When your close friend becomes an acquaintance.
If our relationship was depicted in latte art, this would be us. (Image: Bad Latte Art)
Here we are once again. You and I.
Seeing you, it’s like going to the dentist – an occasional appointment which you begrudgingly force yourself to attend.
It’s an obligatory ritual in which we go through the same steps as last time: assess the situation, clean with that pointy thing which I don’t really like, clean with the toothpastey thing which is comparatively better, then rinse! My dentist is a lovely, lovely woman – she is caring, intelligent and pragmatic. We make small talk about our lives and her adult children, whom I know.
Except you are not my dentist and my teeth are no cleaner after having seen you.
We greet each other with impersonal kisses on the cheek. We sit ourselves down and then go through our prescribed list of questions and topics. How are you? What’ve you been up to? How is this family member? How is that family member? How is work? How is your love life? It’s like we’ve memorised lines to the play that is our relationship which we obediently repeat every time we see each other. Do we just lack originality or are we rehearsing for something? When are we going to perform this play?
Do you know what I really want to do?
There are two things.
I want to reach over our lattes and shake you. I want to shake you, you whom I love. I want to shake you and exclaim, “What is this? WHAT IS THIS?!” to your blank, impassive face.
What is this thing which is still compelling us to dutifully participate in this ritual?
I hate to acknowledge it, but it’s certainly not friendship. We were friends. And I loved that. I can attest to the fact that being friends with you is wonderful.
But we’re not friends anymore. We are two people who were friends. We have become two people who share quite a lot of history. We are two people who bear greater resemblance to acquaintances than amies.
There was no momentous falling out, no fights or accusations. No harsh words or glares. No backstabbing or bitching. It was just a gradual float, as we chose to be carried on different currents.
But, for some reason, we still choose to go through these motions. Do you like participating in this facade? Because I don’t and I don’t know why we bother to continue doing this. Is it because there is still the hope that our friendship will be rebuilt in the future?
See, as much as I would like that, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I just always seem to feel a bit hurt when we put on our “friendship” play. Perhaps I allow myself to be wounded by you. Either way, I find myself stinging with the remnants of your words and your glances and your tone in my mind. I feel like you don’t approve of my life. I always feel slightly judged. I never feel like I’m smart enough for you. I never feel that my pursuits are interesting, inspiring or virtuous enough for you. I never feel like I’m enjoyable enough company for your liking.
And the last time I checked, that wasn’t how spending time with a friend should make you feel…
So, why do we keep on doing this?
I get so little pleasure out of it. And my face is pretty damn readable – even to people who’ve only known me for a week – so, I’m sure my expressions as I endure our time together are a) clearly understood by you and b) not helping the situation at all.
Perhaps it was my fault somewhere along the way. Maybe I hurt you. Perhaps you feel the same resentment for me that I feel for you. Perhaps you don’t want to be here either. Perhaps you too are doing this because you feel obligated by our shared past. Perhaps you feel that I judge you. Perhaps rather than disapproving of my comparatively sex, drugs and rock n roll lifestyle*, you feel intimidated by me. Which, if that’s the case, is deeply ironic, seeing as I feel intimidated by you.
Our acquaintance is a two-way relationship, so I’m sure I’ve played some role in its decay. So, whatever it may be, I apologise.
But you know what the other thing I want to do is?
I want to tell you this; this that I’m typing right now. Oh, and I want to stop attending our scheduled appointments.
I do not want to do this anymore.
Yes, we have many shared memories, but that isn’t enough of a reason to continue forcing ourselves to go through the motions and pretend that we’re friends when we’re not.
I am not going to show up at our annual check-up unless we change this.
But we’re going to have to work at it if we want this.
Do you want this? Do you want a future for us?
I’m not really sure anymore.
But I do know that I miss us. What we had was good. It was great. It was supportive and funny and charismatic and sparkling. It was fun and vivacious. It was thought-provoking and interesting. It was comforting and loving.
Now we just have hollow gestures. And the fact that we used to be so close just makes it all the more heartbreaking.
You know what? I change my mind; I think I will attend one more appointment with you – one which I envisage will be even less enjoyable than usual.
Why? Because I am going to reach over our lattes and shake you. I am going to shake you and I may well cry.
Why? Because I still love you and because there is still a part of me which has hope for us.
And so I try to see you; I do my best. I want to tell you this in person and to try and read your response, but you don’t reply. And you can’t force a person to meet you, can you?
Perhaps we independently reached the same conclusion at the same time…
Either way, what this becomes is up to us both.
* Chill out, parentals. It’s all relative.
Fun post-script! Are you questioning whether this was written about you? Well, there’s a 99.97% chance that it wasn’t. Yep, your parents were right: it’s not all about you. Sorry to disappoint. On the upside, it means that we probably have a better relationship than that which I’ve just described… which is certainly a plus.