I am living through the slow death of a relatively young friendship. It’s sad, but I knew we would reach this point in time. We’ve had 4 great years of supporting each other. We needed each other in those years. Maybe that need has ebbed.
We’ve known each other most of our lives, but found ourselves building a strong friendship more recently. It’s curious, really, as we are not well suited to each other. Nearly every part of our personalities is markedly different. He is a self-proclaimed asshole (and proud of it). I will often trip over myself so as not to inconvenience someone else. Perhaps that is why we both clung to the friendship so strongly – there was no risk of it developing into a romantic entanglement, which would have been a huge disaster. We truly gave ourselves completely into this friendship. There was no topic off limits for our discussions. There was no judgement of choices made. There wasn’t even the offer of opinions. It was simple: we listened to each other.
When we first re-discovered each other we were both wrestling with startling ends to romantic relationships. We were left with many unanswered questions. Tho’ neither of us could give answers to the other, we found solace in a shared heartache. There was comfort in sitting in sorrow with someone who understood what we couldn’t find words to express. So that’s what we did: we sat with each other.
He is a single dad, having raised his kid from age 3 on his own. I became a single mom when my son was 4. Although we were at different stages in our parenting (me at the start of middle school woes, he at the beginning of college adventures) there were so many ways we eased the questions in each other’s minds. Raising a child on your own is challenging. Raising one born of the opposite sex to you lends another layer to the doubt that feeds on the frazzled parent mind. We were able to acknowledge the unseen strife that can come from our unique experiences. We saw through the stoic exterior and recognized the weariness underneath that we each felt but tried to hide. We served as reminders that we’re each doing a good job. We bolstered each other.
It is hard to watch this friendship die. It has been surprisingly beneficial to me. Spending time with him was a sanctuary for me, it was my escape. When I was with him I no longer needed to be the mom, or the employee, or the boss, or the volunteer. It was like a break from reality – my own little fantasy world. There was nothing special about our time together – coffee or drinks and a couple hours of conversation, sometimes dinner or breakfast and laughter over how different our food choices are. But I looked forward to it so much. Often our time together was spent barely talking to each other – or barely talking about deep topics anyway. We would sit together and watch old episodes of M*A*S*H or listen to some of his favorite music (loudly) and laugh. Oh, my, how he made me laugh – all the time! I could come to him in tears feeling completely broken and lost, he would hold me for as long as I needed him to, and then he would say something that would bring out honest laughter from me. The rest of our time together would be spent laughing and talking non stop about superfluous things. I could forget the hurt for a while. It was nice. He even managed to get me to laugh through our text messages. Not sure how he did it….he’s not that funny. But, he’s what I needed and that was all the connection we needed to make this work.
We would both change our schedules to make time to get together, usually every 3 weeks or so. We don’t live in the same town, so getting together involved a bit of travel. I never regretted the effort it took for us to see each other. It was always worth it. Sometimes we’d meet in the middle, sometimes one of us would make the long drive to see the other. We didn’t keep score. We freely shared food, drink, gas money, and love – without hesitation or tracking. It was the most relaxed, easy friendship I’ve had – we simply shared our lives with each other. Trust and honesty….it goes a long way.
Now the text messages come a little less frequently. Neither of us makes too much effort to rearrange our schedule to work in a visit. It’s been 9 weeks since we’ve gotten together and we both seem to be okay with that. We were slowly coming to this point since mid-summer, but then I pushed us into high gear on this inevitable crash course. After a night of laughter and free-flowing drinks, I overstepped a boundary that we had always agreed upon and respected. There was no malice, no forethought, no harmful intent. It was a very small thing that had very large implications. I have taken responsibility for my choice, apologized, and he accepted that and says he’s forgiven me. I believe he’s tried. Honestly, he’s the type who normally would have texted me some expletive and never spoken to me again. But, that’s not the case. He really is trying to be better with me. We still talk. We’ve talked through what happened, we’ve talked through other things in our lives. It’s different now though and that’s because of me.
It’s intractable when you know that you’ve caused hurt to someone you care about. He says it’s in the past, but now, that black spot in his past is because of me. I struggle with that. I’ve made (lots of) mistakes before. I’m sure I’ve hurt people in my life. But, not like this. This was a fundamental basis of our relationship, something I treasured about us. There was no good reason for the stupid little thing I did. I didn’t even realize at the time that I was breaking a trust. I should have. But it seemed like such a natural, easy thing to me that I didn’t see the truth of my actions. That shook me to my core. It made me question so much about myself. Normally, when I would question things, he’s the one I reached for to suss out the fact from the emotion and find my way back to steady. I couldn’t do that here. I wanted to apologize to him a thousand times over. It sill wouldn’t have been enough. So, here we are, facing the end.
Am I to just let this fall into its grave like an old dog?*
No. I won’t cut ties with him yet. It’s hard to feel it linger, holding on by broken threads. But, it’s actually falling away in graceful regression. He still texts to check on me now and then. I’ve offered dates for our traditional birthday dinner when I take him out to celebrate. Our friendship is still there. I suppose I am hoping that this isn’t a death but rather a metamorphosis. Perhaps we are merely entering a different phase of our friendship. Over our 4 years we’ve both continued to change and grow. Perhaps, we’ve outgrown the friendship that was and it’s time to build something new. We both still care about each other a great deal, that’s obvious. We need to figure out how to express that in our new reality. Maybe we’re becoming nothing more than Christmas card friends. Only time will tell.
“…a moral world depends on an acceptance of the notion of causality, on an acknowledgment that we are responsible for, and a product of, our actions.”*
Perhaps this was my suicide of friendship. Did I see that I was no longer useful to him and want to free him from feelings of obligation? A selfless act for him who I love. Or did I just let the rum make my decisions that night? A misguided indiscretion. It doesn’t matter. Life will seek equilibrium toward morality. We will part or reinvent ourselves. Either way – I found a wonderful friend and shared 4 years of genuine, hearty laughter with him. For that I will always be grateful.
* excerpts from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
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