Today is Monica‘s birthday.
As a result, I’ve been thinking about her a lot, and actually had a brief text conversation with her this afternoon (the first since… I think October). She’s doing well, and I’m happy for her.
I still feel like I’m walking on eggshells every time I talk to her, though. Like when I was asking her about her relationship, I actually said, “Let me know if I’m asking personal questions that you don’t want to answer.” There was a time when I never would have given her an out like that, because it was my right to ask her uncomfortable, personal questions (and vice versa).
I feel like I’m trying to maintain a friendship with an ex-boyfriend or something here. It’s all so frickin’ awkward: “How are you?” ; “Happy birthday” ; “I’m glad you’re happy.” This is not how best friends talk. It’s certainly not how Monica and I ever talked to each other before.
I’ve been meaning to put this out there for a while. I have no idea whether or not Mon’s still reading this blog; if she gave up at some point, it’s an unsent letter. If she is still reading it, then I guess it’s actually a sent letter. Either way:
This will be my twelve-billionth apology/explanation for the way I interacted with you while you were pregnant. I know it’s getting a little redundant, but I’ve had a lot of therapy lately, and I think maybe I’ll be able to say some things you haven’t heard before. This is also a love letter.
When I first met you, in that dorm-room Bible study freshman year, I was drawn to you right away because you were one of the prettiest girls in the group, and you seemed the least crazy. However, I had no idea you were going to become my best friend.
We bonded over dumb things, like a late-night IM discussion about how we best liked to prepare carrots, our love for the punching bag in the downstairs gym, and the fact that, most nights, we would both rather sit in our rooms and eat junk food than go out and party like all the cool kids were doing.
You were always willing to drop everything for me when I needed you, and I hope I was there to do the same for you. I remember taking walks late at night and sharing our stories, hopes, and fears with each other. This is a cliché, but it’s true. Of all the people I let see the darkest side of me during those years, you were the only one who never tried to change the subject, who never tried to fix my problems, and who never got overwhelmed and ran in the other direction. You were just there, listening, cracking jokes, and walking with me. You often admitted that you didn’t understand what I was going through, but it didn’t matter, because you were there, and that was enough.
The year that we lived together was one of the best of my life. We had so much fun, so many inside jokes in that apartment. We fought a lot too, but my memory is kind and glosses over those parts. We shared food – you did most of the cooking – and you taught me how to crochet. When that guy with the trapezoid head broke your heart, I sat up with you while you cried, and I offered to punch him. We went to Disneyland a lot with our other roommates, and we started partying more – but the best part of going out was the hour or two before we left, when we would take our time, getting dressed up and shooting tequila.
When I got married, I didn’t make you my maid of honor. I don’t remember why. I think it was because my ex-husband didn’t like you very much. I think he felt threatened by you, because we were so close, on such a different wavelength. I regretted my decision. I wish I had asked you to be my maid of honor, precisely because you understood me better than anyone. I guess it doesn’t matter anyway, since I didn’t stay in that marriage for very long.
Actually, when I was having second thoughts about getting married, you were the one I ran to. Do you remember that night, when we went to three parties in a row, and that psychic told me I was going to leave my ex for someone I hadn’t met yet? You gave me vodka and let me know it would be okay, whatever I decided.
I think that’s why I came to you when that prophesy came true, and I told you the truth about what was going on. At that time, I didn’t want to talk to any of my friends or family, because I was embarrassed and horrified by myself. But you were exempt. I knew that, even if you couldn’t understand me, you would listen, and you wouldn’t walk away. I had no idea that, a few months later, you would find yourself on the opposite end of a similar situation, and that you would be retroactively hurt by what I did. And I’m sorry.
It feels like this happens with us a lot. The plot-lines of our lives rarely cross. The other big example, of course, was when I had my miscarriage and then you got pregnant. That’s the one that broke us.
After my miscarriage, while my sanity was floundering, you were the best source of support I had. Sure, lots of people were giving me advice, quoting statistics, trying to show me the bright side… But you were the only one who could actually make me feel better. I felt like you were walking with me, like we used to walk down to the beach late at night in college, but from further away. You were holding my hand; you were making me laugh. When I had a bad day, I couldn’t wait to get home to read your latest email, knowing I would find comfort there.
That is, until the day that your email confessed you were pregnant. Suddenly, you weren’t walking with me anymore. I was walking alone. And worse – you had unintentionally, but very poignantly, gone over to the other side. You went, in an instant, from being my greatest source of comfort, to my greatest source of agony.
For the weeks and months that followed, there was nothing either of us could say to the other that wasn’t accidentally hurtful. We grew apart. Over the years, we’d grown apart a few times before, and I’d always fought for you, fought for our friendship. This time, I did not have the energy to fight. I was so broken that I couldn’t even fight for myself. I needed you to fight for us, but maybe you couldn’t that time either.
So we lost each other. And that completed the trifecta: in just over a year’s time, I lost a husband, a baby, and a best friend. Losing you was the cherry on top of the fucking sundae of my grief.
My mom told me the other day that she’d read somewhere that “people come into our lives for a specific reason, and when friendships end, their purpose in your life is complete.” I can’t stand the idea that this may be the case for us. Even now, you permeate my life in small but splendid ways. When I remembered today was your birthday, I thought of all the years you planned your own birthday parties, and how smart that was. When I tell people my favorite book is Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, I can’t help but remember that we discovered it together. Whenever I have news to share, you’re the person I want to tell first; sometimes I resist the urge, and sometimes I don’t.
The past two years have shown me that I can live without you. But they’ve shown me equally that I don’t want to. I’ve done a lot of healing, and I’m in a place now where I feel strong enough to fight for us again. But I need you to fight alongside me.
Monica, I love you. And I miss you. Will you walk with me again?