birthday conversations, part IV.

“Sometimes I wish they’re not nice people,” I confessed. “I wish that when we broke off the friendship circle, they wrote me off too. For good. I wish they would stop pretending – no, acting – like they still know me, just because as kids, we were once close. Sometimes I wish they would stop extending their kindness my way, thinking of me as ‘one of our closest friends’ because uh, excuse me? We don’t know each other anymore.” 

“But mostly I wish these because their niceness only amplifies my pettiness.”

My friend said nothing. I confessed everything.

“It’s not that I don’t care about them – it’s because I care too much that’s the problem. I become overly-attached. Extricating is painfully difficult. Because I had so many friendships before them that fizzled – friendship breakups for me have never been anything new or extraordinary – I think I clung on to them a little too tightly than was normal, to be honest. And sometimes I think, this was why it took me so long to come to terms with what happened – for the longest time, all I could see was myself and my pain, you know?”

I paused. Inhaled and exhaled; replaced the expired air in my lungs.

“The truth is, maybe… I know why they’re such dear friends to each other. Why their circle is so strong, even now. They were the kind of friends who were there for each other in every sense of the word, you know? They were there for each other in ways I never could, for anyone. When her mother passed away in the year we turned eighteen, that was the year I was in that local college, so I was still at home. I remember receiving a text message from one of the girls, informing me about what happened. Her mother fought cancer for a long time, I remember she was frail, even though she was younger than my mother. But her mother… liked me, you know? She was fond of me. So when I heard the news, it shook me. I tried to go to the funeral but something came up – I couldn’t find transport or something – and I tried, but in the end I didn’t go. I did apologize and extended my condolences. Of course the rest were there for her.”

“[But] If I’m being honest… even… even in that moment when I found out about her mother’s passing, in my selfishness… it was my pain that I felt the most. It shouldn’t be about me, you know? It shouldn’t. I realized and understood that even back then but what immediately came to my mind was the fact that I’d have to face them in-person if I did go to the funeral ceremony. I mean, in the end I genuinely couldn’t – I can’t remember why now – but even in her suffering… it was… only my pain that I felt.” 

“And last year, did you know? The other’s girl dad passed away. And about a month later, her best friend’s – also in that circle – dad passed away. And each time, in all three instances, I heard the new directly from one of them. So it’s not like they’d forgotten me, I guess. They’re… genuinely nice girls, you know? I know that now.” 

“When the third girl’s dad passed away, I was already here at Stanford. I don’t think the dads knew me, but I’m pretty sure I’d met both dads before, at least once. Even if I never did though, this type of turn-of-event is significant to any person, you know? The passing of a parent, that’s huge. I can’t even begin to imagine losing mine, despite growing up with a sickly father. Unlike the time with the first girl, I genuinely felt for them, you know?” 

“I remember the messages they sent me though. In all three instances and from three different girls, all of them broke the news to me because ‘I thought you should know’, they wrote, ‘because you’re one of our closest friends.’ But you know, honestly? To be completely honest? I find that the oddest sentence. Especially with the girls who lost their dads last year – by then, we hadn’t seen each other in ages, what more kept in touch. Sure we’re friends on Facebook, but they don’t even appear on my feed. Yes, I hide them.”

It’s been so long.”

Next to me, my friend nodded her head occasionally, but maintained her silence.

“I remember that morning, waking up to the message and reading that sentence. No. That was the first word that came out of my mouth, to no one in particular. Of course I messaged the girls in person; I thanked the news bearer and extended my condolences to the affected. And I mean, I was genuinely affected and felt for them – I remember the whole day went by in a blur, and eventually, I wrote about this in my blog because I was so… affected, genuinely overcome by their loss. And yet, that sentence-“

“‘I thought you should know, because you’re one of our closest friends.'”

“I wept for their loss, prayed and wished the best for them… but even in those moments of sympathy, I knew the falseness of that sentence. No. We’re old friends who knew each other as kids, but… it’s been so long.”

“It’s been so long,” I repeated. Both of us fell silent.

Truth? Sometimes I… genuinely wonder, had the misunderstanding not happened – would our friendship circle even survived? I don’t doubt the one they have with each other, but the one where I factor in, would we have stayed friends, as close as we once were? Because I am… selfish. I don’t know how to see another’s pain. Even in another’s suffering, it is always my own that I am most attuned to. My blackened heart.

“Sometimes I wish they’re not nice people. Then I needn’t be reminded of how I’m not.”

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