Warning: I'm venting. Beware of the spilling of my brain onto the page, overwrought with probable grammar faux-pas, missing commas and run-on sentences.
I read a blog post a little while ago, written by Kari @ Not Quite Ginger, about the difficulty in making girl friends. It got me thinking about this particular friendship from college and it's pretty gruesome death. Imagine an 18-year old Kari starting her first year at a big state university over 200 miles from her native New York. I arrived with the brightest eyes because it was my opportunity to really "find myself" as they say, and I was eager to experience all that came with it. I'd also find out that semester how easy it is to change from strongly disliking to loving someone in the span of two months.
When I first noticed her in class (let's call her Rachel), I immediately disliked her. She had waist-length, honey blonde braids, a color that clashed with her medium brown skin-tone. And she'd always wear oversized sweats to class, which completely engulfed her petite frame. These things may seem incredibly superficial, and admittedly they are. I try hard not to judge people based on physical appearances, but it was this in combination with the way she seemed like she could really care less about anything, including being nice to people, that made me avoid her. Somewhere in the midst of working together on a project, we became friends. Now, none of those first impressions went away. In fact, many of them were reinforced. She was little but explosive. And not only was she not very nice, but sometimes even downright rude, even to her friends. But there was more than just that, there was something about her that I liked. And although it was covered and almost drowned out by all that mess, it was enough to keep us close. I later realized that it was her loyalty. When it came to outside people, she was a fierce friend. Fierce. I was never the girl who looked for a relationship. I knew if I met the right guy, it would all fall into place, but I was perfectly fine just doing my own thing although my friends usually had guys in their lives on-and-off. I'd relish in the chance to recharge and have 'me time' when they'd go off with their boy toys and I was left alone. Call it only child syndrome. By the end of my sophomore year, I met the right guy (my current boyfriend) and little did I know, disaster would strike. It seemed like the moment my time became occupied with someone else, Rachel felt abandoned, territorial even. It was shocking, surprising and suffocating. Basically all of the not-so-friendly 's' words you think of, including 'shitty.' I tried to appease her for a while, recognizing that although I'd been totally cool with my friends cutting out on me for some alone time with a boy, it was a relatively new thing for Rachel. (I reread that statement and honestly, that rationale is sound stupid and I should've told her to suck that shit up, but what's that saying again? Oh, water under the bridge.) The one night I decided to have a girl's movie night, everything fell apart and I wished I never agreed to it at all.
Most of the details are fuzzy now, but I remember all hell decided to break lose that night. I got a call from one of our girl friends in hysterics. She was underage, drunk off her ass and on her way to the hospital, having hit her head on the concrete. She said she didn't call Rachel because she didn't want to be yelled at. When I told Rachel what happened, she was infuriated, at first with our friend and then somehow in the mix of it all, she was upset with me. And in the midst of her fury, she took something very personal - something I had told her through tears and gritted teeth one night as she rocked me to sleep - and she used it against me, hissing the words at me. I stared at her with tight lips and watering eyes, and she glared back at me, defiant, unwavering. I knew Rachel was capable of this; I'd seen her tear other people apart (for sport sometimes or at least that's how it seemed). But I'd also overheard her tell people that that only friend she really cared about and really loved was me. And although I knew just how fucked up all of that was, how horrid of a person she could be to other people, she was never like that to me. Until that night. After it became painfully clear that Rachel wasn't going to hastily take back what she said and apologize, I retreated to my bedroom, where I sank down into the corner and cried for hours because the person I thought I could trust with some of the deepest secrets had betrayed me and stared vacantly into my eyes as she did it. I listened to her berate me, scratch at my doorknob with a butter knife, bang on my door and drop various belongings that I let her borrow in front if it, before I packed an overnight bag and left the apartment. We're connected on some social media site but nothing more than pleasantries and I haven't seen her in more than 5 years.
There are moments when I'm really sad - sadness for the loss of a friendship that I thought meant so much to me back then, sadness for the memory of mistreatment I (and I think most women) will put up with for the sake of having a "good girlfriend", and sadness for the identity I lost in identifying with her. Sometimes I look back on the fact that we were friends and wonder how the hell that happened. I remember all that transpired throughout our friendship and wonder how I tolerated all the judgement and all the bullshit that came with it. But I know, beneath all the hurt and anger I feel about it, she taught me so so so much about myself, about what it means to be a black woman, a friend, a human being. It's strange how sometimes the relationships, the connections you come to regret the most are the ones you wouldn't be yourself without.