When surveying 100 people (or at least 100 blog readers), I ask, “What excuse do you give when you RSVP ‘Yes’ to a wedding and then not show up?”
She didn’t give an excuse. She didn’t pick up a phone. Maybe she was mugged. Maybe someone died. The idea of her in a hospital came to mind. Because those were the only possible excuses. She’d moved to New York pre-September 11. I was still married. She didn’t know anyone in New York. She was my sister’s friend. I made her mine, introducing her to all my friends, cooking for her at least twice weekly. We spent our weekends together at the flea-market, in bookstores. I knew how she took her coffee and that her favorite magazine was Elle Decor. I took her to a Natalie Merchant concert for her birthday, taught her photography, fed her. Paid for her movies when she claimed she was too poor. I understood. She was my friend. When I had an abortion, she came over, reluctantly. “I don’t know what to say or do,” she said. “I’m a bad friend.” I rolled my eyes and thanked her for just being there. “Wanna go shopping?” she asked hopefully. She didn’t understand, but I understood her. She gave what she could.
In the next few years, I’d call asking her about her family, details about her job, the boy situation. She never asked me questions. Never asked about the book or celebrated any of my successes with me. I never understood this. Didn’t ask about my family or love life, or anything, but she’d want to get together. I think, now, because she was bored. Or just not built that way… caring. I really do not think it was jealousy, on any level at all. I think it was convenience. She once said to me, “I like you better when you have a boyfriend because then you stay home and cook and invite me over.” She liked to be a homebody, by my side. Except at night. Weekends, she liked to go clubbing. I wanted no part of this. One night, specifically, though, I called her for plans, saying I was itching to go out, out anywhere at all. I just needed to get out of the house. She agreed and said we’d do something. I never heard from her. She went out with work friends to Bungalow 8. “I didn’t think you’d want to come,” she said the next morning. I had been waiting in my apartment, dressed in black, ready. She didn’t think at all. I should have ended our friendship then.
A true friend is there for you to pick you up when you fall and to celebrate your successes. A friend that only does half of that isn’t really a friend. She didn’t do either. Still, I was looking forward to seeing her at my wedding. I was. I like her. But she didn’t show up. No phone call. No nothing.
So I called her… from my own damn wedding. I left her a message and called three times. Maybe she lost her phone? Maybe someone died. I never heard back from her. If I were dating her, I’d never have behaved this way. I wouldn’t have called, wouldn’t have given her the benefit of the doubt, and I probably wouldn’t have cared as much. Mostly though, with a guy I was dating, I would assume all the words and excuses in the world wouldn’t matter. I’d know his not being there said enough. And that’s what I’m doing now.
I called her again, the next night. And she picked up the phone as if nothing was wrong. Said she took off from work on Friday because she wasn’t feeling well. Was throwing up. Then didn’t want to bother me on Saturday, my special day, “and quite frankly, I didn’t know how many people would be there. I figured you wouldn’t notice if I wasn’t there.” That’s a great reason not to call, or show up. Or call the next day, even, to explain yourself. If she knew she wasn’t feeling well Friday, she could have called then, or Saturday even, when she realized she wasn’t feeling better. But no call at all. No explanation. It’s all just words anyway. So, I’m letting this one go. Which makes me angry and sad a bit, but really, makes me realize who my real friends are. The ones who stayed until the end, who were there for dessert, even with long car journeys home to different states and boroughs. The ones who sat too close to the music and never complained about it being too loud, or cold, or about too much sauce on their food. They didn’t slip out with headaches, or sore feet, or numb hands. They stuck around and celebrated, and in the end, that’s what I want in a friend. And I’m lucky to have the ones I do. Very.