Frozen in place

So this one is about a longtime friend who seems to be slipping away.

Not in a metaphorical sense, as in “we just don’t have anything in common.” But in a literal sense, as in she’s losing her grip on reality, on reason, on any ability to cope with life.

Every time the phone rings, I dread that it will be a call about her.
****Remember, earlier this year, we had another very troubled friend exhibiting very troubling behavior, who ultimately left the building in very dramatic fashion.***

Last time we spoke, she spilled: things have been worse than I ever could have imagined. All previoius conversations had been lies and half-truths to save face, keep me from worrying. Now the truth is out.

I know it’s been a very hard year for her. There have been challenges with health, finances, marriage and work. But she also had her up moments that gave me hope she was pulling through.

But this last call threw a dark shadow over the last rays of hope I held dear under my cloak of denial: I may be losing her. I don’t know how to help her. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s wrong.

We’ve known each other since childhood. We’ve gone through all the milestones together: first dates, first loves, first huge breakups, first drugs, first drinks, first “experimentations.” We’ve stood up to each other’s weddings (once and second times around!) We’ve always had the kind of friendship that meant: call me any time of day or night for any stupid reason; I can be a huge idiot around you and know you’ll still invite me to your parties. We could go on weekend getaways on a whim. All my best memories, best times have her in them.

Yet, she’s always had these wild swings in temperament. I feel it’s always been me that’s had to soothe her through breakups and letdowns, coaxing her off the ledge, so to speak. It’s always been me whose enabled this behavior, covering up and glossing over the spills and breaks and messes.

Part of me wants to scream: What about me? Where are you when I’m a mess? But it doesn’t work that way in this relationship.

Mostly we see each other during her up times. When she’s down, I don’t hear from her. It’s best to stay away. I’m not equipped to deal, really.

And now, it seems I’ve run out of ideas. She’s married, has children, and extended family that seemed to resent my intrusion the last time she slipped below the surface.
Phone messages were not returned. I arrived once with casserole in hand, uttering falsely cheery greetings to folks who, I think, felt I was getting in their business without offering any real solutions.

Another time I felt too ill-equipped to handle the situation, like I’d gotten in way over my head. Was I really doing more harm than good by getting involved? So i’ve had to back off and I just wait. For what? A call, a sign? I feel frozen in place, as in a dream where imminent danger is rapidly approaching and you can’t move because your feet are mired in mud.

I live with this constant dread that if something really bad does happen, will I be able to live with myself? I wish I knew what to do. But I do not.


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"It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes." --Dorothy Parker
December 2007
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