her in one way or another. There was the night we took Mollie and my heart felt so warm and everything was so fascinating to me, and we stayed up into the early morning talking about a million random things. And the time Tabitha yelled at some girls in our high school for talking about me behind my back and then comforted me when I felt hurt over what they said. And the time we had a drunken adventure in Williamsburg with two random men we met at a bar. Or when my brother died, and she didn't leave my side until she knew I could stand on my own. For all of these moments and a million more, she has a special place in my heart.
We went to different colleges in different states, but in spite of the distance, Tabitha and I remained close. When college ended and I wanted to stay in New York City and she wanted a change of scenery, it seemed only too perfect that we should get an apartment together. How magical this would be, living with my best friend in my favorite city. I am a great imaginer and I immediately began to fantasize about the perfect life we would have together. I created my own definition of the phrase "best friend roommate"; a partner to go through life with, someone who makes you feel less alone in the world, but you get to sleep with other people. There was only one problem regarding this fantasy, one huge, terrifying, hurricane waiting to happen, elephant of a problem, which I chose to pretend didn't exist; we both had untreated mental health issues. Tabitha was bi-polar, not on medication or in therapy, just continuing to go about life as if the chemicals in her brain didn't fluctuate dramatically from mania to depression. And I was suffering with severe depression, borderline personality disorder, a binge eating disorder and alcoholism I didn't know yet existed. We both wanted to be normal, and so that's what we pretended to be. We were were something toxic waiting to happen. Many of our friends tried to warn me that perhaps Tabitha wasn't mentally stable enough to live with, but I chose to ignore their warnings because I understood what it was like to not have control of your brain. And I'm stubborn, so I had already convinced myself that I was going to live out the new fantasy life I created for us.
In the Fall following college graduation we moved into a shit-hole of a Brooklyn apartment. When I say shit-hole I mean worse then you're probably imagining. But, rent in New York is expensive and living in a Bushwick apartment building that used to be used by gangs to sell drugs was really all we could afford.Despite the not entirely safe living conditions, I was perfectly happy, because things between Tabitha and I were exactly as I had hoped they would be. In all the hours we weren't working, Tabitha and I spent our time together. Nights were filled with cooking and Law and Order marathons. We went to the gym together, and ran next to each other on the treadmill. We made breakfast for one another. We went on date nights to different bars around the city. We went to secret warehouse parties and took drugs from strangers and danced until eight in the morning. I was never lonely because I always had her. Everything was wonderful. And this wonderfulness lasted two months.
As it turns out, there is a complete distinction between being compatible as friends and compatible as roommates. Despite our close friendship we soon found out we weren't so perfect as roommates. I am quite neat and found myself doing most of the cleaning, and then I would get angry that she wouldn't take it upon herself to do something that she didn't see as important. Our jobs led to opposite schedules, she got up early to nanny and I stayed up late to serve people expensive burgers and wine. I often found myself being woken up in the morning by a blow dryer and a blender. And then there were the cats. Tabitha had two cats, a male and a female. Well, it turns out that cats are quite horny creatures when they are not fixed and their relationship as brother and sister did not stop the male cat from mounting the female and putting his parts in her. The sound of a female cat having sex is nothing you ever want to hear, apparently it's not too pleasurable for them. And so, we moved in together knowing we were soon going to have some extra cat children to take care of. Now I love cats, love them, they're one of my favorite things in the world. But there is a difference between loving cats and living with six of them in a small Brooklyn apartment. (Okay I will admit, I kept kept one of the kittens for myself and named him Penn after the actor Sean Penn. But he was so silky and adorable I really couldn't help myself.) Soon I reluctantly found myself being one of those single mothers whose baby daddy only drops by every once and a while with presents and to take the children out for ice cream. I even had to go through the cat birth alone as Tabitha was out of town and the mom cat found my laundry basket to be the perfect place for her delivery. I spent money on cats that weren't mine and cleaned up after them. It was just more important to me that our house be clean and not smell like we were hoarding cats, and so I felt like I had no choice but to take on the responsibility. I was too afraid of creating any stains on our friendship and so I didn't ever say anything about how I felt I was doing most of the work around the house. I just pushed down my resentment as far as I could until it was quiet enough to be ignored. Despite our incompatibility as roommates, our friendship was still blooming and sweet. It wasn't until Tabitha met a boy and got into a relationship that we began to decompose into a skeleton of what we once were.
She jumped hard and deep into a relationship with this new boy and they soon spent everyday together in the whirlwind of new romance. Now there were three of us, and I was beginning to feel pushed aside. Her boyfriend was nice, and they did their best to include me in their relationship, but I was unwilling to make room for another person in the fantasy version of my life. I immediately resented him and I resented her for not thinking that I was enough. That she needed someone else to make her world full. This wasn't the first friend of mine to get into a relationship, actually, I was quite used to it. Myself, chronically single, had beautiful and wonderful girlfriends who seemed to always be dating different men. But this time it felt different.
