There are a few people I knew, growing up, who I don’t see any more. For whatever reason, they have disappeared from my life.
I was talking about one friend in particular, who’d I’d known from school. In all, I think I’ve known her …48 years. God, it seems - well it is - a lifetime. But we don’t speak any more. I get cards, Christmas, birthday. But nothing else. No texts. No calls.
I’ll admit, having tried to keep the contact going, my confusion and bewilderment turned to hurt. I’ve now simply stopped trying to get in touch. I think I’ve deleted her number. I did this while remembering all the times she turned up on my doorstep after yet another failed relationship, where I fed her ice-cream, helped boost her confidence and generally held her hands until the hurt went away.
Although I don’t think I knew it at the time, when she turned her back on me for another friend, it was the end for me. In my head, I began divorce proceedings, finding other friends, and writing her out of my life. One New Year, not so long ago, I made a resolution to only spend time with people who loved me.
A friend is…?
Talking about this with other friends, we got into a discussion about what friends actually were. There were lots of areas of agreement. It doesn’t matter that friends don’t see one another for ages - it’s about the contact and warmth when you get together. It doesn’t matter if you disagree - people do it all the time. It doesn’t matter if you argue - friends make it up, however clumsily.
What constitutes a friend, we decided, were two things. One, they don’t hurt you, they’re not purposefully cruel. Two, they always have your best interests at heart, and you know that. You may not agree, they may be wrong about what constitutes your best interests, but in their hearts, they only want you to be happy, and fulfilled.
She’s in lots of photos of the key moments in my life - my wedding, my second wedding, major birthdays… But now I’ve decided that I don’t recognise her as a friend, and will simply wish her well and stop mourning what was. I’m not quite sure what would happen if she got in contact, but I think I’d rather not welcome her back. It feels, now I think about it, like an abusive relationship.
And the best place to be in abusive relationships is out of them.