A Friendship to Build or Burn

It was 1990. My BFF and I had reached that point in every long-term friendship where paths separate and each of us wonders if they’ll ever again converge. She was into things I wasn’t. I was into things she wasn’t.

She was dating a friend of my boyfriend. They hung out together at parties, parties I wasn’t invited to because I wasn’t into the things that happened there. My boyfriend saw her about as often as he saw me, yet she and I rarely saw each other. I was mad at her for being in that circle. I wanted things to be like they were the year before when we watched movies together and complained because no one invited us anywhere. But just like the time in 8th grade when we ran the mile together, she found a way to move ahead and I decided I didn’t care about winning that race anyway.

So it was 1990. My boyfriend at the time said to me, “She slept with the guy that raped you.”

I cried. That’s what happened first, anyway. This information made no sense to me. My heart broke because I could only see it two ways. Either she slept with that guy because he did to her what he did to me, or she slept with him because I had her all wrong and everything I had gone through and shared with her meant nothing to her.

But as I cried, my boyfriend said, “I know you’re upset, but she just isn’t a good person. When she found out I knew about it, she told me not to tell you. She said if I ever told you, then she would tell you I had smoked pot.”

I stopped crying. Despite being notoriously emotional, I was still an observer at heart. It was so unlike my BFF to do what he was saying she did. But it was not unlike my boyfriend to smoke pot.

The next day I made a point to visit my BFF, whom I had not spoken to in weeks. I drove to her house and asked if she wanted to go to Arby’s for curly fries and a cup of cheddar. While we drove down the four lane, I said, “So, did you sleep with T___?”

She scrunched up her face in repulsion and said, “What the hell?” like I’d just slapped her with a warted frog. “No!”

“I didn’t think so,” I said. “So, tell me about my boyfriend smoking pot.”

She laughed, “Yeah, I see him over at _____ all the time and he lies to you about it. I told him I was going to tell you and he said you’d never believe me.”

That confirmed what I suspected. I let the subject drop. We had fun that day. I imagine I was happier than the outing itself warranted, because I was aware of just how close our friendship came to dying but didn’t.

What if I had believed him? What if I had never asked her point blank if what I had heard was true? That happened 26 years ago and in that time she and I have been through the best and worst times of our lives together. We went through new loves and breakups and marriages and even pregnancies together. I could have lost it all if I had never confronted her back then.

People sometimes do desperate things when they think something they’ve done will ruin a relationship. My boyfriend thought I’d leave him for smoking pot. I didn’t. But I did eventually leave him for being a liar and the type of person who would pour salt in my wounds for his own benefit. Everyone has a different moral compass. Sometimes people believe all it takes is a little white lie to set things right. But that white lie, the stone that can roll out of control down the hill, is not what breaks up other people’s friendships. The nail in the coffin is our own silence, not asking, and not communicating our concerns. If I had not been willing to doubt the accusations, ask and listen to the very person I suspected to have hurt me; I would have lost her for good and would still believe her to be something she never was.

Our lives are full of relationships built and burned on what other people say. Hold the match until you’re sure.

 

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