I lost a friend yesterday. He didn’t die. He just decided not to be my friend anymore. It was just as simple as that. On and off we knew each other for over 30 years, but never got along as well as we did during our high school days when the world was about driving cars, loitering and checking out pretty girls. Adulthood was different; that was competition and petty jealousies, arguing about politics and shrugging off differences. Or trying to.
He spelled out his reasons in a long and bitter email, an angry rant that was less a great big Fuck You than a screaming cry for help. Just as with most things like this, it was a manifesto of accusations and frustrations and misunderstandings: you did this to me because you hate me.
It made me sad.
On the surface it was about fantasy baseball, of all the stupid things. But really it was about demons, tamped down over the years but let loose by some unknown trigger. Heck – maybe my existence was the trigger, and quite definitely my behavior — conscious or unconscious — was just too much to take. Something I did just set his hair on fire. What made me sad was that it was all just a bunch of crap.
I read the email twice, and my initial reaction was to reply and to try to correct his misunderstood accusations. But I realized quickly enough that doing so would create just another round. I hoped, for a second, that he’d come around one day and we’d connect again. That our kids would know each other. But then it hit me: there’s just too much water gone. Too much time. I will probably never see him again.
All that made me real sad. And sorry for my part in the debacle of a broken long term friendship. But the thing is — the truth is — we stopped being friends a long time ago. The day I hired him was the beginning of it. I knew it then and I realized it yesterday: when I hired my friend, knowing our clashing personalities would never coexist in the workplace, he became something else, and our friendship was not near strong enough to power through all the shit that comes with that scenario. At the time I asked myself if it was worth it: a friendship for a job. Normally I would say no, of course. But I knew that for this guy, the job would lead directly to a dream opportunity, and that by not hiring him I was standing in his way, which would be stupid and weak.
No one could know how the following years would unfold, and I could not possibly claim that hiring him was the sole reason for the friendship’s demise. Indeed, the blame ledger is full on both sides when it comes to all the small weird things that gets to gone. That decision did change things, though. Made it strange and strained. And as a result there was never a chance to go back to the days when the only thing between us was blue vs. red and the boundaries we had lined out in the dirt. Do I regret it? No. In the end, maybe I served the purpose of our friendship by being the middle manager that landed him that job.But I do regret that there is a person on this earth who, after 30 years, thinks of me and just wants to walk away. There’s a lesson in decency there, of building bridges, righting wrongs and just plain being nice.