Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I can write about corn signs and batty landladies. I can talk about my stupid looking bad haircuts, but it seems that I have a hard time writing about the things that hurt me, as if I just want to make other people laugh and I’m glad to do it at my own expense, but I’m terrified of making people cry; even more scared of making myself cry. Here in Iowa I learned all about not using vague descriptives and always finding the most unexpected metaphors and the most concrete nouns and I learned that my writing has to make me cry and I have to be brave and write about my hurt and not try to be the class clown all the time writing just to make people laugh so that ultimately they will love me.

That’s what everyone wants ultimately – for everyone to love them, and I have written a lot about the people who do love me, but not so much about the people who don’t. There are a lot of people who don’t love me, and there are a few whose love I don’t deserve. Those are the ones that make me think I might cry if I wrote about them. And I am petrified of crying, or of people knowing that I cry or of people seeing me as anything other than light, charming and funny. I’ve based a whole life on being that charming, funny, silly girl who doesn’t cry. And then I sob for hours when I see a show about a polar bear swimming for miles looking for an ice floe to rest upon, finding nothing but saltwater and drowning from exhaustion.

I had picked up Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty in the O’Hare bookstore because it told the story of two writers who ultimately became hugely successful and who became friends in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop right here where I am in Iowa City. When I read about Lucy and Ann, the ant and the grasshopper, hare to tortoise, I became unbearably sad and realized I was ready to write about A. I was her Lucy Grealy. I destroyed our friendship.

At some point I told myself I would never write about this because if I did A would be upset. She would say I was being an exhibitionist, that I told the story wrong, that I painted myself more favorably, that I humiliated her. Perhaps she would be right. I know I couldn’t write it without lying by omission, and so I won’t write our story at all. I will only write about how very much I love her.

I am confident that she has never read anything I’ve written. I don’t think she could bear to and she would, I imagine, be disgusted at every word, because that is how much I think she hates me. I don’t really know. Worse than hate, she may have forgotten me altogether. I’m sure months pass, years even when she doesn’t think of me at all, but that is not the case with me. I think of A almost every day. I’ve been thinking about her several times a day since reading the book and being here in Iowa.

Sometimes it is with deep regret at my own stupidity and my own insecurity and lack of character which led to the end of our friendship. We had been friends for over a decade when it happened. We met when we were twelve and last spoke when we were twenty-four. She ended it with a letter, which I always suspected her therapist instructed her to write. I imagined the scene where she spent an entire appointment complaining about my constant phone calls, my stinging comments whenever something good happened to her and did not also happen to me, how I behaved inappropriately around others because I simply didn’t know better. I thought she might throw in how she had grown; educated and well-traveled she was now beginning a career while I, with my GED had no resume, no degrees and couldn’t keep up with an intellectual conversation. Then I imagined the therapist talking about how people grow apart and how childhood friendships often must end in adulthood and how she had to cut me off. A letter would be the best way. End it swiftly and utterly, the therapist would say. She would explain to A that I needed consequences for my behavior (I suspect this was correct) and that if A continued her friendship with me that I would continue to torment her, to sap her energy becoming more and more toxic and difficult to purge from her life. I am making all of this up. Maybe it didn’t happen that way at all, but I still have the letter.

We wrote long, rambling, tragically angsty, often ridiculously funny letters throughout our friendship. I have most of the ones she sent me when we were apart, which was most of the time, and I get them down from their box in the closet and read them. I feel like writing her back. I could. I know her address. I know where she is most of the time. She isn’t hard to track and has lived in the same house for a long time. I think she will probably live there for the rest of her life. But the reality of this situation is that I can not write her back and I will not write her back unless she were to write me a new letter.

