A year ago today I started a conversation that began the most influential friendship I have ever known. This relationship had more positive influence on my life, effected more change for the better in me as a person, than any other I have known. Sadly, it ended, and the manner in which it ended has left me in despair for months.
I'll start at the beginning.
It all started as a discussion over a movie recommendation. It was just an ordinary comment thread, but it turned into a conversation. For her part, she was amazed that I was so friendly to a complete stranger, while I was amazed by her, in general. She was intelligent, articulate and funny. Just an all around great person.
She was maybe the most beautiful person I'd ever met. Then she posted a picture. She was VERY good looking, too! Horribly pretty, in fact. And I told her so. That was a turn of phrase that tickled her imagination and sense of humor. It was kind of funny, though: I may THINK a lot of compliments, but it is not always easy for me to actually SAY them, even online. I felt a nudge to say something, almost a call, and I couldn't resist it. Even more amazing: She has no clue how beautiful she really is. Not an inkling.
Soon enough, she did a little digging and a friend request appeared on my Facebook account. In fact, I was just about to ask her to do this. Synchronicity. There was a lot of that. We often answered each others wuestions before they were even asked. Our first Facebook chat lasted maybe a couple minutes, although the clock said about three hours. But what does the clock know?
I KNEW, as surely as I know anything, that this was someone I needed to know, that I needed a friendship with. I tried to invite my wife into the friendship, with pretty disastrous consequences. She was less than amused. Violently opposed, in fact. I tried a couple of times to stop things in their tracks, but eventually, the call was too much for me to resist: I HAD to be a friend to this woman.
I have mentioned that she was intelligent, articulate and funny, but that really understates the power of her personality. She's like a lighthouse on a stormy night. Her spirit is a shining light that draws one toward her. And she was in pain. She was experiencing hard times in her personal life, and I felt like I could do something to ease the problems, if just by lending a sympathetic ear, so I did. And, as I had problems in my life, she would listen to me, giving me comfort and sympathy. Symbiosis.
Though we kept contact sparse for quite a while, communicating mostly in comment threads, my wife starting treating me as though I was diseased. There had been problems before, things that were unsaid. Our communication was not very good, for quite a long time. They got much worse. We went to marriage counseling, our last session of which ended in a shouting match. We didn't speak more than two words at a time to each other for almost six months. Meanwhile, my friend was a source of comfort and support.
In one of our sessions, I told my wife a hard truth: I had sacrificed relationships with a son (that I gave up for adoption), and my father, with whom she didn't get along, in order to build my relationship with her. It was the right thing to do when it was done. But this woman, this friend that I had just met was the one for whom I was putting my foot down: I would not give up my friendship. I had sacrificed too much to be treated like that. She was upset and went to my mom, who told her that it was absolutely true. That also upset her.
Meanwhile, my friendship was growing closer. We started calling each other brother and sister, and I felt there was truth to that, that we were family of some sort. I still do.
Soon enough, she offered to share something deeply personal with me: her religious faith. I told her not to expect me to convert, or anything, but that I was interested from a purely academic perspective. I started reading Scriptures, and reseaching, and came to the uncomfortably wonderful conclusion that she was teaching me the absolute truth. She appeared happy with each new discovery I made, and seemed both a teacher and a fellow traveller. A kindred spirit.
At one point, she asked me to write her a "bedtime story," a fairy tale, because she liked the way I wrote. So I did. I told a story about a common man, loosely based on me, who risks everything to save a beautiul princess. Entirely based on her. It grew from what was going to be a couple of pages to 10,000 words. Not great, but amusing enough, I guess. I kind of see her as a Disney Princess: She perserveres through all the hardship and gives us all hope that we might as well. Personally, I see her as Belle, not just because the name is fitting, but also because she's bright and curious. Also, there's the whole Beast thing. But that's something else, altogether.
Over the summer, we talked frequently, until maybe the beginning or middle of August. She suddenly became somewhat distant. I don't know why. She stopped responding to my emails as frequently. I knew something was troubling her, but she wouldn't share it with me, said she couldn't. I tried, maybe too hard, to cheer her up, but she just grew more distant.
Eventually, I made a move to show her how important her friendship was to me, and it all blew up in my face. You could say I acted Brashfully. Since that day, I have been miserable. I know I hurt her, that I misread a number of signs that I was digging myself deeper, but I still don't understand the vehemence of the reaction. I just wanted to show her that she was adored and appreciated. Cherished.
And then she was gone.
But that's another story, for another time.
I DID eventually convert. What I learned from her was Truth. That cannot be denied, whether she wants my friendship or not. I wish she could have been there. It would have made the night perfect. Now I have no one to share each new experience with. My wife is less than enthused and kind of actually hates my church,
In church, I heard someone say that people who see the world in black and white just don't have enough light to see everything in color. She was that shining light to me. It was like The Wizard of Oz, where everything starts out in black and white, then turns to brilliant, beautiful color. But at the end, wverything is in black and white again. My world may not have gone back to black and white, but it has slowly faded to sepia tones.
Early on in the friendship, I made an offhand remark about a time when two women were fighting over me. I said that it had made me "feel like a god." Her response was a question that threw my wife into a frenzy: "Do I make you feel like a god?" My wife interpreted it one way, I another, and it was actually meant in a third, which had theological underpinnings. My response at the time was "No." But, as I have gone on and learned more, my response would be quite different. It would not be "yes", but it would not be "no," either. In truth, she made me feel like I COULD be.
She was the friend I risked everything for. And I have lost much. I often wish I were the hero of the story I wrote for her. His sacrifice is paid in full. The final tally of mine has yet to be determined.
I have had many friendships through the years, a few have ended badly, most have just faded away. This is the first one I have ever truly mourned. I miss her so much. She showed me eternity, then went away. Now every day feels like an eternity. She cared about me, even when I didn't. She made me feel special, even though I'm not. I loved that my words could make her smile and feel better. She loves words. She always wanted someone to write about haw much they loved her and needed her. And the sad irony is that, now that someone has, she will probably never read it.
I just hope she knows that, this winter, as the temperature drops, the wind howls and the snow blows, there is someone out here thinking warm thoughts of her. I hope Santa brings her everything she wants and needs.
If I could say one thing to her, a true goodbye, it would be this:
I love you, Baby Sis. I miss you. I miss your friendship. I'm so sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me. I love you.