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"I Thought We Were Friends"

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"Oh, I thought we were friends"

This is what crossed my mind when I called my friend whom I had known for a decade shortly after the birth of my daughter. On one of the several phone calls I made to her, she said to me seemingly out of nowhere, "look, I will call you". She meant that she didn't want me to call her. I had gone through a period of depression right after I had my daughter, as my husband and I had just moved into our new home and I knew virtually no one in the neighborhood. I was lonely and needed someone to talk to. This friend had also given birth to her son a little over a month before I had my daughter, and I called to see how she was doing. To my surprise, she sounded cold and distant. She and her husband lived in a condo near her parents' and she hinted that she had her parents' support whereas I was all alone with my newborn daughter and my husband often worked until late. We had met in college, had something in common and we got along well. What happened now? I thought we were friends...

The following is a story of our friendship. After college, we seemed to consistently grow apart, having less in common with each other. Unfortunately for us, it would never be the same.

The Start of Our Friendship

I met my friend in the theater club in college and we were in two productions together. She had also lived overseas like I had and we had both attended international schools. She stayed at my house once, the night before a performance we were both in and we stayed up until late, just talking. After the success of one of these productions, we went off along with several members of the club to a cottage. We stayed up for two nights, partying. I met some of my closest friends in college, with whom I still feel a bond more than two decades after graduation. She was one of them but no matter how close we were during college, graduation marked a point of departure before each of us entered another world whether it be the corporate world or graduate school. In our case, she went to work in a Japanese bank and I went off to graduate school in Wisconsin.

The Dissonance Starts...

On my return trip to Japan, I saw her, but I could already see that we had less in common. I told her about my roommate in Wisconsin with whom I did not get along. She told me about working in the foreign currency department at the bank. I couldn't readily identify or be interested in what was going on in her life. I believe she felt the same way, listening to my story of life as a graduate student. We had already departed to a different world, and were no longer under the comfortable, protective "wings" called college. One thing we did find in common was that we had both met our husbands-to-be. But she rambled on and on about this man in her life. I hardly had the chance to talk about my husband-to-be.


MARRIAGE, CHILDBIRTH AND AFTERWARDS

We attended each other`s weddings. At her wedding, I made a speech. After I got married, I moved to Yokohama, where she also lived. We were within reasonable proximity to each to each other so it wasn`t difficult to get together, though we only saw each other twice a year or so. My husband and I visited China when we were still newlyweds and when she visited me, I showed her pictures from our trip. She seemed disinterested. She commented that she couldn`t understand why my husband and I would bother going to "such a place". She had never been to China herself. "I spent many years in Chile and Peru as a kid and everything`s so gray there. That `s why I only travel to places that are clean", she said. I was saddened that she seemed to scoff at my story of our trip to China.

Several months after she was married, she and her husband purchased a condo near her parents`. I visited her new home not too long after they had moved in. I told her that my husband and I were in the process of building our new home. I didn`t expect her to be happy for me, but she said something I could not believe. "You don`t have the status to be living in a house". She had chosen to focus on the difference in the potential size of our homes, which made her feel jealous. Why was she feeling this way?

It was pure coincidence that we gave birth to our first children a little over a month apart. She visited me when both of our children were still toddlers. There were a few more meetings within the city limits since we were now both stay-at-home moms and didn`t have time to travel out of town. We even got together once with our second children, who were born two months apart. This time, she had her daughter and I had my son.

Unfortunately, when I was pregnant with my son, I was hospitalized for two months due to a case of near-miscarriage. Several months after my son arrived safely, I was visiting her again, this time with my three-year-old daughter. I told her about the nightmarish experience of being hospitalized for two whole months. Instead of feeling sorry for me which I didn`t expect, she asked without malice, "did you develop a bruise or something from staying in bed that long?". I couldn`t believe how insensitive she could be, asking me such a thing, though she probably had no intention of offending me.

I wonder why I never confronted her until several years later. Perhaps I didn`t want to make her feel bad. I was afraid confronting her would have an adverse effect on our relationship, and that was the last thing I wanted.


So That`s What`s Been Bothering Her!


When our children were all in school, we were able to meet again without our kids. On one of these meetings, we had lunch together and she said in response to something I mentioned, " you`re ahead of me, Takako. You went to grad school, you speak perfect English." So that`s what`s been bothering her! I thought immediately. The bottom line was, she was jealous of me. Why was she comparing herself to me? I guess it was easy to do so, we had similar backgrounds, went to college together, lived in the same city, and our children were the same age. These similarities, however, made it easy for her to zero in on our differences: the size of our homes, my ability to speak English fluently. I still didn`t confront her and point out that her behavior was bothering me.

Two years after this incident, I moved to Waterloo, Ontario, Canada with my family due to my husband`s temporary job transfer. Before I left for Canada, we got together. She didn`t say in so many words that she would miss me. We went to karaoke and for the first time in years, we had a good time. she remarked in her e-mail later, "I saw another side of you. I thought all along that you were just a very serious person!".


