Eleven years ago, I said goodbye to a friendship I’d had since I was twelve years old. We met sitting on the wall in front of our junior high, the popular hang out spot before school, the place for strutting, posturing, proving. She had one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever known and perfectly styled hair. She was funny, too, using physical gestures and silly sounds to make a point. We became better friends in ninth grade English and were practically inseparable during high school, meeting up between classes and spending hours on the telephone. Mostly, we drove and drove, through neighborhoods near and far, back roads and ill used highways, looking, seeing, wondering, and examining all that matters to two young girls: boys, clothes, hair, school, parents, music. We stole away after long shifts at restaurants, smelling of grease and Italian food, to spend hours up Boulder Canyon or at the Denney’s where we both ate salads and she chewed on ice, me filling her glass with mine. There was nothing I couldn’t tell her.
I met the hubster because of her. She was his next door neighbor in the dorms and the reason I went to the hotel kegger where he and I talked and talked that first night. She met a man shortly before I got married, and they lived together while finishing school. I never really liked him. Though he was smart and handsome, he had a very subtle unkindness to him, belittling her in small ways. Though I never mentioned a word to her about it, it eventually got to her, too. I felt such relief. My friend would find someone better, kinder, softer, and I told her as much. I loved her, and she deserved the best.
Probably a year after that, she told me they got back together. It had been six months. My stomach caught at the thought that she kept it from me for that long, but what I really wanted was her happiness, someone to treat her well. I wanted her to have what I did (and do), that friend, that complement, that indescribable perfection, a true partner. That he wanted to be this man for her was wonderful, as long as it was true.
Maybe she didn’t believe me, or maybe it was something else, some other wrong I could not right without the knowledge of it passing. Our relationship started to change. We were both busier. We spoke more and more sporadically and saw each other even less. She canceled important plans at the last moment or forgot them altogether. Yet I didn’t see it coming, the crisp white envelope, return address with only her first name: a wedding announcement, wishing I could have been there. The problem was I hadn’t been invited. I bought a gift and wrote a letter that I never sent, my heart too badly bruised.
Until recently, whenever my mind wandered to a place where she was, I felt this heart shaped regret that I should have remained silent. Silence, unlike words, is without regret, as the saying goes. But I’ve come to realize that same silence carries substantially more weight, and is far more burdensome than words ever could be. It’s a slow acting poison, each obfuscation rendering a micro dose of spirit killer. Truth is my modus operandi, though I have paid dearly for this authenticity.
Our beautiful friendship ran its course. I did the best I could. She did the best she could. No regrets remain.