Friends to strangers
Four years ago, a close friend pointed out that we had been friends for five years. According to some internet meme, they said, that meant we would be friends for the rest of our lives. I believed them the way everyone believes their best friend: happily, openly and blindly.
We met in college but didnít become familiar until my senior year. Right around the time we connected, I broke up with my longtime boyfriend Ö with whom I got back together and broke up a few more times. What can I say? I cling like Saran Wrap.
I didnít have many deep friendships in college, and most of those friends had graduated or transferred out. In the fall of 2013 ó for the first time in a long time ó†I felt lonely. I went to class, work, the gym and the cafeteria on autopilot. There was no passion.
Thatís when I grew closer to this friend, a person who felt so warm and welcoming. They were like a sip of water in the desert ó completely unfulfilling, but just enough to give the weariest traveler hope. Of course, thatís not how I saw it at the time. This person wanted to go to dinner with me. They wanted to go for walks and talk about literature. They always texted back.
That first year was wonderful. We took so many photos together on our adventures, whether we were reading on the grassy knoll or running through torrential rain. Iíll never forget the road trips and all the Sonic drinks we shared. The day I graduated, they had dinner with me and my family. It felt right. I felt happy.
Time changes everything. By the time they graduated a year later, I was settled in Eureka Springs with Gideon. They visited every now and then. It seemed like they got along well with Gideon, much to my delight. We remained close for years after graduation. They moved to Northwest Arkansas and we met up again.
Everything seemed like it was in the beginning, and perhaps it was. But hereís the thing ó†we rarely remember the beginning of any relationship the way it actually was. We romanticize it. We retell the same good memory until weíve memorized it. We cling to the honeymoon, not realizing that bad seeds are never planted once something starts to grow. The downside is always there. So often, we refuse to see it until itís all we can see.
Thatís definitely what happened to us. By the end of our friendship, I felt bitter all the time. They could say the most innocuous thing, and I was sure they were being malicious. It all came to a head in February 2019, when they hurt me by hurting someone I love.
Very rarely have I ended a friendship. I usually cling harder and harder until itís impossible to care about me anymore. For most of my life, I happily entertained toxic relationships. I waited for people to turn on me, because I couldnít bear being the one to call it. Iíd rather put a relationship on life support than face the truth.
So you can imagine how strange it felt to know immediately that this friendship was over. From the moment they left my apartment that night in February, all my warm feelings disappeared. I couldnít make excuses for bad behavior anymore. I had witnessed them stomp over my strongest boundary, and there was no coming back from it.
It took months, but I did it. I politely ended the friendship. I felt so cold-blooded sending that last text message. Had I made mistakes in the friendship? Absolutely. I was done making mistakes and stringing along a dead relationship.
This year would mark nine years of friendship. Sometimes, it makes me sad.
Other times, I am filled with anger. The most common feeling, though, is apathy ó a feeling that grows stronger with time.
How do friends become total strangers? It happens right under our noses, never overnight. And in many cases, itís exactly what needs to happen.