dysfunctional relationship. It felt like you were running away from reality. It felt like you were changing. You had found a group of friends that appeared to give you what you wanted, and I envied them. How could I ever keep up?
At this point I don’t even remember all the details. I just remember that it hurt. All the stupid drama surrounding the apartment. All the stupid drama surrounding my bridal shower. All the stupid drama surrounding my wedding. All the stupid, bad communication.
A short while after your last email, I went to see “Something Borrowed”. It’s a movie about two best friends. One is meek, sweet, and taken for granted. The other is loud, dramatic, self-centered, and manipulative. I sat there and cried through this dumb romantic comedy because I was horrified to think that was how you saw our relationship.
You had every right to speak your mind. I’m sure you kept your mouth shut countless times when you disagreed with me. I know that my personality can be difficult and even annoying. No one knew me better than you and I shudder to think of your mental list of my offenses. What really killed me was that it seemed over time all my shortcomings had caused you to resent me, and now it wasn’t just that we didn’t see eye to eye – you didn’t like me at all. Everything leading up to that made me believe that you didn’t need me anymore. You didn’t love me anymore.
That was what I took away from your email. That’s why we never spoke again. I couldn’t face you thinking that you couldn’t stand who I was.
In so many ways it felt like a breakup. We’d been friends for 15 years. With that much history everything you see or hear can be related to your relationship. I wanted to dig a hole and hide. I completely shut down. I had so many dreams in which we reconciled. My subconscious was having a difficult time too.
You called me a few times, but I couldn’t answer. Each time I saw it was you I felt a wave of nausea and fear. I took you out of my phone. I blocked you on Facebook, not out of spite, but because I felt a desperate need to protect myself. Your Facebook page told the world that you were happy and living it up, and mine must have been full of all the things you didn’t like about me. I didn’t want you to see any of it. Even now I’m imagining you reading this and I’m anxious. Maybe you think I’m playing the victim. Maybe you think I’m being melodramatic. Maybe you think I’m full of shit and you’re glad to be rid of me. Or…maybe I’m describing a lot of the things you felt. Maybe you thought I didn’t love you anymore.
I was always proud of you. It was a joy introducing you to my friends, because they loved you every time. You were smart, hilarious, and sincere.
I always tried to protect you. I never wanted you to feel overshadowed by me. I never wanted you to feel bad about who you were, or let anyone else make you feel bad. I gave some people a bad first impression because I was protective of you. I did my best to shield you from images of suicide, and if I couldn’t, I held your hand.
I tried to be the best friend possible. I know I failed sometimes. But I tried.
It doesn’t hurt as badly now. Most days I don’t even think about it. It’s strange and sad how easy it is to not think about it. It’s strange and sad how my life simply went on. I don’t know how our lives would line up now. Or if they could. Or if they should. Or if either of us want them to. Some part of me thinks it might be impossible. Some part of me harbors a secret hope. Some days a certain song is playing and yes, I know for certain that we could. Yes, I know that I will always love you.
I have a beautiful life. It’s much smaller and quieter than it used to be, but it’s still mine. I’m still me.
Who are you?