The First Time I Lost A Friend
By: Jaclyn G
*The names have been changed.
“I don’t think we were meant to be friends.”
Someone said that to me once. For real. As adults. We were in the aisle of a Family Video in my parents’ small Midwestern town. The entire day had been … just … so uncomfortable. But there is no way I had anticipated a breakup, in public. Even in the midst of it, I laughed. Not cruelly—I wasn’t laughing at her. It was more, “Oh, how ridiculous. I’m sure we’ll laugh about this someday.”
“Someday” never came.
Erica and I met in high school. We shared an extracurricular and a friend, and we bonded instantly.
“I met Amanda just so I can meet you,” she used to tell me about said friend. “You and me, we were meant to be friends.”
I loved Erica’s loyalty and her silliness. At a church retreat once, she and a group of other teens lip synced to a pop song, and after, she ran up to me, exhilarated. “I can’t believe I did that!” She was an incredible listener, and much of our time was spent lamenting over boys we loved, boys we no longer loved, boys we might love. We were shameless in our details in a way only a girl can be with another girl she trusts implicitly.
After we graduated high school, we chose different colleges, but that in no way affected our bond. This was the early 2000s, so we talked on the phone regularly, we visited one another on school breaks, and we emailed.
Toward the end of college, Erica started to have some pretty severe roommate problems; she changed apartments and living mates so quickly, I couldn’t keep track.
“But what about Clare?” I might ask.
“I don’t live with Clare.”
“Didn’t you just move in with her?”
“No, remember? I moved out when she got mad about the toilet paper. I live with Brooke and Jade now.”
“Wait, I thought Laura was the one with the toilet paper?”
“Laura’s the one with the dirty dishes and the loud voice.”
The second to last day I ever saw Erica, she had recently broken up with her first serious boyfriend. She had seemed restless and bored with the relationship for weeks, so the development did not surprise me. My lack of surprise? It hurt her. I never figured out why. I’d guessed we would discuss this during her visit, but I don’t think we ever covered it; she was too agitated.
When she arrived, she insisted we run to the grocery store to get her favorite beer. On the way, as she texted on the unfamiliar-to-her roads while driving her stick shift, I told her, “Hold on, Jewel is legit two miles down the road.”
This was nothing new—I have always scolded friends who text and drive with me in the car. It surprises no one. But she grew silent and barely spoke to me at Jewel. When she dropped the six-pack in the parking lot, breaking two bottles, she shouted curse words. Not a big deal—my friends and I curse a lot—but this wasn’t an “Aw, shit!” giggle.
This was genuine anger.
Back at my parents’, she insisted we watch an afternoon football game. I don’t know anything about football and have never liked it, but I sat with her while she watched the game. Rather, I sat with her while she fell asleep during the game.
That evening, we went to the theater to see “Derailed,” a Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen flick that has some, to put it mildly, hard-to-watch scenes. Erica was a social worker, and her reaction to a rape scene was pure anger. It was too familiar to her day-to-day, and she started to tremble.
“Are you OK?” I whispered, and she said nothing in return.
After the movie, she made a production out of how she had almost walked out. She seemed angry at me for wanting to see that movie, but all I’d known about the movie was that I like Aniston and thought Owen was dreamy.
“We could have left,” I told her.
“It’s fine. Whatever.”
Before going home, we ducked into Family Video to rent a movie.
“How about this one?”
“Nah … what about this?”
“Saw it. It’s not very good. This one?”
“That looks stupid.”
After that back and forth, in the middle of the aisle, she turned to me, exasperated and pissed, and said, “I don’t think we were meant to be friends.”
I laughed it off.
My next memory from the visit is early the next morning. I woke up to a noise: She was packing as silently as she could.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “Get back into bed. It’s early.”
“I’m going home,” she said.
“You were just going to sneak out without waking me?”
I know I got up and walked her to the door, but I don’t remember if she hugged me or said goodbye or “I’ll call you when I get home.”
Whatever we said, they were our last words to one another.