Have you ever lost a friend? I just did. This is the second time it has happened to me. I’m devastated. I can’t sleep. I can’t figure out what happened exactly, when it flipped from unconditionally loving one another to disappointment, to jealously, to anger, to outright “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.”
The first time I lost a friend kind of doesn’t count because we made it all up in 3 minutes at my 50th high school reunion. I don’t think she exactly knew the reason for our break up – I remembered – but I didn’t think what she was mad about way back 20 years ago was that big of a deal, and I was miffed about her getting so angry at me that she didn’t speak to me forever. But that was all quickly passed over last October when we started drinking shooters at the mixer first night of our reunion weekend. Twenty years passes in the blink of an eye when you’re my age. I still unconditionally love my friend from grammar school and will always be there for her. I would have been there for her for the last 20 years if she had let me.
And then there was Arlene. Friends and fellow actresses and cohorts for 15 years in Las Vegas and one weekend it was all over. My daughter in law had a bridal shower in Los Angeles, Arlene came with another friend, and because I didn’t invite her to breakfast the next morning because I thought (obviously mistakenly) that she had a friend coming to see her in LA, she cut our friendship off in the blink of an eye because I had bad manners. Oh, she did attend the glorious wedding at the Baccara Hotel in Santa Barbara and had a great time. She was stoned and/or drunk or both and didn’t talk to me all night and never talked to me again after she drove off the next morning back to Vegas and to her life without me in it. For two years I tried to get her to go to lunch with our mutual friend and both years she didn’t show up for a luncheon we had arranged. I guess my manners were really, really bad.
It occurs to me that both of these women just didn’t want me to be their friend anymore. That’s okay. I have a thick skin – I mean, if you choose to be an actress and a screenwriter and a public speaker, you’d better have a thick skin. Life throws curve balls at you all the time and the playing field is never level. I’m okay with that. Makes life interesting. But this next chapter in friendship has thrown me for a complete loop.
John has been my deep, close personal friend for over 15 years. We have an uncensored relationship. Anything can be said or discussed and over the years we’ve developed our own mythology. It’s been glorious for the most part. I’ve taught him tango once a week every Friday for the past 7 years and then we would recuse ourselves for another hour at the local Mexican restaurant for margaritas and discuss politics and economics and the truths of life. He used to order an aperitif – some British concoction – but I lured him into the charms of tequila – or more precise, a margarita straight up in a martini glass – very cold, please. I loved our 2 hours together each week. They were my salvation and I know he felt the same way. Every now and then, we’d get sushi on a Saturday night and go tango dancing.
John is married, committed, and fully heterosexual. We had an unspoken agreement about our relationship that it was special and out of the ordinary for two straight people. Last year, I sensed a developing anger in him and a change in his nature. He became more negative and his edges were harder. But I loved him nonetheless and didn’t question him about it because I knew he wouldn’t discuss his own psychology no matter how much I pushed and prodded. Self-analysis was not his strong point. So it finally came to pass that on Wednesday (not Friday because I was going out of town), the lid came off and I triggered him in some way, and he said something to me that cut to the quick of my character and my being. He obvious had enough of me, it seemed, and he took out two six shooters and let me have it. I questioned him twice about what he actually meant and he didn’t back down. The insult was truly a conscious belief.
I finished the last 10 minutes of the lesson with a minimum of speaking – and by the way, John had gotten quite good at dancing tango the last 4 months – and had real difficulty sorting out my feelings. My thoughts were blazing all over the place but I knew that I would blurt out something stupid and regret it later. Yoga and meditation had guided me in no allowing full blown anger to overtake the moment of personal struggle. I asked him for the money for the studio rental and then, in my clumsy way, I told him not to give me money for the lesson. I think I mumbled under my breath something like: “I don’t take money for insults.” Was that bad? Oh, God, I hope not. He took his money off the desk and put it back in his wallet. Now, that was bad! Callus lad.
We never said another word. I walked to my car and he walked to his. I looked up and saw him tearing out of the parking lot angry as hell. It was over in a blink of an eye. Not even a whimper. I haven’t slept much in days. I keep thinking about what exactly was said, was meant, why it happened at that moment. With all situations like this, without the specifics of psychological analysis, I’ll never know. I’m sure it was a combination of things: on the most superficial level, it’s difficult to take instruction from some in a teaching environment and that had gone on for years and years. He probably got sick of me telling him what he should and should not do. There is just so much a person can take. But John danced so much in his head that it was difficult for him to understand that tango is a dance of the heart and that listening to the music tells you how to interpret a song. I got frustrated and should have stopped teaching him years ago. And there was the fact that we were in love – not in the traditional or physical sense but in a more spiritually connected sense. He called every day to say good-night to me; I called to touch base when I knew he needed support; we were there for each other at the most important moments in our lives. But lately I felt his isolation, jealously when I spoke of men that I was seeing or dating or trying to get to know, some paranoia, some feeling of being victimized in business, a sense of his own importance slipping away and I wasn’t helping him anymore and he didn’t need my support because it made him feel more lost.
I wrote him an email the morning after telling him how hurt I was about what he said and understanding that because he is so emotionally frozen, he would never respond or speak to me again. I apologized for every unconscious insult or hurt I may have inflicted on him and hoped he would forgive me. He hasn’t. He won’t. He can’t. I feel so unbelievably sad. I lost my deepest, most important friend in the whole world.
But John used to say something so true: when one door closes, another opens. That is what is happening in my life. I guess he gave me one last gift. I guess it was time to part. I just wish it could have happened with more grace on both our parts.
I hope you haven’t suffered too much when you’ve lost a friend. I’m sure everyone has at one time or another. We have our memories, however, and we have the gifts they have given to us and we’ve had their unconditional love for a time.