On Losing a Friend

There’s a special kind of bereavement for those you lose, yet they keep on living.

Yesterday smelled like Spring. The air was fresh and shot through with sunlight; the temperature crisp and inviting; the daffodils trumpeting a jubilant fanfare of hope. I have always loved Spring; but four years ago, the season took on new significance. Four years ago, he showed up in my life. Ever since then, when I feel the sudden softening of the breeze, when I see the crocus coyly crowning, I am transported. I am whisked into reverie, back to the Spring where all the colours became more vivid.

However, the more dates we went on, the more I felt the crucial differences weighing heavily on our romance, differences I couldn’t take. It was always going to be that way: he burst into my life like a firework, man-made sparks dazzling a sleepy rural scene. Suddenly, a whole world of possibilities sprung to my attention. I had been miserable finding space in my narrow world-view, but now I was being forced to wrestle with concepts thus-far buried in the garden of my mind, and that brought about its own kind of unhappiness. His intoxicating brashness smacked me awake. Another time, I might have been ready; but I wasn’t ready then.

miley

The end of the affair swept the breath from my lungs. Miraculously, through my panting and sighing, my reckless clawing for air, we managed to resuscitate the friendship that was forming. I kept the precious, premature thing pressed closely to my heart, willing this little embryo of a life-force to be incubated by my fervour. We met for coffee. We went on walks. We talked candidly and openly about our struggles. And against all odds, the squawling, rasping runt of a relationship began to breathe on its own.

Perhaps my sin was attempting to recreate an eternal Spring.

Over the months and years, our friendship began to take shape, grow stronger. We crossed miles to see each other. We talked regularly on the phone. He listened to me wail from some of my deepest, darkest places, and I felt privileged when he illuminated me on his shadows, too. We met each other’s new partners. We introduced each other to our friends and families. We saw each other in plays, and rarely ever missed a performance. By the time Spring rolled around for the third time, I knew I had been blessed with something much more robust than a romance: I had someone I genuinely loved.

How do you reconcile the different sorts of love? How do you risk loving someone you depend on?  How do you deal with the constant confusion of desperation and gratitude?

I tried to ask my friend this, but the words came out all a-quiver, in the wrong order, neutered. Our past overshadowed our present, and we could not see. I couldn’t ask him directly because he did not want to ask himself. The day I told him I loved him, I said it in passing; not in an attempt to create artificial nonchalance, but because I genuinely thought he already knew, that it would come as no surprise. I wasn’t looking for anything other than for things to carry on as they were – with us being important to each other, and nothing more. Yet clearly this word – so little, yet so vast – sounded less like home to him, and more like the rattle of ball and chain, the snip-snip of scissors shivering in anticipation for the clipping of wings.

I’m not sure.

heartbreak
Saying goodbye

Perhaps the timing wasn’t good for him. Perhaps it never was. Perhaps my sin was attempting to recreate an eternal Spring. Even if my words were unwelcome, though, I had never anticipated the lack of reciprocation would echo like a scream, obliterating everything but itself. I didn’t expect to be mourning him from the following week, to the half-hearted voicemail he left six months after we last spoke. All that hard work to keep it alive all those years, and now I was witnessing our friendship withering on the vine, perishing for lack of concern. I tried to shine on it with all the sunlight I could muster; I wept for it and willed my tears to give it sustenance; but without the nourishment of his good favour, what we once enjoyed was doomed to return to the earth. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

It’s a year since the fall-out; the way there’s fall-out after a nuclear bomb, a radiation that permeates everything it touches, so intrinsic, so integral was the destruction that it caused. This Spring hurts less than the last. (There is nothing so contrary as the heaviness in your heart at the first blush of snowdrops on yearning soil.) This year, I feel the sunlight on my skin and find it in my heart to be grateful for what we had, while it lasted. I do not like the taste of regret in my mouth.

Perhaps by the time next Spring rolls itself around, I will stop feeling foolish. Foolish for thinking I could trust in the giving of myself. I might start being glad that I kept myself honest, open, and raw. I may let go of the hurt that he found it so easy to push our connection aside, like an irksome piece of paperwork you slide to the back of the pile. Perhaps next Spring, I will see the glisten of babbling water, and smile, content that the ice has thawed. Then, I was grieving, I will think to myself. But everything has its season, and that season is done.

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