An Obituary

Feb 1, 2014 by

“I was only friends with her because I was friends with her.”

– Emma McIsaac

***

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

 

          “You want to know what I want?” Olivia shot at me, her voice rising. “I’ll tell you what my ideal situation would be,” she continued yelling as she began numbering her demands off on her fingers, “I want you to want me in your life. I want you to like me. I want you to accept me. I want you to be happy for me.”

          I was silent. I could promise none of those things. I cried the entire night. I knew our end was near.

 

***

In memory of Olivia and Maria

(September 6, 2005 – February 1, 2014)

 

Best friends for life!


Best friends for life!

          Two Fridays ago, my friend read me excerpts of the early chapters of his master’s thesis. (Friend, I love it already. It is captivating.) His argument has its basis in the sociological paradigm of postmodernism, which states that there is no objective reality. Reality is dependent on how events are discerned by people, making it subject to individual perception. In essence, what is real varies from one to another. I can observe or experience the exact same occurrence as someone else, and we could provide completely conflicting reports of what happened, while both truly believing our own version of the story to be an honest account. What is real to me may not be what is real to the person alongside me. Reality is hearsay.

          Olivia, the events that have led to the dissolution of our friendship provide solid support for postmodernism. The details don’t matter to anyone but us. What is significant is our cause of death: the years’ long disagreement over what really happened, and the refusal to agree to disagree. (Don’t you hate gaining valuable insight into a situation only after it’s too late to put it to good use? You did say that I am queen of irony.) We have lived in two vastly different realities that we both labelled friendship. I’ve spent years wondering how you could have twisted events in your favour until recently realizing that you weren’t manipulating anything; you honestly perceived it all differently than I did. Our shared experiences varied as we took turns playing the guilty party and the victim.

          The purpose of a traditional obituary is to remember what has been lost, but I have never been one to conform to convention. I am not going to recount our friendship from the first day of Grade 11 to this morning’s one-sided goodbye. Postmodernism says that my telling would not match yours, so I don’t see the point. Rather than grasp at language to recover what is gone, my intent is to forget. To do so, I must first say goodbye. Olivia, these are my final words to my former best friend. I can write them better than I can say them.

          Recall the summer after our first year of university when our friend’s aunt died. After the funeral, our friend angrily described the site of her deceased aunt’s best friend sprawled over the coffin. As if labels can justify or refute emotions, she bitterly remarked, “We were her family. She was just her best friend.”

          You and I, never believers in that blood-is-thicker-than-water bullshit, silently disagreed through telepathic conversation. Obviously, this friend of ours had never had a real best friend. It was comments like hers that made us realize early on in our friendship that most people never do. Olivia, you and I were real best friends. You would have thrown yourself at my grave (because I called dibs on dying first) and vice versa (because you also called dibs). Ideally, we would go together. I think we just got our best-case scenario.

          In congruence, we slowly chipped away at our own friendship. It is arguable that it was our strength that pushed us too far. I used to take pride in our solidity. We prioritized our friendship above all. I sometimes wonder how much better off we would have been as individuals if we were more fragile as a package. Furthermore, I contemplate whether or not that bundled strength was real. In retrospect, it looks to have been more of a stubborn facade to hide our friendship’s weaknesses from ourselves. Perhaps we came to our end in second year, and we’ve since been living a near six-year séance, trying to bring it back from the dead.

          Regardless of whether our friendship was living or in limbo, it existed within a bubble. It did not have a chance of survival once I stepped outside of its film in pursuit of independence. People assume that I’m ending our friendship because living together didn’t work out. The truth is that our friendship didn’t work out. At some point during The Happiness Experiment, I stopped liking you, and it took me quite some time to admit it to myself. (You also said that I am queen of denial. I do not decline my throne.) I blocked my irritation and my apathy toward you out of my mind. I ignored feelings of intense irritation, because not liking my best friend was not acceptable to me. I couldn’t be disinterested in you because you’re you, I subconsciously convinced myself.

          Denial is a powerful mind game.

          By mid-November, the symptoms of my animosity became too blatant for me to disregard. I was not happy for your happiness. In fact, I was disappointed by it. In utter honesty, I recognized that I wanted happiness for everyone on the fucking planet but you. At that realization, all I could do was cry. Everything I pretended wasn’t there – my bitterness, my hostility, my desire to go on without you – had hit me at once. The thing about the coping mechanism of denial is that its manipulation of reality only lasts as long as it can be maintained. Genuine denial – the kind that people don’t even know they’re in – cannot persist once substantial evidence to the contrary has been presented, proof of which was found in my sudden awareness that I was rooting against you. As soon as I emerged from my blissful ignorance, it was easy to connect all of the pieces I had previously been unwilling to see. It had been so obvious that I was ready to move on from you that I was shocked by my inability to acknowledge it sooner.

          Since second year, I saw our friendship as a competition. I blamed you for breaking me down. Whether I broke because of you or because of my failure to healthily cope is debatable. Pre-happiness-experiment me believed the prior; happiness-experiment me would argue the latter. Nonetheless, I promised myself that I’d one day recover the dignity I spared before you by being the more successful of the two of us. Last spring, I established happiness as my personal definition of success. In doing so, I was unaware that this meant you were not to be a part of it.

          Denial is irresistibly compelling.

