She Ghosts: Part Two
The first time we broke up was junior year of high school. I say “broke up” because when friendships end, it’s not really that different than a romantic split. It’s the end of a relationship, an end of something close and personal and meaningful.
It was because of a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt. Which may be the most adolescent, angsty, reason for a friendship break up of all time. I was invited to go with some other friends of mine, and I can’t remember now if she wasn’t also invited or couldn’t go. It was all the way in Newark, which was quite a drive. It was actually a David Bowie concert, who I was just as excited to see. I got a shirt from one of NIN’s songs and wore it the next day to school.
We were walking in together, some unholy hour like 7am. I had met her in the back lot where she parked her car, I walked most mornings. The shirt had lyrics on it from a song we both loved, though I couldn’t tell you anymore what they were. She asked if she could borrow it.
I said no.
She hit me with her gym bag, which had her sneakers and gym clothes in it. It hurt.
We walked the rest of the way in silence.
At this point I’d been struggling with our friendship for a few months. I couldn’t really tell you exactly what it was, except that I was feeling…less than a lot. We were dating the two guys we’d met (later, I’d marry mine) and everyone had gotten very close. Maybe too close. A little smothering. I felt bad about myself most of the time. I was struggling with the early stages of an eating disorder and depression, although I didn’t know that at the time. We still spent nearly every weekend together and I facilitated her relationship with her boyfriend by having them stay with us, in our guest room.
She had transferred to public school that year, I had gone back the year before. Catholic school it turned out wasn’t a great fit for a Agnostic/Atheist. I also don’t really remember much about that year except for our friendship. It was a year that, on my part, was mostly spent trying to reconcile the abusive situation in my middle school. I’m lucky I passed any classes in retrospect.
Sometime during that year, as she became friendly with my friends and we made a little misfit group, something…shifted. I felt tired a lot around her, emotionally worn out. I felt like I was spending a lot of time boosting her up and making her feel good about herself…while feeling like shit myself. I felt like I was being compared to her everywhere we went and always coming up short. Sometimes that was true. Sometimes that was just my perception.
I remember one instance where we were talking about our boyfriends and how sweet they were and wasn’t it great we were best friends dating best friends? And she turned to me with this…look on her face, a strange smile. Something cold and mean. And she said, out of nowhere, “You know, he liked me first.”
At some point during their late night talks, her boyfriend had told her that my boyfriend had thought he liked, liked her, when we all met. The implication was that I was a second choice, the consolation. That his telling me he loved me months later was only because he couldn’t be with her.
I didn’t really know what to do with that and it hurt terribly. It wasn’t, as it turned out, really true. But at the time I didn’t understand why she’d say that or imply that.
Things like that kept happening. We’d go to the mall and it would like being the stagehand at her show. She’d ignore me or make odd, off comments about my weight or looks. She’d criticize my clothes. We’d go shopping and she’d put on tiny dresses and short shorts I couldn’t wear. One time she put on a dress I really loved and kept talking about how much better she looked in it. She’d apologize for things like that later, say she was upset about her dad or her mom. And I’d forgive her, while quietly starting to feel like maybe I was some kind of ugly sidekick.
There were more incidents like this and I’m sure I wasn’t perfect myself. I remember her asking me if I thought she could be a singer, and I said that she had a nice voice but I didn’t think it was really strong enough to do it professionally. That probably hurt her feelings but I didn’t mean it as some kind of insult. I just thought she wanted an honest opinion. She tried getting into a music school and was rejected, I don’t remember her talking much about trying to sing after. Not my best moment.
When the t-shirt incident happened, I was tired after having been out to 2am at the show. And when she asked to borrow it and I said no, I think it was this little rebellion. This little refusal to give her something she wanted. I didn’t want another thing she’d look better in than me, that I’d ultimately give her because I felt too disgusting to wear it anymore. I just couldn’t.
The rest of that felt weird. My leg hurt from where she’d hit it. I avoided our shared locker, where we used to leave each other notes most days for when we were bored during study halls or classes. I used to draw pictures and tell stupid stories. She’d doodle swirls and talk about whatever was going on in the class with a sharp, incisive, sarcasm.
By the end of the day I felt like something was broken. I needed a break.
I don’t remember when I did it, but I talked to her and said I need some down time from hanging out. I tried not to make a big deal out of it, to word it like I was overwhelmed with school or family or something. I just needed to not be around her for a bit.
She said fine. It seemed fine.
Not long after I got confronted by her boyfriend for being “mean” and “cold”. Then mutual friends asked me why I was being a horrible friend to her. Suddenly I was the villain cast in a movie I didn’t know I was in. Strange stories started trickling down to me. I was selfish. I was dramatic. I was weak and whiny.
I hadn’t talked to anyone about it except my boyfriend who totally understood why I needed the break. I was confused.
Then she went to him to try and get him to talk to me about why I was being “mean”.
I lost it. I just absolutely lost it.
When we’d first become friends we’d talked for hours about how much it had hurt to have rumors spread about us by people we trusted, or didn’t even know us. How painful it was to have people lie about us to others. How hard it was to trust anyone again. We’d promised each other we’d never do that. That if we had an issue, we’d talk to the each other, never bringing other people into it. That no matter kind of a fight or how hurt, we just wouldn’t.
To find myself in that position again, by someone I’d really trusted, was too much.
I confronted her in the hallway at school like some kind of teen drama. I yelled, I shook, I told her that going to my boyfriend and lying was a horrible thing to do when she knew it was more complicated than that. I told her I didn’t think we could be friends again and I stormed off.
I cried nearly every day for weeks. I stopped eating and lost a lot of weight in about a month. People kept asking me what happened and I wouldn’t talk about it.
Her boyfriend told me I had ruined everything. I told him we weren’t all dating each other, our relationships were separate, and I had the right to back away from a situation that made me feel like crap all the time.
I spent a lot of time alone after that. I had friends at school but I just didn’t trust anyone. People stopped talking to me again. They invited her to things and not me. It was clear that my side of the story wasn’t really relevant to most folks. I was back to where I started.
Senior year we had a class together and because of our last names, ending up being seated diagonally from each other the whole year. It was…awkward. I tried not to ever show being hurt.
I called her once while I was babysitting one night. We talked for a bit. I guess that, in spite of trying not to, I did still care. I missed her. I missed that connection we had that had led to 2am conversations that had always felt Important. It was kind of cordial but cold. Distant. I knew it was done then, I think. Really done. Some part of me had, in spite of how angry and hurt I was, hoped.
I got invited to go to prom with some other girlfriends of mine, but then she was going and I got uninvited. I didn’t go at all and that was fine. Graduation loomed and then finally, mercifully, high school was done. There was a degree of closure in that and I felt like I could leave that behind. I had a full blown eating disorder at the time and didn’t really trust anyone enough to get too close anymore. But I thought I was…ok. Better. Over it.
And in about 5 years, we’d meet and start the cycle again.