I suppose everything has a beginning and an end, even things we never expect to end, like love, the Star Wars empire, a lifelong friendship that turns out not to be so lifelong after all.
Growing up I had a best friend I almost never saw. We’d met when we were on vacation with our families and it was instantaneous best friends at first sight. The sort of thing that never happens in real life, but did. We didn’t live too far away from one another, a three hour drive, but neither of us drove at the time. Our parents picked up the slack and we’d get to visit once a year. The rest of the time we wrote. This was before text or email. So we wrote letters. Gloriously long, epic letters. Full of all the things: troubles with siblings and school and partners we didn’t have.
At some point our friendship migrated to all the technological things: emails, texts, FaceBook. We somehow managed to remain best friends for nearly thirty years despite only seeing each other in person a literal handful of times. We stayed friends even though our lives were completely different: she had a great job when I was freshly back from a stint in Europe with no idea what to do next, she settled down and started a family when I was jealously looking on and nowhere near ready, she moved out of state when I was ending a major relationship I’d never thought I’d leave, she was getting a divorce when I’d just gotten married and was gearing up for a major move out of state. We never seemed to be in sync yet remained best friends. And then we weren’t.
It was my fault. I screwed up.
That divorce she was going through was intense, not that any divorce isn’t, and she needed me.
I had a breastfeeding baby that had never had a bottle, a house I was trying to fix up to sell, a toddler that I needed to keep out of my husbands way while he renovated the house and I packed, and through it all we were also trying to figure out just where we were going to go.
In books and movies I would have dropped everything and run to be with her. For at least a weekend. But this was real life.
I had no frozen breastmilk to leave my baby behind, and didn’t know how I’d bring a baby with me and be able to emotionally and mentally be there for her. I had a deadline on renovating/selling the house and I wasn’t even packed yet, I couldn’t leave my husband with two kids and a house to pack up/renovate, not even for a weekend, we didn’t have the time. And I didn’t know how to explain all of this to her and not sound like I was making excuses. So I didn’t.
I didn’t explain it.
I failed her. I said I couldn’t go to her when she needed me. I was a terrible friend.
Even now, roughly three years later, I don’t see how I could have done anything differently. I’m sure there’s something, but I don’t see it.
I tried texting, calling, emailing. I never heard back. I tried writing letters the old fashioned way. No response. At one point, I wrote a letter shouldering all the blame, as I should, with no excuses, cause none would have sufficed, and threw myself at her mercy. I don’t know if she’s ever forgiven me.
Despite knowing no other way I could have handled it, I don’t know if I’ve forgiven myself.
I’d like to think I’ve learned something, but that’s just wishful thinking. I know that if she needed me now, I’d be there on the next flight. If she needed me now, it’d be a whole different thing though. Now I’m settled in my home, my kids are older and don’t physically need me here to survive, we’re on no kind of deadline for anything except maybe getting to karate practice on time. But I’m sure she doesn’t need me now. In fact, I don’t think she needed me then, she’s tough, but I still wish I could have been there. She has some really close girlfriends and I’m sure than at least one, if not several, were there for her. I wish I had been too.
Our lives were never in sync, it really shouldn’t feel like such a loss, but it really is. It’s no less of a loss knowing I caused it. Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that two people who found best friendship at first sight could also dissolve that friendship in a moment. Maybe there wasn’t as much there holding us together as I thought. Maybe I took her friendship too much for granted. Or maybe she just recognized that the distance between us had become extreme, not just in mileage but in who we were. Maybe two people who were always so out of sync couldn’t continue a friendship based on the past.
None of that, though true, makes the loss easier to bear.
This post was written as a thirty minute writing exercise, no editing, no stopping and was inspired from a writing prompt in Bryan Collins’ “Yes, You Can Write!” book available here.