The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, August 24, 2003  

And It Hurts More Than I Thought

I lost a friend this week. A new friend. A good and close friend? I had hoped and thought so. I was wrong, but I’m often wrong on this issue. Friendship, I mean.

Except for a brief period in the early- to mid-`90s, I’ve never had what one might call a large group of friends in my life. More often I traveled within a small circle of very good, trusted, and loyal friends.

And that was okay. It really was. And it is now, too.

Of course, many of those from the `90s who I thought were my friends are now nearly perfect strangers. And that’s okay too.

But drifting apart from old friends is something quite different from having a nasty falling out with an especially good friend.

The last friend I lost in such manner -- before this week I mean -- I had known for something like eight years.

I was living in Washington, D.C., at the time we met, accidentally and fortuitously, at a Manhattan restaurant known for its respectable food, attractive crowd, and painfully close quarters.

That night I was having dinner with my friend B.A. and shortly after being seated we met the man and the woman, longstanding friends of each other, sitting at the next table, not six inches to my right and to B.A.’s left. It wasn’t all that difficult an acquaintance to make since we could hear every word of their conversation and they could listen in on every word of ours.

I bonded immediately with both of them, particularly the woman, who shall remain nameless. The four of us spent the rest of the evening sharing our plates, telling our life stories, and making each other laugh. After dinner we stayed out until the late hours, hitting several of New York’s then most-popular gay nightspots.

Over time my friendship with the woman grew stronger; it was one of those rare, precious, and somewhat strange instant connections. We found we had much in common. I treasured our friendship. I thought of her often and telephoned her with varying frequency, calls she returned with intermittent regularity. When we did connect, either by phone or in person, our conversations often lasted hours. For years we both fostered the relationship as best we could, given our busy schedules and the geographic distance separating us. My subsequent move to New York helped bring us closer, and I was pleased by that.

Sadly, our friendship ended early in 2000. And the end was ugly. Very ugly. All the more ugly because the termination arose, I believe, in large part through the deceitful machinations of my then ex, a man who left me in January 2000 after a three-year relationship, and who subsequently, I am convinced, set upon a course of destroying this cherished friendship to his own twisted advantage, a not unfamiliar life pattern for him.

Lies were told. Half-truths were peddled. Misconceptions were fostered. Misunderstandings were promoted. I felt abused, mistreated, and powerless, tossed about like a little pawn in an immature children’s game of Chutes & Ladders. And so she, who for so long had been my friend and confidant, much to my surprise and dismay, chose to become his instead.

Well, congratulations to both of you. You deserve each other, assuming, of course, you’re still friends, an assumption in which I place little faith given the shallowness and selfishness of both parties involved.

I learned much from that mess. Perhaps I didn’t learn enough, though, because as I said, this week I again lost a friend, a man who, like some other now-former friends, acted toward me with surprising and unconscionable immaturity, greed, and dishonesty, his actions simply unforgivable. I trust others too easily. And while admittedly misanthropic, I too quickly think the best of others and misguidedly expect the same in return. I let people take advantage of me.

It feels funny to be my age and to still feel so hurt when betrayed by a friend. Frienships aren’t supposed to be all that important to me now. I’m expected to be strong, mature, independent, and self-reliant. But he’s gone now, and, in a weird way -- a way that I will never feel about my ex and my one-time dinner partner and friend -- I wish my newest, or latest, former friend the very best of everything. I truly do. I will miss you, K.R.

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