When prompted by someone else for an answer as to why he cut me off, he replied: “I just wanted to make a clean break.” This, for all intents and purposes was un-true. If I asked him (when I asked him), the answer would have been different (was different, although I didn’t really read it – I didn’t want a response from him – I was over what he was thinking about me, and didn’t care to reintroduce his thoughts about me into my better, much-improved life without him). He would have said something much meaner, he would have been blunter, and then he would have turned around like an action hero walking away from an explosion in a blockbuster summer movie. He certainly did not make a clean break. And he wanted it that way. He wanted to feign indifference while keeping the door open just a crack, in case something was to push it open further one day. I don’t know why he did that and I was too afraid to ask. Because when we love someone that much who does not love us back, we become afraid of them. We fear their reactions to our words, our questions, our actions. We fear them because anything they do or say could have the power to hurt too much, to break our hearts again and again, sometimes without warning.
When he left her, it was unexpected, even though it was expected. He refused an invitation to her house at the very last minute because she had told him the guy she was seeing would also be there. Judging by his reaction and nothing that he ever actually said, I would suspect it is because he couldn’t take it. He couldn’t look at the woman he was not-so-secretly in love with for the past 3 years with another guy. After everything he had done for her – cooking for her, chauffeuring her around the city, going to movies and concerts and events and parties with her, even when he didn’t necessarily want to go just to make her happy, just because they were the same soul distributed amongst two bodies and they were always, always always together. They belonged together, or so he thought. And when he realized this was false, and he knew his hopes were dashed in that instant, he turned down her invitation; he ignored her for the rest of the summer, and then they drifted past one another like two passing ships who had long left the harbour where they were safely, comfortably nestled. She never asked why, in the end. And he never offered an explanation.
I cut her out following some of her choice words. Maybe I misunderstood their meaning and their power, and maybe I was absolutely correct. At the time it did not matter. I had a version of the truth, and she had another, and neither of us cared to explain our truths and we parted ways, just one day after my 24th birthday. I explained this when asked about her: I don’t senselessly cut people off. I don’t make it a habit to refuse to listen to another side of the story. I’m not the type of person who makes arbitrary decisions to leave people behind, unless they have done something adamantly and blatantly wrong and unacceptable. I cut her out because she tested my other friendships – friendships I had which were better, brighter, stronger, and more important than my friendship with her. After speaking with my other friends, I had proof enough of this. I felt poisoned in the water we all shared as a group of girlfriends, and I didn’t want this lingering toxicity any longer. I felt like the villain that day, and I had composed a message I was planning to send to her that I thought might make sense of my actions. But after all the rigmarole and after all the already-created drama in which we played parts of conniving adult children, I ceased to see a purpose to the letter, and I abandoned it, just like I abandoned her.
I left her because I was left by her. So much so, I’m sitting here looking at a blank screen struggling to find the words. I never used to have trouble finding the words; when we spent time together, they poured out of me: I was the funniest, the most open, I shared my opinions freely and I shared my insecurities freely, and most importantly and most gravely, I freely shared my past. When you share so much of the interior of your life with someone, they slowly become a bigger part of you than you could ever venture to guess; they embody your heart and nest there and they refuse to leave. You rely on them so much because they’re one of the few people who know you better than anyone does, because the fact is this: we don’t share that much of ourselves with just anyone. We pick and choose who to give large pieces of who we are and who we were and what happened to us that made us who we are to. She allowed me the freedom to give that much without worry of judgment or fear that she would spread that part of me with other people. She was the foundation on which I laid all of my tragic, sorry stones. And for that reason, she meant more to me than anyone. I put her first as much as I possibly could, I dropped large amounts of money I barely had on gifts that I hoped would make her happy. She was my very best friend. And no boyfriend, nobody else, ever could have compared to a coffee with her – and I seldom saw her so I would put life on hold for that coffee date. All I ever wanted to be was the best friend in her that she was in me. And in the end, it didn’t matter what I did; she wrote me off and tore my page out of the book of her life, without ever writing an ending. She betrayed me; she took all of the jargon about my life that I scribbled indelibly onto her heart and she read them aloud to my face to remind me of all my pathetic, depressing lives I had embodied, reminded me that these lives, these demons that sat proudly atop my shoulder that I was constantly outrunning, would eventually catch up to me, as if I didn’t already know. For anyone who has never lived this moment of humiliation and pain brought on by someone who means this much to you, it feels like you’re curling up into a corner and dying, as if you’ve been poisoned not just by someone else, but by yourself; you poisoned yourself by giving too much of yourself away until you were nothing, and felt like nothing, and were then reminded by your own memories that you are just that: nothing. It feels like you are looking at your reflection, the same one you see every day, familiar, perhaps lovely though with imperfections you’re used to, but instead of seeing that woman looking at you, you see a horrible hapless beast; a bull in a china shop that was spooked into breaking all the most beautiful glassware until it was shattered into just teeny tiny smithereens. You see the world as flat – so flat and desert-like that you could just walk right over the edge of this barren landscape; and momentarily, you feel that is exactly what you are going to do: walk. And walk and walk and walk, until you occupy nothing except the empty, barren wasteland of the unknown galaxy, and that is where you want to be because you cannot be hurt when you are alone out there.
