I love exploring my neighborhood. Even though I’ve walked the streets a hundred times, I still discover something new: a cafe, a bodega, a park. But lately, my walks are mired in memory, each place reminding me of a person who no longer cares for me. I peer through the window of a bar and remember sitting across from her in the far right corner, sipping a fruity cocktail near midnight and pretending like we didn’t have to wake up at 6am the next morning. We talked and laughed, our friendship easy and effortless.
I never expected to walk by that bar and feel like some part of me was gone.
We met in typical New York fashion: she was looking for a room to rent—I happened to have a room. Although being roommates wasn’t in the cards for us then, our friendship exploded the way they tend to in the city: hard and fast. We were making vacation plans, not two months after we met.
I spent Christmas with her family. she came to Staten Island for my birthday.
She was easy to be friends with, making me feel like we’d known each other all our lives, never forgetting anything I told her.
When both of our leases ended at the same time, we thought it was the universe’s way of telling us to live together. We started our search for an apartment, eager to find that perfect New York space. But after a month of coming up short, we decided to renew the lease at her old place. It had most of the things we were looking for, and it meant one of us didn’t have to move.
But things started going south even before we signed the lease. From disagreements over the lease to not being able to see eye-to-eye on a cleaning schedule, we couldn’t seem to find any common ground. Daily texts turned into terse, once-a-week missives, full of passive aggressive jabs. A friendship that was once effortless suddenly became immense emotional labor.
When we were a week out from our move-in date without a signed lease, I knew we couldn’t keep going. Because of the pandemic, our homes were all we had, and moving in together wouldn’t be good for either of us—it would ruin our friendship.
I explained this as concisely as I could, hoping she’d understand. Unfortunately, she didn’t see things the same way. In a breakup text for the ages, chock full of horrible accusations, she left me no room to respond or defend myself.
In the short time it took me to read her message, the tatters of our friendship evaporated like steam from a hot cup of tea—what once had warmed me through now left me feeling cold and bitter. I was angry. I was upset. I was sad. I was heart-broken.
Maybe that’s being dramatic, but it certainly didn’t feel like an exaggeration. I’d let someone in and they’d returned the favor by using my vulnerabilities against me. It was when I was lying in bed sobbing through yet another romcom that I realized...she’d broken up with me.
She’d broken up with me.
Calling what happened a breakup made it easier for me to process it. I knew what happened in a romantic breakup, and it turned out, a friendship breakup wasn’t that different.
Even though we’re used to hearing the term breakup referring to romantic relationships, I firmly believe it applies equally to friendships. What other word succinctly captures the events that transpired between me and my former friend? What other word expresses the flurry of emotions—heartbreak, anger, mourning, and loss?
Friendship breakups hurt, sometimes even more than romantic ones. We’re told of the heartbreak of romantic breakups, but no one warns us about friendship breakups. We’re told from a young age to prioritize romantic relationships over platonic ones—told repeatedly that the key to happiness is finding the perfect romantic partner. As someone who has never had such a person, I find this logic incredibly flawed.
I barely remember my first crush, but I’ll always remember the first time I slept over at my best friend’s house—the hush of secrets shared in the dark a warm balm. Without a doubt, friendships have been the most important relationships in my life. They’ve shaped me, moulded me, and pushed me to always be better.
I still can’t pass by our favorite bar without thinking of her. I can’t listen to our favorite song without feeling sad and hurt and angry. I hear someone order her favorite drink and find myself searching the bar for her face. I still worry about what I’d do if I saw her walking around—hide, most likely.
With time, I know I’ll be able to walk around my neighborhood and not feel the sharp sting of hurt.
With time, I know I’ll be able to look past the pain to the parts of our friendship that were good, that made me smile.
With time, I know I’ll be ready to make new friends again.