Now, for all of this to make sense I feel that I must give you a bit of insight into what my life looked like at this particular time. I was twenty-two, I had just graduated college and I was in the midst of what would become known as 'the darkest period of my life'. My depression was at it's heaviest and most suffocating. My self-worth had plummeted to a state of worthlessness. My alcoholism started to take the form of everyday drinking-alone-in-my-room parties. I felt alone, lonely, hopeless and all I could do was destroy myself further. When Tabitha started spending all of her time with her boyfriend a lifetime's worth of abandonment issues wrapped themselves around me. I began to feel unimportant to her. Like our friendship didn't mean as much to her as it did to me. I projected on to her all the things I felt about myself. If only she would set aside time for the two of us, make it necessary for us to have time alone, then I wouldn't feel so sad. But that never happened. I demanded that she be the person I needed her to be rather then then who she actually was. Yes, I needed Tabitha. I needed her more then one person should ever need another person. I became dependent on her just like I was dependent on alcohol and food. She was my escape, my happiness, my love, everything I couldn't find within myself. I put a great deal of responsibility on her, something she never asked for. I asked for her to love me so I didn't have to try and love myself. If I was in a healthier place in my life, if I didn't need her as much as I did, it's possible things between us would have worked out entirely differently.
The sadness I felt surrounding Tabitha's lack of affection reconstructed itself into anger. As a means of protecting myself from any more hurt and disappointment I began to pull away from her and build a wall between us. As much as I tried, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't let go of my invented version of us; this subconscious idea that she could fix me. I held on tight to it as if my world would fall apart if I loosened my grip. And every time she didn't behave as I wanted her to I was hurt and sad and angry all over again. Now if it seems like I am overreacting to my best friend falling in love. And if you are reading this and thinking I was being selfish and un-empathetic and dependent on her, then you are completely right. I was all of those things.
Over the next few months I continued pulling away from her and she continued letting me go, until we were barely speaking. An uncomfortableness sprouted between us. I don't blame her for letting me slip away from her and into in my dark little hole. She never meant to hurt me. I was just asking so much from her, more than a friend should ever have to give. And she felt that no matter what she did it was never enough. So she gave up trying to make me happy while I continued to ask for more.
As the universe would have it, six months into our time in Brooklyn, I got fired from my serving job for drinking at work. I was devastated. Getting fired is the worst. I called my mom sobbing and asked if I could come back home to Rhode Island for a week to be sad and pull myself back together before I started looking for a new job. At this point, my relationship with Tabitha had become nothing if not toxic. We were hardly speaking and resentment was our third roommate. Being back home, surrounded by my family and the friends I was getting along with, felt wonderful. When I was preparing to go back to New York, my mom, knowing I wasn't happy in New York, suggested that maybe I should just stay in Rhode Island. I was already planning on moving to California in the Fall and the idea of staying home with the people I loved and focusing on improving my mental health before I moved across the country seemed like the most logical idea. And so, that's what I decided to do. I went back to New York to tell Tabitha that I had decided to move back home. I told her I was going to continue to pay the rent but I needed to focus on my mental health right now and I thought Rhode Island was the healthiest place to do that. I didn't mean to abandon her. I didn't mean to hurt her. I was just dying inside and needed to try and save my own life. But I had hurt her, though she never said it, it became very obvious. We stopped speaking entirely. She bought a lock for her bedroom door. And she called me some of the ugliest things anyone's ever said to me. Another of her friends and her boyfriend decided to get in on the action and started sending me abusive text messages. I was called bat-shit crazy. You don't ever want to call someone struggle with mental health issues crazy. That one hurts the most. The whole reason I was going home was to get the help I needed, and instead of wanting what's best for me and supporting my decision, she retaliated with anger. I guess I understand. I had done the same thing to her when she hadn't given me what I needed. And of course she was not the only one being hurtful. I said awful words back to her. I didn't try to talk to her when she ignored me. I didn't try to have an emotionally honest conversation and work things out. I didn't try to listen to her feelings, instead I was selfish and un-empathetic only seeing things from my perspective.
The worst part of all of this, you know besides losing my best friend, was the cat issue. Being hurt and angry she told me I could no longer keep Penn, that he was going to stay in Brooklyn. I cried. For six months he had been my cat and I loved him dearly. But she was serious, she went so far as to lock him in her room and threatened to sue me over him. Well it turns out I can be quite the ninja, because I ended up breaking into her room and "stealing" him back and keeping him at a friends house until I moved. She purposely did that to hurt me and she succeeded in that. I decided to wait a couple of weeks to move out because Tabitha was going on a family vacation and I wanted to avoid awkwardness and confrontation as much as possible. She didn't know when I was going to leave and when she returned, she came home to no roommate and practically no furniture. I decided to leave her with nothing expect the bare minimum that was hers. I can be quite vengeful when I'm hurt.
After I moved out, we continued to exchange hurtful words over text message. I don't think we meant any of it. Not really. Though at the time it felt real. When you get down to it, we were two girls grieving over the unexpected loss of our friendship, expressing ourselves in the only way we could. Anger is easier to feel then sadness. It's easier to project. You're less vulnerable. But the two are really quite similar, hate and love. It's indifference that's the opposite of all that.
