I got a text from her, but it wasn’t what I expected. In retrospect, I didn’t have any expectations because I thought the window for communication was closed. There wasn’t a long, heartfelt message. It simply said that it’s been a while and that we go out to dinner to catch up.
Saying that it’s been a while since we’ve seen or talked to each other was an understatement. It’s 2013 and we’re both freshman in college, but at different schools. We haven’t seen each other since middle school and we only gave the occasional Facebook “like.” So I wondered what has changed for her to reach out to me. Lisa* was my childhood best friend. During 5th and 6th grade, we navigated the new and scary world of puberty together.
I felt uneasy, but I agreed to meet her at her favorite restaurant, Red Robin. Over messy burgers and endless fries, we awkwardly asked how we’ve been over the past six years. But soon, it seemed like we never ended our close friendship. Old jokes and memories came up as we reminisced about our sleepovers and boy crushes, who happened to also endless.
But the light-heartedness stopped when Lisa opened up about a recent breakup. I knew she was with a guy for a couple years from her Facebook posts, but other than that I didn’t know much about him. As she told me how it ended, I could tell how distraught she felt. She thought he was The One, they talked about a future together, but the relationship collapsed under the pressures of being long-distance.
I sat there intently listening about her heartbreak and tried my best to console her, just like how I did many years ago. I sympathized for her, but in the back of my head I had to wonder why she chose to tell me all of this. She had friends that knew the guy and their relationship much more than what I did, so why add me in her support system? I figured she wanted to count on an old go-to confidante, somebody who was there for her when she argued with her family, when she did badly on a test, when her first puppy died. I figured maybe our friendship didn’t have to end after all.
The first crack in our bond was when I found out I was moving to a new neighborhood right before the start of middle school. We lived walking distance from each other and the thought of that changing was disappointing. After my move, we still texted plenty and managed to meet up on some weekends for sleepovers.
But the second, irreparable crack was when we got into a major fight. She was angry, no furious, at me for kissing her cousin whom I happened to have a crush on (yes, one of the many). It was my first kiss and it was scary, gross and I regretted being pressured into something I wasn’t ready for, but Lisa refused to move past it. I was a shy and apologetic person and she used it to her advantage.
She even hacked my instant messaging account and talked to my friends pretending she was me. It was then that I understood I had to cut all ties with her because this wasn’t just an ex-friend anymore, this was a bully.
This baggage was always at the back of my mind, but for some reason I gave it a second chance. After all the years, I could tell that she still felt like she did no wrong and her apology for the hacking seemed halfhearted at best. The blame was still all on me.
What happened next was not surprising, but upsetting. After months of being close again, Lisa met a new guy. They started dating and that was also the start of us not seeing each other and keeping in touch as frequently. After months and months, I saw how we were fading apart, yet again. I had to face the truth. She didn’t want to be a trusting and caring friend; I was simply a soundboard for her then tumultuous love life. She still thought of me as that passive preteen who was asking for her approval and forgiveness, but I wasn’t.
This time, I didn’t chase the fleeting friend. I let go of the fantasies of being each other’s bridesmaids and lifelong girlfriends. Now being older and wiser, I finally understood that it’s better to be friends with people who lift you up, not those who just use you and throw you out when they’re done. I wish her no malice and I still have many fond memories of us, like when we sang along to High School Musical karaoke in her kitchen and stayed up way too late playing computer games. But now those memories stay where they’re meant to be, in the past.
*names have been changed for privacy
Photo credit: Patrick