"I Thought We Were Friends"
"Oh, I thought we were friends"
This is what crossed my mind when I called my friend whom I had known for a decade shortly after the birth of my daughter. On one of the several phone calls I made to her, she said to me seemingly out of nowhere, "look, I will call you". She meant that she didn't want me to call her. I had gone through a period of depression right after I had my daughter, as my husband and I had just moved into our new home and I knew virtually no one in the neighborhood. I was lonely and needed someone to talk to. This friend had also given birth to her son a little over a month before I had my daughter, and I called to see how she was doing. To my surprise, she sounded cold and distant. She and her husband lived in a condo near her parents' and she hinted that she had her parents' support whereas I was all alone with my newborn daughter and my husband often worked until late. We had met in college, had something in common and we got along well. What happened now? I thought we were friends...
The following is a story of our friendship. After college, we seemed to consistently grow apart, having less in common with each other. Unfortunately, for us, it would never be the same.
The Start of Our Friendship
I met my friend in the theater club in college and we were in two productions together. She had also lived overseas like I had and we had both attended international schools. She stayed at my house once, the night before a performance we were both in and we stayed up until late, just talking. After the success of one of these productions, we went off along with several members of the club to a cottage. We stayed up for two nights, partying. I met some of my closest friends in college, with whom I still feel a bond more than two decades after graduation. She was one of them but no matter how close we were during college, graduation marked a point of departure before each of us entered another world whether it be the corporate world or graduate school. In our case, she went to work in a Japanese bank and I went off to graduate school in Wisconsin.
The Dissonance Starts...
On my return trip to Japan, I saw her, but I could already see that we had less in common. I told her about my roommate in Wisconsin with whom I did not get along. She told me about working in the foreign currency department at the bank. I couldn't readily identify or be interested in what was going on in her life. I believe she felt the same way, listening to my story of life as a graduate student. We had already departed to a different world, and were no longer under the comfortable, protective "wings" called college. One thing we did find in common was that we had both met our husbands-to-be. But she rambled on and on about this man in her life. I hardly had the chance to talk about my husband-to-be.
Marriage, Childbirth and Afterwards
We attended each other's weddings. At her wedding, I made a speech. After I got married, I moved to the same city she lived in. We were within reasonable proximity to each other so it wasn't difficult to get together, though we only saw each other twice a year or so. She visited me and I showed her pictures from our recent trip to China. She seemed disinterested. She hinted that she couldn't understand why my husband and I would bother going to "such a place". She had never been to China herself. "I spent many years in Chile and Peru as a kid and everything's so gray there. That's why I only travel to places that are clean", she said. I was saddened that she seemed to scoff at my story of our trip to China.
Several months after she was married, she and her husband purchased a condo near her parents'. I visited her new home not too long after they had moved there. I told her that my husband and I had purchased a piece of land upon which we were to build our house. I didn't expect her to be happy for me, but she said something I could not believe. " You don't deserve to be living in a house". She had chosen to focus on the difference in the potential size of our homes, which sparked jealousy on her part.
It was pure coincidence that we gave birth to our first children a little over a month apart. She snubbed me when I called her after I had my daughter, as mentioned earlier. By this time, I was wondering if one of us was at fault for this apparently dissonant friendship. Yet I never confronted her. I sent her flowers for her birthday, thinking that she was upset about something. She responded by thanking me and said that I didn't need to go out of my way and do such a thing. She didn't seem upset at all.
There were a few more meetings within the city limits, since we were now both stay-at-home-moms and didn't have enough time to travel out of town. We even got together with our children, and once with our second children, who were born two months apart. This time, she had her daughter, and I had my son.
Unfortunately, when I was pregnant with my son, I was hospitalized for two months with a near-miscarriage. Several months after my son arrived safely, I was visiting her again, this time with my three-year old daughter. I told her about the nightmarish experience of being hospitalized for such a long time but instead of feeling sorry for me, which I didn't expect, she asked without malice, "did you develop a bruise or something from staying in bed for that long?". I could not believe how insensitive she could be, asking me such a thing, though she probably had no intention of offending me.
I wonder why I never confronted her until the summer of 2008. Given that she often rambled about herself with little regard to what I had to say, I must have felt she wouldn't listen to me. In all this time, I was initiating our get togethers. I don't recall a time she called me so we could meet. Did she even want to remain friends with me?
So That's What's Been Nagging her!
When our children were all in school, we were able to meet again without our kids. On one of these meetings, we had lunch together and she said in response to something I had said, "you're ahead of me, Takako. You went to grad school, you speak fluent English". So that's what's been nagging her! I didn't respond. The bottom line was, she was jealous of me. Why was she comparing herself to me? I guess it was easy to do so, we had similar backgrounds, went to college together, lived in the same city, and our children were the same age.
However, these similarities made it easy for her to zero in on the differences we had: the size of our homes, my ability to speak English fluently. This jealousy she had been harboring towards me was hurting our relationship. Still, I didn't confront her, I was afraid to make things worse.
Several months before I left for Canada, I saw her. She didn't say in so many words that she would miss me. We went to karaoke, and for the first time in several years, we had a good time. She remarked in her e-mail later, "I saw another side of you. I thought all along that you were just a very serious person!".
The Fall Out, Summer 2008
I e-mailed her before our return trip to Japan in '08. She replied in her e-mail, "so you are coming back for a visit. I'd like to see you even if it may be for one short hour". When I arrived in Yokohama, we managed to set up a brief meeting during one morning on a school day, right outside her train stop, a mere walking distance from her condo. Unfortunately, her daughter was sick so she, as a mother, needed to get home right away. She couldn't travel very far just to see me. It took almost an hour to get there, in the humidity of the summer heat. She hadn't changed. She rambled as usual, and this time, I had some chance to talk, but not to my satisfaction.
As we walked back to the train stop, she was on about something I couldn't recall. I kept trying to tell her I had to be on my way because my kids were getting in from school. She hardly seemed to want to listen to me. She was too busy rambling. Finally, she let me go. I had to leave without so much as a good bye. I somehow expected her to be more receptive, especially after spending almost an hour each way just to see her. It was nice of her to agree to see me, even while her daughter was sick, but in the end, she was hardly willing to listen to me.
After I got home, I thought long and hard about our meeting. I almost felt a surge of emotion close to anger, of being snubbed all these years by her hurtful and insensitive comments. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to see her again. I e-mailed her that night and told her I was upset with her attitude at the end of our meeting. I told her some of the past episodes, of her hurtful comments. She responded by saying she felt depressed that I didn't like her attitude as we parted. As for the past episodes, some of them she did agree they took place, others, she didn't think they ever existed. I didn't respond, and she e-mailed me again, asking me whether or not I was upset with her. I think I told her I wasn't, but we didn't correspond with each other anymore afterwards. I don't think I sent her a Christmas card after I came back to Canada. Feeling some sense of guilt, I e-mailed her at new years' but never heard back from her.
It really was too bad that things turned out the way they did. Perhaps I could have confronted her in another way instead of e-mailing her, but I felt I've just about had it. I contemplated confronting her all these years, I could never bring myself to do it. So I was pressured under all this pent-up feeling I had, of being hurt by her. I needed to tell her, as one of my closest friends, how I felt.
In some ways, our falling out was inevitable. It was partly my fault that I didn't confront her earlier. I still feel a bond with her and something in me tells me it's not over.
Yet a doubt still plagues me. Are we still friends? Because I thought we were friends.