I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
He stood across from me, eyes transfixed on the passing traffic. He wasn’t pausing for dramatic effect, he was visibly trying to keep himself together. A grown man and one of my best friends for decades, I have seem him go through his share of soul-crushing break ups. And I have always done everything I could to help make his time a little easier.
He dropped by because he wanted to talk. Not to text, not to call on the phone, but because he knew that we always greeted and left each other with a hug. And for his tough exterior, I knew that was all he truly wanted. We have known each other for so long that I knew he was at the end of his rope and he knew that there was nothing much left to say. He had been fighting to make his tumultuous and borderline abusive relationship work for years. I watched him sacrifice so much to make this woman happy but the truth was, he could be the prefect boyfriend and it wouldn’t have mattered. He saw promise and a future in her eyes and she could only see her options. And the unfortunate foundation of all relationships is that in order to make it work you have to chart your course in the same direction. The folly is when people believe they can out-think or out-maneuver history. But none us – not me, not you, and certainly not him can force compatibility on someone who isn’t invested in our happiness.
He’s not the most accomplished man by any means. His tastes are simple and despite his quiet demeanor, he is not difficult to figure out. But he is one of the most sincere and loyal people I have ever met and when he works towards a goal, he is like a fighter that doesn’t know when to stay down – oftentimes to his own detriment. I love him. He is more of a brother than people that I share blood with and if his ship is going down, well, I’m hopping on board and we will go for that ride together.
“I’m ready for it.” He said, “I saw this coming a long time ago. I already went through the emotions when we broke up a few months ago so I know how this goes down. But I’m ready. And I will eventually be okay with it because I know that I have truly done and said everything I could to try and make it work and make her happy.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” I said. “I was right there with you. I have seen all the effort you have put in along the way. Not one person who knows you can ever doubt your sincerity.”
There was a bit of a pause for him to digest the words that hung in the air. Almost like I wasn’t really there and he just needed an excuse to say the words out loud to make them real.
“You know, she keeps saying that she needs space. That maybe all we need is some time apart to do our own thing. She said she still wants to be friends.”
This infuriated me but I didn’t show it. I wanted to scream that she is a selfish asshole and that if you ever truly respect anyone you love you don’t give them false hope and you certainly don’t lead people on who are all in when you are not. But that wasn’t what he needed to hear. He was still in love with her and he didn’t need his best friend bad mouthing the woman with whom he was still in love. As a friend, it isn’t my job to keep quiet but there is a fine line you ride when someone is entrusting you with their emotions. And it’s somewhere between brutal honesty and benign comfort.
“Everyone who knows you has seen how rough things have been for you lately, right?” I asked.
“And you have some amazing people in your corner, right?”
“Without a doubt.”
“Because when people see you are hurting and in trouble, they drop whatever they have going on and are there for you, right?”
“And how has she been treating you through all of this?”
Another pause to look at the traffic…
“Like shit.” He said, “She has just gotten so selfish and mean. Like saying some of the most hateful shit to me.”
“And she is supposed to be your absolute best friend because she knows you like no one else, right?”
He looked toward his shoes, “Yeah.”
I watched his face process the realization and said, “The person you are in love with doesn’t have to agree with you all the time. They don’t have to always go along with what you say and they will inevitably make you upset. But after all the dust settles, after the ugly fights and brutal breakups they should still respect you as a person and be gentle with your heart. I think it’s important that you look at her actions and ask yourself whether or not it seems like she is the person who is worth fighting for.”
He didn’t say much but we hugged and I reassured him that this was just the beginning of his new life. One where he would be free to find someone who was going to appreciate his love and efforts and would be the one willing to fight for him. Because he has earned it.