How is it that a friendship can spoil? Rot from the inside out till all that remains is the brown, imploded skin that used to hold the whole thing together. I have been asking that question since the day I finally had the guts to compost what was left of Erin's friendship. Most tell me that we were just at that age, we grew apart, that stress brings out the worst in people. Maybe all that is so, but they didn't see those venomous flies buzzing about us making conversation impossible or feel how bruised I felt after talking to her. I had to watch us rot for a year, every day wondering how to make it stop. Now I realize no one can really stop decay; they can only cut it off and hope it does not spread.
We were once so close. We had so much in common. We were friends, with secrets and smiles. We had met through a common friend and hit it off within instances. It took so little for us to like each other back then because me were so similar, from our passion for reading to our need to draw. Despite living on the opposite sides of our middle school worlds, we hung out on occasion doing nothing special. It took so little to keep us entertained. When it was time for us to go to high school, our world were brought alarmingly close as we were attending the same school and taking a lot of the same classes and even attending the same clubs. She was not my closest friend, not even then, but we were close enough to know each other's secrets, the other's tics, insecurities. If asked then, I would have said I had Erin down to a science, she was sweet and caring, a mother hen type who was about the most naïve girl I had ever met. Friendship was so easy for us then, but now I'm not even sure anymore if it was ever anything more than easy, or rather something else we both happened to have in common.
Four years of high school does a lot to change a person. I am not the same person I was when I was twelve and neither are my friends. I saw us all grow up over those years, but we all grew up together; shaping each others lives just by being near each other. We all had our moments and at any point in time someone was not speaking to someone else for one reason or another, but even then we all still loved each other. It wasn't till junior year that we started to notice that Erin was no longer so sweet it hurt your teeth to talk to her. Nor was she as understanding or self-giving as she used to be. It just seemed like a phase, something we all were going through. It seemed almost innocent, but it wasn't.
At first, we decided to give her a little slack since we were all under a lot of stress with the AP research paper putting the fear of god (i.e. Mr. Phillips) into us. Despite the slack, her careless comment pulled us taut, and what was worse was that she did not seem to even notice the pain she could cause with one thoughtless statement thrown in the wrong direction. It was really only little things that she brought up in passing, like scoffing at Sara's handwriting, telling her she might fail the AP test because the graders won't be able to read it, but these comments always seemed to happen at the worsted possible moment, at our weakest and they had they way of piling up. Sometimes it wasn't even the things she said but her tone of voice, which I can only describe as honey-sweetened acid. In a matter of months she managed to disenchant us all. That was the beginning of the end, when the friendship started to fester, not much though, just a little blue fuzz on the part pressed up against the fridge wall.
When the paper was due, all our slack was given out and something along the lines of an intervention was planned. It wasn't much of a plan since most just avoided her to wait and see it the old Erin would comeback. I was the intervention, and for what its worth she beat me to the point and asked if anyone was mad at her. I told her the truth, that while she wasn't paying attention she had ostracized her self from most of her friends and she was going to have to make her own peace with them. For a while she did try to watch herself, but as soon as AP test rolled around so did taut-Erin and we were all out of slack.
I almost wish that her scores hadn't come back so high, that she could see the errors of treating us all like dirt, that maybe karma would have paid her back, but her marks were high, higher than most, and somewhere inside her that happy-go-lucky girl who use to be able to laugh about anything died. With her new perspective on her own intelligence, she now had new goals and opportunities to attend to, and could not spare time for plebeians like ourselves. Despite the grades, she was no more brilliant than she ever was and that's not saying much. She was smart, I would never claim that she wasn't, it's just she was an idiot as well. While she excelled when it came to book smarts due to her constant vigilance and hard work, she lacked any and all forms of common sense, tact, and most importantly the ability to read people. To be honest, she thought the boy sitting behind her in ELPS trying to sell her "Advil" for 15 bucks was actually trying to sell her Advil. Since she never once suspected she was stupid, she kept on believing she was smart, and thanks to the wonderful graders down at the AP testing center, she considered herself to be smarter, better even, than the rest of us.
