It was also the last nice thing he's said to me.
His friendship was unique in my life, and almost nothing meant more to me. I found out it wasn't mutual in the harshest way possible.
It's one thing when a friendship falls apart because of a fight, or if you just grow apart. With us, it just stopped. One day he was there, the next day he wasn't. Like he died. Except he didn't. He just left and didn't return my calls. But it feels like he died. Except when someone dies you don't expect to possibly run into them at Safeway or the liquor store.
I've been writing and rewriting this post for a month. Working on it here and there, editing and erasing, writing until I start crying and then putting it away. I gave myself a deadline: July 3. It's his birthday. The third of a month, same as mine. Last year I gave him a new pendant for his necklace, and he wore it the rest of the time he was still talking to me.
I imagine he still wears it. I mean, I hope he does. It cost $70. I obviously never told him that. I didn't want him to know.
Here are some things that I know about him.
- he is the worst at remembering the names of any actors or actresses. Or people, in general.
- he was a soccer captain in high school who played World of Warcraft when he went home.
- he will drink every type of beer except Beer Thirty.
- his Noodles & Co. order of choice: macaroni and cheese with chicken and occasionally some hot sauce mixed in.
- he still has my gray hoodie somewhere in his jeep.
- I've forgotten more about him than I know about many other people.
I'm getting better at this. Sometimes I go whole hours without thinking about him. But it's hard, because our lives were so tightly embedded for so long that it takes almost nothing for something to come rushing back, some memory of something he said or that we did together. Moments that pop into my brain suddenly, flashing across my vision like my consciousness traveled back to that point in time and briefly lived it again. Driving past a gas station we stopped at once, past the restaurant we used to always go to for lunch, past the favorite bars we used to drink in. At work I see him every time I turn around. I hear his voice, his laugh, I hear myself telling him stories, I feel the way we looked at each other and read each other's minds. Sometimes you just didn't have to say anything.
Sometimes I still catch whiffs of his cologne. I know that's insane.
I've seen him once, since then. Before an Avalanche playoff game. I saw him on a restaurant patio, sitting alone, waiting to meet up with his sister for the game. I went and sat with him, and pretended nothing was wrong. I fully regret that now. I have many things I wish I had said to him. I'm angry and sad and hurt and I want him to know that. But I held it in then and pretended it was fine because sitting there with him, it almost was. He was acting the same, by the way, like we'd just seen each other the day before and were picking up where we'd left off, like it was all normal. (But I saw the way he looked at me when I was walking up to him, like he was terrified I was going to yell at him. He always hated confrontation.)
But I didn't say anything. I wanted to, but I didn't. I pretended it was like it always was. I didn't want a fight right before a playoff game I intended to enjoy. And part of me wanted to believe everything was fine. Like nothing had changed between us. But I could feel the wall he was putting up, even sitting there making small talk about nothing important.
I didn't say anything because I wanted him to volunteer an apology, an explanation. Evidence of the tiniest shred of regret or remorse. But I don't think I'm ever going to get that.
One time we went out after work for happy hour. We were sitting at a high table and it was a little wobbly. He'd just gotten another beer, and somehow he bumped the table just hard enough that it tipped over and spilled all over the table and then all over me. I would have been able to laugh it off, but he was more concerned that his fresh beer had been lost than the fact that he'd spilled it on me. And there was no apology.
I don't know why I'm including this story. Maybe because in hindsight it feels like some kind of hint. Like maybe that was a flash of what he was really like all along. (I don't want to think badly of him. But how can I not?)
That Taylor Swift song "All Too Well" makes me cry because of him. It didn't always, because I wasn't always this perpetually sad about how he treated me. But almost every line in that song I can connect to a memory of him - they aren't exact comparisons, obviously, we weren't living a mirror life to what Taylor and (presumably, allegedly) Jake had. But there were plaid shirt days, there were middle of the night kitchen adventures. One time he ran a red light when we were going somewhere. I met his family, I heard little kid stories. He still has my gray hoodie, unless Goodwill does now.
We got lost in translation and I asked for too much. He's the one who tore everything up. He hasn't called me up to be casually cruel in the name of honesty. I kind of wish he would. I remember everything, and he willfully doesn't.
I just watched Her the other night. As Theodore says of his break up: "I keep waiting to not care about her."
Some days I'm okay. Some days I barely think about any of this, and I'm able to listen to myself shouting stop it, stop it, stop, stop, stop every time he shows up in my head. Some days I'm able to push him out to the very edges of my consciousness and dim my awareness of him to almost nothing. But it takes very little for the avatar of him to force his way back. I wish I could say I'm getting better at blocking that from happening but sometimes I'm perfectly content to imagine everything is fine, everything is the same as it ever was, he still sits next to me at work and listens to me and still cares, about me, just a little bit. Still my friend, still.
It has been a long time since I've been betrayed in a way that wounded me as much as this has. And the thing is, I don't know how I was betrayed this time around. Was it that he never really liked me much in the first place, and he just pretended to be my friend because we worked together? I have a hard time believing he's that talented an actor, but I suppose it's possible. Or was he just so sick of being here at this job and this office that my continued association with it disgusted him as soon as he never had to come back? Is it just that he never wants to hear about this place again? (Because as we all know, I'm incapable of talking about anything else.) (...........)
I think it's likely something much simpler, and much dumber. I know him, still. I leave room for the above scenarios to exist in some way, but I think it's likely he's afraid of the fight we would have. He let it go too long, didn't answer me for too long, knows he's made me angry and upset. And instead of going through it to fix it, to repair what we had and build something again, he would rather be lazy and walk away and not deal with any feelings, mine or otherwise.
(As you may not be surprised to learn after all this, this wouldn't be the first time he shied away from my feelings.)
My few friends I've been willing to discuss all this with hate him now, out of obligation. It's the job of friends to hate guys who break your heart, that's just the rule. They've all told me to forget him and move on because I deserve better. And I know this. In my head, I know this. I deserve to have friends who care about me the way I care about them. But I'm finding it... difficult. I'm finding it impossible.
I have a few pictures of him in my phone still. I have a video if my cat where he's talking about her in the background. I have an origami frog he made me the day he gave his two weeks' notice and presumably knew I was sad. It sits on my desk, one of the only decorative items I have. (The other decorative item: an origami fish sitting on the back of an origami seahorse, both also made by him, left behind like me.)
I know it's not unique, what I'm dealing with. I know people go through worse things all the time. But the incredible lack of any type of closure for a friendship that mattered so much to me for 18 months is just unbearable for me.
Is writing this post going to help? I don't know. Probably not. So far not even time has moved me more than a couple inches past it yet.