a long time ago, we used to be friends
[I’ve done my best, but this whole thing sounds, well, pretty damned petty and high-school-ish. I think that suits the story, though, so I’m done editing myself. Names have been changed.]
I met Amy when I was a freshman in high school. She was a sophomore, and I practically worshiped her. She just had this air of cool about her, even though she wasn’t one of the popular crowd. She sat behind me in Biology, and we had a mutual friend, Hannah, so I got to know her pretty well before the year was over. I never stopped thinking she was awesome.
Some of my best memories of high school are of hanging out with Hannah and Amy, although Hannah moved to Los Angeles after my freshman year. Still, whenever Hannah visited, the three of us were tight. And when she wasn’t around, it was Amy and I. My junior year in particular, we spent every lunch period together, we formed our own club, hung out on weekends, dabbled in lesbianism… high school stuff.
I broke up with my high school sweetheart right after Thanksgiving my senior year. I was really broken up about it, because I’d thought he was the love of my life and we were going to get married and have babies, etc. A couple months later, my dad was going on a business trip to L.A., and I convinced him to give Amy (who’d been away at college) and me a ride down to see Hannah. When we got there, I was thrilled to be around my two best friends, and I (apparently) talked an awful lot about how upset I was that My One True Love and I had broken up. I was told later that I talked constantly, no matter what else Hannah and Amy were trying to do or talk about.
Looking back, yeah, that sounds like me. But my heart was broken, and I hadn’t seen either of them in awhile, and I had a lot on my mind. So I talked. A lot. Whatever.
I didn’t see Hannah for three years after that, and I didn’t see Amy for a year and a half. Such was their disgust at my behavior. Neither of them told me why they were shunning me, they just wouldn’t call me back or see me at all.
When I finally ran into Amy again, it was because the boy she was dating had been in a play with my mother, and the cast party was at my house. She didn’t know that she was coming over here until they got to the door, basically. I believe the first thing I said when I saw her was “YOU BITCH!!!” But we hugged, and everything was ok, and we were friends again. She told me the reason for her absence from my life, and although I didn’t think it was fair… well, if she was willing to forgive, so was I.
The next summer, when I was 20, I decided to take a trip to London. I invited two of my cousins, a childhood friend, and Amy, and offered to buy everyone’s tickets. She resisted. She said she wasn’t sure she could stand to hang around with me for two weeks straight. That should have told me something. But I insisted, she came along, and I did drive her nuts. On her free trip to London. Whatever.
That fall was a rocky one for me and Amy. She did some shit I wasn’t too impressed by, I slept with a boy she had a crush on, and so we weren’t on great terms for awhile. But the friendship puttered on, we made peace, things were ok even if we weren’t quite as close as we once were. And a couple of years went by and I started noticing, again, that Amy wasn’t returning my calls. She’d gotten her cosmetology license, so I saw her when I wanted a haircut or to have my eyebrows done, but we weren’t really hanging out anymore. And then she moved to Portland without telling me, and I was a little sore about that, but I figured that we’d grown apart. It happens.
When I moved to Portland, I made an effort to see her. We hung out maybe ten times in four and a half years, if you count the times I had her cut my hair. I went to one of her birthday parties, she came to one of mine. It all seemed friendly enough. I was sad about the distance between us, but sort of relieved too. And here’s why:
I spent ten years of my life trying to make Amy like me as much as I liked her. I’m really embarrassed about it now. She didn’t want to come to London, even though I paid her way. I had to talk her into it. She’d written me off twice and hadn’t said why until later. I was always chasing her. I’d called her my best friend for years, and I don’t think she’d ever felt that way about me. Yet I kept trying. It was exhausting.
I went to a club tonight where my old friend Julian was DJing. He bought me a drink at the bar, and we got to talking about Amy. Apparently she came down here for a visit recently, and said the reason we weren’t friends anymore, from her end anyway, was that I’d embarrassed her with old stories at my 27th birthday party.
Unless my memory fails me, which it seldom does, she never said anything to me about it.
I drove home tonight near-tears, thinking about this. Even though I gave up years ago on Amy and I ever being close again, it made me feel like shit to know that she’d dropped me once again without ever having the courtesy to tell me why. I’m sure I did tell some old stories at that party, I was drunk and made an ass of myself that night. And I am really sorry if I made her feel bad by flapping my jaw like I did. But I wish that someone I’ve known for half my life would have told me about it instead of just writing me off.
Maybe I was a shitty friend. At times, I’m sure I was. Demanding, high-maintenance, bitchy, often drunk, a whole lot to take. Ok, I get it. But I think I also went out of my way to be a good friend to her when she’d let me. I’m sure I managed to fuck up a lot in the last 15 years. But I think I deserve(d) better than to be tossed out, like all the good times, and there were a lot of them, meant nothing.
It upsets me now to think of how she’s the most striking example of a very bad habit of mine: my self-destructive tendency to throw myself at people, hoping something will stick. I am a faithful and persistent friend, even when it kills me. And I’m astonished by how dense I can be when it comes to the indifference/ambivalence of the people I love. It breaks my silly heart.
I don’t want to be that way anymore.
I should probably also work on the telling horrifying stories at parties thing, but, y’know, one step at a time.