If she looked down on everyone, I was among those she looked down upon the most. Somewhere along the way I had become some innate sort of wrong to her and while I have no real reason for why she thought this or even tangible proof of her thought process, she made things very clear her opinion of me through almost every conversation we had:
Me: I think/feel/believe…my opinion
Erin: No. You are wrong because… some irrelevant point
She didn't even bother to listen to me half the time, correcting points I wasn't even trying to make. It became that she seemed to view anything out of my mouth as a mistake and I should just shut up so not to make any more. If she couldn't justify faults in what I had said she would resort to a snide "well everyone knows that." By then her words meant nothing to me, yet even if I tried to block out what she was saying, I could never escape her tone. Her audile reprimand could transcend mere words. The condescension was a tangible pressure on the back of my spine, holding me down or in my place. Either way, I was treated like a child. I saw how she treated children a few times; she used that same unbearably belittling tone when speaking with them, baby talk without the "I wub yous." When she treated me like this I wanted to confront her, to slap her, to cut out her tongue and do a victory dance as she stared on confused. I never carried out any of these impulses, even when I probably should have just told her that she treated me poorly, but she is not the type of person to take criticism very well. It got to a point where I would just avoid her to avoid having my self-esteem's metaphoric nose rubbed in the dirt. While she was demeaning to everyone, everybody else seemed to have one good excuse after another to avoid her. They would no longer sit with us at lunch, started not going to clubs she was in charge of, and when she did show up unexpectedly, all of a sudden every one had a study group or work to get to. I had none of those luxuries to fall back on. The animosity towards her was a visible shade of sable which held us all captive in our mutual disdain.
Up until the very end, I was happy to let our friendship just fade away. We were both attending different colleges and probably would never see each other again, but in the end she pulled out my last sticking point. She made me cry. One morning she verbally attacked me in a way she had never done before. Her voice was loud and commanding, she accused me of lying and betraying her, she towered over me as I let her drag me over the coals. I am no secretive crier, who tears run silently as if the only cause is that someone turned the faucet behind her eyes on, my whole face is player, so when the tears began to swell and my lips contorts with the force of held back hiccup-like whimpers, I was very surprised that she did not let up. She marched right on tearing into my character in the middle of the cafeteria as if the whole world had a right to witness my shame.
Of all things which could have moved her to such rage, she was put out by the fact I would not be attending the senior trip to New York City and therefore ruining her trip. I tried to give her reasons, but in all honesty she was a major reason of my choice not to go, so instead I told her that it was a whole bunch of little things and I really just did not want to go, that if I did go I would probable have a poor time as I did not want to be there in the first place. I told her that I probably would not change my mind if all she was going to do is try to make me feel terrible. She didn't care. She said so much, she seethed, "Well excuse me if I don't care if you are hurt because you are hurting me and everyone else by not going."
That's when I finally started to cry, no holding back, for every time she ever made me feel like a was less than her and less of a person because of it. I cried straight through the 90 minuets of first period for every time she corrected my opinions, not even facts, my very thoughts were wrong to her. I cried to my teacher who wrote me a note to stay for the rest of second period so that I might put myself together. I cried to Emma who had a free period and let her tell me every thing was going to be ok. I cried until I could no longer cry anymore and I realized that Emma had just made a joke and that I was laughing. I decide that for that last week of school I would tell Erin I could not talk to her that she made me feel horrible and I would not put myself through it anymore.My next period was lunch, with the girl I could no longer bring myself to talk to, and I had set myself to let her know. I got to our regular lunch spot before anyone else and she came soon after that. She approached me and stated, "I had a bad morning," as if that was all that needed to be said. I closed my eyes and let loose my resolve that it was because she had made me cry that morning and made me want to cry everyday before that for the last year. I told her straight-faced and without a quiver in my voice, for I was too sure of what I had to do to care what she would say in reply. She looked down at me, for she was still standing, and said in the most sardonic, hateful voice I have ever heard, "I'm sorry you feel that way, have a nice life." I felt relieved in a way I had never felt before, free even, I probably should have felt the loss of the friendship, but the truth was that our friendship had died a year before and we had just ignored it, letting it rot away during all that time till it was nothing an unrecognizable pile of festering gunk. I felt that I could finally let go of it all.
Despite her outburst, Erin did not seem to see it as such. She felt that this could be no worse than any other fight and being as she believed that she could not have ever done something so wrong, she did not think an apology was necessary. The entire week she tried to make eye contact, to make jokes like we used to, but she never once tried to apologize. I think that part was the worst of the whole thing, that she went right on being the friend of a shadow who would not have forgiven her even if she had tried to make amends.
Since she made no such attempts, I was able to wash me hands of her. That is not to say she was the Christ-figure in our friendship and that I was Pontius Pilate. Our friendship was the only thing that was put up for death and she the mob that mote it be. So now I am here, hands washed and finally free, while she is somewhere three hours away thinking we have just hit a rough patch. I keep expecting an e-mail or a call from her, asking meekly if we are ok. To which I would have to say no, no Erin we are not ok. We can never be ok because you hurt me in a way I don't think you understand or even can understand. You made me feel as if I were less and I am not less, not less than you or anybody, so goodbye and have a nice life. I might even send her a fruit basket to mark the occasion, all rotted of course.