I had to end a friendship with a guy I grew up with, who was at one time my best friend. We lost track of each other for years, and I finally tracked him down and connected with him again. I hoped—though I had learned by then that digging up people from my past was a risky proposition—that we could rekindle our former brotherhood.
The beginning of the end started with a comment I had made. It was my misunderstanding. I thought he meant something other than what he really meant, and though I was agreeing with what I thought he meant, I was actually disagreeing with him, since he meant the opposite.
A simple misunderstanding, but also a lethal one, for he was in no mood to forgive and forget, even after I apologized and explained what had happened. Someone really hurt him, he was determined to take it out on me.
He was angry with me, posting obscenity-laced comments about my place in the world. That I had no right to talk to him, that I didn't go through what he went through, that I was ignorant, asinine, and self righteous. He pulled the Kurt Cobain book out and accused me of being fake.
I tried to be diplomatic about it. I apologized, I explained where I was coming from. He got hostile and paranoid. I finally decided that if he wanted “real”, I'd give it to him real. I didn't sugar coat my last message to him, but told him exactly how I felt about his behavior. I told him to grow up, that he was being an asshole about the situation. I told him I don't have a crystal ball, that I would forgive him, and move on, but I didn't need the negativity—the abuse, really. And I said that friendship is a two way street, that friends must give and take equally.
He kept repeating that it was his turn to stand up for himself, that no one could walk over him anymore. I listed the insulting things he had called me and told him, “if you want to stand up for yourself, do it against your enemies, not your friends.” I don't know who hurt him, but in his blind anger, he couldn't understand that I was just caught in the middle, hoping to help.
He didn't want real as much as he thought he did. He defriended me. (To be fair, I asked him to, if he could not respect me.)
His last words were “no regrets”, but he must have been talking about himself, because I'm having major regrets.
He told me to think about what I did, and I have, a lot. It was the last thought before I drifted to sleep, and it was the first thought when I woke up this morning.
My “friend” is a taker. Many of us know the type, but there's more to it than what many might think. He's had a very difficult life, dealing with an abusive stepfather, school bullies, homelessness, drug addiction. Many people who go through events like that learn to take care of themselves first. They're often more self-centered and greedy than people who didn't have to fight to survive. I don't blame him for it, but am very sad I couldn't help him.
I'm also very sad that he saw in me an enemy, someone out to get him. I remember how excited I was when I tracked him down early last year, after 12 years since the last time we spoke. I listened to his story, I tried my best to give him positive vibes. I encouraged him. The only time I wasn't available to him to talk was a few months at the end of 2011, when I had to get offline to take care of my own problems. I wasn't available to anyone.
But sine I've been in touch with him, I do not remember him ever coming to me for anything. Not to ask for advice, not to give me advice, not to tell me about his life, or to ask about mine. Not to chat, whether about life in general, the future, or the fun times we used to have as kids wrecking our neighborhood (we wrecked that neighborhood thoroughly!).
I started all of our conversations. I was the one reaching out. He had no time for me, yet on his way out of my life, his biggest complaint was that I wasn't a real friend.
Now, I don't claim to be the best friend in the world. I don't claim to even be a good friend. It's too much pressure involved in living up to those expectations. I try my best to be nice to people, but I don't always. I have an ideal, but I don't always meet it. But I do try, and I do care, even when I am too pissed off and compulsive to do anything productive.
What a friend is and should do is different for many people. We all have different expectations. I don't feel that my expectations are too high. I keep my friendships loose. I've learned that friends are not always there for me, whether they want to be or not, and I'm not always there for them, whether I want to be or not.
I've walked away from many friendships, sometimes because they were negative forces in my life (as this one quickly turned out to be), other times because I or they moved (a product of being an Army brat), and still other times for no good reason at all. People grow apart. We change. I see friendships as living things. We must nurture each other to grow, but even then we sometimes grow bored of others. There's always someone new waiting to replace the old. I think this is an immensely positive thing, because it allows us to recycle ourselves and others. Why attach ourselves to old friends, when we each can be of better use for other people?
I'm sad that this friendship ended like it did, but I'm not down and out. I'm not going to pack my bags and quit on the human experience. I'm not going to be bitter about it. I have a lot to look forward to. So I don't get along with one person? I know of many who would give me the benefit of the doubt, who would try to mend the broken bridge. That's harder for people who have had a difficult life and don't yet have their head above water.
I take people in stride. I seek to understand them, what motivates them, why they react to what they do, and the way they react to it, if only so some day I can stop being the central character in my own drama. I've had a lot of friends in my life, and I've learned something from each of them, but I've learned the most from the ones who many wouldn't consider good at all.