When I’m not regretful I am hopeful. As teenagers we fought all the time. I probably started every argument we ever had, in all fairness, but we would fight and stop speaking sometimes for months or weeks at a time. My hopeful, idealistic self convinces me that this is just another one of those incidents, one that lasted ten years, but still a temporary hiatus in what will be a lifelong friendship, what HAS to be a lifelong friendship, because no one has ever loved a friend like we loved one another. Or I did anyway. And I think one day we will laugh about this and then we’ll cry because we wasted ten years and missed milestones and then we’ll laugh again because we used to laugh all the time. When I’m hopeful I’m still fifteen.

I wish that I could say – A, I am sorry, but forgive me because I was young and insecure and every horrible moment I created was based in my feelings of worthlessness because I believed I was unlovable and my want was like a tantrum. What I wanted was to be like you and I felt the world cheated me out of the opportunities you had and that I should have them too.

I want her to know that now I am her equal, that I have accomplishments too and because I’ve been able to haul myself up out of my misery and worthlessness, I’m not so insecure these days. I’m just as educated as she is. I’ve reclaimed Paris as my own. I have a husband who loves me a thousand more times than I deserve, and because of this I’ve created myself as this funny, charming, silly girl, full of self-deprecation and self-help. I throw fabulous dinner parties, belong to a book club and there are many, many people who think I’m fun and interesting. I do all the same things she does like shop at Ikea, pay too much for flavored sea salts to make recipes I read about in Saveur, and read the New York Times. I’m planning a trip to Napa. I’d also like to throw in that I’m a published writer. I’d like her to know that, but that would be bragging, wouldn’t it and would that mean that maybe I haven’t changed so much at all?

I’m still competitive, just not as often and not in such a raw, despairing way. I don’t need that arena to act out my feelings of not-good-enough anymore. I’ve given that up. I confess that I read her husband’s blog. Paranoid, I don’t read it too often because I don’t want him or her to see that I’m reading it. Mostly I just wait for him to post pictures of her, which he rarely does, and then I look at them for a long, long time. But not too long because they might know. But then not long enough. She looks exactly the same. I don’t know if I look the same or not. I try to determine if she’s happy from the pictures. I want her to be happy. I want to lie about the fact that I examined one of the pictures to determine if I was still thinner than she was. I concluded that we are the exact same size, and then I was miserable that I compared myself to her again after a decade of missing her and making wishes about her.

One of the wishes is that I would run into her. I played this one out a few different ways. Most of the ways have her being happy to see me. We hug. There are tears and apologies and we must have tea and tea becomes dinner. The restaurant closes and we are still there. We leave intertwined. We used to walk that way all the time singing, so we begin to sing again, remembering the words to “Just Like Heaven.” We go home and talk until the sun comes up and at some point in the night I am brushing her hair which crackles with static. There are many reasons why this could never happen and they are all my fault and they are a part of the story that I would not get right.

Comparing is my worst habit. I did compare myself to her. That was my tragic flaw, or one of my tragic flaws in all of this. White trash, uneducated, unsophisticated and ignorant, I never measured up. I still compare. I have compared every single female friend I’ve made since her, to her and none of them have measured up exactly, because there is just A.

Another wish is that she is reading this now. This too is impossible. There’s no way she could know about it. Not that I know of anyway. There is also no chance that she has read this and doesn’t know it’s me. If you’ve ever known me there is no anonymity. But I wish for her to find it and read it. I am writing this for her.

I wish for the Hollywood ending to this story because in every romantic comedy there is a time when the characters are separated. The audience sees no hope for them to ever be together again. The situation is beyond repair and we fear all is lost, though really we know they are destined to be together, they have to be together. Our definition of love and good depends on their reunion and then after grid-lock, a high speed chase ensues. One races toward the other. She is getting on the plane. They see each other at the gate. Don’t leave. You see, it was all a misunderstanding and I love you. Yes, I love you and I have always loved you. I loved you from the moment I saw you and admit, you love me too and we are meant to be together. Please come back to me. Please I was an idiot and now I know I was wrong. I knew then. I knew the second I was away from you that all I ever wanted was to be your friend.

