Yesterday I was cleaning and came across some floppy drives (ha!). One of them contained very old emails and I reread a handful. Most were from a close friend I haven’t been in touch with for about five years, much to my chagrin. It saddened me to remember how frequently we used to talk and what a sweet, easy intimacy has been lost.
The main reason I don’t hear from this friend anymore is that he is married (I’m not) and lives very far away. I didn’t expect our friendship to stay the same once he had a wife, but for him to ignore my attempts to just touch base has been very hurtful. To give you a little background, we dated for a little while when we were young and were then very good friends for more than ten years. I always thought I would know him forever, and I think he did, too. Even though we never lived in the same place, we always kept in good touch and visited a couple times a year.
I realize in retrospect that somewhere along the way I came to love him, and I wonder now if I should have suggested the possibility of dating once we were into our 20s. It’s too late now, but maybe I should have married him. People who knew both of us often claimed we were destined to end up together. Sometimes I felt like he looked at me with a question, but then the moment passed and I thought I must have imagined it. He was my “safety” if we were still single at 40. I believe all things work as out they are meant to, and there are things that make me think we wouldn’t have worked out, but I wish I had realized how amazing he is when I could still do something about it. To reread an email that includes him saying “I really miss you, buddy. I love you.” makes me chide my younger self, the one who thought soulmates could be found around every corner.
When I was younger, I definitely thought it was possible for men and women to be “just friends.” Now I think it’s extremely rare that there are no other layers. I remember many conversations between high school and the end of my 20s when people discussed whether the possibility of romance with a specific friend of theirs was worth the potential of “ruining the friendship.” Now I know you might as well try, because once one of you is in a serious relationship any sort of deep friendship will be lost, as it probably should.
Many opposite-sex friendships fall to this fate, and I’ve certainly had a number of other friendships essentially end when the guy got married. (Some friendships with girls change dramatically when they wed, too, to be fair.) I have no doubt that this friend still cares about me and has his reasons for staying distant. But I know that once I love someone, romantically or not, it’s hard to let them go. I just feel like a piece of me is missing. I hate it that I have never even seen a picture of his kids, and that he has no idea what I’ve been through in recent years.
Since he walked away, I’ve had many new friends come into my life and a few loves come and go, and for that I’m thankful. I know eventually I won’t really miss him, but simply think of him as a dear companion for a long season. But right now I have to say “I really miss you, buddy. I love you.” I wish he could hear it.