Halfway through my freshman year of high school, I found myself two states away from my childhood home of Seattle. I was sure my new school would offer an opportunity to shed my former identity as a shy, socially-inept girl and reinvent myself as the outgoing, popular girl that I knew was hiding somewhere inside. Sadly, that girl never surfaced. I was just as shy in California as I was in Washington, and my reinvention wasn’t coming as easily as I’d hoped.
After a few awkward weeks of eating lunch in the library, I met Erica*. We connected instantly and after only a few weeks, we were inseparable. We shared a love of science fiction, which we indulged by penning deliciously awful fan fiction after school. We talked for hours about everything from our Jedi alter egos to our difficult family lives. We drooled over boys together and dished gossip without inhibition. I knew Erica inside and out, as she did me.
In short, our bond was everything a friendship should be.
Two years later, I dumped her.
I wasn’t classy about it, either. If we had been dating, I would have been the guy that swept her off her feet, blew her mind in bed and then Houdini’d my way out of her apartment before breakfast, never to be heard from again.
Truthfully, I was burnt out from our friendship. We rarely spent time apart, instead opting for identical class schedules and perpetual sleepovers. Inevitably, we started becoming the same person and I started becoming irritated with everything Erica did. Every movie I liked, Erica liked. Every band I listened to, Erica listened to. There was very little left about me that I felt was my own and I craved a unique identity. I just wasn’t able to find it in a constructive manner.
Instead, I stopped talking to Erica and went out of my way to avoid her. In situations where I couldn’t avoid her, I’d offer a monosyllabic response and beeline for the nearest exit. I ignored her calls and found a new group of friends. Erica and I continued to attend the same classes, ride the same bus and live just minutes from each other, but I managed to make it to graduation without speaking another word to her.
What Erica didn’t know was that she wasn’t the first friend I dumped on a dime. Although I’d never been as close to anyone as I’d been with Erica, I had several friends over the years who I would cycle through depending on my ever-unstable mood.
And I wasn’t through yet. A year later I was in college and ready to reinvent myself again. During my first weekend at school, I met Ava*. It was utter déjà vu. We became inseparable to the point where her roommates considered me a de facto part of their dorm room. We had nightly cigarette breaks in the quad, where we would find ourselves laughing uncontrollably at our ridiculous antics. We spent most of our waking hours together, often ditching class in favor of road trips to the beach or spending hours on shopping excursions. With Ava, I didn’t think twice about making absurd jokes or embarrassing myself. Her behavior was always twice as outrageous and I loved her for it.
Then I dumped her, too.
We made the mistake of moving in together during our junior year. Four girls in one house is a recipe for disaster, and when Ava and another roommate became close friends, I once again found myself getting irritated at everything they did. They were loud. They left dirty dishes stacked in the sink. They would leave overflowing bags of trash in the hallway. Those were probably the worst of their offenses, but, fueled by jealousy, I considered them deadly sins.
Rather than let our friendship become a threesome, I immediately put on an encore performance of my one-woman show, “Ice Queen: Return of the Cold Shoulder.” Slowly I began locking myself in my room, gluing my phone to my ear to avoid talking to my roommates and driving home each and every weekend.
Once the semester was over, I packed my bags and never saw Ava again.
I still think of these women often and with mixed emotions. I fondly recall the heydays of our friendships but it’s quickly overshadowed by heartache over the way I cruelly pushed them aside. If I could let these women see into the mind of a serial friend dumper, this is what I would confess:
1. It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have done anything differently to be a better friend to me. My reasons were petty, plain and simple. I was not as true a friend to you as you were to me, and you deserved better.
2. I regret what I did. If you think that I never cared about you and that I washed my hands of you the day I dumped you, your thoughts could not be farther from the truth. I am ashamed to the point that I cannot face you.
3. I wonder about you, too. I ask about you when I run into our old acquaintances. I check your Facebook profile now and then to see what you’re up to. Creepy? Maybe, but really, I just want to know that you’re okay, and more importantly, that you’re happy.
4. I’m too afraid to call you. The thought of calling you to invite you for a cup of coffee often rolls around in my head. The idea that maybe we could rekindle our friendship almost makes me pick up the phone. Then I remember that I have too much to atone for. Meeting for coffee would really mean candidly explaining my actions, something I’ve proven that I’ve never had the nerve to do.
5. I wish we could pick up where we left off. I still think of the way we would pass tattered notebooks during class because not talking for even 45 minutes was simply too long. I remember the way a spontaneous road trip would leave our cheeks sore from laughing for hours on end. We don’t share those moments anymore because of my actions and it hurts. Honestly, I wish we could be as close as we once were.
There are friendships you know are once in a lifetime. They are effortless connections with people who truly get you. The older I get, the more I realize what a rare thing that is. I was lucky enough to experience this more than once but pushed these friends away until they gave up.
It haunts me to this day.
*Names have been changed.