          Looking back, this was definitely made clear by my determination to keep you segregated from the happy life that I was creating for myself. I saw you as a threat to my happiness. More so, I didn’t want you in on the success that I had cultivated. I felt that you didn’t deserve to be given what I felt you had almost made impossible for me. Unconsciously, I was still blaming you for the severe unhappiness I had suffered in the years before The Happiness Experiment. Evidently, my resentment toward you was routed far deeper than I had ever let myself acknowledge before this past November.

          Denial is far easier to play than reality.

          This could not persist. I was not okay with living in competition. I was not okay with being a jealous, angry, spiteful person – someone I only was when with you. For this reason, I needed you out of my life. Time no longer mattered. A history does not imply a future. People’s admiration of our friendship no longer mattered. Their reality was different than ours. Your dedication to us no longer mattered. Your faith was not my truth. In the context of my life, what matters is my perspective, and my perspective is this: being the person I want to be is more important than salvaging a relationship that puts that person at risk.

          Despite the validity of my reasoning, you hate me. This has been made very clear by your recent demeanor. Silence makes a strong statement. I understand your hatred. I wouldn’t admit it to myself before; but, in retrospect, I think there were times when I hated you. I was devastated when you took yourself away from me in second year. I suspect that you hate me now for the same reason I hated you then: you’ve lost your best friend at the hand of your best friend. So, please, hate me if you need to. It’s harder to miss someone that you hate. Don’t hate me for too long, though. Not for my sake, but for yours. My hatred turned me into to someone who made me sick. Don’t let yours do the same. Your hatred is not worth your identity.

          I’ve wasted too much energy on hateful accusations throughout our friendship. How foolish. Ultimately, the means to our end doesn’t matter. Regardless of how we got here, the point is that we’ve arrived. The tiring analyses we’ve conducted over the years, repeatedly dissecting what happened in order to allocate blame, are finally over. At last, I can let go of my resentment in order to thank you: Thank you for sharing my faith that sunshine would guarantee Italy the cup by way of pathetic fallacy (campione del mondo 2006, baby!). Thank you for Friday nights at Hotel when we were 18, faking legal. Thank you for sending me inspirational texts to read between the chaotic events of the hell hole I used to work in. Thank you for humouring me by walking in circles around the casino just because I like the lights, the sounds, and the guys. (Those Wizard of Oz slots will always remind me of your juju and the last night that we hung out as friends.) Thank
you for the hilarious and heartfelt emails we’ve exchanged over the years. (I’m so grateful that I’ve saved most of them. If only I had backed up best convo ever on USB. #MSNdays) Thank you for making our apartment sound like Broadway every time you stepped into the shower. Thank you for laughing at my annoying quirks. (You know better than anyone that I have many.) Thank you for introducing me to Nonna Gina and her tomato sauce. (I am going to miss that woman spreading every cheese I could ever dream of across her table all because I once mentioned that I like ricotta.) Thank you for going to New York with me for the day at times when I was too poor to go for the weekend. Thank you for the countdowns to junk-day midnights. Thank you for writing me from The Universe. Thank you for teaching me enough about football to get me by when talking to guys. Thank you for knowing that confronting me while I’m in denial is counterproductive because it risks further delay of my acknowledgement, especially when said denial means that I adamantly do not having feelings for a guy that I obviously do have feelings for (unbeknownst to only me). Thank you for our most important kitchen deal: you wash chicken; I wash fish. Thank you for your entertaining fear of white bubbles. Thank you for knowing that birds on the sidewalk is a life-or-death situation for me. Thank you for Daniele. (Furthermore, with utmost sarcasm, thank you for making me think Hot Bartender was him.) Thank you for pre-airport visits to Zet’s. Thank you for initiating post-it communication. (The blue marker we used to write our notes with is dying. How appropriate.) And, Olivia, more so than everything I’ve listed already, thank you for being too goddamn stubborn to stop calling me Maria. Maria only existed because you did.

          As you know, I cope most comfortably in denial. My mind has already instinctively begun to forget us. It amazes me that there are photographic records of a friendship that I am near certain never happened. I need to pretend that we did not exist. Actuality is far harder to handle: we are officially people of each other’s pasts. It’s hard to come to terms with it: the realization that I no longer like my best friend, that my person really isn’t my person anymore, that the conversation I thought would never die is dead. That is our new reality, and it is not subject to postmodernist debate. My Olivia is gone. Your Maria is gone too. They cease to exist because we cease to exist to each other. The competition in which I was the only player is over. The war has ended. Our people are dead. Olivia, my love, this will be the last time that we have to lose each other.

          In mourning of our final loss, I keep thinking about one night in particular. It was just over a couple months ago, as our friendship was falling to its end. We were lying on our beds, exhausted after another fight.

          “People aren’t going to get it,” I calmly said.

          “I feel like people don’t get a lot of things,” you replied, “but you get them. Who is going to get me?”

          I still don’t have an answer. I wonder who is going to get me too.

          With that, I am ready to close my goodbye and fall back into pretend, although I know there is so much I’ve forgotten to say. It’s strange that my words to you are limited to this. I thought I’d have a lifetime to tell you everything. Thus, if I leave you with one thing, let it be that I love you. I do not exit this friendship with feelings of hatred toward you. I do not cut you out of my life with the same swift slice that I have anyone else who has been on the other side of my blade. It is out of respect for both of us that I am doing this. So, Olivia, thank you for loving me, for getting me, and for always saving me from the birds. Although there is much of our friendship that I regret, I can say with absolute certainty that I would never take back the first day of school.

Happiness Tip: If you cannot forgive, forget.

 
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