Imagine this: you and your best friend have known each other ever since you were kids. They were that puzzle piece you did not know you were missing, somehow they just fit perfectly into your life.
You are not sure who had spoken to whom first, but you are glad it happened – a beautiful mistake that produced a sapling and sprouted a friendship. From then on, you were there for each other through thick and thin, laughter and joy, embarrassment and anger, heartache and tears.
If you close your eyes you can see a spindle of your memories unravelling – a reel of film that seemed infinite. On it, you watch the two of you grow together and as you get older, apart.
Now, your best friend has met someone else who makes them laugh, someone else who can comfort them when they are down, someone else who can listen to their problems.
You tell yourself that you are happy for them, and you are.
You have never seen your best friend smile the way they do whenever they are talking about this other person, have never seen their eyes light up like that. So, you listen and you make yourself present in each conversation even though it hurts to hear that other person’s name.
Despite all that is happening in your life right now, you are there for them. You realize it is not the same for you. Lately, whenever you need them your best friend is busy or exhausted from their adventures with this other person. So, you don’t talk or see each other as much.
You know there is a rift forming between the two of you. You feel ignored and lost.
This is hard to envision, isn’t it? But for one of my close friends - let’s call her, Holly - this was her reality.
I had known her and her best friend, Maddy since middle school. I had seen the two of them get closer in high school so much so that people naturally assumed they came in pairs, like shoes - you could not wear one without the other. They made sure their schedules were the same, they ate off each other’s lunch tray and they went to the bathroom together. Whenever I saw one, I was sure the other was just a few footsteps away. It was almost of if they were joint at the hip.
Now a sophomore in college, Holly feared that she was losing Maddy to her new boyfriend, Drew.
It was no secret that Holly had been getting annoyed by the new role Drew had taken in Maddy’s life. I saw it in every eye roll when his name was brought up, but I didn’t know it had reached a point of ruining their friendship.
It was 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 15 and I was lying in my bed fast asleep when I recieved a text message. My phone vibrated on my nightstand, illuminating onto the ceiling.
It was Holly.
She had sent me a long paragraph, expressing how she felt and some things that she had been going through – like her parents stealing money from her, a new smoking hobby she had picked up and the depression she had been feeling.
Rubbing the sleep from the corners of my eyes, I drowsily texted her back: Does Maddy know you feel this way?
I was her friend but Maddy was typically the one who she went to for crises like these.
Ellipsis appeared on my screen, and minutes later there was another paragraph. In it, she described how she felt that Maddy had completely abandoned her for Drew – someone she had only known for six months. And, how when she had brought her problems up, Maddy told her that she was not suffering from “depression”, but from a nasty case of jealously. She felt betrayed and belittled.
She sent me another message: I miss the old Maddy.
I text back, speechless at the woman Maddy had become: Me too.
I had been here before, wondering if I had lost a friend or if I was just dreaming so I had pinch my own skin. We’ve all been here, missing someone who we thought we knew, but now could no longer recognize. It is a hard and bitter pill to swallow.
Hurtful and yet, eye-opening.
A friendship driven by constant reassurance and quality time with one another had left Holly afraid. She had no idea of what to do with herself, who to seek confirmation from, or where her placement was in life anymore. Who was Holly without Maddy? She was not an extension of her friend. But what did she do before? And why did this hurt so much?
Throughout of the course of the week, the two of us texted back and forth. Majority of messages were about how Maddy still had not come around, but the rest was me trying to focus on bringing out who she was as an individual.
One thing I think a lot of us forget is how to be alone. We get so caught up in friendships and relationships that we forget what it is like to hear to sound of our own voice, feel the humming beneath our own skin. We forget to take care of ourselves because we’re so worried about pleasing others. We forget to cry. We bottle everything up inside until we are suffocating in our own problems.
Since their time apart, Holly had started journaling. She found songs that connected to the emotions she had been feeling. She picked up a knack for knitting. She learned to be proud in her loneliness.
Still, Holly could not grasp why Maddy was treating her this way. She could not fathom how someone so bright and happy could turn dark and bitter, how someone she spent the last few years with could be so careless with her, so degrading.
People change, I texted her with a shrug emoji.
And, they did with no fair warning. Sometimes it was for the better, sometimes for the worst.
I don’t believe that these were Maddy’s true colors. This had been her first real boyfriend and the relationship was still fresh. Puppy-love, that was all her and Drew had. She was changing to fit the role of Drew’s girlfriend, even if it meant deserting her friends.
I believed that this change presented itself to show Holly something.
I believe that the fracture in their friendship had come to show Holly that she needed to focus on herself, on what made her happy - the same way, Maddy was doing for herself.
For Holly, her happiness meant stepping back from her best friend.
Before Holly had planned her day with Maddy in mind. Now, her day was bare and she was left fill in the blank spaces.
My thumbs type out the words: So you’re not friends anymore?
And, I know she was heartbroken when she sent the text message that said: I guess we are people; we just don’t hate each other.