I blocked her number, and that was that; we were no longer in each other's lives. I had lost my best friend, and that is the most painful breakup I've ever gone through. Something that was once so beautiful and full had transformed into something unrecognizable. My heart was broken. I loved her, but too much had been said for us to recover what we once had - things had become too messy. But she never completely left my heart. As much as I tried, I simply could not get over her. I missed her. I missed going on spontaneous adventures together. I missed staying up all night talking about everything in our hearts. I hated that all of our good memories were now tainted with something painful. But I just couldn't let go of my anger. I held it tightly in my heart. The thing about resentment though is that it doesn't go away simply because you ignore it. You can push it down into the very deepest parts of you, but it's still alive. It has just turned into a poison that seeps into your skin and paints your life in the most unexpected ways.
Time passed and we moved on with our lives. I moved to Los Angeles to become an actor and she moved to Boston to be with her new boyfriend. I never planned on talking to her again. I had put that chapter of my life behind me. I did see her once though, a year after I moved out. I was visiting Rhode Island from California and there was a concert at the beach by my house. I went with a group of friends and as we stood in the darkness, the sound of music and waves filling the night, I noticed she was standing next to me, only separated by a few people. And so, I did the only thing a mature young woman would do; I grabbed my friends and ran to the other side of the crowd. I danced and drank and had a wonderful time, but my eyes kept wandering to her. Feelings about her still swirled inside me. I was still holding onto the hurt, I just couldn't seem to let it go and move the hell on. Pain is like that sometimes. We hold onto it because it's the only part of the person we have left. It's hard to let go of someone who you share so many of your favorite memories with.
It wasn't until a year later that I saw her once again. This time, it was on purpose. I was coming back to Rhode Island again for a visit and I contacted her asking if she would be willing to meet up with me. I finally felt like I was ready to apologize. I was ready to own up to all of the pain I had caused her and try to make it right. It wasn't until this point in my life, over two years after our friendship broke apart, that I even considered I was responsible for any of the wrongdoings. I blamed her for everything that went wrong in our relationship. She was the reason we fell apart. She was the awful one. I was simply a girl who desperately needed to be loved. In reality, many of the cracks in our relationship were caused by me. I was jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend and I retaliated. I was self-seeking, self-righteous and living in self-pity. I lacked compassion for her life journey and her needs. And I was projecting unrealistic expectations for what I thought a friendship should be and living in that fantasy world. I wish I could say my decision to apologize was an entirely selfless act, but the truth is, I didn't want to hold onto my resentment anymore. I didn't want it to continue living inside me. I wanted to close the Tabitha chapter of my life and I knew the only way I could do that was if we created some sort of closure between us. I didn't want to be her friend again, that I knew. I felt like I had been too hurt by her and we were too broken to ever be glued back together. Closure. That was it. That was all I needed.
I walked over to her house, yup we happen to be neighbors in Rhode Island, and with my heart pounding and a spiderweb of uncomfortableness woven inside me, I knocked on her door. We sat on her couch as I poured out a monologue of an apology. I didn't blame her for anything, I didn't tell her all the reasons I was angry with her, I didn't yell or call her names. Instead I just apologized. I took responsibility for all of the things I did to her that I now recognize as harmful. I owned up to my part in the wreckage of our relationship. As I talked tears fell down her cheeks and when I was all done, she said "I forgive you". In that moment, with those words coming out of her mouth, all of my resentment and anger towards her, all the heaviness that had been weighing me down over the past two years turned into feathers which floated out of me and disappeared into the air. Just like that, two years evaporated. In her forgiving me, I was finally able to forgive her too. And that was that. It was over. We didn't want to hate each other anymore. There is great magic in apologizing. In allowing yourself to be vulnerable and putting your ego on a shelf long enough to take responsibility for your actions. Two years is a long time. We had both grown and changed and developed into different versions of ourselves. In our time apart, we had both gotten perspective on our relationship. We stayed up late into the night talking about everything and sharing our missed experiences. There were a lot of stories to tell. I invited her to my family party and I saw her everyday until I left for California. We were best friends again. It wasn't a choice, it's nothing I decided, it's just where we belong. I think we needed some space to grow and change before we fit into each other's lives again. That, and we're both properly medicated now and have undergone therapy to deal with our mental health issues. So I'm sure that helped. We talk nearly every day now. I love her, but I no longer need her to make me feel whole. In my experience, breaking up with a best friend is the most heartbreaking kind of breakup. I think it's because the bond we share with our best friend is filled with magic. They are the people we trust most with our hearts. They are the ones who hold us when life is hard. They feed us the ice cream and put on the Netflix when we are sad. They laugh with us when no one else thinks it's funny. They hold our secrets in their hearts. They relate to our struggles and our joys. Sometimes, people stop fitting into your life, and that's okay too. They are only meant to be written into certain chapters. And then there are the people you're meant to travel this beautiful, terrifying, wonderful world with.
*Authors note - I asked my friend for permission to write and publish this essay and she lovingly gave me her blessing. And no, her name is not really Tabitha. I may expose my secrets to the world, but it's not my place to expose hers.