I still don’t know why June* stopped talking to me.
We had been friends for over 10 years when she suddenly stopped answering my emails and calls. We hadn’t argued. She was OK. She simply disappeared from my life, and now five years later, I’m still obsessed with why.
June and I met in college in second-year Mandarin. She was from nearby Brooklyn while I was a preppy Jersey girl, but we hit it off immediately. We had the same cynical sense of humor, were both tomboys amid a sea of girly girls, and had impeccable memories, always remembering people who didn’t remember us. “Our gift, our curse!” we bemoaned, nerdily quoting “Spider-Man.”
After college, I moved to Boston, where June often visited me. When I returned to New York, she was one of the few friends I made sure to see. I got engaged and made June a bridesmaid. We traveled together to Amsterdam for one last single gals’ vacation. After the wedding, she burst into tears in the reception hall parking lot.
“Everything’s changing!” she sobbed as I gave her a big hug.
After that, we still got together, mostly on the Sundays I could escape from taking care of my ailing mother-in-law. I complained about that while June told me her job woes, how she didn’t fit in with the finance crowd, and felt at a dead end with her career.
When my husband confessed to his affair, June was one of the first people I told. Throughout the next year, she listened patiently as I vacillated between leaving and staying. After I finally left, she took me to my first speed-dating event.
It was around that time that my messages started going unanswered. At first I assumed she was just busy, but as weeks stretched into months, I had to wonder if it was something else. Was she mad at me? True, I had missed one of her improv shows but didn’t think she’d dump me for that, especially having done her fair share of last-minute canceling. Was I too needy? Maybe, between my divorce and being on my own again. But that was a crappy reason to break off a decade-long friendship.
Months passed. Then a year.
One weekend, her sister called me. “Is this a good time to talk?” she asked.
I knew her sister from work but wasn’t really friends with her. “I’m in the car with my parents,” I said.
She paused, and in that pause, I imagined every terrible scenario: June sick, June depressed, June missing, June –
“Why don’t you call me back when it’s more convenient for you?” her sister said.
The moment we got home, I bolted inside, locked myself in my old room, and called. “What is it? What happened?”
“Can I put you down as a referral? I’m applying for this job.”
I stood there blinking the blood from my eyes. “Um, sure,” I said. “But how’s June? Is she OK?”
This was so weird. “You know I haven’t heard from June in over a year?”
“Really? I guess she’s been busy.”
Busy, for an entire year?
Another year passed, then another. While I didn’t think about June every day, she occasionally cropped up in my mind, and when she did, I Googled her.
Another year, and one last email. I don’t know why our friendship ended, I wrote, if I did something or if you had too much going on. I had thought of us as good friends, and was surprised and saddened with how things ended.
She never answered. But by then, I wasn’t really surprised.
One night last spring, my boyfriend Alex and I were at our favorite downtown noodle bar. While we were perusing our menus, an Asian woman walked by to join a large party beside us. I glanced away, then back. Then saw that the woman was June.
Heart thudding, I whispered to Alex: “That’s the friend who dumped me!”
Glancing furtively over his shoulder, Alex chuckled. “Girls,” he muttered.
At first she seemed not to see me, but suddenly she did. She stiffened and her left hand went up (wedding ring confirmed) to hide her face.
Not 10 feet apart, we ignored each other for the next hour. She kept her hand glued to her face while I watched Alex’s mouth move but didn’t hear a word. Should I go up to her? I wondered. What would I say? “It’s been so long!” with an awkward hug, or, arms akimbo: “So what the f**k?” How would she react? Would she be polite or mean? Would she pretend not to know me?
I never found out. We finished eating, paid our bill, and left.
That was the last time I saw her, which, like the information I found on the internet, told me nothing. I’m still in the dark about why our friendship ended. I still Google her occasionally (she has started her own business and Tweets to a lot of people who aren’t me). I still wonder.
I know I have to let her go. She won’t give me closure so I have to make my own. I have to tell myself she had her priorities back then, and I wasn’t one of them. That maybe something was going on, and she simply didn’t want to tell me.
I have to remind myself that just because we aren’t friends now doesn’t mean our friendship meant nothing. I still have the memories: laughing uncontrollably when we presented to our Mandarin teacher, drinking too much in the red light district in Amsterdam, hanging out one rainy weekend at my parents’ house, where we watched a chubby groundhog bound over the soggy grass.
That will have to be enough.
*Name has been changed