To my extroverted ex-friend:
Remember when we were dining at Pizza Hut and you lamented about the constant fights you were having with your friends? You held a slice of Hawaiian pizza in one hand and asked, “Am I really that bad?” I couldn’t bring myself to say yes and it proved to be a mistake I would soon regret.
We were 14 when we started hanging out. I didn’t understand why you wanted us to be friends; we both liked High School Musical but that’s pretty much where our similarities ended. As we got older, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place. You needed someone to have your back. Someone you could push around to make up for the rejection you went through in other parts of your social life.
As an introvert, I kept to myself in class, often wishing I could stay home and watch The Golden Girls instead of make small talk with our classmates. You must have figured that I, a quiet and reserved kid, would be your perfect target.
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Your misjudgement soon escalated into something ugly.
Remember when we did an online math test together? Despite it being part of our grade, you treated it as a game and failed. When it was my turn on the computer, you refused to let me use it. You deliberately gave me the wrong answers and made me fail, too. You took the phrase “all for one and one for all” to a whole new distasteful level.
That was strike one.
Remember when you asked if I could have lunch with you after school? I said no, because I was exhausted and needed to be alone to recharge my introvert battery. I made up an excuse; I told you my parents needed me at home. You were quiet for a moment and then asked for my phone. Thinking you wanted to check out my music playlist, I handed it to you.
You dropped my phone and it smacked to the ground. The cover came off and it fell into the drain. You apologized and I said it was okay. It was an old phone and I was going to get a new one when my mobile plan expired. I could go for another month without a cover. Piece of cake.
You knew I, a shy introvert, wouldn’t blame you for it. You told me you felt guilty. I told you it could be worse. All of a sudden, you said, “Have lunch with me!” I didn’t know what to say. Of course I still didn’t want to have lunch with you, but you looked like you were about to cry. I agreed because the last thing I wanted was to make a scene.
Do you remember it? You manipulated my empathy and sensitivity. You played me. You knew I couldn’t say no to you if you were about to cry. To this day, I still don’t know if dropping my phone was a careless mistake or a sick ruse.
That was strike two.
Months later, you edited a picture we took at a water park. I was looking at your phone, wondering how you’d decorate it. When you inscribed the words BFF, I remember thinking, bullshit. You knew nothing of the term and you used it too lightly.
We had a falling-out during our senior year. You got mad because I sat with a classmate you disliked. You swapped seats. I thought you were being immature. You went home and wrote on your blog about how I wasn’t on your side, how I always break promises.
The former remark didn’t surprise me; the latter was a lie.
I wasn’t hurt by your actions. I knew you would act that way. I was mad at myself for not acting sooner. From there, it became clear to me: I didn’t want you in my life anymore. But that didn’t mean things had to end on a sour note.
I thought of softening the blow to make things less awkward. When you texted how angry you were, I explained my side of the story. After telling you how much I hated you taking advantage of my quiet, sensitive nature, you apologized.
But before I could send my response, you texted back, “It’s your fault for not telling me. How was I supposed to know?” I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I remember thinking, “There’s no way anyone could be this dense.”
Remember when you asked if I would do your assignment for you? I yelled, “Can’t you do it on your own?” You became defensive, but agreed. A few days later, you did it again. You wanted me to do your homework for you. I said, “I can’t. Do it on your own.” You threw a tantrum, refused to go back to your seat, and did your assignment right in front of me, as though to say, “How dare you. Fine, if this is what it takes, I’ll show you.”
I never brought up these two events. What was the point? You’d never learn. When you apologized for the second time, I thought you’d meant it. What do you know, the next day, you did it again. You wanted me to run an errand for you, when clearly, it was your responsibility.
Let’s not kid ourselves. You knew what you did, but you would rather push the blame on me and see yourself as the victim. You twisted the facts. You knew, because the sensitive introvert in me disliked conflict, I wouldn’t retaliate.
I was wrong, too. I was a wimp. (But not too much of a wimp that I’d deny it.) I was wrong to let the toxicity of our friendship carry on for four years. It was on me, too. I should have said no more often. I should have stood up for myself. I should have told you early on, “Hey, cut it out. What you’re doing is not cool.”
If I had made the first move, there wouldn’t have been any falling-out. Deep down, I’ll admit that I wanted the fight to happen. I was trying to sabotage a toxic friendship. I was exhausted and I didn’t want anything to do with you anymore. My previous messages hadn’t work, so I thought a big one like this would finally get your attention.
One year after graduation, a mutual friend asked if I would like to hang out with her and you. I texted back, “Count me out.” Then you posted on Facebook about how much you were tired of chasing people. Your very public comment seemed directly aimed at me. After all this time, you still didn’t get it.
That was strike three.
You misjudged my introversion and thought I’d let you push my buttons. And I did–but how long did you think I’d let that carry on?
You still don’t see where you did wrong and the heart-breaking thing is, you probably never will. From a conversation with our mutual friend, I could tell you were mulling over why I’m unable to move on from your mistakes.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it?
I’m moving on without you.