On the Loss of a Friend

"Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends."

-- Alexander Pope

Well, I don't mean to impugn most of my friends; they are loyal and caring and have gotten me through some of the worst times of my life and hopefully I've helped in theirs. But I've lost a friend and right now I'm mixing sorrow and fury at the circumstances.

It's the Fourth of July, technically, as I write this, although only because it's after midnight -- when I woke up it was the third. My last couple of Fourth of July holidays have been spent with a guy named Chris; you'll recognize the name if you've read many of the other personal essays on the site. One of my closest friends, I thought.

I met him when I met the rest of the people in my dorm in the fall of my freshman year of college, 1991. He was engaged then to a girl named Staci (recently he said she doesn't count as a fiancee because he didn't buy her a ring, but he called her a fiancee at the time). We became friends, but he was obviously off limits.

Sophomore year he broke up with Staci and asked me out. We went out for a year and a half on the calendar, rather less when you consider that we broke up somewhere between four and seven times (the uncertainty is due to the fact that there were times when we weren't sure ourselves whether we had gotten back together so we didn't know if our fights were breaking us up again). Once he dumped me for another girl, an old friend who he had gone to visit to comfort and support while she pressed a sexual harassment complaint at her school. He dumped her for me two and a half weeks later.

When we broke up in spring of junior year, it took a while to calm down and treat each other as friends, but it happened gradually. He asked me back out again in fall of senior year; I said no, and the same to the next year or two's two or three more tries. It was PROVEN to me that we didn't work well as a couple, but I still loved him deeply as a friend. He had other girlfriends and was (formally, with ring) engaged once, but none stayed together. He despaired of ever meeting someone, and cried on my shoulder while I reassured him that it would happen someday. He talked of becoming a Catholic priest (the religion he was raised in) and I pointed out that he had always wanted a genetic family rather than only a spiritual one, trying to dissuade him from a course I felt he would never be completely happy in. He did the same, supporting me throughout my worst times, such as those described in my essay, With A Lot Of Help From My Friends. And I dated other people and found Jon, who I have lived with for the past year and been involved with for longer, and who once said to me, "If I didn't think marriage was such a silly institution, I'd probably have asked you to marry me by now." I'm taken, and I wouldn't want Chris as a romantic partner even if I weren't. Has this been established?

Last October (1998), Chris announced that he was converting from Catholicism to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). He said that I was one of the two most supportive friends about his conversion (the other is non-religious too -- his Baptist and Catholic friends were considerably less helpful, apparently). He was baptized in November, and was happy in the Church. Around January, he met a woman on some sort of LDS Internet site, and they became involved (though it was long-distance; he was in South Carolina and she in West Virginia), and within a few months engaged. I was very happy for him, and his description of Christy sounded like a wonderful person. He sent me pictures of her, and I thought she was pretty and defended her to some other friends of Chris's who disagreed.

Everything was as normal until late May or early June of 1999. Chris stopped calling me, didn't answer the letters I always wrote him as a matter of course, and it was annoying me because I was trying to find out if the gift I had ordered for him (a specially-decorated wedding clock that would do a countdown of the time left until the wedding, as he was so excited about it) had ever been delivered.

Wednesday, June 30, he called me finally. Talked a bit, asked what was going on in my life and I told him about my then-not-completely firm thoughts about moving the site from GeoCities. Told me about his trip to a water park the previous weekend and the sunburn he'd gotten there. Then he said he had something he'd been "agonizing" over for a while. Asked if I had any idea what it was. (Why on earth did you think I would have any idea? Have you been persuaded that what you were about to do is normal behavior?) I said no. Then, he said Christy didn't want me at the wedding reception. (As a non-Mormon, I couldn't attend the Temple ceremony in any case.) I wasn't happy, but if that's what she wanted, I could deal with it. Then he dropped the complete bombshell. Christy also didn't want him to write, phone, or ever have any contact with me. Ever again. "And once we're married, she'll be living in the same house, able to enforce this," he added.

I didn't really ask why; I was too shocked and hurting to think to ask. I asked if his other friends would be next; he said no, it was me and one other ex (one who has tried to get him back since their breakup, even when he was involved with someone else). I cried; I told him that it seemed to me that if she felt she was supposed to have power over who Chris could be friendly with on a social basis, it was quite likely that there would be someone else in future who she didn't approve of or saw as a threat or whatever suspicion had brought her to this action. (Especially when, knowing Chris and his past as I do, it's him who has to change, or merely cutting him off from women he's already dated will by no means assure his fidelity. And he does seem to have changed greatly in that respect since his conversion.) I wished him and her well, crying, and hung up the phone. 'Twere best 'twere done quickly, right? (Of course, those words originally referred to the murder of a sleeping man who had never wronged the murderer, in Macbeth.)

