If you had asked me 2 years ago where my friend would be, I would have said 'why, right beside me, as always and forever', being unable to foresee that there would ever be a time we'd fall apart. We have been friends for 20 years, we have laughed, cried, traveled, celebrated, sat in hospital waiting rooms with/for each other. We have been there, each for the other, for more momentous life events than can be remembered, all as beloved sisters by choice.
We got annoyed at times, got over it quickly. There was no doubt in my mind that this friend, this dear sister by choice, my heart's companion of middle age would never leave my side. But therein lies the hubris of being human. We, being imperfect, place our faith in imperfect vessels, never imagining they will leak or spill. When they do and we find ourselves alone and bewildered wondering if this empty place will ever heal over, we wonder what it was that caused this valued friendship to founder.
I am wondering that right now. The last time I saw my friend, I told her that I missed her after months had passed: phone calls never returned, messages never answered. She answered, "I'm always here". A more inadequate response than I could understand. I said at the time that I felt to blame, I made a joke about my Italian/Catholic guilt, my feeling that everything is my fault, and she brusquely brushed me off. We were exchanging Christmas gifts, months after Christmas. We drank tea together, hugged goodbye, and I have not heard from nor seen her since.
I am at a loss, feeling like I have suffered a loss, a piece of my heart broken away and flowing down a river where I can not follow. I know my friend has many interests and lives a fairly privileged life albeit not without her own trials and tribulations. Our paths have separated perhaps because I am not in a position to absorb the expense of having many interests where an expenditure is necessary. I must work full time and will be and have been for a very long time. My profession is physically demanding and time-consuming and while it is fairly profitable there is not much room for luxury or time off. Or maybe it is as simple as interests diverging and commonality disappearing. We have both of us watched as our families have expanded and taken up more of our time: but still, I say. We were always able to squeeze in a chat or lunch or dinner out. No longer.
I am truly saddened by this state of affairs, by what I have come to consider the loss of this friend. I ask myself constantly what I could have done to keep this from happening, did I do wrong somehow unknowingly? At the same time, a voice in my head tells me that this is how life is, that people come and go from our company, that there is an ebb and flow to certain friendships. But then I come back to the deep memories and intimate knowledge and feeling we shared and I shake my head: no. This was not a casual acquaintance and our lives did not take drastic turns in opposite directions. This feels like a faded flower stem snipped by a sharp pair of shears and cast into the compost. Perhaps with time, as with good compost, something will grow back. I will hold on to this hope; as life moves inexorably forward, so must I, while trying not to look back.