Intimacy, camaraderie, and kinship are hard won things in life. I, being more skeptical and reserved, have developed few very close friends. The people in my life are colorful human beings, full of opinions, and character flaws. I love them for it. I try to understand their point of view, or at the very least, accept that is different than mine. I am not the easiest person to love. I’m really not sure if there is anyone in the world who is. In relationships I have had I have always dug into the question of “why?”.
For the last year, I have been faced with the question of why they end. I have no real answers. I am not looking at romantic love here. I am specifically looking at friendship. Platonic intimacy. Or familial bonds. I watch that intangible closeness dissolve. My friendships never seem to end with an explanation. There is no argument–or even a teary confession–one day it is done. Never to be born again.
This introspection began after my father died last summer. We hadn’t spoken for almost nine years. I am left with an eternal quiet. I am unsettled by this. It was not my choice. He cut me off. I had given him answers to questions about my sister. He could not face her spiral into her own darkness. I was left to find peace in the void.
In my twenties, I was very close with a husband and wife. I was inspired and pushed by her husband to go to college and become more. He was a shrewd intelligent man, with searching eyes, and a Shakespearean sensibility. I would perform with his wife. Long days filled with Arabian music, coin belts, and sweat. We danced regularly. It was a wonderful space to learn and challenge myself to do, and be more.
Slowly, bit by bit, a bitterness crept into my time with them. I was too young and naive to see it at first. I was welcome less and less in their house. Till finally, I was not invited at all. A green eyed monster had reared its ugly head. Suddenly, my friend resembled Othello, and less and less the moderate professor. I have tried once in the last 15 years to mend a friendship I held dear. To this day, I am not welcome. Othello still rules that kingdom.
Possibly a deeper hurt for me would be the loss of the friend I named my daughter after. She is a willful powerhouse, dark, and fierce. Her sense of humor is cutting and she loves deeply. We met in unusual circumstances. Our friendship was forged in the heat of the Arizona desert. We are both from very different worlds. In that brief space we shared, it didn’t matter. She became the older sister I never had.
When I was seventeen she introduced me to literature. I stayed up late buried in An Unbearable Lightness of Being, and venturing in into the magical realism of The Master and Margarita. I had wanted to write all of my life. My literary diet up to that point had been filled with dragons and fantastical creatures. I was caught unaware by the beauty of a sentence. I remember holding my breath as I read words that described the acute pain of life, love, and the heart. Reality, had revealed itself as more colorful, and more alive through writing.
This was only one of the things she helped me experience for the first time. I had grown up in a very isolated part of the country. My education reguarding the world was severely limited. She brought with her the greater world–art, literature, music, and fashion. I treasure this. I learned about beauty.
I also learned about judgement. I watched her cut people from her life for the slightest transgression. I listened to her vitriol and anger. Sometimes, it was directed at me. I learned quickly to keep certain opinions to myself. I’m not sure if she ever realised how often she would belittle me, or make off handed cutting comments. I accepted we were different. I tried to support and love her anyway. I learned to keep things to myself.
Our worlds collided at her wedding. I was plunging into a very dark part of my life. I had waded into a very unhealthy relationship. I was seven months pregnant finishing graduate school. My partner was suicidal, clinically depressed, and self medicating with alcohol and drugs, as well as, deeply undermining my self-worth. I was spending my student loan money to send him to counseling. I was over my head. I had lost touch with myself. I was just surviving.
I couldn’t imagine asking for help from anyone at the time. I was holding on by the tips of my fingers. The lies I told myself were the only thing keeping me sane.
Her wedding was beautiful. I flew across the country to help her during the last month I was allowed to fly. My body hurt from the weight of the child I carried. I had brought my husband. There was a mental check list of how to keep him entertained and away from the wedding activities for as long as possible. He would spend time with his family. I begged that he be presentable and sober for the event. I tried to think of everything.
I wouldn’t need to take care of him for most of the trip. I wouldn’t cry at the wrong moment.
I tried to focus on my friend and the fires she needed to put out. I was there for her.
In the end, I wasn’t able to mitigate the disaster. My husband insulted her mother at some point. He showed up unshowered and still half drunk to the wedding. I was overwhelmed. I found out later I had unintentionally insulted my friend as well. I did my very best. No matter how tight you hold on sometimes things come undone.
I cried in Central park the day after her wedding. It was done. I wanted her to be happy. There was no way I was going to tell her my life was flying apart. I wasn’t looking for a lecture, or to be told how wrong I was, or had been.
Fast forward a couple of years, many more tears, and my entire world crumbling around me. I tried to tell her about what had been going on. She was angry I didn’t reach out. She was hurt. She made it about her. I was judged. I withdrew.
Death brought us together a couple years later. I was so happy to see her. We were able to tell stories about the desert. We laughed. I had missed her. I stayed very guarded as she asked about my life. Things are great. Getting better. I am healing. No details, though. I couldn’t risk it. She gave me an amazing gift at the time. For that I will always be grateful. I loved this stranger next to me. The distance between us was palpable.
I have tried since then to reach out to possibly rekindle a friendship. I guess in someways I won’t out grown the naive country kid I was. I am willing to over look hurts to try again. I understand that I am not perfect. I fuck up. I will admit it. This is not something most people do.
It is true. You cannot step in the same river twice. I still love her, as I still care for the others that have faded from me. It is difficult for me to accept that our worlds have diverged to never meet again. I suppose the in each of the relationships the difficulty is not in the passing of the friendship, it’s the things that are left unsaid. I am not comfortable with that nebulous “why” handing in the air. I would prefer a finger pointing at something. That solid, this, this is why.
But, this is not the way of life. Instead, like my relationship with my father. The “whys” are lain to rest. Quietly keeping their own counsel.