when friendships grow apart

I knew this would be hard. My ten year relationship with this woman — my friend, my sister, my confidante — has been off course for the last few months. We were meeting today to catch up and get back on track. But it’s not going that way. Let me start from the beginning.

Before she arrives, I’m waiting for her on the park bench, thinking about what to say. My heart is beating out of my chest, my mind is racing, but I’m trying to look relaxed. As she approaches, I can see the uncertainty and angst in the tightness of her smile.

I stand up to hug and kiss her. We look each other up and down like women do, gushing over nails and outfits and hairstyles. A momentary high of feminine energy, soon to crash into tension.

We sit down, both intent on finding our rhythm once again. It’s always been about the details with us, the unspoken things, the knowing acceptance we have with one another. The feeling of being witnessed and reflected effortlessly. But lately, the details have been missing and the reflection has not been effortless.

Right away, as she begins to chatter away, the distance presents itself. While once amused by her restlessness and her exploits, I now feel like I’m wasting my time. Her stories are enactments, altered to impress me and I’m no longer interested in being impressed. She is truth and fiction, commingled. Image versus intimacy–this has become the source of our conflict. I’m just so bored with her sameness. The same stories of drama and confrontation. The same victim mentalities. The same obsession with status and money and gossip. To her, life is to be performed, not felt or authenticated.

I don’t want the disapproval that I feel toward her, but it keeps bubbling up. I want the unconditional safe space we once had. We made promises of friendship over marijuana highs and hangover lows, heartfelt agreements to never judge or criticize. But as she rambles on, I sit here not caring. Everything in me rejects her hollow, meaningless anecdotes.

I keep a steady, unsmiling gaze on her, revealing my speculation. Am I supposed to nod politely, giggle mischievously and pretend that her facade is cute? I can’t. Maybe I used to talk the same talk but with time and plenty of heartbreak I’ve become full of myself with knowing better and wanting more. Beyond the shiny exterior, the labels and the show, I want her feelings and her fears.

So I sit in this strange, stretching moment before the difficult things are said and the feelings are hurt. As soon as there is a pause, I fill the air with my trembling voice, leaning toward her, looking in her eyes, asking for something different.

“None of this matters. None of it. I don’t care about this stuff. Not about your plots for revenge or your petty arguments or how much money he spends on you. Don’t you want more for yourself? Don’t you get tired of putting on this show? Do you ever take a moment to shake all that fake stuff off and just feel what’s really going on inside of you?”

My words take on their own presence, sitting between us on the bench and neither of us can see around them. This is when she says, “Since when you do you think your life is so perfect and you can judge me?”

Her eyes are wide and her tone is sharp. There is a range of emotions visible on her face. I’ve surprised her. I’ve hurt her. I’ve angered her. I try to explain.

“I can’t sit here and have these same conversations with you. I want us to do better. I’m tired of pretending this is cool. I’m ready to start being honest with myself. Aren’t you? I see you and I see us, how we used to be, and I don’t know how to dismiss that life for me without dismissing it for you too. We raged, we did, and it was a time that needed to be had. But now I don’t know how to want better for myself without wanting better for you too. I want to grow up and talk to you about growing up and reaching new kinds of highs with you. Don’t you want that?”

For a moment, I see us as we were. Arm in arm, high and low and wild and free. Limitations and loyalty blinding us to how reckless we were living and how much we were hurting each other.

Is this what happens? When you change your perspective of yourself, do you see your friends, relationships, career, everything differently?

“You can’t make me want what you want or be who you want me to be, she says. You’ve always been this way and now it’s not good enough and you want to be different. As if being self-righteous will make you better off than me or help you escape life’s bullshit. I can’t even believe that you, of all people, are coming at me like this. Since when do you not love me for who I am?”

I don’t know what to say. We stare at each other for a moment, silently acknowledging the hole in the force field. Whatever we had given each other, whatever we had been to each other feels damaged now. Words unspoken, she gets up and walks away. All I can hear are her footsteps. My truth, raw and unsparing, is my only remaining companion. The best company I’ve ever had. Perhaps I was harsh. Perhaps I was clumsy. But it feels good to change the conversation and speak from my heart for a change. I sit on the park bench, heart beating out of my chest, mind racing, as I try not to cry.


This essay is adapted from a chapter of my book, The Beautiful Disruption, and this version originally appeared on Simone Digital.