In my life, I’ve only had two people really close to me die: my grandfather two years ago and my aunt last week, but I mourn the loss of three. The third one is my best friend from high school and college.
She ghosted our friendship and I can confirm it is easier to be the ghost than the ghosted. I’ve done both.
My best friend, Deborah and I weren’t just best friends, we were essentially each other’s only friends. She was like a sister to me and at one point when I was 16 years old, I remember feeling so much pressure imagining I would one day have to choose between my sister and my best friend for the role of maid of honor at my wedding. (Little did I know there would be two weddings!)
Our days were intertwined. We went to the same school, worked at the same place, and were each other’s only friends. Both her parents were teachers and in my opinion, she had the all-American, New York, 1980s and 1990s Jewish version of Leave it to Beaver (or at least what it stood for). They took me to synagogue with them for the important holidays because my parents, the living dichotomy of coming to America for religious freedom yet living a secular life, didn’t step into a synagogue unless it was for a party.
Deborah’s parents belonged to a theatre discount club and got us tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway plays for $15 and we went at least once a week. Deborah and I were like an old Jewish married couple; essentially we mimicked her parents’ behaviors thinking we were the grown-ups. We’d take the bus, ferry, and subway to Times Square and go to Sophia’s, an unimportant Italian restaurant connected to a tiny hotel on West 44th Street. I’m not sure why we were so hung up on this stodgy place, maybe we appreciated a homemade pasta or maybe it’s because they gave wine to 16-year-olds who sat down like 67-year-olds at a white tablecloth table for two.
In tenth grade, for February break, Deborah’s parents took me on their family vacation to England for ten days; a week in London and three days staying with their friend Tim in Cambridge. We toured Oxford and the city of Bath and ate fondue in Tim’s tiny house. One day Tim took us to a park with a rock slide where Deborah and I made a video which I replay in my mind late at night or when I look through pictures from back in the day. We visited Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus and attended eight shows in seven days (two on Sunday). We slept in a quintessential quaint (too small with fragrant aged wallpaper) European hotel in one room with her parents. There were two beds and a bathroom down the hall. One evening the four of us lay falling asleep for the night and Deborah’s father made the loudest fart I’d ever heard and I had to hold in the laughter and not pee in my pants since I was sharing the bed with Deborah.
Deborah and I split up from her parents and the two of us went to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and took pictures with the plastic Royals and bought souvenir programs from each show and museum we visited. I still have each one; I can’t bring myself to throw them away; imaginary connections I still have with her. I ponder if she has her copies or has she long ago purged them in a series of moves across the country? Had she valued them at all? Had they even made it past college? Mysteries in the box of ghosted friendship.
Deborah’s parents took me on my college tours. It helped that Deborah and I applied to the same six schools and both settled on Boston University, from which, after a year and a half we both deiced to transfer. Only this is where the roads diverged. She went to Tulane University in New Orleans and I went to New York University. She joined a sorority and dove into a classic college life and I went back home, met my first serious boyfriend and moved into an apartment with him in Queens while commuting to NYU, where I had organized my classes to be two full days a week so I can get a professional job for the other three days. I needed to make enough money to live on my own. I skipped the fun part and went straight to adulthood whereas she got to step out from my loud, shadow and finally act her age.
When I got married the first time I had actually reconnected with Deborah momentarily; she was living in California at the time and a business trip brought me there. I stayed at her house for a night and we drank ice coffee in the morning, took a walk on the beach and ??? I don’t remember anything else. She was living with an older boyfriend with a dog and a cat. I was living in the year 2000 Manhattan and she was living in a pseudo 1969, via Venice Beach, waking and baking. Our lives had taken off on different trajectories, but we had come from the same place, shared about six years of our full-time school, travel, and work experiences and had tattooed these experiences not just on our memories but on our consciousness; these critical adolescent times are carved on the trunks of our childhoods.
In retrospect, there may have been some unrevealed pressure in being each other’s everything and maybe this contributed to why she ultimately ghosted our friendship. I could think of a million possibilities like a jealous girlfriend precipitously dumped, searching for answers. It may have simply been “out of sight, out of mind” but I imagine she was stuck with me for so long that she needed the rest of her life to detox. Maybe the last time I saw her I said something typically inappropriate she just couldn’t forgive. What was the last straw? What was the first straw? I’m a problem solver; I would have been happy to exchange holiday cards and birthday cards once a year for life to just know what’s up, see what she’s thinking, see her handwriting again and remember how she had a funny way of holding her pen. These are the things I think about, but I’ll never know the truth and therein lies the “ghost” part.
I would have asked forgiveness. I could have provided an explanation. Surely 16 years is long enough for exoneration for an undisclosed wrongdoing? Does she think of me on my birthday as I do on hers? She’s nowhere to be found on the Internet but last I heard from a friend of a friend of her sister, she was alive in California.
I drive by her parent’s house when I visit my parents in Staten Island; I pass their street and look down to see if her car is in the driveway although it’s obviously not the same Toyota Corolla her parents and then later she drove us around to the mall, the movies, to my family’s donut shop, where we both worked.
It stings in my gut as I long for my connection to my past, my memories. It sits on my chest, like a gas bubble I can’t release. The ghost of friendship past. I wish every relationship ended with a good fuck you letter or dear john letter, but it doesn’t. Closure in a relationship isn’t a guarantee, it’s a bonus.