What do you do when you’re enjoying yourself in good company and you’re suddenly reminded of something or someone you would rather not think about? Depending on how good you are you might be able to suppress it quite well. If you’re like me, then you’re usually passable at the skill of suppressing. Of course there are those times when the poker face doesn’t quite hold up. This kind of thing happens from time to time.
Recently, I was enjoying myself at a restaurant. Before long the waitress came over to introduce herself. When I looked at her face I was struck by how familiar she felt to me. Almost immediately I was overcome with a feeling of intense sadness, almost to the point of tears. She had a name I couldn’t forget and a face that was pretty and haunting at once. Why? Because she reminded me of my friend who I last saw in the Boston area almost two years ago now.
She had the same name (and last name initial) and the same long eye lashes. Her nose was eerily similar. She was a little curvier than my old friend and her hair was a wavy, golden blonde as compared to my friend’s straight brunette locks. Of course when the person I was with inquired about what was bothering me, I couldn’t express all of this. Because why? So I come here to tell you.
Sometimes I find myself still reeling from the extended episode. The trauma is still very real for me. I have days at work where a memory will crop up unexpectedly and I’ll tear up or full-on cry silently at my desk. At night the hits are a little harder. I fall asleep barely remembering when I stopped crying.
I haven’t spoken to my friend since the day we had the counseling session, which will be two years ago this coming July. Two years since I last heard her voice. I need to let that sentence sink in for a bit.
Not everyday, but fairly often, I’m met with little things that remind me of her. Last January, I was at a restaurant and when it was time to grab the check I noticed the name of the server on the receipt: it was the same name as my friend’s former roommate who helped me plan the birthday surprise. The exact same spelling and everything. To make matters weirder, there was another woman I noticed returning to her table from the bathroom, who looked at lot like my friend. Then almost a year after that, this past January I went back to that place and was served again, by the none other than the woman who shared the roommate’s name.
A couple months after that, my work welcomed a special guest documentary filmmaker to talk a bit about her work with one of our partners. Very quickly, I noticed how she reminded me of my friend. During her talk, I found myself again, moved to the point of tears as the intense sadness took hold of me. I was struck, by the ways she moved and presented herself. How she was dressed, how her hair looked, her nose and mouth. How she smiled and laughed slightly awkwardly, even her teeth looked like a slightly altered version of my friend’s. The differences were that her forehead was a bit more prominent and she was from across the pond in the UK. She was the English version of my friend.
Being the resident video production person at work, I had the opportunity to work with her that day to shoot an interview of the CEO. I noticed as I helped her set up her cameras and tripods and stage shots, it reminded me of how my friend and I would set things up similarly when we made short movies back in college. It was all very strange and very alternate reality-like.
The special guest and I worked well together. So well in fact, she made a joke at one point about how she needed me to hop on a plane with her to New York, which was her next stop to do some more video work. We connected, exchanged contact information and while it was very pleasant getting to know her, I found myself struggling to see the person in front of me and not my old friend. There was an undercurrent of soreness throughout interacting with her, a feeling of the scar from a deep wound reopening.
I find myself asking what the point of talking about all this is? Why am I still so bothered almost two years later? My friend has moved on with her life. She lives in Arizona now and seems to be doing well. She is closer to her core family and is in a relationship, a fact I discovered rather unfortunately on my birthday last year. Yes, I engaged in a bit of Facebook research to see how she was doing, I will admit that. However, we aren’t connected there anymore so my visibility was limited.
When I saw it, I wasn’t so much surprised that she was in a relationship, though I did feel shock in my stomach. What hit me harder was that she was with this new person for a Massachusetts visit – at the places she took me to during the visit she told me she loved me. She took him to the exotic chocolate place, where we tried different types of ‘you-can-only-get-this-here’ kind of chocolate. We sat outside on a warm sunny day and talked, where she gave me the heart shaped post-it with the words “I love you” on it. She even took him to a place we accidentally discovered on an adventure trying to find a place to eat. There were pictures of them eating the coveted rice balls she and I often talked so much about. There were also pictures of the two of them with another gentleman I met during the last happy visit I had with her. They are close. She once told him that I was the best person she knew, which he shared with me when I met him. He is the only person still friends with me on Facebook today. Not that we talk often.
While I initially cursed myself for having chosen to pick at my scab with The Book (Facebook), on my birthday no less, half-hoping I would see a message from her, in hindsight it is actually a good thing that I’ve seen that she has moved on and is enjoying life. Good for her. She deserves it after overcoming her own pain. Maybe this relationship she’s in is helping to heal her heart. Maybe she too is still wrestling with it all at times.
I’ve mentioned before that I had hope that I hadn’t lost her completely. At this point though, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t see us communicating again in the foreseeable future. Not even a simple “hello” via text message. I think the further along we move from the last time we spoke, the easier it will be to not think about each other. I’ve been calling her my friend this whole entry, but if I’m being completely honest about all of this, we are no longer friends. Something else I need to let sink in. It feels strange to consider because I don’t think I’ve ever even said any of this aloud before. No matter how much I hate to think of it. This is the reality at this point. There is no reason to reconnect. Of course I would love to talk with her again one day, but it feels as if there isn’t a chance for that anymore. So ends the decade long connection we shared.
What hasn’t ended, what I feel perpetually connected to, is the sense of loss and sadness attached to all this. The heaviness, I continue to grapple with. On the one hand, at least I can say that I have a decade of mostly wonderful memories, of happiness and challenges, rich, beautiful and complex. We stayed connected against odds that were in favor of us losing touch. On the other hand, I don’t think enough time has elapsed in order for me to recognize it all for what it is. Over. Not an easy pill to swallow when things are unresolved. I am working on that. I am also working on the truth of all of this, being honest first and foremost with myself. Because at the end of the day, no matter who else is around, I am only left with one person: Me. For the time being, I remain haunted.