“What did I do to ruin our friendship? What happened to us?” I asked, three years since the last time we had spoken.
“We just lost touch,” she said.
No, we didn’t lose touch. I tried to hit you up so many times over the past three years and this is the first time you responded. <– That’s what I should have said, but instead I said, “okay.”
*Names have been changed to protect those friendships lost in the unending void. Not all photos are of ghosts.
There are relationships and acquaintances that just fall apart. You’re not meant to be in each other’s lives anymore. It hurts, but it’s okay. Life happens. We move, we change, we realize we have opposite political beliefs and can’t stand each other. Whatever.
But what if you’re really close? Like really, really close? Like, planned your future weddings together, best friend since we were 9-years-old close?
It’s weird when that kind of friend ghosts you out of nowhere. In a time when even job applications get ghosted, it’s no longer for strangers on Tinder. Your best friends will do it, too.
During my scary illness in 2016, right at the beginning, doctors didn’t know what I had or what we could do to fix it. My entire body was numb and I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few hours. I couldn’t walk. I didn’t want to tell everyone on facebook or even tell acquaintances nearby. I was afraid that I was dying, and I kinda was, so I contacted every person who was very close to me, people I considered some of my best friends. It spanned about 8 people or so, not including my previous roommates who I had gotten close to and one or two people in LA who I trusted and cared about.
Every person responded almost immediately and most responded with alarmed phone calls. “Do you need help?” they would ask.
“Call me if you need anything.”
All of them responded fairly quickly, but one. She didn’t respond at all.
This one person had been one of my best friends for 15 years. I counted, that’s how upset I was. We had known each other for a really long time and she was notoriously hard to reach after high school. She was plagued by anxiety and other things. It was hard for her to take care of herself sometimes and she didn’t want to put that on other people. I get that. That’s what I thought happened. Classic Mary, failing to respond for a couple weeks. “She’ll get back to me,” I thought.
She never did.
I tried calling, texting, Facebook messaging, direct messaging her on Twitter, Instagram, you name it. “Miss you,” I commented on an Instagram post dated in 2017. I wasn’t even annoying about it. I made sure to space my messages apart between days. “Hey this dog at this production company I’m working for right now reminds me of your dog Ruby,” I texted her in October of 2016 with a picture of said dog. Then I waited weeks, months.
After a year had passed, I didn’t know what to do, so I figured I’d wait for her to text me. She always did, usually around the holidays. We would hang out at some tea shop or see an indie film together like no time had passed at all. She always knew the best spots. “You would love this film,” she would tell me. She was always right.
During the great cleaning frenzy of 2017, I found some old notes from long ago, notes both from my first year of college (I had about 15 letters from different people, many of whom I hadn’t even tried to keep in touch with. That made me very sad) and from pre-middle school. I had a letter from Mary inviting me to a sleepover, the first time we had ever hung out outside of school. That night, we caught fireflies and roasted marshmallows with other friends. It was beautiful. It was the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere.
Both of us were intelligent, top-of-the-class, weirdo, outgoing creatives and as soon as I got over having a competitor once she came to school, we quickly became very good friends. We both went away for college and we would travel. We took nice photos of things we liked, painted in watercolor in times of sadness, and when we came back to the same place, we would talk about very similar experiences – wanting some kind of validation, wanting to make the world a better place, wanting to surround ourselves with love and beauty and opportunity.
When I found that note, it opened up a wound I had forgotten I had. I couldn’t help but sit on my floor and cry. It literally felt like the worst break-up of my life. What happened?
This happened with another friend a few years back, who I hadn’t been as close with. We had a similar conversation to the one stated above. She said we had grown apart, but that didn’t make sense. She stopped talking to me, on purpose.
What the hell is going on, you guys? I get it if there was some kind of break-up. You slept with my ex-boyfriend on my couch, you owe me $1000 for a plane ticket I didn’t need to buy, or an apology (whatever). Maybe I did those things to you. Those make sense. Not this. Not, drop-off-the-face-of-the-earth, see-you-never crap. You can’t throw away 15 years of late-night calls, sleepovers, weird gifts, sharing strange indie rock bands, hanging out in museums hours away, and photoshopped images of each other. Or maybe you can.
I don’t know why you no longer want me in your life. I don’t know why you’ve ignored my attempts to hang out or won’t make any effort to reach me. I feel like I don’t know who you are anymore, but you’re probably the same, I think. It’s been almost two years. I hope you’re well. I am okay. Thank you for being my friend for as long as you were. I’m truly grateful. It’s okay. I will let go.
Photo credit: Me, minus the balloon gif, which is from Reddit