Falling Out and Afterwards

I contacted her before my temporary return to Japan in the summer of 2008. She replied in her e-mail, "so you are coming back for a visit. I`d like to see you even if it may be for one short hour". When I arrived in Yokohama, we managed to set up a brief meeting during the day on a school day, right outside her train station which was a mere walking distance from her condo. Unfortunately, her daughter was ill so she, as a mother needed to get home right away. She couldn`t travel very far just to see me. It took almost an hour to get to the meeting place, in the humidity of the summer heat. She hadn`t changed. She rambled as usual and this time, I had some chance to to talk, but not to my satisfaction.

As we walked back to the train station, she was on about something I couldn`t recall. I kept trying to tell her I had to be on my way because my kids were getting in from school. She hardly seemed to want to listen to me. She was too busy rambling. Finally, she let me go. I had to leave without so much as a good-bye. I somehow expected her to be more receptive, especially after spending almost an hour each way just to see her. It was nice of her to agree to see me, even while her daughter was ill but in the end, she was hardly willing to listen to me.

After I got home, I thought long and hard about our meeting. I almost felt a surge of emotion close to anger, of being snubbed all these years by her hurtful and insensitive comments. What made me especially upset was that she didn`t seem to want to listen to me; she never asked about our life in Canada. She was too busy talking about her own life and other things she wanted to ramble about.

I didn`t have the chance to see her again so I ended up e-mailing her that night and told her I was upset with her attitude at the end of our meeting. I pointed out some of the past episodes, her hurtful comments. She responded by saying that she felt depressed that I didn`t like her attitude as we parted. As for the past episodes, some of them she did agree that they took place, others she didn`t think it ever happened. I didn`t respond and she e-mailed me again, asking me whether or not I was upset. I think I told her I wasn`t, but we didn`t correspond with each other anymore afterwards. I don`t think I sent her a Christmas card after I returned to Canada. I sent her an e-mail at New Years` but I never heard back from her.


The Aftermath

The year after I returned from Canada, my friend and I decided to get together again. For a change, it was she that suggested we get together. Because we were once again living in Yokohama, it was easy to pick a suitable location.

We went to a cafe not too far away from my home.

Unfortunately, things did not click...again.

We talked about our families and I started going on about my sister`s separation from her husband. I have to admit I went on too long about this topic, which was of little interest to her. After a while she interjected, "why doesn`t your sister go right on ahead and get a divorce?". I didn`t have an answer to that question, or maybe I did... Anyway, that ended our discussion.

I can`t say I had fun getting together with her. So it was natural that I didn`t hear from her on a regular basis after that, aside from infrequent e-mails and the usual New Years` card at the start of each year.


2018


Both our kids are now in college, and in early 2018, she e-mailed me and said that she wanted to see me. She also sent me a friend request on Facebook. On one occasion, she stated in her e-mail that I was one of her most important friends from when she was a student. So I asked her which days she was free, but never received a response.

I wonder if she really wants to see me.


i-thought-we-were-friends

Early 2019

For the first time in years, I didn`t hear from her at new years` though I had sent her a new years` card. I know that she was doing well, since I have been following her on instagram where she posts pictures from her mini bike trips.

Then in mid February, I suddenly got a call from her on my cell phone, as I was leaving from my exercise class. I couldn`t imagine it was an emergency, so I messaged her back and she responded the following day that she was in Shin Yokohama (where we last met) on one of her bike trips. She said she called to see whether or not I was home because she was close by. It was too bad because I had actually been in Shin Yokohama right after my exercise class, never knowing that she was there. "Too bad I missed you", she responded the following day. Well, not receiving a new years` card didn`t mean she had anything against me. But I get this feeling she just gets in touch with me "when she feels like it" or when it`s convenient for her. If I wasn`t home or near Shin Yokohama when she called, it wasn`t worth trying to set up a meeting, which is why she didn`t respond until the following day.

It makes me wonder what kind of a friend I am in her eyes.

And Now...

I have stopped contacting her. Well, for the most part.

In the fall of 2020, I found out that my friend`s mother-in-law had passed away in the spring, slightly after my own father passed away. She and her family travelled to her husband`s hometown and stayed there for a few days for the memorial service. I also travelled to my father`s hometown with my family and did the same.

"What a coincidence," she remarked in her message through Instagram. Yes, indeed. Our relationship certainly seems to have a number of coincidences.

Does that mean we`re still good friends like we were decades ago?

All I know is that our relationship has changed and sometimes it seems to be outside of the definition of what I would call "friends".

So why do I keep asking myself this question: "Are we still friends?"

The answer is because all along, no matter what happened, "I thought we were friends".

© 2010 Takako Komori

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