Actually less pathetic than ex-boyfriends are ex-friends. I have four (This is one. There’s also two, three, and four). One dating as far back as high school, who for her own reasons, decided to sever our friendship. It wasn’t a subtle phase out, like outgrowing a bad hair-style. It was a decision, like butchering off all your hair in a frustrated fit. One day she just took our friendship away without consulting me. So without explanation, I was left to draw my own. I think it had to do with my consistently putting a mistake of a boy (a high school boyfriend with an unforgivable temper) before our friendship. Yes, I was one of those. Was. I was seventeen; I was allowed. I apologized, but it was too late.
It might have had to do with the fact that I told our school guidance counselor I was worried about her (and her pot consumption). Yes, that’s right. She ate pot. Actually, I don’t think she was up to making cookies yet. I really was worried about her, and it was a cool enough counselor, that I knew she wouldn’t get “in trouble.” It wasn’t telling for tellings sake. See, it wasn’t drugs alone, but the fact that her mother was slowly losing her battle against breast cancer. I thought she was trying to run from her life, but maybe she was only being a teenager. I’ll never know.
I was at that age, where certain friends choose how to run, and she choose parties and cool over her goody-goody, I won’t even try it!, friend. Somehow, high school makes it hard to have both, and I imagine I’d have made it hard too. Plans would be made, and I ultimately wouldn’t be included. I was the president of the science club. I didn’t smoke or drink. And I don’t remember if I was fat or not, but everyone still saw me as Moose. So I wasn’t exactly the person with whom you wanted to go to a party. The truth, though, might be entirely different. I never learned why my best friend of seven years stopped speaking with me.
I google her sometimes and have heard scraps about her through other high school friends. She’s married now. Happy, I’m told. When I found out, I searched online for her wedding registry and found it at Bloomingdale’s. I toyed with the idea of sending her something. I didn’t. I liked seeing what her taste was, clicking through her life in objects, wondering if we’d still be friends. I still miss her so much.
I have all the letters we wrote, over summers, notes we passed in school, right here actually, in my office, next to me, even as I write this. Her hands made these things, and it’s all I have of her now. I’d spent so much time with her growing up (from about 5th grade to our fallout our senior year) that come Sundays when her mother liked to go to Costco along with an enormous Waldbaum’s, I’d be handed my own envelope of coupons and was directed to collect the items inside. I loved being such a part of their family. There was also a period in our friendship when we tickled each other, and in resisting, I must have clawed her hands because I still have the drawing she did of her hands, with scabs, declaring I’d ruin her wedding day pictures, one day when she’d get married. I always thought, without any lick of a doubt, that I’d be there, by her side. And it still saddens me today, not knowing her, given how well I know her past. How I knew her mother so well, who lost her battle with cancer after my first year of college. I remember my father calling me to say he read it in the obituaries. I stopped what I was doing and got on the Long Island Rail Road, just like that. I was on my way to work, and I just turned around and got on a different train. I didn’t know how she’d react. I didn’t care. I was going to be there for her, whether she liked it or not. She’d stopped speaking to me two years earlier, but I didn’t care. I showed up. She was still my best friend.
In the whole, “whether she liked it or not” scenario, the not bit won out. She wasn’t cold or warm. She was hosting shiva at her house, her mother’s house, and we can’t judge grief, so who knows how she really felt about anything. I could tell, though, she didn’t want me there. She was polite and said she was surprised, but it didn’t seem to be in a good way. She had other things to think about. Her mother had just died, and my wanting to “just help” didn’t matter. I never heard from her again.
I saw her, just before I moved out of Manhattan. It was a weekday, and I had just seen a movie, by myself, in Murray Hill, near Phil’s old apartment. I was so excited to see her, asking tons of questions, admitting I heard she got married. Asked what she was doing with her life, did she like it? She hadn’t changed at all, and really, looked beautiful, grown and mature. She didn’t ask me anything, not about my life, or my family. There was no exchange of number or information. She was cold, or maybe taken off guard. And as I walked back to Phil’s apartment, I felt a weight that hadn’t been there before. I missed the friend I used to have, who wouldn’t be now, not the same. I dream about her sometimes, starting up a friendship again, but like relationships with men, sometimes going back is going backwards. She was a wonderful childhood friend, and I suppose it’s all we were meant to be, because now, talking over the phone could never be the same as the nights we spent cutting images out of magazines, calling boys, writing notes, counting calories, we can’t get that back to the same. I do, though, have hope that I will make other friendships, along my way now, that are just as rich.