"Do all of your friends date each other?"
I have to think about the answer to this question, because I'm not really sure what to say. Does it seem like this from the outside? Probably. Is it hard to explain to people who live primarily in the straight community? Very.
I cough up a long-winded answer. "No, not all of them. I have many friends who are just that and have never been more. My girlfriend jokes that we make friends by sleeping with other people. It's common in the queer community to keep friendships with ex's though, so a lot of my friends have dated each other. But I think that's a testament to friendship. I don't look around and think of my friends as simply "people I used to date." I think of them as people I have had intense and amazing friendships and relationships with, people who I love and respect enough to want to keep around. Friendships I didn't want to lose when the romance ended."
Her response is quick. "That hasn't worked for me."
"It doesn't work for everyone. And there are some of my ex's I'm not close to. It sort of depended on how things ended. There's also a cooling off period, I mean, you don't usually jump from a serious relationship to an immediate friendship."
"I just... She wants to see me, she called me to say she was cleaning her room and found something for me. I told her that she knows where I live."
I feel my big sister side coming in. "You're leaving the country, possibly for years. Give her a chance, find some closure."
"I don't need closure."
I try not to be condescending, but it probably comes off that way. "You don't? It sounds like you still care. You telling me this says to me that you still care."
She looks off in the distance and rolls her eyes. "She went to Brazil for study abroad, and she was supposed to find herself, learn something, and she came back just as ditsy and flaky as before. She accomplished nothing. She had all that time to find herself, and she blew it. It's like she doesn't know how to learn, how to grow up."
A thousand thoughts at once. I want to respond to her accusations, but the truth is it's her pain, anger, and frustration that is speaking. To love someone and not have that returned, to know someone and realize they have so much potential and yet aren't using it, to miss someone. "I miss you" might be the hardest three words to say, right up there next to "I'm sorry."
I look at her and I hear myself, and I want to go back and not say the same things she's saying. I'm hundreds of miles and years too late. I want to scream, "I SAID THE SAME THINGS, AND I WAS AN ASSHOLE." I railed against my ex, too. I did it because I missed her. I did it because I loved her still, and I couldn't say that, so I coughed up every criticism I could find.
Instead I take on her "finding herself" accusation. "First off, the idea of going to another country to find yourself is so class-related it's horrifying. And personally, that's a life-long journey. I've had so many times in my life where I had to check in, where I had to check out, where I had to see if I lost my left tit under the couch. Seriously, though, it's not that easy. It's ok to be lost. I'm not sure the idea of 'finding yourself' is even possible. And you're not in her head. You don't know what she learned, what she didn't. Maybe she didn't learn the things you wanted her to learn, but that doesn't mean she did it wrong."
She not a big fan of my response. "Well, there's definitely a learning curve, and she's behind it."
"Well," I try not to bite back, but I am, "We're not all on the same timeline. And yes, some of us get to be behind the curve."
I leveled this criticism at my ex, too. Fuck. Nom, nom, nomssss eat all my words. She totally made me eat shit years later, when she jumped way ahead of the curve and I found myself "behind."
I start again. "Are you going to see her?"
"I'll see her at my friends' weddings."
"What does that mean?"
"I'll come home when my friends get married. She'll inevitably be there. I'll have to see her even if I don't want to."
I think of my best friend's death. I think of a good friend's recent car accident, which has hospitalized her for a recovery that may take months, if not years. The friendships I still regret walking away from in anger. I remember the week before high school and college graduations, when I was riding on a high of getting OUT, being DONE, forgetting that the post-grad diaspora would spread my friends to the winds. Forgetting that we may never be in a room together again.
I know what it feels like when anger makes me righteous, and I also know what it feels like when guilt and pain make me regret. I have a feeling I will learn these lessons over, and over, and over again. She will, too. She'll probably learn them in different ways than I will, and maybe she won't miss her ex's the way I miss mine. Maybe she won't miss lost friendships, maybe she'll chalk it up to the past and move on. And maybe her ex will come to say, "I'm sorry," and she'll cough it up, too, because missing someone hurts.
The landslide will bring it down.