My second roommate (“A”) and I were good friends within a few weeks of meeting each other. We both shared a warped sense of humor that helped cement the bond. Though we were both introverts, she had a need to explore the world that I didn’t really share that point. She didn’t like going places alone, though, so she would often tell me, “Get ready. We’re leaving.” I’d ask where and she’d respond a movie, driving in the Hill Country, antiquing, or whatever she had already decided she wanted to do. I would tell her that I didn’t really want to go, and she would talk me into going with her anyway. In retrospect, I am glad A did because we went on some fun adventures that I would never have done otherwise. One night, A decided she was going to use sidewalk chalk and draw a cartoon figure of hers all over the campus sidewalks. She took me along as her lookout. That’s definitely not something I would have gotten up to otherwise!
At the end of the school year, A decided she wanted to move out of the dorms. I didn’t have a car, and so living off campus seemed daunting and inconvenient to me. I knew I only had one more year left, so I decided to stay on campus. By then, I had other friends in the dorm. One of them was losing her roommate as that woman moved off campus to live with her boyfriend, so the two of us decided to be roommates the following year.
During that second and final year of my undergraduate studies when we were no longer roommates, A and I would get together periodically to do fun activities. Things seemed off for a while between us, but I couldn’t figure out what was up. Towards the end of the school year, A finally came out as being gay. Suddenly so much about her and some of her behaviors made complete sense. My instinctive response was to be mad at her for not telling me sooner! However, I understand she was still figuring it all out herself. Once A came out, our friendship really didn’t change except that she was a much happier person now that she was able to truly be herself.
After I graduated and moved to Boston for nine months to work on my master’s degree, A and I stayed in touch via e-mail. She made plans to come to my wedding with her then-girlfriend, a woman whom I really liked. A and I watched with great amusement as one of my future brothers-in-law flirted with her girlfriend at the rehearsal dinner. At one point I asked A if we should be merciful and tell him that A and her girlfriend were a couple, but A told me, “No. I’m having way too much fun watching this!”
When I moved back to Austin in 1994, A and I continued to be friends through her final year of undergrad and beyond. When she would get together with my then-husband and me to do things, it was him who became the third wheel, not her. A and I were like the sisters neither of us had ever had. We often wouldn’t talk for weeks but then we would see each other multiple times within a short span. It was just how things worked with us. We could always pick right back up where we left off with things.
In 1998, four years after I got married and moved back to Austin, A took her turn to move to Boston for nine months. I helped her finish packing her apartment and took her to the airport with her cats. It turned out she couldn’t stand living in Boston, but while she was up there, she met a girlfriend who eventually became her life partner. When I went to visit A in Boston while I was doing dissertation research, I got to meet her partner, “J,” and liked her. When they moved back to Austin together, I was happy to have J as an additional friend though I never got to know her well.
Shortly after that, my firstborn daughter died. A called and offered to do whatever she could to help. Since she had previously worked at a photo developing store at the mall, I asked her to help me find someone whom I could trust to make enlargements of the very few photos I had of my daughter. She found someone she felt was trustworthy, and I took my negatives to him. He did a great job and was very compassionate toward us. I was incredibly grateful to A for that assistance. Her parents, whom I had met several times and been at their house outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area twice, also sent a bereavement card which really touched me.
Then, a few months later, everything changed. A and J decided to move to another state to pursue grad school and better jobs. I was sad to see them go, but I understood. However, a great silence ensued. Even before they moved, I didn’t get phone calls returned. Any attempt to make contact was thwarted. I had no idea what went wrong. Before the one year forwarding period ended, I sent a letter to her old address in hopes it would find her in the new state. In that letter, I offered apologies to her for anything I might have done and let her know I missed our friendship. More silence. As the internet blossomed, I tried to make contact with her through various social media sites, but I again was met with the stunning silence.
It took me over ten years beyond the last time I talked to her to finally let go. While she had been one of my closest friends for almost a decade, it was clear that A was unwilling to have me in her life any longer. The only possible understanding I had for why she might have cut off our relationship was if her new partner felt uncomfortable with the bizarre and close but definitely platonic relationship A and I shared. A and I both knew that there was no chance in hell of me dating a woman (or her dating a man), and we accepted that we were friends and nothing more. However, I could completely understand how a insecure partner might have been threatened by the close friendship we shared. Yet not knowing for sure was torture. This was someone for whom I had a platonic love and whom I wanted in my life no matter what the conditions were.
Oddly, it was my unrequited love for a man which actually helped me let go of A and the desperate desire to make contact with her again. That man and A reminded me of each other because of their incredibly warped but wonderful senses of humor. The friendship I had with each was similar in some odd ways. And when I finally accepted that I would never get over that man while I was still friends with him, I also reached a place of peace with no longer having A in my life either. I realized that after all that had happened in the intervening decade in my life, we might or might not have anything in common anymore. But most importantly, she had made a decision to cut me out of her life. While that hurt because I had no understanding of why it happened, I still had to respect her decision and let her go.
Today is A’s 42nd birthday. I still remember her every year and wish I could send her an email telling her to have a great day. If A were ever to show up in my life again, I would welcome her with open arms. But until the time when we meet again, if that ever happens, I have to be content with sending her good wishes in my heart. I hope that wherever she is and whomever she is with, that her life has turned out better than she ever dreamed it could.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC