Chapter One: Open Your Eyes
How did we meet? That is an easy answer. Lita was my junior in college, but I'd actually taken a lot of classes with her as I flunked a few in my first year. At the time she got into the university I was a close friend of a girl that went to High School with her. My friend had actually used the word "obnoxious" to describe her. I wouldn't exactly call her that, but she definitely didn't mind ruffling some feathers along her way. Her attitude was that if she were bothering someone then she was probably doing her job right, in the sense that she was supposed to point out hypocrisies or bigoted behaviors, and she really was admirable at that. She joined the Academic Center, was class representative, got involved in all sorts of boards and academic events, and even took a year to study abroad with a scholarship.
Yet we essentially lived through two very different university experiences. After we started dating I'd often joke with her that it was almost like we went to different schools, as she'd been deep into the academic aspects and I'd been more into partying and dating and playing handball (for a while, at least). I knew who she was, and she knew who I was, but that was mostly it. Cordial, but not exactly friendly. We didn't have much in common, you see.
What changed, then? In April of last year, I got a job at the same company she already worked in and we grew closer as we had friends in common at work as well. On Mondays I'd have breakfast with her as I had to get in early due to my car's license plate rotation restrictions and she likes to clock in early so she'll leave early, and we'd usually have lunch together with everyone else, and on Mondays I'd also give her a lift to her therapist which was close to my house. We gradually grew closer and talked more of our personal lives, especially when a month after I started work I got into a deep guilt-ridden depression when my cat passed away and she was also dealing with her depression and breaking up with her long distance boyfriend (who was a huge dick, by the way). I understood her in a level her other friends didn't as I also battled with depression and saw a therapist and took antidepressants. We created a bond.
The first time I realized I was growing rather fond and protective of her was in late August, as I got into a huge fight with my best friend Mila because of her.
Mila and Lita were from the same year at university, and they'd been part of their graduation party committee. Mila and I had been friends from the moment she started university, and we'd grown close over the years and I consider her one of my greatest friends. And in many aspects Mila and Lita are a lot alike. They are both the sort of anxious person that hates sitting about, always busy with some project or another. They can talk easily to virtually anybody, sort of like approachable overachievers, though Mila was part of the "it" crowd (like I'd been) and she's well-liked by mostly everybody, while Lita has a blunt personality that often rubs people the wrong way. But Lita also has her own group of people, although few really close friends. She doesn't open up as easily to others while Mila basically lives for her friends. The more friends, the merrier she is and she cannot imagine something worse than not having people in your life.
By the way, Mila and I have since realized how horrible people we were in that popular clique in university, with that group mentality that is sort of naturally awful for people who think of themselves as the cool kids, the ones who go to every party and throw every party and where all the drama happens. There was a lot of backstabbing and hooking up with the wrong people and not caring for other people's feelings. We basically lived through a few years of hedonistic debauchery, if you would. And then we grew up and got into the real world and became nicer, way more thoughtful people.
But back to Mila and Lita, as it can happen to people who are alike, they often clashed. They'd had homeric fights over their years in the graduation party committee, as in they'd swear and curse at each other and stop talking for days, but then it'd blow over and they'd get back to normal. Overall, a rather unhealthy relationship if you ask me, but that's how they dealt with it and it was all good. At least for a while.
The moment I realized I cared more for Lita than I'd previously imagined started with Mila coming in to work and getting worked up about something Lita had done. She'd told me how she'd caught Lita in the kitchen talking to our friend from university Sam how Mila had told us that she was going to visit his new apartment and Sam was a bit surprised over this.
Now that was all perfectly true. Mila had just told us over lunch the previous week how Sam had talked about his new apartment and that since Millie and her husband were looking for a new place then they should come over and check it out. But when Mila heard Lita talking about it with Sam she got annoyed, and she complained to me how it was none of her business to talk to other people about her life and that she was done being friends with her.
I thought that was so over dramatic, like Mila is prone to be, and told her as much, and Mila got mad at me. Of course, at the time I didn't know Mila was going through some family drama and that was why she was so on edge, but she blew up at me. I thought it was so unfair of her to criticize Lita's behavior as I would've done the exact same thing, and Mila and Lita often treated each other with so much familiarity that there was no way Lita would've known it wasn't okay for her to make such comments to Sam.
Poor Lita was very subdued and depressed that day, and I felt sympathy for her. More so than for my very best friend, who was also going through some very stressful times in her life. But instead of letting it go, I provoked Mila once more in the afternoon when she was complaining about Lita's behavior to our friend Esther. I told Mila she was only that mad because Lita's behaviour remind her of her own, and it drove her to tears and her blowing up with me once more and I got really mad at her reaction and the two of us were estranged for a couple of weeks.
You see, back then I used to avoid anything that could lead to a confrontation. If I had an issue or problems with someone, I'd almost never bring it up and talk like a normal, adult person because it was my belief that talking about things would only make it worse. Things would be said, feelings would be hurt, and there would be no turning back. I completely ignored the fact that talking it over would probably lead to better communication and problem solving and a stronger bond between two people, as long as they were both willing to listen and understand and have and act with empathy for each other, of course. Blame it on my upbringing or traumatic past events (read: previous boyfriends) or just poor judgement on my part; it was probably a combination of them all. I don't do this anymore. Or at least I try not to. Old habits die hard and all of that.
Four or five months of close contact with Lita and I was just then realizing how much alike we were and how much I cared for her. So there I was, in this situation where I was having more empathy for my new friend than for my years-long best friend. I didn't mean to choose sides, but I guess in that moment I did. And unfortunately it kept happening and it became something that would shape our interactions in the coming months until the situation became rather unsustainable.