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prompt: sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. write about teaching someone a lesson you did not want to teach.
this is not a story where you’ll be able to clearly delineate the cruelties and the kindnesses. don’t expect that.
i’ve written about him before.
we lived a thousand miles apart and spent hours a day on the phone. we had a schedule – i knew exactly when his breaks were and he knew mine and we rang then. he considered moving here and i considered moving there, but despite fantasies, it never happened. i don’t use the term best friend anymore, because nothing comes close to the ways we chained ourselves together.
we weren’t in love. at least, we told ourselves we weren’t. after we crossed a line and crossed it again, this is when the house of cards began to fall, in slow motion.
he told me i was a tease, i didn’t care, i abandoned him. we told each other to grow up, in hateful tones. in one breath i would tease him about being secretly in love with me and in the next i would tell him about how i spent the night with someone. i would question his devotion to me, to our friendship, when he told me he didn’t want to hear these things.
for people who loved each other so much, we were horrific.
we said i love you all the time, but never in that way. we never sat down and said, this is what we’re doing, and this is why, or this is what we’re NOT doing, and why. we let silence speak and we made assumptions and we were so fucking wrong, all of the time. maybe if we had really communicated, instead of hurled accusations, maybe…but i don’t let myself really think of maybe. my heart will collapse on itself if i even consider that path. there is no maybe. what’s done is done. black and white is much, much easier.
the last thing he said to me was something about calling him when i could get my head out of a guy’s ass. it was when i first started dating the bouncer, and i was asked to lie every time i saw him. you would think i’d remember his final words to me, but i don’t, because it was routine at that point. and so, i let it sit. we needed a break, i reasoned with myself.
it sat for a few weeks before i reached out. he never answered. three quarters of a year later, i sent a handwritten letter for his birthday. i wished him well. i told him how much i missed his friendship and that i was here, but that i was also happy to see his life growing, getting better. he seemed to be emerging out into the world, something he’d never done when yoked to me. he was dating, and back in school. i was proud, really, truly. i was devastated that it took the loss of me, the absence of my presence, to set him free.
i say to myself that after the spectacular fire we made of ourselves, at least we have grown. i say, though i can’t know for sure, that he is better off without me, and i don’t say this for pity. he stayed withdrawn as long as i was there. i was a safety harness that maybe choked him sometimes. i never meant to sever us the way i did, but i also never imagined that this would be the requirement for his happiness.
i will never know if these are only the pale compromises we give ourselves to be free of the weight of loss, or if they are the truth.