Friendship Can Break Your Heart
I hadn't known that it was possible for a friend to break your heart. I suppose it should have been obvious-- close friends share a sort of brotherly love that is typically realer and deeper that anything shared by lovers-- but it still came as a painful surprise.
This friend, whom I'll call Connor, was one of the closest companions I have ever known. We'd gone to high school together, and we shared a love for fantasy, mythology, random humor and all things Celtic. We both loved historic towns, and occasionally travelled together to places like Savannah. We were regulars at the local Renaissance Festival and the local Arts/ SoHo district, and we planned to visit Ireland together one day. We introduced one another to some of our favorite books. He convinced me to take up martial arts, and I convinced him to take up camping. For several years we did nearly everything together.
We were almost unbelievably close. Our friendship was completely open and comfortable. We trusted one another explicitly, and never felt that any topic of conversation was off-limits. Connor came over to my house every weekend, and called every day on his way home. Sometimes he'd drop by on weekday evenings. We never ran out of things to talk about, never got tired of one another's company, and never had an argument.
Connor and I were so similar, and got along so well, that many people refused to believe we weren't secretly in love. (Honestly, even I thought it was a bit of a shame-- how many people long for a perfect match like Connor and I?-- but I simply wasn't attracted to him.) I suppose that in a way we did love one another, but it wasn't romantic. He was literally like a brother to me.
When Connor announced that he had a new girlfriend, I was extremely supportive. He was lively, random, and funny on most occasions, but was shy around women he liked, and I had been trying to help him work up the nerve to ask someone out for some time. I helped him plan out their first date-- an activity that was fun but not too casual, a restaurant that was nice without being presumptuous-- and even helped him pick out an outfit. (He himself admitted that he was hopeless when it came to any clothing beyond jeans and t-shirts.) I wasn't upset that he hung out with me less as his dating relationship blossomed-- I'd expected that-- but it bothered me that his girlfriend consistently turned down invitations to hang out, meet up for lunch, or come to parties. I could read the writing on the wall, and, as Connor began coming around less and less, I began to realize something was terribly wrong. One day, while at my house, Connor, he announced he was going to ask her to marry him. I admit I was less-than-thrilled, though for my friend's sake I tried to hide it.
"Don’t take this wrong, but are you sure you're ready? This is a huge decision, and you've known each other less than a year."
"I know, but I'll be thirty in three years, and two of my friends are already engaged. What if she's my last chance?"
"Connor, you know I'll always be your friend no matter what you do, but I have to tell you that that's a terrible reason to get married. I'm not saying you shouldn't marry her if you really feel it's right. I'm just saying you shouldn't rush things."
We let things go at that, enjoying our time together. I'm glad we did, as I would never be able to hang out with him again.
Connor stopped returning my calls. He emailed only occasionally. I became desperate to know what had happened to the joyous and seemingly indestructible friendship we had shared for over six years. I called repeatedly, finally leaving a long message explaining that I needed to know whether he were still friends, needed to know what had happened, and needed to know if I had done something wrong. He called back after work the following week.
"Sorry I didn't respond sooner. I didn't want to call while Annette was around."
Just as I'd suspected. "She doesn't like me, does she?" I said sadly.
"It's not so much that she doesn't like you, it's just that she's uncomfortable."
"But haven't you explained that we were never together, and that we don't like each other that way?"
"It's not like that."
"What is it like, then? I don't me to sound pushy, Connor, but I really need to know."
"It's just... Look, she's a lot more straight-laced than you are. She doesn't like the herbalism, and the mythology, and... you know..."
I tried to speak calmly past the angry lump in my throat. Tears were running down my face. "So, because I'm not a good little Southern Baptist, and I'm not the epitome of 'normal,' she's decided to judge me without even having met me? She's never even seen me before! What happened to 'Judge not that you may not be judged?!'"
"Don't be angry. Please."
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to make this hard on you. It just hurts like hell, and I really miss you." I took a deep breath. "So she won't even let you talk to me, or come see me?"
"She doesn't like it."
"You don't have to do what she says, Connor. Can't you talk to her? I've offered to have her over for a party, or meet her somewhere with a group of friends. Can't you convince her to at least give me a chance?"
I had always liked that Connor was so easy-going, but now I was seeing the bad side of the trait. I knew too well that he would just go with the flow of his life, avoiding confrontation and making the best out of whatever circumstances were thrown his way. I knew, when we hung up after an hour long conversation, that I would never hear his voice again.
Connor still emails me occasionally, but his messages are dominated by jokes and links to funny videos. We, who once discussed any- and everything openly, now limit our conversation to brief, light topics. I have only seen him once, by accident, in a store. On that occasion, his wife finally met me. Unfortunately, though she was courteous to me, I don't think it made a difference. Connor still never calls or comes around.
It's been two years since I learned that a friend can break your heart, and there's still an aching hole in my life. I've moved on, and I try not to let it bother me, but sometimes I see something funny, or hear a great Irish song, and I think: "Wait 'til I tell Connor!" Then I remember that I can't. That he and I might as well live on opposite sides of the world.
I will always miss him.