There are credits. Everyone in the theater moves towards the exit. The movie is over. You pull me out of my seat and we are swimming upstream through the bodies. We move in the opposite direction toward the stage, because the theater used to be a real theater with a stage and red velvet curtains, and then we are dancing on the stage. You lead. I am clumsy, but we are dancing across the blackness and the disappearing words. We laugh and dance.

Oh A, I am good enough now. I’m good. Look at how good I am.


Anonymous said...

Well, if time heals all wounds, A has probably totally forgotten what event occurred that terminated your friendship. What would it hurt to make an attempt to contact her? Are you afraid of rejection? (totally understandable if you are). In all honesty, however, as we mature our tastes in friends change. Maybe you would not even like her today.

Yerba Buena said...

This post made me so inordinately sad for you, because I've been in your position before. I think we all deserve a Hollywood ending at least once in our lives, where old wrongs are made right by a chance encounter.

Anonymous said...

That was a very touching piece. I could tell it came from your heart and it took a piece of your soul with it.


Anonymous said...

So eloquently written. I'm sure we've all had that one elusive friend relationship that has gone awry. I know I have and I know I have spent many a time wondering what I could have done differently.

Thanks for a wonderfully written post.

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth, I had a similar situation in my life. I was horrible to one of my best friends and ran her off out of jealousy and spite when I was 22.

Years later, after I had grown a little, I sent her a very simple letter apologizing for my horrible behavior. She sent me a note stating that she appreciated the apology but wasn't able or ready to do any more at that time.

5 years later she sent me an email. She's still not ready for a close friendship, but she likes knowing I am around so she keeps my email address "just in case." Basically we are on a "Christmas and Birthday card" basis.

It's not much, but it goes a long way to assuage the pain I caused myself and her.

Print out what you wrote and send it to her, but accept the responsibility that she may not come back. Either way, you'll have done what you obviously need to do. Sometimes it is not always about forgiving others, but ourselves.

Hilary said...

Very touching post. On some level, I'm sure that many of us can relate.. I know I do. Of course, if you want her to read it, you can ensure that by posting on her husband's blog with a link to this post. I hope she does read it. It's not every day a friend opens their heart as you have.

Susan said...

I just myself wrote an old friend I lost contact with two days ago. She stopped talking one day and I never knew why. I would call and she wouldn't call back, my sister died and I received a card but she didn't call or come to the funeral, and I know she could find me because I haven't moved.

She probably will reject me, but I wrote anyway. I wrote her because life is too short not too.

I wrote to another long lost friend last year and it turned out she was waiting for me the same way I had been waiting for her. It was just like old times and we fell right back into old habits after 7 years and lamented the time lost over the trival things women fight over.

I instantly felt better when I wrote her just because I knew that one way or another, I would know how she felt. Best case scenerio she misses me, worst case I at least have some closure on the subject.

I hope this friend has the same ending, but no matter what at least it won't be something that nags at me. Regret is a terrible thing and I honestly feel that sometimes you just need to jump in.

cbrks12 said...

Well, you made me cry! I know this had to be hard to write and as someone who is just ending a decade long friendship with someone, it was emotionally hard to read. The honesty was wonderful, the writing clear. If A was to find this, then the ball would be in her court. If you were to send a link to her...well, there you go. What is the worst thing that could happen?

Anonymous said...

I think you should contact her if you know how too. I lost contact with someone that was my best friend for fifteen years, only to find out recently that the passed away five years ago. I regret not trying hard to find them, I regret the time apart and I really regret not being able to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him.

Don't let it end in regrets.

Anonymous said...

That was heart-wrenching. I really feel for you. I have lost 2 good friends. One forever. The other I sent a Christmas card to and she responded. We never became close, again, but at least I knew she didn't hate me, any longer. Give it a shot.

Anonymous said...

