the haunting

Once, when I was younger, one of my very best friends just slowly disappeared out of my life and I was devastated. There was no fight, nothing to mark the reason for her disappearance. She was just gone. I mourned the friendship like some would a romantic relationship. I wondered what I did wrong, and how could my absence not matter to her - not enough to reach out and rectify things. Why was I the only one that seemed to care? In typical Karen fashion, I overanalyzed the fuck out of it.

I ran into her twice after our unofficial breakup. The first, I nearly walked right into her, and it was super unexpected. Her face lit up and she looked so happy to see me - I just got flustered. I remember her reaction made me angry and confused; after all, I wasn't the one who had decided to cut things off. The second time was years later and I heard her laugh as I stood in line, waiting to pay for whatever I was buying that day. I got instant chills - as I peeked behind me and confirmed it was her, I couldn't believe how I knew her laugh from memory. I got so nervous at the thought of her seeing me that I tried to hide my face and stay turned away from her visual field... and then I proceeded to drop my wallet and everything else I was holding. I'm not sure if she saw me, but I didn't check, and we didn't say hi.

Years later, we reconnected via Facebook. We started chatting and caught each other up on our lives as they were then. We met up for drinks, and our friendship slowly slid back into the place it once was. One day I finally worked up the nerve to ask what had happened, because for me it was the elephant in the room. I was surprised to hear that it was never about me, that she had started dating her now-ex, and she just got caught up in the relationship. She unconsciously cut many of her friends out of her life but had never meant to, and was so happy we were back in each others' lives. I went on to serve as a bridesmaid in her bridal party, and we've been friends again now for many years.

I prefaced my story with this background because I feel like I have to feel defensive about caring about people (and what that actually means). I still do, unapologetically, but know this is who I am, and who I have always been. I am real, and so are the things I feel.

I am a person who takes the people in my life very seriously; if I love you, know that I have carved out a special place for you in my heart, whether you're a lover or a friend. I work just as hard on those relationships to show my love and gratitude for those people. That's why I've never been really good at losing people (that maybe shouldn't have been lost in the first place).

You are - were - one of those people.

I read the other day that 'haunting' or 'being haunted' is the newest term to be added to the likes of ghosting. You break up with an ex (or friend) and they haunt you via social media by watching your story or the like, but no actual conversations really ever happen. The idea is that they want to remain just present enough to a) know what you're up to and b) make sure you know they are still there, selfishly. Except you can't really call it out as odd behavior, because of course you'd be the crazy one. It's social media, after all.

Well, you've been haunting me, and the most fucked up part about it is that I know I'd be sad if you were completely gone, because I still harbor this false hope that one day we'll be friends again, and really, this is the only way. The article I read predicted that part, too. Sometimes it makes me angry - why do you even care what I'm up to? And, don't you feel the least bit weird knowing I can see you've been there (especially adding my close friend on Instagram that you met once, way after you and I were not friends - think about if I did it how crazy it would seem)? I deleted you off all social media a long time ago, back when things were fresh. You know I don't see anything of yours. I don't even know if you realize I deleted you, but I feel like if you saw I was looking, you'd think something of it - what a freakin' double standard. I feel like challenging you sometimes - if you ran into me on the street, how would you even react? Are you even allowed to talk to me...would you want to? Why even check (or wish me a happy birthday) if you have no intention of speaking to me? I don't understand it. Ultimately I just feel like you're either coming inside if the door is open, or staying out.

Which is it?

Every so often, I get a barrage of snaps from you. Usually when you're 'alone' and with your friends, and/or drunk. They don't mean anything to me because I literally know nothing about your life anymore, and no offense, I never understand why you send them. It is both simultaneously annoying and sad. I remember you used to say there would never be a time when we wouldn't be friends. Ironic.

We both know our history, the history of what happened between us. I won't delve into that again. You've apologized to me before, and I accepted them, even though I don't think you fully understand what you apologized for. I know that, because the last time I confronted you for being a shitty friend, you immediately asked what our mutual friend told me about your relationship. I realized then how disconnected we were, how much you didn't even understand the problem. You probably just thought I was jealous or the like, and for the first time, I didn't care enough to explain it to you any further.

Your relationship wasn't my beef, it isn't my beef. History is history. But the reason I ever loved you in the first place is because you were my very best friend first. You, too, used that term quite constantly, and I don't believe I hallucinated the entire friendship or our bond. Losing you was difficult because it was swift and sudden, and you took my best friend away from me. But, even when I was still hurting, I still tried to be your friend. You said you wanted that too - but then you disappeared. Then a year later, you told me how much you messed everything up, how important I had been, and how much you missed me. Ok, so let's be friends... then nothing. Then when we did speak, I felt the wall there...or like you'd rather be doing anything else.

How many times am I supposed to try?

I used to feel hurt, wondering what it was that I did wrong. I was equally angry because considering I'm close friends with my other ex's wife, I knew I wasn't the problem - we could have totally had a friendship. But just like with my friend, I now understand that I don't think it was ever about me. I also understand now that not everyone loves or treats their friendships the way I do.

Hearing about milestones in your life from other people was pretty much the last nail in the coffin. You weren't even comfortable enough to share the biggest, most important details of your life with me, which told me what I needed to know. I guess I always thought that somehow I would've been a part of your life to celebrate with you - for you, for your happiness. I've thought about reaching out and offering my congratulations, but then I would yet again be the one putting myself out there. Maybe pride is a stupid thing, but I think I've put myself out there for you enough.

I had a dream the other night and you were in it. We both felt awkward at first (I was annoyed you were there, tbh) but by the end, we had relaxed and were laughing and joking like old times (and, you introduced me to Seth Rogen, who conveniently walked into the bar we were in, of which I was so grateful and excited). At the very end, you looked at me and your face said it all. You didn't speak, but you apologized for not having been there. The apology was fresh in your eyes, and I forgave you - I understood. You said more to me in that dream than ever in real life. For the first time in years, I wished I could tell you about it (but knew it would be super weird). I woke up feeling spooked about the whole thing, and wondered where it came from, why I dreamt it.

I don't know if you still read my writing, or if you even care. But, I wouldn't be me if I didn't ramble about the things I feel. I hope you're happy, and I guess either way... happy haunting.


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