I was just thinking…wondering, actually, how many blog posts I’ve begun with the word “Sometimes”. Because I was just about to begin this one with that particular adjective. Not that that matters; I was just wondering.
This is tough to explain, but I’m going to try to do it anyway. I became very close friends with a clever, vivacious girl who was quick to laugh and whose company I enjoyed very much. Looking back now, with the clarity of many years and rather a lot of distance, I understand that I was in love with her a little.
I didn’t have a lot of language to describe the feelings I had for the girls and women I had crushes on. It’s not that bisexuality wasn’t a thing, and it’s not that I would have been afraid of the label. At that time, I was fairly active with LGBT folks…but rather it’s that I wasn’t prepared for how that relationship changed. How it went from ‘casual acquaintance I met through a friend’ to ‘someone I couldn’t stop thinking about’.
I fantasized about her frequently. This seemed normal to me also. When watching a romance plot in a movie, I usually fancied myself in the male’s role, and my friend – my crush – as the female lead. She was one of the first of my female friends I was physically and emotionally attracted to in a romantic sense. My feelings didn’t trouble me, but I wonder now if that’s because I didn’t recognise I was falling in love, or if it’s because of something else.
We spent most of our time together for a summer, and when I was home from school, I spent my free time with her. I’d ditch my boyfriend to see her, and didn’t clue in when he got jealous of the time I spent with her. I..don’t clue in to a lot of things.
Like when she moved out of her house and started dating a fellow, I was ragey. I didn’t know why I was ragey, but I was. Now I realise it’s because I was jealous. Granted, that fellow was a total douche, and he treated her horribly. But she also developed this habit of ditching the people who cared about her the most in favour of someone she thought was cooler, or who would be more fun. We’d make plans together, and at the last minute she’d cancel them because someone she’d met through her boyfriend wanted to go drinking. Or she would put off making a decision about spending time with her “best friends” until she heard whether or not the plans with the ‘cool kids’ were going ahead.
I accepted this behaviour, for the most part, because I loved her. Because I forgave what I thought of as little idiosyncracies, little slights. I tried to pretend I wasn’t upset with the way her boyfriend treated her. My standards might have been skewed. I might have thought fairly regularly of all the ways I’d treat her better than her boyfriend did. Even as I was stepping out with a new boyfriend of my own.
Eventually, she broke my heart. It still hurts. It hurts more than almost all of my failed romantic relationships, partly because I never did tell her how I felt about her (very similar to the first person I fell in love with, actually). Partly because I was, and am, shocked at the utter disdain with which she treated me at what would become the end of our friendship.
She accused me of lying to her about a trivial thing. She accused me of being selfish and unthinking and uncaring of her own situation. She came up with every excuse in the book for why she could not uphold her end of a shared living arrangement, when if she had simply told me she’d changed her mind about part of it, we could have come to an alternate agreement. I don’t know if that would have salvaged our relationship or not, but I like to think it would have made a difference.
At the end, she had neither the grace nor the bravery to be honest with me, nor to be straightforward. She had her parents deal with uncomfortable details like the actual breaking of the contract on her behalf. I should be very clear here that nothing romantic ever happened between us, and I never told her how I felt about her – mostly because, I suppose, I never knew myself. So to this day, I don’t really understand why she did what she did.
I spent weeks – months, more likely – in tears because of what I thought of as her betrayal. My lover was confused; to him, it was a simple change of plans. He acknowledged that she’d been rude and petty, but he didn’t understand why I was so upset. So angry. So sad. He said, “just let it go; it’s not worth your time or all of this energy and emotion. She’s not worth it.”
I suppose I’ve never forgiven her either. It seems so trivial on the surface; she broke a promise and that ended our friendship. She never apologized. In fact, she claimed our falling-out was my fault for not understanding what she had not made known. Not even a simple “I’m sorry” unless it was followed by “but you”. No apology for breaking the promise, not for hurting me, and certainly not for breaking my heart (she never knew she held it in the first place). She was brazen and self-centred. She was a narcissist and a hedonist. She was quick-witted and full of life and beautiful.
She’s not worth it.
I didn’t then, and still don’t, open my heart easily. When I do, I tend to give everything. I trusted her implicitly and explicitly. I believed in her. I respected her. I suppose what hurt the most was that she could just…cast me aside so easily.
I mention this now because I dreamt of her last night. It was the first time in many, many years I’ve dreamt of her. I visited her in a sprawling, Victorian home near the sea. Many of the rooms were made up like nurseries, and when I asked if she was expecting, her eyes filled with tears and I suddenly knew she’d miscarried.
She was not as young as she was the last time we spoke; she’d aged, just like I have. I know her husband, and halfway through the dream he came home as well and we shared laughter. But I was uncomfortable with him. I felt like he could tell just from being near me that I had loved his wife once. That more than likely, I still did.
Her back was to me as she prepared desserts for us to share, and I watched her. She still moved with an awkward sensuousness, that of a dancer forced to wear heavy workboots. She worked without speaking, and I took in every movement, every nuance of broken grace. I felt my throat tighten and heat come to my cheeks. I bolted from the table, up the stairs to the bathroom and washed my face in cool water.
The voice at the door moments later was her husband’s. I told him I was fine, that I’d be down in just a moment. On the way back downstairs, I touched every wall and turned every doorknob. Then she was there in the nursery with me, laughing at something I’d missed, and although I wanted to laugh with her, I was overcome by her cruelty once more. I turned my back on her, told her husband it had been good to see him again and wished him the best.
I woke with the familiar pain of her turning away from me searing my chest. With the knowledge that the reason it hurt so much was because I loved her. That I was having to accept how much I cared before I could ever accept that there was no way she could have returned my feelings. That it was precisely because of how deeply I loved her that her complete disregard of me (not just of my feelings, but her complete turning away from me) tore me up. Essentially, she broke up with me, and we’d never even dated. She made it very clear that her new friends were cooler, more exciting, and more dear to her than I was. And it was easy for her to do that. It was easy for her to just…walk away.
It has never been easy for me. Not since that day nearly 20 years ago when her father phoned me up and told me that she had changed her plans. She’d lied to her dad (a man I thought, up until that moment, a great deal of) and had told him that I’d pressured her in to making a decision (I’d not talked to her more than twice about this, and neither time had I demanded anything of her), so when he had me on the phone, he berated me for being unfair to his daughter. He told me he thought I was better than that. He told me he never thought I’d treat his daughter that poorly. I didn’t even try to defend myself. I just listened to what he said, tears burning paths into my face, and said “all right,” at the end of it all.
I have seen her once since then. Twice, if you count last night’s dream. We were never again friends. I lost far more than she did.