Sometimes you know exactly when a friendship died. Twenty-five years ago, one of my friendships died an agonizing death. It was the most difficult loss I had suffered since the loss of my marriage and a subsequent long-term romantic relationship. I shed as many tears over the loss of my friendship with G— as I ever did over those men in my life. I grieved.
I had thought we were the best of friends. I was the only attendant in her wedding. We told each other everything. I signed, along with the family, messages of love and good fortune on the frame of the house she and her new husband built. I flew a number of times with her and her family to their vacation home in Mexico. She is one of the first people I told that I had been raped. (And it was years before I told anyone else, because that is when I felt the friendship began to die.)
After the birth of her second child, the first with the new husband, she became more and more distant. She wasn’t returning my calls timely and, when we did talk or visit, it just wasn’t the same. One day she told me she didn’t remember being my friend. I was stunned. It was a punch in the gut, but I couldn’t quite believe it. How could she not remember? How do you even say such a thing to someone to whom you know you’ve been close?
Later as I tried to understand what had happened to our friendship, I thought maybe G— had suffered some sort of psychic break along with post-partum depression after the birth of her son. It took me a long time – a couple of years, actually, to get over the loss of our friendship. Still, I’m writing about it now. Does that mean I’m still grieving, still not over the hurt?
* * *
“Well,” she said. “. . . We don’t . . . talk . . . ”
Not long ago, another friendship changed status. This is someone I’ve known nearly my whole life. We live in different states now, and we don’t talk often, but I thought we still were friends. We know each other’s families, and when we get together, we just pick up where we left off. We grew up together, went to elementary, junior high, and college together, so we know many of the same people and we’ve shared many experiences over the years.
Recently while visiting my sister, Anne-Maré, in our hometown, she suffered a major mobility crisis which landed her in the hospital, and I ended up staying in town for a month to advocate for her. I had known that she had a mobility issue, but I had no idea of how bad it had gotten since I’d seen her in late May/early June until I arrived in Detroit in September.
One day after I visited Anne-Maré in the hospital, I dropped by to visit with my good friend M—. As we chatted about this and that, of course, she asked how my sister was doing. I gave M— a progress report, and her unexpected response was something to the effect that she wasn’t surprised that things had come to such a pass, because when she had seen Anne-Maré back in July at another friend’s funeral during which my sister was invited to make remarks to the congregation. “She could hardly stand, and she looked like she was in agony. She was in bad shape, and afterward, everyone was talking about it—” M— stopped herself in mid-sentence, and we looked at each other in stricken silence.
M— had known Anne-Maré was in trouble, but she hadn’t bothered to pick up the phone or send a text to say so. I was stricken for the same reason M— was. The more I thought about it, I realized that I was not only shocked; I was angry. M— should have gotten in touch.
“Well,” she said. “You know . . . we don’t . . . talk . . . .” And that’s when I realized that somewhere along the way, the status of our relationship had changed for M— though it hadn’t changed for me. She knew, and she knew that I knew: she should have done something. Texted, called, sent an email, a letter, or postcard. She knew both Anne-Maré and me well enough to call no matter how long it had been since we had talked. We weren’t just friends; M— was my first friend who wasn’t a relative; she was, for many years in our youth, my best friend; we have known each other over 65 years. . .
And, sure, there were other people who could have given a shout out, but she was my best friend in the city, and I expected better, I expected to be treated like a friend. And, so did M— when she thought about it; when she heard herself say, “Everyone was talking about it!” referring to Anne-Maré’s plight at that funeral.
* * *
In October and November when I was home again for nearly a month, M— couldn’t even find time to see me. I don’t know what that was about. It hurt, but I got it. That, along with everything else, confirmed for me that M— doesn’t see me as a friend anymore. I don’t know what I am, an acquaintance, I guess. I have no idea how long it will take me to get over this loss, but I guess, no – I’m sure I will. And whatever happens, M—always will have been my first “best friend.”
I am sad right now, because it is always sad when friendship dies, especially if you don’t know why, as mine with G— did. It is sadder still when the shape of a lifelong friendship changes, and you know exactly when and where and why.
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READ THE EPILOGUE ON 7 APRIL 2019.