Monday, 4 April 2016

On friendship break-ups

I have no idea how people survive the demise of friendships like functioning human beings. I have more or less accepted that romantic relationships are transient, and generally happen in a linear fashion where you experience one at a time (with the notable exception of polyamory - keep loving the good love, team!), but you have multiple friendships at once. You can even have multiple best friends at once. I guess that's why this hurts so much: the assumption what we had was special, when really it was nothing.

Any incredibly long-time readers of this blog will be aware that I went travelling in 2013 and, while in Japan, met and fell for a fellow student from Bristol, to the point where after about 48 hours of knowing each other we fucked off by ourselves and explored the country, just the two of us. It was one of the more impulsive things I've ever done and I feel vaguely guilty about it, but it was also amazing and fun and confirmation of my hypothesis that people are generally good at heart.

We broke up after about five months but promised to remain best friends. And we were. That's why I find it so hard to accept that he would just stop talking to me, with no warning, no announcement, no expression of rage or hate or even indifference. First the Facebook messages stopped, and then the texts, and now no matter what I try I get no response. This has included messaging both his girlfriend and his dad at various points to ask if he is still alive; finding and emailing his university account; and sending him post, addressed to his name and Cambridge college with the hope it finds him.

Because that can't be it, can it? He can't just leave me.

We have matching tattoos. On our hips, there are black and white deer surrounded by falling autumn leaves. I have a doe, and he has a stag: when me bump hips, their hindquarters almost meet. I held his hand while he was getting inked, just as he held mine through both my tattoos. There's proof of my existence etched into his skin. He must be reminded of me every time he takes his shirt of, and yet he has still successfully ghosted me.

And, much like a ghost, he haunts me.

The silence on his end is approaching seven months: longer than we were even dating for. And for me, it's been seven months of slow suffocation, of my chest growing heavy and tight when I think about him. Sometimes I can't sleep, and I lie staring at the ceiling thinking about us. How much we laughed. How much of the world we have left to see together. How much I miss him; how I don't think I will ever have him back.

We had no dramatic fight, no closure, and that's what aches the most. I guess I'll never get that. He can move on, having finally supplanted the position of girl-he-has-a-crush-on with the acquisition of a girlfriend. She goes to my university: he must come to visit her. He comes to my city and I know nothing about it. But I can't. He was too much of my life for that.

For me, it was never about romantic love. After we broke up, I had a string of poorly thought-out romances and one-night stands, from an elected officer at my university to a 35-year-old EFL teacher in Fukuoka. There was an Australian I harboured a soft spot for until he grew terrible facial hair a year later; a student who dyed his hair and pubes blue; a dancer; another student (the final, fatal mistake). All these took place after our break-up, but never in the wake of it. With that said, I know he loved me. I know he carried on loving me. I loved him too, recklessly - but we couldn't be together. I'm a dirty cheater and a coward, which I didn't grow out of till I was twenty. My teenage heart couldn't handle monogamy.

A year after we met, we went to Dublin together. We had a kiss after Irish coffees that was nothing more than a peck. I got sunburn while he dozed in a park. We crashed a French stag party and I didn't even seduce any of them. A couple of months after that, we went to Iceland - it was a week of grey, stunning and mundane in the same day, driving in our rented car and laughing.

That was the last time we went away together; I only saw him a handful of times after that, maybe a few snatched hours together in York. One night at his house, when we promised to hang out again but never did. A brief conversation in a York cafe, ended abruptly when we needed to go study. That was the last time I saw him in person: May 2015, almost a year ago.

So, this is it. This is the nearest to catharsis I will get, because it feels like I was replaced. Forgotten, Thrown away. He found a girlfriend, and from then on our contact became more sporadic until it dropped off entirely. He never wished me a happy birthday for my 21st. He never replied to my messages of happiness, anger or joy. He filled his niche and I became superfluous. He let whatever we had die.

And that hurts worse than any break-up I've ever had.

My friends all say I'm better off without him, and I can't think that's true. I loved him. I love him. The pain of wanting and not being wanted back is universal, but I'd rather have something than nothing.

In the end, I just miss my best friend.

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