The concept of “friendship” is hard to define. But I’ll tell you one thing. It’s anything but easy.
Some do it right and cross that long bridge to meet a friend at the center so they can jump down into the ocean waiting below. Together.
Others do it wrong and dive right into the water. Both start and end the same way, but the foundation is missing in one.
And that foundation is what gives meaning to the term, friendship.
Friends are not something you just make and throw away the moment you get bored of them. They are not someone who you call up for entertainment but ignore when they need you. That’s not a friend. There’s another name for that.
Or if you really want to be nice, an acquaintance.
To be friends means to be putting in effort.
This means when they are angry with you, you work to talk it out and solve the problem. This means that when you are angry with them, you tell them, instead of holding it in, waiting for all those little things to add up and go KABOOM, up in flames so that every little memory you had together is so obliterated, so marred by your fight that things will never be the same again.
I say this because you see, there was this girl. And she was my best friend, in a new school, a new world, and we dove right into it. No hesitation.
I was free falling into the water too soon, way too fast and it was too late for me to grab hold of the bridge, grab hold of her so that we could make that foundation.
It was only after we were in the water that I realized we had jumped straight into a riptide, and it was fighting to bring us both down under. But she decided to use me. Used me as though I was a piece of floating driftwood and pushed herself out of there, leaving me to be carried out further and further into the ocean until I couldn’t withstand the cold and the strength of the currents trying to bring me under and finally, my head dipped in and all was lost.
It started with her obsession with boys. There’s an unsaid girl code amongst friends. He’s her guy. You don’t try to take him from her.
Of course, that’s how the tension started. Cliché, I know. It’s always boys. But jealousy is jealousy, and it fills your mind and blinds you just like how water fills your nose and fills your lungs until all you can think about is the stinging of your nose and the suffocating pressure of the water filling you, filling you until you’re so heavy and so consumed that you sink. That was my mind and all I could see when I saw her. I didn’t like her using me to get closer to him, and I didn’t like how she was slowly pulling him away from me and the fact that she was successful. She wouldn’t just take herself away from me; she’d take him along with her.
Later, it wasn’t just him that made me so angry with her. I confronted her. I asked her,
“Do you like him?”
“No! Of course not! I could never like him!”
She said it while smiling and laughing, rolling her eyes as though the idea was absurd.
I found out the following week she had confessed to him.
But I never confronted her about it. About her lies. I didn’t realize how much they would pile up.
I stayed silent every time she would ditch me to go hang out with her guy friends, or every time she “forgot” about a project we had to work on so I’d be forced to stay up till three so that we could finish our presentations. I pretended not to know when the things I told her in confidence, things close to my heart, were left by her for the world to know.
But I chose to swallow down every little incident, like gulping down water instead of air, as she would make me laugh and smile and introduce me to new people. The fun I had around her would replace air with water, and at first, I was fine with that. But slowly, that feeling of suffocation would grow, so gradually that even I didn’t notice at first.
I wouldn’t confront her every single time she lied to me, said something that made me uncomfortable or insecure about myself. Let them all pile up until the day was reached where all went KABOOM, all up in flames.
And that was that. We were done for. And our friendship never was the same again.
I was drowning by myself, watching bitterly as she laughed with her new friends, anger causing me to shut out those who tried to pull me out of the water.
But what I didn’t know, was her heart. What was going on with her and how, in her mind, I was the one who left when she most desperately needed me.
You see, there is a debilitating disorder called monophobia. And it comes hand in hand with depression. She hated being alone. Despised it. Dreaded it. Feared it.
A second left alone, and it was like in that vast sea she was impossibly lonely, the cold sucking away the warmth of human touch, her muffled hearing making the world suffocatingly quiet as the briny water stung her eyes, blurring the world out of focus. And in that second she had to get away, as quick and as fast as she could. She needed someone, anyone to reach out her hand to her and lend her the warmth she thrived on. Her anxiety was growing by the second, and she could feel it about to tear out from her skin, start to stiffen her limbs like a cramp, forbidding her to move. But she forced it down, drawing up that white wall of sound to block out her thoughts and kicked.
Three times until she felt a pop as water rushed out of her ears, sunlight kissed her skin once more, shining through her closed lids. It was only then that she realized she had left me behind. She came back, looking for me, pushing through her nightmares of water to find me only to realize I was no longer there.
Her deceptions were ultimately what would lead to her demise, and she knew it. But she wouldn’t change a thing.
Admitting to her lies would only lead to a loss of “friends” and ultimately, that meant being alone. And being alone meant the shadows would start dancing around her slowly leaching out what kept her so bright. And if that light was extinguished, she would cease to be the sunny person she wanted everyone to see her be.
And should everyone see what she was like once the flattering radiance had left well, she didn’t even want to think about it.
And so she left her good friend behind in the riptide and chose to save herself. And survive she did.
A new BFF, a new circle of friends, and the same luminous quality she had to herself would bring people to her, widening that circle of friends so that not a second would go by where she was alone.
And like moths to a burning flame, she would burn through all of them to feed her light until it was her. The Riptide. The water that swallowed me up whole.