It's three days later. It hasn't stopped hurting and it hasn't stopped enraging me, and I don't know when it will. I can be distracted, but then when I'm doing my normal activities, wandering around the bookstore and picking up Where the Wild Things Are stationery, I remember that I have no need to buy it -- the friend to whom I write paper letters isn't my friend anymore.

The Train(s) of Thought:
I just don't understand. Not how she could do this, cut you off from one of your closest friends, not if she cares about you. Not how you could break off with one of your closest friends, the one whose shoulder you cried on more times than I can count, the one you said hundreds of times that "No matter how our lives turn out, we'll always be friends." I don't see how she can call herself a Christian -- Jesus said "Love one another" and she forces caring friendships apart. I'm selfish enough to hope that it isn't just me who's hurting, that I hadn't managed to misjudge the depth of our eight years of friendship or that you hadn't lied to me. It seems as if you have, though, because I can't understand how you could do this.

I cry in bed when I try to go to sleep; my brain runs over and over what's happened, disbelieving, playing snippets of songs about loss or just that I know you like -- it was even hard to listen when Santana came on the radio because I first heard their work played by you. I haven't even tried listening to Queen -- I'm scared, as I used to be during the miserable months in the summer of 1996 when I had that continuing anxiety attack, that if I let myself into any situation where the emotions can get really loose, that I will just never be able to stop crying. You've been such a part of my life, my closest friend except for Jon, that the emptiness threatens to grow. It would hurt if someone else did cut me off, but no one else except Jon has such a presence to leave such a hole.

I liked what I heard of Christy, and I was really happy that you'd found someone you could love and be compatible with in everyday life, that you'd be happy as I felt you deserved. Now she seems insecure and suspicious, likely to eat away at your soul without either of you knowing it until you reach some minimum amount for living that will, knowing you, make you reach for your freedom in some unexpected-even-to-you manner. I went through that with Rob; I don't want it for you or for her, because I know it hurt Rob as much as me and I've always felt guilty about that. Perhaps my comments that it seems likely that it won't stop here will make you both think, work out a compromise for your relationship that could be healthy, instead of pushing each other around this way. I'm insecure too, but part of the happiness of my relationship comes from the fact that I try and deal with it inside myself, not cutting my lover off from anything I think might be the slightest amount of temptation.

"If you love somebody, set them free. If they come back, they're yours forever. If they don't, they never were." I'm trying. I wish you happiness; I hope it can work out for you two. I just wish you didn't seem to feel that it was necessary to sacrifice other long-term bonds to do so.

I don't believe this, you liar! Have you not an ounce of loyalty in your body? If you're willing to break off one of your longest-term friendships for her, what makes her think you won't break off with her when you find something better?! You've proved yourself a traitor, breaking your often-repeated promise that we'd always be friends. I'm especially astounded because you know how I feel; I remember your hurt when you told me how Brian acted over your conversion. Or have you forgotten?

I've lost all my hard-earned faith in you. You were becoming a better person than the one I dated, and you knew it because you'd worked at it, not just make things easier in your life but from true interest in bettering your character and not hurting people. You used to try your best for everyone in your life. Now look at you! Not a single person I've told who knows you expected something like this from you. Not a single person I told, even on .misc where people are unconnected with my personal life, thought that I would be a threat to your relationship, not even Rob who has not exactly been fond of you or trusting in my morals. You and your fiancee are locked up in a suspicious little world where allowing someone to continue being insecure is more important than your supportive friends. How long till you stop calling your parents?

I've only told our few mutual friends the facts; the rants and weeping have been confined to people who aren't close to you. Your friends can decide for themselves whether to continue to trust you or if they should leave you to wallow in your newly-rediscovered dependence on only the person you're going to be sleeping with, as if keeping the source of your orgasms happy was the only thing in the world that could matter. I hope you get the life you deserve, that people treat you the way you're treating them.

I feel sick thinking of all the caring and support in the past, how I helped you through a period of your life 16 times longer than you've even known Christy, and how none of it matters to you. You're not worth my friendship, or the sorrow or the anger of this ending. I only wish that would stop my stomach twisting up and bring my appetite back, or make it easier to sleep at night.

I only wish it were as easy for me as for you to jettison it all.

All the caring doesn't go away that easily.

And I go back into the sadness, back into the other train of thought...

And now, it's the Fourth of July, and whether I feel anger or pain, the guy I spent past holidays watching fife and drum corps perform at EPCOT, or listening to a concert in the park along with some other friends, will never speak to me again. I feel that future absence much more than the mere fact that this year he's doing something else for the Fourth of July.

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