This is a story about my best friend and how we weren’t friends anymore. I guess lately it’s normal to lose friends because you’ve learned to love yourself or whatever, but in those days we kept people and enjoyed what we had and we didn’t throw them out so easy. So here it goes: I once had a best friend.
I met her in high school. She was shorter than me with huge eyes. She looked like Betty Boop, although I couldn’t understand why she hated when I called her that. She was outgoing and flirting with boys and best friends with a lot of girls. I was the new girl in school and we had a class together. She said when she spotted me she noticed how the boys were hovering around my desk and she knew I was hot and she needed to be my friend.
This girl was like a sister to me. She was my best friend through high school and into college. We made each other laugh regularly to the point where we’d collapse on the floor in the hallway next to our lockers. We were both loud and smart and confident and funny and didn’t give two shits about what the other students or teachers thought of us. We told each other our most embarrassing secrets and had fights and made up and did nothing and everything together. What I didn’t know then and what I was naive to for most told my life was that the majority of people, at least in this city, was jealous of me. I was smart, pretty, but even worse I was sweet and caring (hard to hate) and I didn’t care about superficial things. My friend was not exempt and she’d show her envy in small moments of vulnerability here and there, but it was almost a confession in sincerity, because I was always there to lift her up, and may yet have been one of the only few who really thought she was fantastic. She had a close bond with her mother, she told me they used to play together for hours and be silly together which I thought was heartwarming, and it wasn’t unlike her female friendships.
We had another best friend who we both befriended separately, and was surprised at the coincidence when she tried to introduce her to me, there was no need. We were like the three musketeers. The three of us loved working hard, playing hard, and we broke the rules—no we set out to rewrite them. The book of rules of what a girl can or can’t do. We were daring and talked about our conquests and trying new things, travelling, parties, drugs, spending too much money, meeting cool people, ideas and ventures, ambitions and dreams, all the while trying to figure out who we were and what darkness each of us were running from.
Without a doubt these were the happiest times of my life. I’ve never laughed so hard or felt so much emotion. Two of us went to the same college while the other went to a nearby one in the next town. She still visited us to party and spend time together. We were stressed about school, not knowing what to do, studying, law school, the future, but we always had each other.
One day she fell in love with one Russian architect-business-hotshot. Personally I thought he was pretty slimy and he totally offended my entire value system. I was all into the bohemian pothead art hipster poet scene where “trying” wasn’t cool. But I was excited for her because she sounded like, you know that mistress in the Great Gatsby when she meets Tom, and she’s so excited she doesn’t care if he’s married, she’s swept up by the glamour, the once in a lifetime chance for a poor girl meeting a very rich man and she says to herself in a trance, ‘you can’t live forever.’ My friend had that emotion. She was so anxious that she’d wait for hours in her room after getting ready for him to arrive for a booty call, making herself sick with racing thoughts until she’d throw up, then fix her makeup again. Personally I thought it was miserable and wanted to tell her to cut it out but there was also a romantic excitement to it and she was optimistic as hell. I wanted to see where it went.
Imagine my annoyance when this Russian hotshot guy that visited our house in his tacky red motorcycle jacket with his equally tacky eurotrash friend wanders into my room. He looks around at my desk and points to my Radiohead album and says how cool that is that I like Radiohead too. He brags about taking like, 8 courses and then asks me what I’m taking and I say French. (I was really depressed and unmotivated and I was taking half the usual course load, not to mention bird courses) and then he tries to talk to me in French maybe. The next day he’s back and trying to show me his design project and takes out his laptop. He tells me how it’s for some government competition or something about Trudeau. Or maybe he said he knew Trudeau? Anyway it just looks like a design project. I don’t know anything about architecture so I nod. Then he follows me to the kitchen and starts talking about city design theory. I can sort of follow what he’s saying but I’m mostly angry at this point that he would even talk to me. My loyalty to my friend doesn’t even let me register what is going on right now. Anyway, my evaluation of him is that he’s definitely successful and impressive and maybe the most successful guy I’ve come across so far (that’s not true I went to that international students event in New York) but I didn’t feel like spending time with him. He doesn’t bother me again. Incidentally he also stops visiting the house at all.
I don’t hear from him again except when he comments on a Facebook post I made. I think I posed some sort of philosophical question, that he answered slightly more thoughtfully than this previous attitude in person. That wasn’t unlike how all guys acted around me so it was difficult for me to actually read someone’s behaviour, when I thought this was the way people just were. Back then I was probably prettier than I am now, with more intensity. Now I’m still pretty but more intense in other ways.
I’m waiting for my friend to cry about him and open up the way we do with all our breakups, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t bring him up again except to show me a booty call email he sent her which I’m surprised she showed me because it had some explicit details about her body and I evaluated it like a friend, well he’s reaching out that’s good? But it’s a booty call if you want to go down that road again. A few months or maybe year later she brings up that he’s found a Russian girlfriend and it was posted on Facebook. I thought she’d want to talk about it but she presented it to me in a more matter of fact way.
The thing that changed after this is that it would get harder and harder to get to that point where I feel like we’re together and we care about each other. I spent more time lobbying myself, when I came over I’d spend more time helping her with chores or making myself useful until she’d finally take notice of my presence and offer company. Even then there’s be an attitude of pity or she’d insult me about the dress I was wearing or how awkward I was. For Halloween she’d let her boyfriend ruin my chanel lipstick and offered to pay for it but never did. My chanel eyeliner also went mysteriously missing.
I felt like she still loved me but there was a growing distance and a sadness I felt coming from both sides, like she had moved away and it was a long distance friendship, and the time zones didn’t match, and every visit she’d move further.
