Jun 13, 2014

To A Friend

Three characters: A, B, C. 
B and C live together (they're married / attached), and A's their neighbour. A likes B and courts B. B pushes A away politely, but the responses evolve over time. At the same time, B tries to get closer to C, but C is often away and it doesn't work.

(Note: Please, please, this is fiction. I borrowed some objects and situations from real life, but pretty much all the major things are fictional. I made it such that any of the characters could be A, B or C; and because there was so much love involved, I decided to add a touch of hate.)

Dear friend,

The day you told me about her was the day I realized how much I loved you. I was gripped by a fear that I might lose you to someone else. Also, in a sense, the day you told me about her was the day I started to love you. You trusted me. Your hands in your pockets, your trembling voice, my promise to keep it a secret. Perhaps now you needed me more than ever before, and because of that I quickly came to need you in a way that suffocated us both.

I helped you get closer to her, but maybe it was all a ploy. So that when you wanted to ask her to the dance, you had to practice on me first. So that I’d be the first to know what was going on. So that I could be there to lend you my shoulder when she only seemed to bring pain, and maybe, just maybe, I would win.

The day she moved in with you I knew I had lost a battle. But I was still your best friend, and best friends fill spaces that a lover just can’t. I continued to come over every day when she had class at 3, occasionally with coffee or a granola bar, and I’d sit on your bed as usual and watch you do whatever you were doing, and you’d keep me updated. At first you were still warm and cheerful, but after a while you started to talk less and game more, and show less interest when I was around.

Then one day as you were going back to your apartment you heard me crying from mine. You came in and I was hysterical, because I thought I had completely lost you to her, that I didn’t mean anything anymore. You pulled me to you and you stroked my hair and you said no, there was no such thing. I was so important. What would you do without me. Attached people needed best friends too. I watched as your hand took mine. I said I don’t know. I just felt so insignificant. I needed you far more than you would ever need me, and I needed so much. “Funny,” you mused. “The way you feel about me is just like how I used to feel about her.”

I know.

And I wanted to say, if you know exactly how I feel, why wouldn’t you do something about it? Then it was seven o’ clock and she was back and you gave me one last squeeze and left. The door closed. I heard you say “hey babe” in the corridor and then her chuckle, silence for a moment, then your door creaked open.

That night, you thanked me for reminding you of those painful days of your own, and that you were so lucky to have her now. I felt listless. The next morning she came over and said you told her about what had happened, and she felt bad that I felt this way, and that what I shared with you was a very special friendship and she wouldn’t forgive you if you gave it up for anything. Whatever. I was pissed. Why did you have to tell her? Now my weak desperate neediness was made public, now I was an object to be pitied, an obligation. When she left for her three-o-clock class I stormed into your room and told you that. “You know what hurt me?” you said quietly. “It hurt me that after I told her all that, and that I was lucky to have her now and everything, she didn’t say anything about us. It was only about you. That I should be a better friend and all. I was like, could we focus on us for a while here?”

I guess we were all pissed. I stormed back out. You were confused.

I would have stayed away from you if I could, as an act of rebellion. But I was too weak, I had too little dignity to pretend I didn’t need you like that. And I knew that if I stayed away you wouldn’t come over anyway. It would just be me, hurting. And so the next day I came by again, with your coffee, and you continued gaming without looking up.

She started sticking these little notes of love and bible quotes and song lyrics on my door and I hated it. I hated her pity. But I knew that if I hated her I would be losing again. So I entertained her. I gave her tea packets, I returned the post-it favour. I guess she felt guilty every time you were together. She’s a girl, she knows how a girl feels.

I would come sit on your bed every day at 3pm, and you’d talk about how you took her out for a nice meal or you suggested you go feed the cats together and she’d just always seem tired. She was helping out at an animal shelter now, and she was always talking about what she had to do. All these new exciting novelties, and you were just the one she came home to every day. She was too used to you, you said. She didn’t know to treasure it. You felt like maybe you should go away for a while, but maybe if you did, she’d be too caught up with everything else to miss you.

How much you echo my own words, I thought. How much I hated how every time I came over, if you said anything at all it’d be about her. And every time you gave me breadcrumbs of attention I devoured them like an exhausted sailor, but it was never enough. I guess we’re all a part of this chain – we give all of ourselves to someone else, hoping to be filled in return by them; but they’re busy giving all of themselves to other people, and we’re all being filled, but not by the right person, so we keep on feeling empty.

I started to write you all these notes of gratitude or advice, I gave you mix tapes. You thanked me for every note initially, and you’d reply me face-to-face, but after a while maybe I burned you out or I pushed too hard and you started to ignore them. I guess there was only a tiny space in  your heart for me, and I was trying to expand it. But you would fight back by refusing to cross the mental boundary. You’d push me out of your thoughts and force her in instead. You had to keep the 80-20 status quo. On Valentine’s Day I gave you an onion with the Carol Ann Duffy quote, and you and she made me onion soup the following evening. Do you know how much that hurt?

All this while she wrote me more and more post-its. You’d see them as you left your apartment and you’d be like, “what about me?” and you’d shower her with more, hoping for something in return. Oh, you could have them. I detested them. I threw them all away.

Then one day she left for a three-day mission trip and it was too quick a goodbye. I heard the lift come, I gave you four minutes, and then I knocked. “Let’s watch anime,” I said, hoping to lift your spirits. Maybe you were too polite to refuse.

In the show, the lead girl had helped her best friend get this girl, but by the end of it she had grown so dependent on him that she couldn’t let herself lose him anymore. The difference was that the guy felt the same way about her, so there was no pain to deal with in the end. No rubble.

I started talking about it again, a slow broken pace at first, and then I was crying. You were silent. I ran out of words. I tried to lean into you but you backed away. I looked up. You were evidently uncomfortable. I just needed some reassurance.

I’m writing you this letter because I need to get away from this place for a while. Maybe a month or two. I got an internship in China, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m guessing you’ll find this letter once you start wondering why I haven’t come by. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be too caught up with her to miss me. The two of you can go make your onion soup and feed the cats and she won’t have to feel guilty. And when I return, I will have found the strength to give and receive from myself alone until someone’s willing to give back.

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