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I’d only found out that Rebecca* even had a boyfriend two weeks earlier. I was shocked when I got her e-mail, but most of all I was happy -- one of my best friends was getting married! Little did I know that this would effectively mark the end of our friendship.
Rebecca and I met in graduate school, and we were inseparable from the day she whispered to me in class that she loved my outfit. At three years older, she was the big sister I never had but always wanted. We painted ceramics and made jewelry at craft shops, shot video assignments together in the freezing cold and came home after drinking to cook three pounds of Brussels sprouts with shallots at 2:30 in the morning.
When we went out, I was her trusty wingwoman, always in awe of what a powerful man magnet she was. Seeing her walk into a bar with her megawatt smile and shock of blonde hair was like seeing a live body stumble into a horde of zombies in World War Z.
“Hey, excuse me,” guys would say as they hip checked me out of the way.
“That’s my friend!” I’d call proudly over the din, by then six guys away. I tend to be an aspirational friend-maker, and I wanted to be as cool and magnetic as Rebecca was. She taught me how to rock red lipstick and she held me together after I broke up with my boyfriend of over three years.
Even when she moved back to the West Coast the next year, we talked on the phone at least once a week. We got into our squabbles -- once, she told me I looked like Lucy Liu and another time I slapped a guy she was dating in front of Katz’s Deli, HARD -- but we always patched things up within hours.
Last June, I moved to China, and the 15-16 hour time difference between Beijing and the West Coast made it hard to stay in touch. We video-chatted when we could and exchanged e-mails and texts; I still considered her to be one of my best friends. I didn’t think much of it when she didn’t answer my “life update please!” e-mails -- people get busy.
She wrote to me one day that she was dating a great guy: “I am pretty sure he is the one!” Just a few days later, on her birthday, I sent her a birthday note. She responded, “I know we don’t speak super often but please know that I feel our friendship is as strong as ever. You will always be my sis.”
Four days later, she was engaged and for some reason, done talking to me. I tried to set up multiple Skype dates with her. I sent her texts and I tried to call her -- nothing.
In March, I found out my grandfather was dying. I flew 15 hours home and went straight to the hospital to say goodbye. We took him off life support and it was devastating to see him take his last breaths. I was too busy to see anyone during my short week home, so I only told three friends in the U.S. what happened, including Rebecca.
I was finally just a three-hour time difference away from her, so when my texts and calls went unanswered, I wrote her an e-mail: “My grandpa just passed away so things are really hectic, but I would love to talk to you and catch up.” She sent me her condolences, but we never had a proper chat.
When I flew back to China, she responded to my e-mails once in a while: She told me she moved back to the East Coast, but she evaded my questions. Months after her engagement, I still knew nothing about her fiance except for his first name. I didn’t know what he did, what he looked like or what it was about him that made her fall in love. Who was he? My imagination took me anywhere from Bradley Cooper to -- on my darker days -- a real-life Gordon Gekko.
I moved back home just over a month ago and tried calling and texting Rebecca again to no avail. I thought maybe it would be different once I was living less than an hour away from her. By then, she had finally posted a few photos of herself with her fiance (untagged) and not just photos of their home and her ring. It was embarrassing how little I knew about one of my “best friends.”
Late one night I sent her a final e-mail. “I would love to have you as part of my life again,” I wrote. “If I don’t hear from you then I’ll know you don’t want to talk anymore.”
I'm just sending you this e-mail because I'm kind of confused. I've been trying so hard to get in touch with you these past few months, and I feel like you're avoiding me. I text, call, e-mail to no avail -- even when I told you I was going through rough times. I'm not sure if you're purposely avoiding me but at this point I'm feeling really hurt. We used to talk on the phone all the time and now I feel like I don't know anything that's going on with you. You used to always tell me I was one of your best friends but now you don't answer my texts.
I'm not mad at you, I'm just confused and don't know what's going on. I would love to have you as part of my life again. If I don't hear from you then I'll know you don't want to talk anymore.
Crickets. And then total heartbreak. If you cared about your friend, would you not answer this e-mail? I was crushed. I had lost a sister and I had no idea why.
For a while I replayed everything in my head over and over again, trying to see if I had done something wrong, but eventually I gave up and moved on.
The whole thing became a running joke. “PS -- I’m engaged, so I’m never talking to you again,” my friends would laugh. I laughed too, but I felt sad. Was our friendship all a mirage?
This past Sunday marked over a month since my last e-mail, and I realized she had shut down her Facebook and created a new one. I was not one of her 40-something new friends. My friend found her wedding website and sent it to me. I felt sick as I scrolled through it.
“77 days to go!” Only 77? It was really happening, and I was not part of it. I finally Googled her fiance and found nothing strange. He was older but not shockingly so -- nothing that would warrant this kind of cloak and dagger. I didn’t understand. And so I wrote my IHTM pitch to xoJane.
The next day, my birthday, I was sitting in my kitchen eating leftover ribs, plastic glove on my right hand, bangs clipped above my fivehead and the ol’ noggin churning away on how to put it all into words. My phone buzzed: It was a text from Rebecca.
“Hi ladies need your address for wedding invitation!” Did someone tell her I was writing this? I panicked for a second, but then the anger and hurt returned. How could she pretend nothing happened?
I laid it on her. “You never even responded to my e-mail when I asked you if we were still friends,” I wrote. I also informed her that, hey, p.s. it’s my birthday, and also, I was writing about this for xoJane.
“So u r writing a story about how your friend didn’t respond to your emails bc she was extremely busy and/or didn’t receive some,” she texted. And OK, I’m a gullible softie, and even I do not buy that you are too busy to answer your friend’s sad-sack e-mail when you’re posting photos of your wonderful new life all over Instagram!
The conversation ended strangely, with her writing a long note saying she was sorry I felt this way, which, as an occasionally passive-aggressive person myself, I know is not a real apology.
Now I’m reeling from the weirdest birthday ever -- weirder than my 15th birthday when my mom overcooked the shrimp and I mixed Snapple with vodka and drank on the hood of my parents’ car by myself and cried and then came back inside because no one even knew I had left the house. I don’t know if this is truly the end. I’m already wondering if I was too harsh for not giving her the benefit of the doubt, but for now, I’m spent. Maybe one day I’ll find out something that will make me feel like a callous, self-centered asshole.
I like to tell my friends that my motto is, “I don’t forgive, but I forget.” And maybe I will forget, but I don’t think that’s going to be in the next 75 days.
*Name has been changed