I was on my way back from the kind of vacation most people dream about taking -- a week of eating, drinking, sightseeing and shopping in Barcelona with my boyfriend. When the plane landed back in New York, I got a voice mail from my bank saying there had been some suspicious activity regarding my account.
When I went to my bank to view the surveillance footage, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was my best friend Gigi (not her real name) attempting to use my ATM card while I was in Spain.
I met Gigi during my freshman year of college. She shared my love and enthusiasm for clothes, boys and partying. I fell into a wonderful circle of friends, some of whom had known Gigi since elementary school.
Gigi and I became partners in crime. The crimes mainly being underage drinking, partying, hooking up with boys and having fun. We were so close, we could practically read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. One of our favorite things to do was get drunk and go to the quiet floor of one of the dorms and have a conversation as loud as we possibly could.
Post graduation, I moved to an apartment very close to where she lived. At first, things were great. Gigi would come over on Monday nights. We would make cocktails and watch "The Hills." She would flat-iron my hair and help me choose what to wear before we went out for the night. Gigi knew all my secrets. And I thought I knew all of hers.
Like many New Yorkers, she still lived with her mom. While we were very similar, we came from very different backgrounds. I grew up on the Upper East Side with a close-knit Jewish family. My father was an attorney and my mother was a real estate broker. Gigi’s mother was a professor at a local college. I never really understood what her father did for a living. She implied that he was involved with organized crime.
This was strange, but I loved her, so I accepted this to be true. I felt this was validated by people who grew up with her, who believed the same.
After seeing Gigi on the surveillance footage, I called her and politely confronted her. She told me that it was probably doctored footage that someone was using to get revenge on her father. She promised to speak with her lawyer about getting money in advance from her trust fund. In retrospect, this sounds completely insane -- but at the time, I believed her. People believe what they want to believe, especially when it has to do with someone you really care about.
From the day I moved into an apartment in close proximity to where she lived, her behavior became strange and disturbing. Whenever we went out, which was often, I usually went home before she did. Around 6:00am, she would call my cell phone asking if she could crash at my place. Of course it was fine.
But she started to do this a little too often, so I would turn my phone off before I fell asleep. Then she started to call my landline and ask the same favor. So, I unplugged my phone before bed. She would walk past my doorman and knock on my door until I let her in.
During this time, Gigi was becoming addicted to cocaine. She would come over to my place and use drugs. She would have drug dealers deliver cocaine to my apartment because she obviously couldn’t have it delivered to her mother’s apartment. Her drug use scared me and I hated having dealers come to my apartment, but I wanted to be a good friend.
However, I was frustrated by her lack of boundaries and wanted to separate myself from her -- but knew I needed to stay friends with her until I got my money back. She told me she planned to go to rehab in upstate New York. I felt relieved because she would temporarily be someone else’s problem, but I knew getting the money back would take longer than anticipated.
A few days later, she called me from Bellevue Hospital in Midtown Manhattan. She made up a story as to how she ended up there. Being a good friend, I went to visit her there multiple times.
It was a terrible place, to say the least. I will never forget how awful it smelled, like rotting food and melting plastic. While I felt terrible for her, I knew her problems were beyond anything I could deal with as a friend. For my own sanity, I wanted out! I continually pressured Gigi to speak with her attorney about getting money from her trust fund to pay me the money back. I did this under the guise that my parents were pressuring me.
One afternoon, I received a disturbing phone call from my Dad. Gigi had called my father and told him we had conspired to steal the money together. My parents knew this wasn’t true. While it seems impossible, things only got worse from that point.
My family felt awful for me and tried to help me take care of the situation, knowing I was in over my head. My mother was able to get in touch with Gigi’s mother, Tessa, who basically refused to accept that her daughter was responsible for these actions. She told my mom that because my father was an attorney, they should just give me the money.
If my father were Warren Buffett, it would have been just as disturbing a statement.
None of this was really about money. I just wanted closure and for this chapter to be over. I had a decision to make. Did I want to criminally prosecute her, sue her civilly, or have my father, who is an attorney, draw up a contract? I didn’t want to live with the guilt of sending my former best friend to jail. She lived in her own prison anyway.
I Googled her father and found out what he really did for living. He was basically a step above a janitor at the college where her mother worked. While there is nothing wrong with earning an honest living, I can understand in a world where seemingly everyone had “rich” parents, it would be hard if her parents weren’t “rich.”
Gigi always talked about having a trust fund. It did turned out she did not have one. Looking back, I discovered so many other lies she had told me. It was Lifetime TV movie bad.
She didn’t do any of this to hurt me. She did it because she was a sick person.
Ultimately, my father drew up a contract in which Gigi agreed to pay me $1000/month. The entirety of the situation took over a year from start to finish. Every month I received a check and was reminded of the hell I had been through.
It’s taken a long time, but I forgive her. I was really angry about what happened for years. I had a lot of trouble trusting my own decisions. I just couldn’t trust my own judgment for the longest time. It was a horrible state of mind to live in.
But ultimately, I feel sorry for her. Anyone who had been living a double life since they were a child obviously had it far worse than I did. There are many questions still left unanswered.
There are times when I miss her. Maybe not her, but the person I thought she was. It’s hard to explain how I feel because it’s as if I was best friends with someone who never really existed at all. Telling myself it’s like having a best friend who died works sometimes, but it just isn’t really adequate. Sometimes I feel she was the only person on the face of the earth who ever truly understood me.
I haven’t spoken to Gigi since the day she called my dad. I am not sure I ever want to speak to her again. I hope she finds what she is looking for because I know, deep inside, she has a beautiful heart. I often wonder if she misses me, too.
And if you’re reading this, girl, I want you to know you are forgiven.