Five years and counting. That’s how long it’s been since my friendship with E. ended. If I were to be honest, I would go back further, to the day of my mother’s funeral.
Until that day, I thought of E. as my closest friend. She had recently been dumped by her secondary girlfriend — the one she’d been cheating on her primary girlfriend with for years. She was still licking her wounds, fantasizing about throwing herself in front of the nearest bus, taking meds to numb herself so she wouldn’t do anything rash.
The day of the funeral, E. took the train out to Westchester and a cab to the Temple. She sat in one of the pews without saying anything to anyone. As soon as the service was over, she hightailed it back to the city. She didn’t go to the cemetery for the interment, or come back to the house for the bagels and lox supplied by the Temple.
We never discussed it. I never expressed my anger or disappointment. Not directly, in any case. But it was the first real red flag. Or the first that was so outsized that even I couldn’t miss it. But still I chalked off this breathtaking lack of empathy as an outlier; she was in too much pain to do more.
E.’s justification, had I asked her for one, would have been, “You didn’t even like your mother anyway. All you ever did was fight.” It would have been a grotesque distortion of the facts.
But it’s a moot point, because we didn’t discuss it.
The normal person would have backed away then. “The hell with her,” my ever-so-pragmatic mother would have said. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” my ex would have said ironically, with a wink and a nod, perverting the “get going” from its original meaning — redouble their efforts — to the new one, to flee.
“Now you know. Isn’t it better to know?” my friend P. would have asked.
But, no, it wasn’t better to know, and so I swept the evidence under the carpet, where it lay in wait.
There were other indicators over the six years between my mother’s death and the ultimate collapse of our friendship, but still I refused to take in the information in the way that any normal person with even the slightest instinct for self-preservation would.
And then the day came when I insulted E.’s daughter, her precious daughter, with a sarcastic comment about her lack of table manners, and E. ex-communicated me from her life once and for all. She told me that her therapist wondered why she would even want to remain friends with me after the heinous crime that I’d committed.
The years have slipped by. E.’s mother has died. My father has died. Huge chunks of our respective pasts have begun to slip away.
But what happened between us is not of interest to her.
It is behind her.
She will not look back.
What will it take for me to do the same?