She sat across from me, this twenty-three-year old college friend I had entered the recent grad world with. I remember when she told me about how she lost her virginity freshman year. I remember all the drunken sluttish escapades she needed to regale to someone—me, her “rock,” her “sanctuary.” Like atoning meant that it cleared you of any involvement or lack of judgment. Like atoning to me, then a fellow college student, meant redemption of any sort.
After her freshman year, after having met her parents when they visited and being introduced as one of her closest friends, after sitting through monologues about how her friend seemed to be competing with her in terms of who she “hooked up” with and did I know this last guy that she made out with because she thinks he’s really cute, she met the man of her dreams. She called me late one night after we both realized we were chatting online and may as well talk live, and I spilled to her how the guy I was dating had broken the very heart I had so carefully guarded for the entire year, and she told me how she met the love of her life in her summer abroad in Italy. We bonded then, for once, where our stories seemed to be running on the same love-loss cycle, even though at diametrically different points.
Besides the fates of our love lives in that moment, irony also rested in our “approaches.” I had always described myself as anti-dating and terrified of men and relationships. I didn’t so much as dance with the guys in my friend circle because I thought it was too awkward of an act to dance closely one night and attend class together the next morning. (And I love dancing.) I very carefully entered into the relationship I found late freshman year, my second semi-serious relationship ever, and he ended up cheating and disappearing.
Meanwhile, she was living it up in the predictable, and completely understandable, college co-ed way that small-town girls do once they move away from home. She was promiscuous. And she ended up meeting her future husband.
For the next three years after freshman year, she was basically married. She was that girlfriend who disappeared once she found her man. She no longer needed the sanctuary I provided, and quite frankly, I didn’t miss her visits. A growing young adult can only take so much of being on the listening side of the confession. She came to me because I never judged her. Now that she had found her man, well, she didn’t seem to be concerned about being judged for anything, so she didn’t need me.
She got married right after college, in fact, just a couple of months after we attained our diplomas. At her wedding, nothing but well wishes went her way. Those of us who had gone through college with her wrote about how she and the groom were the quintessential couple in the quintessential relationship and we knew how blissfully happy they would forever be. In one of my gifts to her, a collaboration with another friend, we brainstormed baby names that she might bestow on the firstborn, showing that we assumed they’d be going down a prescribed path of college sweethearts, newlyweds, young parents.
Everything about their relationship seemed so picturesque and, as I said before, quintessential.
Fast forward to about fifteen months later. I received a text in the morning that said, “He moved out.” That was it. I was the only friend, the only person outside of her parents, who knew that she had gone to marriage counseling to repair the newlyweds’ relationship. Even then, she revealed the therapy sessions to me in March. (To which I told her I was absolutely proud of her and commended her to be taking such a healthy step.) The conversations about the counseling disappeared. And months later, that text was like a bomb that no one realized was even capable of blowing up.
The next week I drove to her place, brought her some DVDs, and prepared to listen. She served up some leftovers and we talked about him leaving. She acknowledged and apologized for not reaching out to us friends about her problems. She knew that they seemed perfect on the outside and recognized that it was probably because she didn’t have open dialogue with anyone about their rifts. Expectations weren’t met, tensions built, the challenge of making two personalities work well with each other could not be met, and basically, life happened.
I told her that I was there for her, that if I had known more about what was going on, I would have had better questions to ask to find out how things really were. That I wish she had felt comfortable enough to come to me, or anyone. I also told her that I’d at least want to listen, even though marriage was a territory I had zero experience with.
She then made a seeming effort to lighten the mood, or maybe portray herself differently in the situation. Talking about how she knew other men found her attractive, she started touching on and then revisiting how she knows this one guy at work has feelings for her. I don’t know where it came from or why she kept visiting it.
Then she let me know that he made the pasta I was eating and that the weekend after her now ex-husband moved out, she slept with the coworker after a night out barhopping. She told me how he was better than her ex-husband was, how he was saying things to her that she hadn’t heard since getting married, how she knows he really cares for her, and implied overall how he filled the void she was feeling.
Or at least filled something in between her legs.
Part 1| (Part 2)