The Secret Art of Losing Friends: Case Studies
The Popularity Contest
My eyes adjusted to the darkness in Amy’s living room. We lay on the pullout couch, skinny junior high legs stuck out of the blankets to cool off. I hadn’t spent the night at her house before, and we had plenty of secrets to share. I could barely hear her, but I greedily consumed every detail she spilled. I wanted to tell her everything, all the secrets I’d never shared because I’d moved around so much that I’d never had a best friend.
The next week, I found my new army of popular girlfriends out in the field at lunch. I was greeted by silence. When they moved as one to show their backs to me, I ran to the school and cried in the furthest corner of the brick building. None of them ever spoke to me again. Except Amy, who once whispered an apology when no one else was around.
How-To: During secret-telling, do not tell her about the book under your bed. Tell her instead about the dreams where you kiss a girl.
We’d been friends for more than half our lives. We married brothers. We went back to college at the same time. We told each other everything.
Last August was the first in six years that we did not spend a weekend alone in the mountains. We didn’t even acknowledge the absence, especially given that our text messages and occasional in-person run-ins had taken on a foreign formality. Once I realized we had missed the weekend, I felt both relief and sadness. I grieved for the respite of drunken afternoons and feet stuck into buckets of river water. I grieved for nights that stretched minutes into hours, abandoned games of Trivial Pursuit, hushed midnight whispers that tangled with campfire smoke and drifted up to rest at the tips of the towering pine trees.
Gradually, we became mute. I no longer know her, nor does she know me, nor do we know how to function when we are corralled into the same room. Now I see her and she has the same eyes, the same ears, the same mouth I know, but she is shrouded and unreachable. Or maybe that’s me.
How-To: Take one part mental illness, subtract one version of self, divide by college degrees in opposing fields, subtract text messages and phone calls, multiply by confusion.
I remember him in winter. Relentless fog, geese screaming in my dreams and following me around in wakefulness. Sometimes, when the sun would escape the inversion, we would walk. Every word we spoke was immense. I wrote manically, sent it all to him, please read this. Tell me what you think.
Once, when I remarked that he seemed especially knowledgeable about the trajectory of harpoons, he told me about a recurring dream involving his father. It opened up a chasm, filled with conversations decorated by our pain. We discovered things in the depths of ourselves that seemed to explain everything.
Now our friendship is a ghost that hangs in certain hallways and near particular trees. The ghost is a secret I don’t have language to tell. For more than half a year we whispered and encouraged each other to live lives that we couldn’t make sense of. I don’t remember the harpoon dream, I only know that, for a long time, I couldn’t think of harpoons, or see peculiar shades of blue, or walk down certain hallways without feeling a cavern in my stomach and a breathless sense of not existing.
How-To: Tell him, I’m too much. Tell him that often. Instill fear with the sexuality you don’t intend. Confuse boundaries. Say too much. They all run away, eventually.
About the Author: Emery Ross is a writer and graduate student living in Boise, Idaho. Her work is forthcoming in Breath & Shadow and Jersey Devil Press.