A few years ago, my best friend of nearly two decades dumped me. All the articles I’ve read on friendship claim that friends of many years are “friends for life.” But then again, our friendship was never typical.
We met during a critical time in ninth grade when I was awkward and inquisitive. I was thrown into high school without the tools I really needed to succeed. I was a great student and musically talented, but all the new kids were overwhelming. I felt lost.
The first few weeks of high school were especially tough. I arrived home every day, just in time to throw up into the toilet and let my mom put a cold cloth on my head while I recovered. My migraines became intolerable and my vomiting persistent. It wasn’t long before I started seeing a therapist.
And then one day in Honors Spanish, I met Sam*. He was handsome, brilliant. We had little in common — except for (overly?) actively involved mothers — his Hindu, mine Jewish — a love of the arts, infectious laughter, and a zest for life. I used to think our laughter could cure anything, and I lived for our musings about school, teachers, peers, love, and life. Once we became good friends, my physical ailments disappeared.
When AOL came out that year, Sam and I were ecstatic to learn that we could “IM” through the Internet, sending messages to each other stealthily while our mothers assumed we were doing homework. Our instant messages were hilarious — at least to us.
Sam made me strive to be better than I was. Although he knew science wasn’t my best subject, he convinced me to take AP Biology, reassuring me that we’d be lab partners and that he’d study with me until he was certain I understood the material.
When I had my first kiss — and then my first boyfriend — Sam took a backseat. This was not our territory, and he gladly took on the role of brother, as my romances with other boys evolved. We would still sing together, study together, and laugh together. Romance was never in the cards for us. Sam wanted to be with someone from the same culture and religion.
When I met my husband in grad school, Sam was thrilled for me. He was nothing if not traditional and family-oriented, and he showed such joy in seeing me with a Jewish man whose “journey,” as he called it, meshed with my own.
As the years passed, we remained in close touch. Sam went to med school and visited us every time he returned to our hometown in Massachusetts. When I had my first child, he became “Uncle Sam”.
And then things changed.
Sam met a beautiful Hindu woman who was as accomplished as he was. Together, they started a business and became successful enough to meet the likes of President Obama, Oprah, and other luminaries. I couldn’t wait to congratulate him on his success.
So I called. It didn’t go as planned.
I was dumped. Just like that. Here’s what he told me: In his culture and religion, once you find a partner, you no longer invest in relationships with people of the opposite sex. He had found his partner. And it wasn’t me.
I’ve had some harsh breakups, but I wasn’t at all prepared for this one. Just weeks earlier, he was trying to find a time for us to meet up over Thanksgiving, and now he was saying it was over. So I did the only thing my body would allow: I turned into a puddle and cried.
I continued to cry over the next few days. It was hard to accept that the same person who claimed he was “family” for nearly two decades was now out of my life.
I still think of him and smile when I read about his many accomplishments. While he hurt me more than words can say, I will always be grateful for his love and support, especially during some very fragile times in my life. I wish him the best, because he gave me the best. Maybe some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. At least that’s what I tell myself — so that I can cope with the heartbreak of an ending I still don’t totally understand.
*Name changed to protect privacy