Time in Zagreb always affects me differently. Sometimes I feel calm, sometimes I feel nostalgic, sometimes sad. Other times I just can’t wait to leave. Regardless of my own mood, something unexpected always happens. Like that one time my colleagues sent me flowers when my dad was in a hospital. Or that one text from my ex which ended up with the two of us getting high, surrounded by kids’ toys, in the same room where we used to make out. Or most recently – an unexpected encounter with my former best friend that I thought I would never see again.
Ending a friendship takes a longer time to recover from than it does from a breakup.
Breakups are messy, emotional, intense. They hurt badly and they hurt instantly. But exactly for those reasons the recovery can start immediately. Every day you breathe a little easier, cry a little less and eventually the pain is gone. On the other hand, when a friendship ends, the cut is rarely so clear. The lingering starts. All the memories, all the things you’ve been through remain untampered with, not ruined by an emotional trauma. You revisit them often, you remember the good times, you spend a few more moments with the person before returning to reality.
Eventually, memories are all that is left. The person who was once the closest to you is now merely a cloudy image in your ageing mind.
I had a best friend once. At 16/17 we went through a lot of things together, things authors of Hollywood shows wouldn’t be ashamed of. School, first relationships, breakups, illnesses, eating disorders, successes, failures – whatever happened, we were there for each other. My friend stood by me in some of the darkest hours of my life. Until one day he figured he didn’t need me anymore. When an obstacle emerged, he was so convinced that I am working against him and want to sabotage him, that it stopped making any sense. At times, I felt I was talking to a paranoid person.
I was crying as I was reading a text that said never to contact him again.
It was May 20th 2007, the day after my birthday. I put the phone down and did what I was told – I never contacted him again. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have fought harder and not be so stubborn. Maybe I should have listened more. Maybe I could have shown him I was by his side. Maybe. But as always in life – in a given moment, I did the best I could.
Fast forward 13 years, and I ran into him at the most unexpected place.
In a smoke-filled nightclub, in the first moments of the new year, I spotted a face I thought I never would see again. This was the first NYE I spent in Zagreb since I left 6 years ago. More ironically, I was with a person I’ve been referring to as my best friend for the past 10 years. Someone who I’ve also been through a lot, but on a completely different level. After an initial shock and a few polite sentences, we hugged. You know, like old friends do. Like the digits on the wall got somehow mixed up and the year was 2002, not 2020. Like old friends do, we met for a coffee a few days later and talked for over 3 hours.
It’s a weird one – someone you were so close with that the two of you can talk like nothing has changed, while at the same time EVERYTHING has changed.
And it is what it is, we are where we are, with all the steps behind us that have led us here. Maybe it’s a new beginning. Maybe it is closure. Perhaps it’s neither. Whatever the future brings, maybe this time we’ll be smarter.