In my life, there have been three friendships that have ended; two wholly due to the other person, and one that was both our fault. One relationship ended up being so horrible that I had to do what A did and write a letter to the person telling them that I could no longer be their friend and they should never contact me again. I would welcome each of them back into my life now. These things happened so long ago, and I am sure that they are different as I am different now. We grow and change and hopefully mature, and those things that seemed so awful at the time are simply memories.

When my father died last year, one of these people (the first friendship to go) came to the memorial service and we talked for the first time in decades, just like old times. The next time I go back to my childhood home I will call her up again and hopefully we will get together. Don't give up hope. It can happen.

Emily said...

I understand what you mean about the constant need to be your charming, witty self. Sometimes the funniest people are the ones in the most pain.

Anonymous said...

I've dealt with this myself. I don't know either of you, but I am 100% certain that she's googled you and stared at your picture too.

You don't have a friendship like that and then suddenly stop caring. At first you care because you are angry and then you slowly remember that you care because you love.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It was just as damn good as the fe-mulletino story, by the way, so even if writing these types of things are hard, know that your ability stays strong through all types of re-tellings. And thank you for writing a post that let me cry, hard and with embarrassing strength, for my best friend who is continents away and whom I miss like she's a long amputated leg.

Anonymous said...

It took me a few mintues to get past what you said about the polar bear. That stuff makes me cry too. I hate thinking about it.

But as I got to the end, I do have tears in my eyes because of your hurt.

Heather said...

Glad to read I'm not the only one who thinks Patchett's book is powerful. After I read it I contacted a friend I'd lost touch with for years because I couldn't stop thinking about her.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Painful, emotion-filled and honest. I really, really hope she does read this, somehow. And that you do get back in touch with her, whatever the result.

Missicat said...

This really touched me. I also have a friend that for some reason won't reply to my emails...except I just don't know why. If I did something to hurt I would like to at least have the chance to apologize.
You are definitely not alone in this feeling. If that helps.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Another amazing post - thanks for sharing.

I was best friends for 20 years with my brother's wife. We shared everything - raised our children together, family vacations, deep, dark secrets - everything. He cheated on her with a woman who my sister-in-law hated and still hates to this day. My brother, whom I love, is now engaged to this 'other woman' after a horribly long, drawn-out, painful divorce with my sister-in-law. Needless to say, our friendship died an agonizing death during their tumultuous divorce. I miss her terribly.


TK said...


Very touching post, and extremely brave. Honest self introspection is an amazing tool for emotional health and peace of mind, and you demonstrate here that you have the insight and strength of character necessary to not only heal yourself but show others by your fine example.
I'm glad you were able to get to this place, and that you are willing to show others the way.

I have been on the other side of this kind of thing, and I did make an effort to reconnect after several years, but the anger and contempt for me from the other person were still there, so I had to put it behind me. She hated me for having a man, for being skinny, for having the kind of life she wanted, and which I shared to the best of my ability, but it wasn't my job to lose all that to make her feel better about herself. I still regret that things turned out the way they did, I miss the good parts of the friendship, but ultimately it became just too toxic for way too long. This person needed someone to blame for her unhappiness, and I was the only one who would take it. I finally realized I couldn't help her, and that I deserved better.

WE ALL DO, and honesty is one of the best ways to get there. So is forgiveness, for ourselves and others. Thanks for sharing such a good example.

Anonymous said...

This made me cry. You're such a powerful writer, you know that? Not everyone can convey raw emotion. You can.

And, for what it's worth, I think you should contact her. Ten years is a long time, long enough to forgive, whatever you did. Please, SW, link to her husband's blog, or write some of that (probably not all of that) down and send it her. If she's not ready to talk to you, you won't have lost anything. And if she is -- you've lost ten years, don't make it a lifetime.

Please don't be offended that I'm saying this and don't know you -- it's what I hope somebody would say to me if I were in the same situation. And -- good luck.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you really need to reconnect. Life is so, so short and at any moment one of you can be taken from this earth and there will be no more opportunities. You must snatch every one that you can and live without regrets because anything else isn't really living.