I’m just going to say here that I loved this woman more than any boy or man I loved up till now, that’s about 15 years. She was brilliant and complex and I was so incredibly deeply connected to her. She made me laugh in a profound and even spiritual way. She was my happiness. And whatever was going on between us then I was in denial because if this broke I would have been totally lost. Talking about this is hard and painful and tears are making my eyes blurry.
She did have a dark side though but it seemed way in the past before she met any of us in high school. She used to get bullied and was insecure about a health condition she had. She had bad friends who played games and played favourites. Later the other friend and I realized that she had positioned herself to be the bestest friend between both of us, so neither would get closer to each other than to her. But it was mild and the three of us were usually together anyways and we were happy so we didn’t care.
One time, during the time when we were drifting apart, she actually wanted me to come over and was excited to show me something. It was a movie clip from a movie called interviews with hideous men. It was about a research student whose pianist prodigy boyfriend had cheated on her and her way of overcoming her pain was to interview ‘hideous’ men to understand what they were thinking. Finally, the boyfriend tells her the reason, almost defiantly, because she’s cold and judgemental he says. He picked up this bohemian girl that he thought he could easily say the right things to get to bed with him. Then she starts to tell him a story about her religious beliefs, how she hitchhiked one day and realized the moment she got in the car it was a mistake and this man planned to murder her. Her beliefs were about compassion and faith in life under whatever circumstances. So she made the decision to stay calm and that she would use her beliefs to survive this situation, and as he raped her she stared lovingly into his eyes until he broke down crying and she got out of the situation alive. The boyfriend hearing this story realized he had never known love before and that she was in love with her because she could teach him what love is, and never looked back. He called after her as she picked up her things and walked away.
Before I get to the next important part of this story I want to add an event that took place. My friend got pregnant and had an abortion, she wasn’t done college and I pressured her to. Looking back I’m not sure if that was the right choice, her boyfriend loved her and being in college is not the same as being in high school. I thought about how I handled that situation sometimes afterwards, with regret and confusion.
Back to the main story. I’ll add that at this point I was completely lost in school, I hadn’t picked a major or more importantly had any future career. I was anxious all the time and even embarrassingly throwing myself at boys who seemed even slightly caring. At the same time a part of me was forming, this deep solid belief in something that was realer and stronger than any career or ambition I could chase, although I didn’t know what it was. I used to talk about philosophical things like this openly with anyone who’d listen, and of course my friend knew what was on my mind. So when I saw this video I thought it was inspiring. The way the rape was portrayed didn’t even sound scary it just seemed like a lucky escape from death. When I showed someone else this video though, they were repulsed and offended, and maybe that was a sign.
Almost within a year I was in an abusive relationship. Actually it wasn’t a relationship, I was forced to be there. It was rape, but not the kind you’re used to seeing on the news or in tragic stories. It was a slow descent into psychological control over threats of physical, emotional violence and financial threats too. All for the sake of using my body although that was never what he told me. Later in my research I found it was called emotional rape and it is illegal in certain states but not others. All I knew was that I was ‘doing it for love.’ But the thing that was happening was all the bad things. The being kidnapped and trapped in a basement and being harassed and stalked online even after I left.
I wished my friends could see past the fear and know what was going on. Only my friend seemed to understand, she was emotional and desperate when she asked me why I’d even date someone like this? She was there and she almost called the cops. I think she tried to tell me to fight back.
I’ll skip to the end now because most of it I blacked out and the rest is painful, even for this exercise of trying to release emotion. I got out when I got an opportunity to stay with family in Korea, and flew myself out on plane tickets I bought by working graveyard shifts at a fast food restaurant. My other friend happened to be working in Korea as a ESL teacher at that time, and my best friend was in China. To my surprise she flew over to visit me, and we spent some time together, for the last time.
She just said she was happy for me to decide on a career in engineering and that it would be good. Then she never spoke to me again, even when I got mad and criticized her for it or even started apologizing for the abortion.
It’s close to a decade now and I haven’t thought about what happened except that I’ve been hurt for losing my best friend, almost more hurt than anything else that happened, only on par with losing my other friend who had become close to me afterwards, in her absence, but that is another story with a sad and similar ending. I realized from my own reaction of feeling guilty about the abortion that she was feeling guilty too, and she removed herself from my life out of love and peace for herself. She couldn’t help but hate me, I don’t blame her. She was in love and to expect her to overcome that human reaction would be expecting too much. And her showing me that clip had malice and it didn’t help the situation I got into but ultimately I think it would have happened anyway because I had a generational curse on me, from my dad’s experience of abuse. It’s the same as my friend’s abortion, ultimately she decided to get it and her mother had a series of abortions herself. And above all, the greatest fault lies with the rapist and abuser.
But it’s still sad and it’s still all mixed in, the regret and pain and anger and confusion and even the love it took to understand each other and step away. It wasn’t your fault. I like how as I’m comforting you I feel like I’m comforting myself. I wish you were here so we could analyze life together and have those profound deep conversations and sort this out. I want to pretend that you’ve forgiven me and I’ve forgiven you. I was insensitive to how you felt when I talked to boys you used to like and I didn’t know you that well after all, I didn’t understand your darkness. Ironically I think you’re the evil hitchhiker guy in the story that I could save with my love and faith in your goodness. You’re the evil step mom in my father’s story that sabotaged his life but he wanted her love and approval, the story that through years of therapy I had to mend. I wish you knew I forgive you like that.
I know now that this wasn’t real love because we never quite cared about each other as selflessly as we should. To some extent I felt punished for caring about you and when I frame it like that, I don’t mind at all. You played a big, big role in the imperfect, messy, real story of my life, and you were a part of me. You’re gone now but I want you to know and for me to know, I guess, and for strangers on the internet to know, that I accept it, everything. I forgive it all.