Today I was looking at the Instagram page of a friend that I once held close. For a long time, I imagined that our friendship would go on forever, continuously blossoming into something more and more beautiful. We were open, curious, and endlessly seeking beauty and magic and honesty and light and everything in-between.
She is intimately weaved into many of my favorite memories. There were the afternoons that we spent walking through Union Square, swinging our hands, stopping and marveling at every corner stores with fresh flowers. Days spent thrifting in the summer sun - hitting store after store until we found something worth carrying home. The yellow jumper that I wear almost daily in the warmer months - a piece that she saw and knew would be perfect for me. The day we spent at an outdoor festival - drinking fresh squeezed lemonade and having our faces painted and heading home on the train later, exhausted, but full. The road trip to Rhinebeck. The conversations about where we would travel next - Morocco, Cuba, Puerto Rico - our minds always racing with dreams.
And there were also conversations about the dark. The hurt, the difficulty in remaining positive, self isolation as a means of self preservation. On the green couch, her head on my shoulder, the both of us crying, I told myself that I would never have a friendship like this again - something so honest and real. I had never cried like that before - in-tandem with another person; in varying states of vulnerability; pouring out my heart in the confidence of another; marking the moment with salt.
But often times, the days of beauty and magic were ephemeral. Moments of closeness gave way to a cold shoulder and lack of communication. The silences were always arbitrary; they were decided upon based on her mood. There were times I didn't hear from her for weeks, only to receive 15 texts in a row answering the questions or greetings that had been left floating in the interim. While I tried to be understanding - mental health is difficult, self care should be prioritized - the polarity was often hurtful. After a stint of silence, I remember expressing that frustration and hurt, and being gaslighted in response - "Your anger says more about you than it does about me. If you don't want my friendship for what it is, no one is keeping you here."
I continued to reach out often and was met by silence. I tried to understand that some friendships needed space, but the frequent rebuff was hurtful. I felt as though the friendship - and how, and when, and in what way it existed - was entirely on her terms. When she was reclusive, I was to cater to it. If I didn't want to go to her apartment to see her and stay indoors, then that was on me. I tried to be a good friend when I could. When she was upset that I would miss her birthday because my nephew's fell on the same weekend, I took a bus to Rhode Island, stayed for less than 24-hours, and made it back to NYC in time to buy her colorful balloons and meet her at the entrance of Prospect Park. When in the weeks after her birthday, she didn't respond to my text messages, I tried not to take it personally.
I know that I am not always an easy friend, either. I am quickly frustrated. I have difficulty diverging from my set plans. I am not always compromising - when she asked me to call her, because she didn't like texting, I didn't because I don't like calling. We were at a standstill. I often gave up on communicating my feelings and reacted in childish ways - an eye for an eye, a cold shoulder for a cold shoulder. I allowed my anger and resentment to build until I found myself projecting it onto all of her actions. Everything she did and said suddenly seemed malicious. I began assigning intent to her every action.
There was never a big falling out - simply a familiar, but this time permanent, silence. I only recently deleted our thread of text messages, realizing that it was unlikely anything substantial would be added to the chain again. As I wrote this piece, I logged on to Facebook, only to find that she had un-friended me - a petty, but telling, move - the hurt is clearly on both ends.
And I still feel that hurt acutely. Society often talks openly about romantic heartbreak - the tears, the upward battle toward healing, the eventual renewal - but rarely discusses how painful it is to lose a friend. There are days that I berate myself - I was too sensitive, too stubborn. I wasn't compassionate enough. I should have just gone over to her place in the months that she was reclusive; I should've made the trek; been more supportive. But then there are days that I feel angry at her - moments that I want to scream. I rarely felt supported by her. I rarely felt that she gave the same caliber of love that she required. Didn't she see that I was trying? Didn't she understand that good friends don't ghost each other? How difficult is it to respond to a text? Doesn't she know that, in some moments, our friendship hurt me as much as it healed me?
So far in my life, letting go has been one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn. People come into your life sometimes for moments, sometimes forever, and you have to take that, accept it, learn from it, and grow from it. Even as I write it, I don't fully understand it. A part of me wants my friend back, and the other part doesn't. I'm learning to understand that this is a part of life - you grow close to people, you grow apart, you move on. I realize that I don't have the answers. I don't know what makes some friendships long-lasting and others fleeting, or when losing a friend stops hurting so much.
From what I can tell, she is on an upward swing. Her life is being filled with light, fulfilling friendships, and beautiful moments, and so is my own. And that's what I want for the both of us. I'm learning that losing a friend is difficult, but it's something you heal from. And while there are days that I don't feel positive, or forgiving, or healed, I also acknowledge that this is a part of the growing process. I've been given the space to think about what I will and won't accept in friendships in the future, how I can be a better friend, and how I will to navigate friendships moving forward. I pray every day that we both achieve this growth. I think we deserve it.