UmmFarouq said...

Maybe she is reading.

You know, I think most women have some sort of friendship like this. I know I did/do. Mine did have a good ending--not a Hollywood good, but good enough.

My advice to you is to not wait for her to write that letter. You do it. Take the initiative. It might be amazingly cathartic and it might make some of the imagined scenarios seem less (or more) imagined. You can do it.

Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

I envy you, because you have had a friend like that, even though you are apart. I can't imagine what a real friend could be like. I've never had one in my life.

P.S. I love your writing, it's beautiful and funny and sweet.

Anonymous said...

I have burnt about 4 friendships. a few were destructive and needed to be ended before they dragged me into some awfulness (drugs, illegal activities, and other destructive behaviors), a couple I destroyed by being young, stupid and unwilling to accept other people's feelings or decisions. Of all of them, I only regret one. He was my mentor, got me through a very rough patch of adolescence and continued to offer support, a shoulder and a hug to me whenever I needed it. I was stupid and mistook sincere friendship for cheap teen romance. I did almost everything I could have done to screw up and manipulate this friendship into something more. I regret this very deeply and wish I could go back and get my amazing friend again.
I have written him a couple of times. Never expecting a response, but trying to let him know that I still think about him. Maybe one Christmas I will come home and once again get a call saying that he is home visiting and wants to get together for cocoa and sledding.

Anonymous said...

I tried this, with a friend that I hurt very badly in high school. I looked her up in the white pages and called her one day. I simply apologized for my stupid, mean, wicked, bratty behavior. My apology seemed insignificant.

We don't keep in touch, but I'm still glad that I reached out to my old friend. Because I think about her all the time. Maybe you should do the same. It's a cathartic and humbling experience.

Anonymous said...

Being young is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately most young people do not have wisdom, intuition or good communication skills yet.

Instead of saying what is on their mind they act out, sometimes horribly out of frustration.

Life is about lessons and everyone has to learn them. You learn lessons by making mistakes. It's called being human.

Allow yourself to be human. If you read all the posts you can see nearly every single person that took the time to write has suffered the same loss as you. You are not alone my dear.

Your mistake with A. haunts you but if you look at the way it made you change your life you can clearly see that A. and the end of your friendship with A. was a positive thing for you. Look how it drove you till this day.

Keep your lessons and cherish each and every one of them. They are what made you who you are today.

Find the guts to write A. and don't worry about rejection. When you do the right thing, good things will happen.

You can't change the past but you have changed yourself and your future is bright. Be happy about that because that in itself is incredible.

You will have many amazing people that will come and go. Be good to everyone even those that don't deserve it and by the time you get my age you will be at peace with yourself. You will look back at your life and just smile. That's what I do.

Don't forget it is ok to make mistakes as long as your recognize them. You never have to make them again. Allow yourself to be human and don't be so hard on yourself. Believe me you are very loved.

Rich said...

I have read through your whole archive section. It took me 2 days, but I really enjoyed reading it.
I think your life is a lot more interesting than mine. I o have a few stories I could write, I just wish I wrote as well as you do.
I will be coming back for more.

Erin Karcher said...

Oh, darling...

I want so much for you to write her a letter, and not mail it. I want you to write it, and deliver it to her house, put it in her hand, say, "You should read this!" and then run off. Or tape it on her door in a plain envelope. And it should be hand-written. And then she will run down the street after you going, "wait! wait! my therapist was an idiot, and I fired him! I love you!", and so on...

I have an A, only she is J, and I can't imagine losing her, ever. I know that its a terribly painful ordeal, and of course, why would you take advice from some stranger on the internet -- but, go get your girl back!

Amy said...

Beautiful writing. And a powerful friendship.

Life is short and precious. Get her back if you can!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post..thank you.

Suffer Kate said...

We all have an A. She - or the memory of the she that she was - is what makes us do better, try harder, and hope all the more. This was gorgeous; thank you.

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