And so in light of this, I cut her out.
I was reminded today by a very wise woman of something very crucially important: “No human is immune to nostalgia.”
When you look deeply – very deeply – into a finished relationship – you see its flaws.
You are reminded of the time he said he would help you build your new bedroom furniture; and you made a date and time and he never showed up, never called. You are reminded of the time that you had plans with him after work but he called you, leaving a lazy message explaining that he changed his mind and was going to see Iron Man with his friends instead.
You see that time a dear friend passed away and when you called the person who means the most to you for support, she refused to meet with you because she was baking Christmas cookies with her mother, who she sees every day. You are reminded of the time you had to beg her for just a couple of hours of her time on your birthday. You are reminded that she will leave a text message she cannot answer un-answered until the answer becomes a moot point. You recall when you were unemployed and depressed, home alone, and you asked her if she could come over for a couple of hours for pie and tea, and she said a definitive ‘no’. You remember when you were so nervous – morbidly so – about your first-ever reading, which meant so, so much to you, and she didn’t even make an effort to be present, and share in what turned out to be one of the most deeply joyous moments of your life. You remember that she told your deepest secrets to people like her sibling, who does not even know you that well, so he too can use your insecurities against you in a public forum. You remember the time you wanted the nightmare to end as best as you could, so although you did not do anything wrong, although you were still hurt and wounded by an unfillable void, by the damaging, unapologetic bluntness of her words, you were the one who apologized – for the ugliness, for what you did to ‘retaliate’, or resemble retaliation. Not for any other reason except for how badly you felt. And you did not garner so much as a response of any kind. You realize that for the duration of your friendship, one that was rosy and meaningful and truthful and open and freeing and wonderful – that you were always, always, always the one left hanging, left waiting, left wondering, in one way or another.
Without this depth, all you can see is cocktails; photos taken on the picturesque patio of the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald; deep, emotionally resonant conversations; the writing and lunches and dinners and memories you shared with her; the first time you were on a plane together, the first time she stayed over at your house, you and her and all your friends together sharing nothing but fond, amazing memories and inside jokes and laughter. And you feel like you broke all of this in half, not because you did but because you miss it. You miss it all. You want it back. You ask silently every day: Why did she have to go and do what she did and change everything!? Why couldn’t she have left it alone and allow everything you thought you knew to continue the wonderful way that it was? Why did I have to look at my last vacation photos and see, instead of the amazing weekend shopping, drinking, eating, seeing a Broadway play with my closest friends, an empty shell of everything that I thought would be my life, forever?
But there is not an answer to this question, nor is there a way to set the clock back in hopes that, if that day, that moment were suddenly changed, everything would be different today. No; people do what they did, they made their beds – the ones they wanted to make. And that is how close confidants, the people in your life that you look back at with sorrowful smiles, mixed with that pang of missing a loved one, that moment where you see or read or hear something that you feel you must instantly tell them because you know they would appreciate it, become lost in open water, way out there so far into the horizon they can no longer be seen with the naked eye but merely felt with ever-so-slowly decreasing intensity… until they are missing people, and they can no longer be found without the small reminders and daily pilgrimages to their memory.