My best friend ghosted me. One day she was there, and the next day she wasn’t. I worried that maybe one of her dogs had died or that her family’s restaurant had shut down or that something had happened to her mother or father or her sister.
And far later, I realized, to be a best friend, in some cases, is to induct yourself into a seemingly infinite, borderline codependent relationship where both parties aim to prove they are more loyal, more steadfast, far more giving than the other. It invokes ownership, command, lack of will, a SHE-CAN’T-HANG-OUT-WITH-YOU-BECAUSE-SHE IS-MY-BEST-FRIEND in the most extreme of scenarios in order to get other people to simply just back off. More so, it is a dastardly game of give-and-take, of social currency, of proving to the rest of the world, and mostly to yourself, that you’re a wonderful, carefree, spirited woman and you’ve got a best friend to boot. In its very entirety, best friendship is defined by a healthy, communicative, stable set of interactions, a bond that becomes a rock to lean on, a bond spurred by loyalty, honesty and mutual respect. A special sort of friendship, quite unlike the rest, one that could seemingly never go sour or even end, one that corporate America, romantic comedies and songs will dangle in your face. YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT UNLESS YOU HAVE A BEST FRIEND FOREVER AND BUY OUR TWO HALVES OF A HEART NECKLACE TO PROVE IT, they’ll say. And thus, finding a best friend, securing one, locking one down and making sure the whole world sees it soon comes to have so much importance.
My best friend made me feel trapped. She wasn’t a very good friend either. I was a homework answers dispenser and an emotional problem solver and a little chore boy like one of the button men from “The Godfather.” I had the big mouth, she’d tell me, so I became the conflict resolver for every other friendship or interaction she had bungled because she could never seem to understand certain things. My wit and my mind and my work and my very self became hers, something she could siphon and partition and package off neatly as her own. And I let her because it was high school, and she had a car and a credit card — which were social currency — and I felt like I had no way out and I would have rather had someone than no one at all. I lied about accomplishments and grades and things and places and people I liked, guarded them steadfastly because if I wasn’t careful they’d bleed into her life and belong to her. YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON I HAVE LEFT THE ONLY PERSON THAT GETS ME, she’d say over and over and over and over, except when my grandmother died and she didn’t text me or call me or ask about me for days on end and then told me her phone had broken and sometimes she’d spend entire weekends out and about and sleep in and forget I existed. I lived in a perpetual fear, a constant, ravaging fear, that one day she’d leave, a raging, crawling, exhausting kind of fear that only becomes exacerbated and accelerated ten-fold when you burn all your bridges and friendships until you have none left because honestly, truly, when you have a Best friend with a capital “B,” you’ve been told you don’t really need anyone else. I tallied my missteps and my mistakes, took stock of the words I said and the things I did around her, lest I offend her, trip the switch and pull the wire that turned her into someone that would take my flaws and faults and rage and twist things so that I became the loose-cannon-Joe-Pesci-villain of the century. She used me and needed me more than I ever needed her. Except I used her too. I used her because sometimes she had the answers and because sometimes it’s easier to lie to yourself, convince yourself that you’ve found the gem of a friend that’ll get you through the unrelenting tide of high school and that you’ve got the strongest support system in the world rather than just someone that never really listens to anything you have to say and tell yourself GET THIS won’t you believe it we’re both earth signs so it MUST be a match made in the stars and she had a car.
She never really told anyone else that she had stopped talking to me forever, stopped acknowledging me, never told anyone that I was no longer a part of her life. A strategic maneuver perhaps on her part, maybe an attempt to prove to the world that she, too, could keep a best friend, to live the fantasy, carry on the dream that so many of us want yet desperately cannot have. I’LL TRANSFER TO MICHIGAN AND THEN I CAN JOIN THE NEWSPAPER MAYBE AND WE’LL BE THE BEST OF FRIENDS, she’d say. The version of me that would jump and leap for joy at the idea, tell everyone I’ve ever seen and paint her in the most graceful light, as with all things in life, inevitably no longer exists. To reconcile with myself, make peace and lay things to rest, to understand that my inability to say NO, my overly profuse apologies, to write unrestrictedly about the things that have been taken from me and given from me, to understand my co-dependent attachments, my unbarred giving of myself, is to first let go of things like my best-friendship.
A best friend can be an exhilarating, wondrous construct, perhaps one, for many, that better exists as a pipe dream rather than a reality. There are certain sorts of people that thrive in best-friendship, in the close-knit, unrestricted accessibility of it all, those that don’t go haywire and begin to fall apart as it progresses. It is important to understand that friendship is work, that it takes tact, care, grace and time. Not every friend will ever materialize into the diamond-in-the-rough you found among one million and one people and the kind you talk about at dinner parties years and years later. There are friends that can understand grief the way you do and love people like Edward Hopper and Louise Belcher the way you do. Though, for me, to think that one person can fulfill it all, live for the hope of it all and check every box on the way out is a grievous way to live. Or maybe it’s because I have six of my personal planets in the sign of Gemini. The world will never know.
MiC Columnist Sarah Akaaboune can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.