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Dear Andrew:

After an extended hiatus, I am pleased to present #34 in a series, beginning here and listed here.

Dear Andrew:

It's always been so complicated, you and me. There's no reason for it at all, or all the reasons in the world, take your pick. This project has been stalled for two and a half years while I tried to decide what to explain and how to say it, and I do believe I could go on forever trying to figure it out. The essence of it is this: I don't take anything at face value. I overthink everything. I associate all sorts of things, constantly. And everything about you gets processed at a deeper level for me.

Very little of it is connected to the times when I have been in love with you, although I know I cannot convince anyone of that. I never had any illusions that it could ever be more than an empty, impossible dream. It only ever served to complicate things further.

Here is what I believe to be the truth: Once upon a time, I dreamed of a best friend who would be able to understand me completely. That person would share my interests, and introduce me to new interests. He or she would hold me when I cried, and also turn to me for comfort. We would connect on a level so deep that there would be no walls at all between us.

Then, in my last year of college, I became friends with you. You were that person, that friend I'd always wanted. For one brilliant, blazing year, September to August, my dream of a companion came true. You inspired my passions. I'm not talking about lust, but about creativity and imagination, joy in life and hope for the future. With your influence, I blossomed, learning how to aspire to my potential. We spent so much time together and talked so much that you knew me inside and out. You could practically read my mind, and words became all but unnecessary. I trusted you, absolutely, with every part of myself. You were the best friend a girl could have.

When I lost that friendship, I lost the most precious gift I have ever been given. It broke my spirit. I rebuilt all of those walls between others and myself, higher and wider, thicker and deeper. I taught myself new defense mechanisms to keep people from getting too close to me, and more to push them away. I became even slower and less willing to trust. Eventually, I stopped using the term "best friend" altogether. No matter how close any other friendship has been, no one else has never lived up to that dream.

It's been just about ten years. I don't believe you're the same boy you were then; goodness knows, I've rediscovered and redefined myself at least four times since then, so I wouldn't expect anything else from someone else. However, I do believe the boy is part of the man you are, as the girl I was is a part of the woman I became. There are parts of you I still know as well as I know myself, and parts of you I don't know at all. I'm never sure whether I interpret you correctly. I act on what I believe, but I can't be sure whether I'm getting it right. Finding the balance is hard. You're somewhere between an old friend and a new friend, somewhere between the person I've known forever and a complete stranger. The exact place along those lines seems to vary day by day. Perhaps, like Heisenberg's theory, the act of observing it changes it.

I know that the idea of building a new friendship as glorious as the one I remember atop the ashes of the old one is just another impossible dream. Even if it were your desire as well as mine, you already have too many claims on your time and energy and attention to be a better friend to me. I know that you give me what you can, even if it's not all that I might want. I wish I knew how to be a better friend to you. I can never figure out what you want from me. I don't know when to back off, and when to push harder. Sometimes, it seems that the best thing I could do for you is to stay away from you altogether, but that just doesn't feel like friendship to me. I struggle with this constantly, and I don't get feedback from you - or if I do, I don't recognize it.

I envy Melanie sometimes. She made a choice at one point to put herself in a sibling relationship to you. That gives her a definable place in your life. I believe that I once had the same choice. I couldn't choose what she did, because the one thing I did not want to be is your sister. I still don't, in truth, but I might choose differently today. Besides, you're part of my family-by-choice anyway. As it is, I feel like I have no place in your life, no claim on your attention, no right to ask you for anything at all. You have a wife, a best friend, family and chosen family, co-workers, friends. Me? I'm just a friend, one of the guys you game with. I don't want to be "just one of the guys" for anybody. On the good days, I believe that you trust me, that I am a safe place for you, that you get comfort from me. On the bad days, I believe that you would never so much as remember my existence if I weren't brought to your attention.

I spend too much time trying to be a better friend to you, and struggling with the reality of my impossible dream. After all these years, I'm still not very good at just accepting what is. It makes me feel guilty, too, every time I don't give enough of my time to people who put more energy into friendship with me than I do for them. I do understand it, both sides of it.

Despite all those wishes and dreams and confusions, I know where I stand. I reached a crisis point in my friendship with you nearly five years ago, when I had to decide if being your friend was worth the likelihood of pain and doubt and confusion. I made my choice then, and I stand by it. It's true that no one else can hurt me as badly as you still could. One of the parts of me that never changed is that I am completely open and vulnerable to you. Those walls I rebuilt to keep others out will do nothing against you, and I have only my verbal defenses to keep you from trying. You're worth it. You're worth whatever it may cost me. I still trust you, absolutely, completely. I know that you will never deliberately hurt me. At the same time, nobody else can do what you do. Nobody else can bring my imagination to life. Nobody else has the intense magnetism that you do. You are irreplaceable for me.

And so, it really is very simple. I will always be there for you, if ever you want me or need me. As long as you want me to be a part of your life, I will be. If you have to choose between giving time to me or to someone else, you should choose them (even if I hate every minute of it), because you won't lose me. As for the rest, while I could use a little more feedback, if I don't get it, I will keep guessing and doing my best with what I have. What else could I do? I may make things far too complicated, but at the heart, it's simple.