Recently, while planning some fun activities for a three-day weekend, an odd date popped into my head: April 5th, 2013. That's the date the remake of Evil Dead was released to theaters. I know this because I went to see it the day it came out with my good friend, Mudd Fugly. And I know that because it's the last time I saw any of my friends in person.
There comes a time in every man, woman, and minotaur's life when the bond that linked you in a pretty significant way gets frazzled and snaps like the logic center of a Flat Earther's brain. You used to hang out nearly non-stop with this person for a significant portion of your life, or at least got together with them to do super-keen jigsaw puzzles on Sundays, and then before you realize it, you haven't spoken to them in six years. It can happen for any number of reasons. You grow older, you grow apart. People move, get jobs, start families, haunt labyrinths. Life is exceptionally skilled at getting in the way.
No one wants to lose friends, I don't think. I mean, everyone has a friend who you learn is an asshole, so you kick that piece of shit to the curb ... but that's different. The real burn comes when you lose a friend you don't want to lose, and it's made even worse if you can't figure out why it happened. One minute you guys are playing Xbox and robbing freight cars, the next you're just on the freight car by yourself with a gang of shifty-looking transients.
I don't think I'm socially bumblefucked. You probably don't either. A lot of joking goes on about how "awkward" everyone is. I see tons of it online. People want a reason why they feel like they don't fit in, so they look for them. I look for them. But I can't genuinely say I found one. I'm not some social turd like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, a thinly veiled mockery of Asperger's presented as comedy. But I also know I suck at small talk, I won't initiate conversations about your job or your kids or your new slacks because it just doesn't occur to me to want to ask such questions. I'm not super great at giving advice because I pepper it with jokes. As far as introspection goes, I took off my glasses at prom and did not become the prom queen, so what the fuck?
In my post-grad year of college, I had literally the best year of my life. Everyone I was with was the best person ever. We partied like we were fighting for our right to do so. I was sleeping on people's couches more than my own bed most nights, and I even managed to convince actual women that hanging out with me wasn't terrifying. I swear it happened. There's a photo somewhere. Just trust that I was having a good time. I loved those guys like a kid with gluten sensitivity loves gluten-free cake.
Once that year ended, the solid dozen really strong friendships I'd forged fucked off like Final Destination characters. Within two months, not even emails were being answered. No one had the time anymore. Everyone had left town. Everyone had a job. Everyone had something better to do. Those friendships were some of the best I ever had, the most fun I ever had. And they had the lifespan of a particularly robust housefly.
Hollywood didn't exactly help me learn how to deal with that. We've all eaten a thousand helpings of pop-culture shit casserole, as they teach us over and over and over the lessons of "nothing is more important than friends." From over-the-top explicit messages to subtle storylines that feature a hero and their bestie, that shit has been going on since Gilgamesh and Enkidu. And even the stories that actually deal with losing friends either paint one friend as toxic and in need of being excised or it's a relationship that gets mended and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Yay! I never got my lesson. Even if I was the toxic one. Who tells you this shit?
Of the various internal questions you'll have about yourself in life, "What is wrong with me?" is the hardest to both ask and answer. Because recognizing it takes a hell of an existential beatdown. The first reaction is to assume something is wrong with other people. We're conditioned to believe this. We hear things like "if Gary shits in your shoe he's not a real friend" and "Susie doesn't deserve you if she can't handle your prolapse." The problem is always someone else, because you're the top dog. But say no one can handle your prolapse. Say 100 people in 100 days running screaming from your knife-wielding parasitic twin. Then you start considering the possibility the shit end of the stick is in your hand. And when little Kuato uses it to stab people, that makes them unhappy.
So acknowledging that you fucked up somehow is a difficult first step. But if you're not sure how you fucked up, especially if it's not a super simple "Sorry I burned your grandparents with a curling iron," then you may be in a pickle. And here's the tragic part: If you're up to your nuts and/or lady nuts in that situation, you may never get to know. What if not a damn thing was wrong and your erstwhile friend is just burned out on life because their job sucks and they legit haven't even had time to think about you?
Ideally when that happens, you can find the time to reconnect. Something brought you together, maybe you can stoke that fire and find the time to hang out, even if you have to work around frustrating stuff like being an adult or appeasing your shared, insatiable appetite for arson. Have lunch once a month. Waste an hour looking for something to watch on Netflix, then decide on nothing and go home. Figure something out, because there's 365 days in a year and you could probably spare one.
But outside of that, there's a sad fact to be acknowledged: You might not ever regain them. Life isn't the only thing that gets in the way, sometimes it's minotaurs (I just saw a movie with a minotaur and I apologize for that). Shit can happen so severely sometimes that you're just done. No big fight, no alien abduction, just kaputsky. I tried to figure my shit out with someone who had been a friend for literally most of my life -- we met when we were six. And now? Not. Just not happening. I asked, he was busy. We tried to make the odd plan here and there, always fell through. And when you stop and realize it's been months or years since you saw each other, it'll sting like vodka in your urethra, which I will tell you all about in a different column.
People tell you that you need to move on from situations of loss -- you get dumped, someone dies, they stop making that flavor of lube you really liked. Move on. Personally, I file that in the bullshit folder. You have moved on. You didn't want to, but you did. Because today you did something without your friend. You did it yesterday, too. You may have distracted yourself from the mental sting by doodling pics of Tony Danza filling livestock butts with marzipan (don't judge me; we all cope differently), but you did it. And if by "move on," they mean "stop thinking about it," I file that in a folder marked "Also Bullshit." I ascribe to "just keep going." I don't think that's just semantics. Their advice implies that you dump your awesome memories like last night's hot wings. I look at my advice more like luggage: Yeah, it might get a heavy after a while, but I'm not tossing it in the ditch so I can walk a little easier.
Another platitude we all seem to hear is "Life is short." And it is, relative to something like the lifespan of any innocuous, non-humorous example I could come up with. Let's say Uranus. Your life is insignificant compared to Uranus. Uranus was here before, it'll be here after. Are you going to waste the little time you have, in comparison to Uranus, just stewing over why you can't compare anuses with an old friend instead of finding something new to do? There's a world with 7 billion people in it, many of whom also have anuses. I'm sorry, the minotaur movie had a lot of butt stuff in it. Really distracted today. Point is, it's little more than self-serving/self-loathing to get focused on the motivations and whims of other people because that will always be out of your control.
So maybe you fucked up. Maybe you're kind of a suck-ass friend. You weren't there in a pinch. You offered shit advice. You only talk abut minotaurs and Uranus. Or maybe you're aces and your friend sucked. Potato potato (read the second potato with a different inflection and emphasis so they sound like different words). If this isn't your cool movie friendship that you can rekindle, if it's literally been four years since you hung out, it doesn't matter. Because you're not losing a friend ... you already did. It happened, and you can't put the toothpaste back in Uranus. You need to take that final step ... incidentally, the hardest one: stop wondering. You'll never get a good explanation for why 16 And Pregnant is a TV show. Or how magnets work. You'll never crack this nut either.
So what do you do? Anything. Everything. Nothing. The action isn't the important part. There's no step-by-step guide on how to deal with the loss of friends. The important part is that you don't let the "What is wrong with me" eat you alive. Accept it, keep living your life, and enjoy the memories. Those are the things you can control.
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