"The After" is firmly rooted in "The Before," that time when the landscape of my life had been abysmally and indelibly altered by the realities of traumatic loss.
In the before, I was less than nothing and yet somehow more toxic than an atomic fallout. I told my best friend that I had nothing, that I could not function, that I needed someone to help me put the pieces back together.
And she promised that she would be there for me. And then she abandoned me, left me to rot and moulder entirely alone. Through circumstances beyond my control, I had no local support beyond her and no real support anywhere else.
I tried the church. And I was shamed for being angry with God, after all, "It's Satan's fault, not God's"' and my grief was dismissed and invalidated because, after all, I "hadn't known Tim all that long and he's in a better place now." Fuck the church.
So, I turned, instead, to my oldest friend. And I clung to my friend in the same way that hair clings to damp skin: tangled, messy, and not so easily removed.
I was desperation and need and a chasm that seemed only to be filled by the sound of my old friend's voice and I began to come alive again as I started to learn this person. The only time I was truly animated was when I realized a discovery was on the horizon and I asked more questions.
But who can withstand that kind of heat and pressure? It's not like turning coal into diamonds. It's more like an egg in the microwave, so much heat from the oven, so much pressure, the steam created by the cooking egg white and yolk inside of the shell. It's no wonder things exploded.
But that was "The Before." Before the email was sent ending a decade-long friendship. Before enough therapy. Before I built a new support system. Before I figured out how to be me again, without the most important people in my life, without the markers and labels that had always defined me: student, high achiever, friend.
All of that was before "The After."
I suppose it should come as no surprise, given "The Before," that in "The After" my best friend betrayed me. As though the abandonment during "The Before" was not awful enough, my best friend of six years chose in "The After" to support my oldest friend of 10 years, despite the fact that the two had never met.
And that is why it became "The After." Because she, my best friend, did not choose me. Rather, she chose someone who was manipulative, emotionally abusive, who had abandoned me as well.
As I wrote, this should have come as no surprise. In reality, it [nearly] destroyed our friendship. And not because of what my best friend intended to do--she wanted to repair the rift between my oldest friend and me. What she didn't understand at the time is that there is all the difference in the world between our intentions and the consequences of our actions.
And it was her actions that [nearly] destroyed our friendship.
I am not innocent in all of this. I hacked her email account and I read everything she wrote to this other person. I'm ashamed of this. I find this weakness in me humiliating. And in every word I read, I felt betrayal, dishonor, and a deepening sense of rage.
She insisted that everything she ever wrote was innocent. That nothing she wrote was dishonoring, that she honestly believed I would not object to anything she told this other person. Her intent was merely to offer support and help this person process in the hopes of restoring the friendship.
It did not read that way.
Every word carried in it the painfully acidic sting of betrayal and bile rising in the back of my throat.
So, finally, I told her that I wanted nothing to do with her ever again. She had made her choice. The other friendship was over, and continued contact with this person only kept it ever-present in my mind. I wanted it finished and over, and if she continued to have contact with this individual, then I would never have contact with her again. I did not need this person in my life, and I did not want her to play the intermediary.
And her response was, "Of course I choose you!"
She ended contact with the other person. Or so she said. At some point, I confessed that I had hacked her account and read their correspondence. But I had stopped.
We started to rebuild our friendship. We worked through a lot. We got onto a path of mutuality and reciprocity once again.
But it's different.
Every time something goes wrong, or plans are changed (usually last minute), or she's running 5 minutes late, I'm right back to "The After." I think, "Of course I can't trust her. She lied to me once. She betrayed my trust. What makes me think she's going to follow through this time? What makes me think she can be trusted now?"
And there are times I might get a little pissy about being cast aside like a used and unwanted toy; times when I might withdraw while I try to figure out why I keep trying at all.
Inevitably, I end up deciding that choosing to trust and continuing to invest are worth it.
I'm beginning to wonder if I do not have a deep-seated masochistic streak in me after all.
I often wonder if I continue trying because I'm simply afraid of what my life would like if she were not a part of it. What would I miss in her life? What would I miss if I couldn't share parts of my life with her?
Then, that email. First, the apology. No big deal. I put it out of my mind and forgot about it. For six blissful weeks.
Then, that email, re-initiating the friendship.
And all of "The After" was back full force. All of the questions of friendship and loyalty and love.
See, in the beginning, I ignored what was written between the two of them because somehow I got it stuck in my mind that if she could, somehow, magically, fix things between me and my oldest friend, then everything between her and me would magically be fixed as well. If she could fix that relationship, then, somehow, all of her betrayals, in "The Before" and "The After," would be justified.
When it only served to damage our friendship more, I drew a line in the sand.
Though my best friend's contact with my oldest friend ended (or so she told me), somehow, that magical thinking did not end.
Here I am. Two years after "The After" ended, and when I got that email, I had one thought:
Either she's been lying to me for the past 3 years and has maintained contact with this other person or her efforts were in vain because this person reached the point of reconciliation on their own, and she betrayed our friendship for nothing.
And it brings up all kinds of questions about my friendship with the nerd--because my best friend introduced us. Is she in the middle of this now? Is she going to him behind my back? Does she share my secrets? If he asks her about something in our friendship, or if he doesn't get me, does he ask her? And if he does, does she claim Swiss citizenship as she's promised? Or does she answer him and nudge him along in the name of friendship? With the intentions of smoothing the path and making my friendship with the nerd easier?
One might ask why I would post this blog rather than simply working this out with her. The answer is two-fold:
1) It's not really her issue. This is about me and my trust issues.
2) She's far too busy this time of year to give me the time and engage the conversation fully and honestly.
I'm left wondering if sheer force of will can heal what seems to be so deeply broken in my heart.