I decided to address you formally, mainly because of privacy concerns, but also because a cozy “Hey buddy” probably won’t work for us given the length of time we’ve been verified by Facebook as strangers.
I’ve known you since October 2010, the first day of college, when everything was still open to possibilities. A cohort of art students treaded on cigarette butts outside of the library, smiling at each other as we sought out a sense of belonging. Among those smiling faces, I took a long hard look at my face, as I looked at yours — a heart-shaped face circled by a coarse beard and wild hair — and thank god I used to dig that hippie-dippie sort of thing. There was a second of irregular heartthrobs that now aches for a lifetime.
Being a racial minority and an international student in the conservative UK where xenophobia still flares, I found it hard to blend in, even at a liberal arts school. Not to mention, my lack of interest in shopping and money for dining further excluded me from many social occasions. My friend zone had always been stylishly exclusive, by which I mean its membership included a total of two. And you made the cut. Yay!
It is thanks to you that for a large part of my college life I succeeded in feeling like I truly belonged. I felt British. I felt in. I had a good-looking British guy who wasn’t ashamed of being my friend, who phased in and out with all kinds of girls but never fell out with me. I thrived on that and rejoiced. Even though there were moments when we could have turned that friendship into something else, for example, the night when you crashed in my dorm room, and we shared my single bed. You tossed around against my back while I faked snoring, but I made sure that nothing happened because I didn’t want to be phased out. There was never a day when I wasn’t grateful to you for having my back, and even with so much effort on my part not to distort our friendship, I guess it did evolve into something else. After the night of our sleepover, we became each other’s sexless innkeeper who always had a room available in each other’s hearts.
In second year, we moved in together as housemates. You came to my room in the middle of the night, venting out frustration over being in the midst of three girlfriends. I retaliated the next day by perching on your bed and lecturing you for hours on end on some pretentious crap I’d read. We went to classes together, drew penises in the snow collected on random cars, bought Nutella crepes from Christmas market stalls, and raced to town for buy-one-get-one-free Cornish pasties together. Being together, I felt safe. I felt at home. And in such togetherness, I omitted the possibility of change as we geared toward the end of college.
One night, we went home and laid on the slope outside our house, looking at the night sky. I was stoned, and you were drunk. I complained about how now that the city council had finally fixed the street lamp, I could no longer see the stars. You offered to stone the lamp so it would be out again. And we laughed, one head against the other, hands in arms. It was cold and then there was warmth as you turned your head toward me and said, “A, between us, possibility is never off the table.” But like the night I turned you into the sexless innkeeper, I pretended to be too stoned to remember. A couple of weeks later, you got into a new relationship. Only this time, you didn’t phase out.
But how would I know?
I made fun of you in front of your girl like I was really your sister, like no matter what I did, nothing could break us. You were pissed off at me for my disregard and picked a fight with me for someone you’d picked up from the Mac room only months ago. I reacted badly and eventually developed an eating disorder. By the time you cooled down and told me your concerns about my health problem, I was as enraged as I was mortified. I thought I did a good job hiding it, and even if I knew how to seek help, I certainly wouldn’t have asked for it from you. What I didn’t know was that beyond the anger and mortification, I was hurt.
We went on without speaking to each other during the last month before our graduation. I moved out before the end of the tenancy and refused to pay you my last share of the water bill.
Two years since then, the girl you picked up from the Mac room is still in the profile picture on your Facebook account from which I have long been removed. And yet, even now when I type M in the search bar on Facebook, your name is still the first one that pops up. It hurts knowing that these disconnected years have rendered me entirely irrelevant to you. But I hope you know that I’m really sorry and I am grateful to you for our great ride once upon a time.