Why I Ghosted My Best Friend.
A few days before I ghosted my best friend, I was lying in bed with him.
James had been my best friend for a while. We had often discussed the subject of us dating, but always decided to keep our relationship strictly as friends, although we had ventured into more-than-friends territory through our actions several times, hence my first sentence.
There were several reasons why we chose not to venture into anything else, namely our differences in ambition and the classic introvert/extrovert clash. I did not want our friendship to be ruined if we tried to be more and failed.
Some months ago, James started to put himself out there more in the dating pool. I knew that finding the perfect partner is important to him, so I did my best to keep my distance and let him do his thing.
Truthfully, it was difficult for me to hear about his dating life. I didn’t think I was jealous at first. Even though I was busy too, I found that our times together became fewer and farther between because he had obligations with the other girls he was dating. I missed James, and to be honest, the thought of him doing the things he had done with me, with other girls, made me feel sick inside.
It got to a point where he asked me if I didn’t want to hear about his dates anymore, and I said yes. I knew it was going on, and that knowing was enough without any details. I wanted him to be happy, of course. At the same time, I wanted to be at peace, and I knew he had buddies he could talk to about those experiences if he really wanted to share.
He tried to get me to go to speed dating events with him, and there was one in Buffalo that he seemed particularly adamant about me going to with him. Part of the draw in bringing me, for him, was that women could get into the event for free. When he first posed the idea to me, he added, “It would suck if you found someone and I didn’t.”
I looked at him. “Do you mean you’d be jealous?”
“I don’t think so. It’s more that I’d be sore if you had good results and I didn’t really click with anyone.”
His answer really bothered me, but I let it go. I resolved not to go to the event with him, although he asked me a few more times.
The past few years, I have been struggling with my feelings for another man who can’t or won’t pursue anything romantic with me. I have told myself to move on, to find new people, but it seems like even though I am going forward and meeting new people all the time, my ache for him remains.
I have talked to healers, therapists, meditated, took classes to learn new things, focused on work, focused on writing, but what I feel for him and the feeling of missing him every day is still there. I have come to accept that maybe it always will be, no matter what I do or how much I grow. And that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me or that I need to analyze it.
This was yet another reason why I chose not to pursue romance with James. But I started to tell myself, “Maybe, even if I don’t feel that way for him, it could still work. Maybe this would eventually lead to marriage — children, even. He’s a nice enough guy, and I feel comfortable being personal and intimate with him.”
I started to think that the sick feeling when I knew he was out with other women was jealousy.
My heart lifted when he wrote in an e-mail about how he had not hit it off with any of the women he had seen so far, and he added, “Meanwhile, a girl I like is sitting at home alone and watching Dr. Phil marathons.”
I wrote back, tongue-in-cheek, “Hey, I like to sit home alone and watch Dr. Phil marathons too. Maybe I should meet this girl that you like some time.”
“Yeah, it’s you,” he replied.
As we lay in bed later, I looked over at him. Our foreheads nearly touched. “Maybe we should date,” I whispered, despite the heavy feeling in my chest. It was warm beside him, and his hand on me felt nice. I couldn’t tell if it was him or just the familiar, safe feeling of human contact with someone I trusted.
“We could,” he agreed.
We didn’t say more. I didn’t push, and neither did he.
On my drive home after our moment, the heaviness hung in my heart, but I had to smile at what we shared. I thought it was special.
The next day, he called and left me a long voicemail about the speed dating event in Buffalo. He had been on a waiting list since a lot of people had RSVP’d, but a spot opened. He wanted, again, to see if I would go. I was disheartened that he still wanted to go after the sweet, private moment we had shared the day before. We had even kissed.
I was a little taken aback that he had the gall to call and ask me to go with him. I supposed he did not truly understand what it meant when I suggested to him, for the first time ever, that we really should date. Before, it had been him suggesting the idea, and me rejecting it with a list of all the practical reasons why.
I had gotten to a point where I said, screw practicality. I wanted to follow the feeling in my heart. Even if I worried about our differences, I was willing to give him a shot — something he had once seemed to want very much, when I was not as open to the idea.
Even if I saw the other man’s face in my mind’s eye every day, I had the courage to give someone else — who did not feel entirely like home but was close enough — a chance. Was I settling? Maybe. But damn it, that took courage. It took strength. It took willingness to be so open.
The next night, I went to hear a band play with a friend. One of the men at the bar expressed interest in me. We talked a long while, and he was highly intellectual and open-minded. He seemed nice, although his sense of humor was on the sarcastic side.
He had poked fun at me, as per his sarcastic nature, and while I can be a good sport with those I know well, the basis of trust had not been built enough for me to feel comfortable with his teasing.
I thought of James and missed him.
I usually tell him everything, but decided against telling him what had happened at the bar. There didn’t seem to be any point in telling him. Nothing had happened, and I didn’t want to pursue it further.
A few days later, James e-mailed me to tell me about how the event in Buffalo had gone. “Holy cow,” he said. “Got my results back from speed dating. Short review: my hands are pretty full. (I always have time for you, of course.)”
I wondered if he had forgotten our need-to-know-only basis for discussing his dating life.
Should I have told him, earlier, about my hurt feelings when he called to say he was still going to the event? Maybe. Still, he had a way of rubbing salt on a wound.
Even the parentheses in his e-mail hurt. The punctuation further drove home the sense that I was an afterthought, a habit he’d fallen into.
I told him I was upset and going offline. He wrote back, “Sorry, didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry when you’re feeling down too. I love it when you’re smiling and laughing. So great.”
It was an apology, but it didn’t feel like it matched the magnitude of what I felt. The rest of his response made me feel even worse.
Feelings are complex. Smiling and laughing do not equal happiness, although a lot of people take their perception as reality.
I’ve recently started keeping a mood diary, and find that I have fallen in the neutral category each day. Not good, not bad. Maybe a little dead inside. But I’m here.
I say all this to express that James doesn’t seem to have much regard for gray areas — everything, for him, is either black or white. Happy or sad. Good or evil. Love or hate. Anything in between gets ignored, forgotten, perhaps not purposely. In his world, it doesn’t exist.
I do not know how to exist in his world.
I stared at my phone, trying to figure out a response to his last e-mail that would neither hurt him nor abandon myself. I came up blank.
I’ve thought a lot over the past few days about ghosting and the effects it can have on a person. But I have decided it could be no more detrimental to him than his response to me in the days following our last moment of intimacy.
Sometimes, the deepest feelings are given more justice when they are not translated to words. Words have an awful way of making love seem small.
And maybe there is no such thing as true closure. If a door is meant to be revisited, it will be, even if you walked away from it ages ago. If it isn’t, then it wasn’t your door.
I am ready to find a world that is welcoming to gray areas and ghosts alike.
I’ve also realized that there is no need for me to go home. I am already there.
 Name changed.
Holley Hyler has been published in Adelaide and Buck Off Magazine, and was a finalist in the Adelaide Literary Awards 2017 with her essay, “Nonlinear.” She is passionate about music, and plays the guitar as a hobby. She is currently working on a book of poetry and essays, and can be contacted via Facebook or Twitter. Her favorite topics are self-exploration, peace, love, and healing.