I don’t think you’re acting like yourself. That you could’ve changed. Not this much.
You hurt me like I’ve never been hurt before. I’m struggling to find out why.
When Kai broke my heart, I was devastated. But I healed. I always knew I would, maybe that was why we could break up so easily.
Before coming to campus, I read that friendships forged during orientation never last. When I met Kai, I didn’t think it would last. I thought maybe we would get lucky. What would the chances be?
I didn’t think the same with you. I never thought that about us.
When Kai became my first girlfriend, I was happy. I was terrified. How could I give my heart so fully to someone? How could I trust someone with my delicate fragile self? There was a limited number of ways we could have ended. The risk was too enormous. When it came to you it was different.
We became family from the first day in grade eight when you kept getting lost and you needed me. I needed anybody to need me. I was new and shy. You were the heartbeat of all the life around you. We were family until you decided family could be cut, when you discovered that other people were better, and that, maybe, I was just a little too boring and despairing, but you couldn’t have decided that?
With Kai I thought maybe I wasn’t pretty enough. Perhaps I wasn’t funny or interesting enough. My body could be better, my skin smoother, my breasts rounder, my stomach flatter.
But those aren’t things you worry about with family; perfection doesn’t exist in families. It doesn’t need to.
I keep going over all the decisions we made last year to find the one that ended it all, the one that started the slow process of ignored messages, dates forgotten, and invitations never sent. Was it because I chose the white concrete buildings of law while you chose the sleek glass ones of business? I didn’t think it would matter. I still don’t think it matters.
We were friends for reasons larger, much larger and deeper, than high school routines that forced us into the same buildings and the same classes every day.
When it ended with Kai, she had to tell me that what we had was over, that we were over. I was owed an explanation, at least some clarification. So why do I feel that between us there is a door that suddenly closed, locked, and sealed?
Do you feel guilt?
I hope you do.
I hope that every other night the centre of your chest feels the same tightness mine does, the one that starts at the apex of the heart and spreads to the fingertips.
Do you scroll through our old photographs of picnics, game nights, and beach days, and think nothing of them?
I think it would have been easier to tell me to disappear than to act as if I had. But then, maybe it would have hurt a little less if you’d blocked me and I didn’t have to see you and your new friends looking beautiful and happy?
I wish that first day in grade eight I ignored you, and you me. I wish I looked past you and that you’d glanced past me.
I cannot understand why you suddenly watch rugby. You never cared about sports a day in your life, not when we were friends. You have all these new interests and hobbies that, to me, seemed to blossom from nothing.
You are unrecognisable.
You are a liar.
You don’t know who you are.
Maybe I am no longer mad at you.
I would be lying if I said my heart still isn’t shattered, and that amongst those broken pieces you can find my infinite unanswered questions.
After a late night overthinking everything, I’ve come to realise our expectations of each other were not aligned. Maybe we didn’t talk enough—or maybe we did, but not about what mattered most. Perhaps this played its role in our demise.
I wonder if you ever think about the time we almost got matching tattoos. You were going to get a skyline, I wanted a bird in motion. But my mom found out before I had the needle touch my skin. You still got your skyline. I remained a flightless bird.
Sometimes I think that’s another reason you decided I wasn’t good enough. I had rules, you had to compromise.
I am certain I will never find the map of wrong turns we took, but I allow the hurt of that to take over and I mourn for the friend I lost, the children we were, the adults we’re becoming.
I’m addicted to Facebook memories. They could easily trick anyone into thinking we were ever happy, even me. After years of posting, they come up often, to taunt me.
I should be mad at you. I want to be mad at you.
Whenever my anger rises even a little, I’m forced to remember the times we stayed up watching The Vampire Diaries over and over again. You thought bad boy Damon should get the girl in the end. I disagreed.
The boiling that starts at the centre of my chest is only calmed by the comforting feeling of the sun on my skin. The same sun that took us to the beach on long, hot December days—we were kids on holiday with nothing but time and dreams.
What if we could do that again?
Would it even be possible?
I wouldn’t know what to say to you. Right before the end, I started practising what I would say to you when we’d meet up. Should I ask if you’ve read any good books recently? Should I suggest we watch a movie, because then you won’t have to talk to me? I never knew what to say because I already knew you didn’t want to be there.
Why did I already know that?
And why did I still try?
As soon as I begin to question this, I often remember school dances where I could be found on the middle of the dance floor, happy and exhausted, and you outside, smile-wide and eyes lazy. We didn’t have to be together to have fun.
I believe and silently hope we can be that again one day.
We can relive our old adventures. And we can tick many new ones off our bucket lists. We still haven’t had the hiking trip we’d been talking about ever since we saw pictures of the Fish River Canyon in Grade 9.
Except for broken connections, no bad blood runs between us.
Here’s my list of why a friendship breakup can, at times, be much worse, than a romantic one:
- It happens slowly.
- It’s unexpected.
- Friendships run deeper for longer.
- What are the parameters of the break up (friends can’t exactly break up and remain friends)?
Despite the list, I’ve come to live beside your absence. The words not said, the birthdays forgotten, and the invitations not sent, are easy enough to forget. The hurt lingers, but then I remind myself of times I don’t often turn back to: the times you made me feel small when you kept telling me I had no taste in music or movies or even clothes. I never turn back to the times you would constantly remind me that people were only nice to me because of you.
One spring day you suggested that flowery sundresses might not have been meant for me, that I stick to jeans and t-shirts. I like dresses, Chloe. Did you know that?
Throughout the years your words often cut me deep. The hole you left behind ran a little deeper.
A girl in my class asked me about the little mockingjay pin on my bag. I thought of how you would have gotten so mad at my long and boring explanations, but she didn’t think that. Turns out she’s a fan too.
I could never really talk to you about things I liked because you weren’t concerned enough. It didn’t matter to you, and as long as it didn’t matter to you, it wasn’t worth talking about.
I hardly mattered, yet I was broken.
I still am a little broken.
It has been so long.
Today, while scrolling through my Instagram feed, your face appeared: wide smile, new hair. I went to your profile and caught up with your recent year. It has definitely been a busy one. You still look healthy and happy. I hope to God that’s true.
Seeing your face didn’t hurt this time, but I did feel a brief stab in the center of my chest. It brought up memories of the good times and the scars of the times you hurt me.
Our friendship was epic, Chloe. I’ve decided it was so. Beautiful and painful, and it died its timely death.
When I sit with my new friends on the library steps, I often think of how we—or rather I—held on for dear life, so much so that my hands could no longer handle the bruises. I was holding on to an old life, hanging onto our younger years, hoping never to grow up. I was holding onto the person you were when you rescued me from my loneliest days.
I don’t regret it. There were too many tears of joy and sweet laughter for me to ever think that.
I believe it’s best we’ve become nothing more than acquaintances. Perhaps if we stayed together, bad blood would have flooded the space between us. I do not believe that “everything happens for a reason” but there’s comfort in the thought.
And surely there’s some reason for the time you were in my life, and I was in yours.
It’s strange that I’ve become thankful. You were one of my biggest heartbreaks, and another won’t easily top it. Without you I could have been a different person, better or worse remains undetermined.
I might never have made the friends that I did. I may have forever needed someone to need me in grade eight.
You hurt me like I’ve never been hurt before.
And the reason doesn’t matter—I’ve learned to live with it.
Roxane Bayer is a Namibian writer and reader. She obtained a BSc in Earth Science from Stellenbosch University, as well as an undergraduate degree from the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Journalism and Media Technology. Roxane has had her bylines appear in The Namibian.