I suppose this story starts best in junior high. 7th grade more specifically.
Our local Christian radio show broadcasted a nationwide call in talk show for teens on Sunday nights. One Sunday I got through, and got to talk to a certain musician… made a dork of myself, and that’s how Sarah noticed me.
Because they gave hometowns and first names. And I lived in a really small town. So it was fairly obvious. Which mostly just caused teasing and annoyance from those who had heard me make a dork of myself.
Sarah however thought it was cool… and started talking to me, where we had never really had any sort of connection or reason to pay attention to each other previously.
Nobody in my normal circle of friends was a Christian at this point. Nobody in the Christian circle in my school wanted much to do with me. Nobody in the church I went to had any interest in Christian music. Sarah was really into Christian music, but wasn’t in any of the bible studies or Christian groups as the school, so at the time I hadn’t even realized that she was a Christian.
But… we clicked. We spent hours and hours on the phone… talked to each other almost every night. We had different interests in bands, but still knew each other’s music interests when nobody else seemed to know what either of us were talking about, and wasn’t tired of hearing about them. She was friends with one of the staff at the radio station, and I was friends with another (or he was tolerant and bored enough to put up with me.)
With my best friend having decided the year before to live with her dad across the country (with good reasons), Sarah stepped in pretty easily as the one I connected to the most for the remaining half of the school year, and through 8th and 9th grade, and off and on for the next year attending different high schools.
But only on the phone.
I didn’t notice this at first. It seriously took me probably a good year to notice. We didn’t have many classes together, she lived in town while I lived a few miles outside of it, so it didn’t really set off any notice at first.
Her sister was a year or two younger, and had never seemed to like me talking to Sarah on the phone at all, which I assumed to just be a sibling thing… so I didn’t think a whole lot about the fact that even though we were both going to the same concerts, we never went together or even spoke to each other at them, because she had her sister with her.
But I still remember the day that I noticed.
I don’t even remember what was so important, but there was something I wanted to tell her about that related to the previous night’s conversation. And I knew that her first period class was near where mine was, and managed to catch her in the hall between homeroom and my class. She was standing with some other kids when I came up and told her.
And she pretended she didn’t know what I was talking about… brushed me off, then left the group to almost run to her class.
I was stunned. I mean, I knew I was far from popular, and didn’t really care for the most part. I was a nerd, the librarians loved me, teachers liked me and bent rules to let me mess around with computers and such I wasn’t technically supposed to… I was the overweight girl who had no real shot at being popular and didn’t care to try to be.
But Sarah wasn’t a nerd, though she was a bit overweight. She did worry about things like makeup and clothes, and hung out on weekends at the mall with her sister.
But in all the hours of conversations, the differences had never once become an issue.
However that night, the topic I had mentioned to her in the hall was the start of the conversation on the phone, which went on as if nothing had happened for its usual hours of chatting.
And it always did. The hall incident never once came up.
With all the issues I had with family relationships and the small cluster of people who were my friends, I never said a word about it. I valued the connection over the phone to much to risk injuring it, especially now that I realized it was threatened.
I sometimes smiled or whatnot when we passed in the halls, but I let her be. I didn’t bother her when other people were around, or even talk to her… as now I realized that even before that time I’d been missing cues that she wanted to cut hall conversations short previously.
The next year, we had a class together, and she did actually sit near me… the next row over and a couple places behind, close enough she could communicate with me if she wanted to beforehand, or ignore me as she chose.
The one time we ever hung out together in person was the summer after our sophomore years at different schools. Our conversations had lessened in frequency a bit during the year, but were still several nights a week. But we were both bored, and I was going on a bike ride, and she decided she wanted to come along. (We both moved to the bigger city in the meantime, not far apart, but hadn’t seen each other in person in over a year). So I rode the few miles to a spot near her house where she met me.
She almost immediately suggested we go to the house of the dj I knew. I knew where he lived, but had never gone there, or even thought about it really. But it was only about a mile away, so we went. And he was decent enough to the two random teens showing up at his door unexpectedly… invited us in for a few minutes to chat.
Afterwards, Sarah was no longer interested in the bike ride, after having ridden only the one mile to get there. Or in hanging out to do anything else.
She’d mentioned before she’d thought he was cute… but thinking about it that evening I began to wonder if there was more crush to it than I thought. And maybe less to our friendship.
Gradually the calls phased mostly out, then she found out she was moving to another state. She never returned my letters to her new address.
In working through other issues, Sarah has come up a few times. Mostly as evidence of the prior issues showing themselves in my response and acceptance of the situation, normally not even being a big mention.
But the more life goes on, the more I start seeing damage from the situation itself. Obviously the self esteem takes a hit… but the trust is actually the one I run into more frequently.
How much do I trust that my friends really are my friends? That they don’t just put up with me to my face and roll their eyes at me behind my back? More than one boyfriend has taken heat over a suspected Sarah syndrome that probably was entirely in my head… and I find that suspicion creeping in as a rather frequent tactic to push myself away from otherwise seemingly stable friendships.
Fighting it with logic usually fails. Logic will find some tiny little frustration they have with me and base a whole mountain over that molehill.
Mostly its something I just have to catch, and to make a deliberate decision to ignore. Because I know that it isn’t normal relationship flow, isn’t logical, and isn’t likely.
And because, when it comes down to it, I have considered it, and I’d much rather be naive and be taken for a fool than to over-react to every small indication that I’m being one. Not that I want to be taken for a fool… but the consequences of being a fool a few times that could have been prevented are less than the consequences of pushing everyone away in the name of avoiding pain that might come from those few cases.
But it’s still much easier said than lived sometimes.
One of my favorite CS Lewis books, that I really didn’t expect to like all that much, is called The Four Loves. I have found myself understanding more about relationships of all sorts through that book than I ever would have imagined.
And one of the things that I got from there was the idea of friendship as being based on a common interest shared by a subset of a group. Golfers at a workplace for example. And the friendship level of things relying on that shared interest as the friends are together focused at that interest itself rather than at each other. (VERY loose paraphrasing..)
A lot of my drifting friendships have so much more easily been accepted and explained by that… as either the shared interest is lost, or the shared group to be a subset off of is no longer shared.
But I think Sarah is probably the one where it helped the most to have an explanation.
I’ve chosen to believe that she was actually my friend, and did actually care. Partially on evidence of other areas of trust such as telling me about cutting (something I’d not understand for many more years)… partially on understanding of pressures to fit in and wanting to be in the popular crowd… and partially just on the fact that it makes me feel better to do so.
I was on facebook the other day when I noticed one of my friends was friends with one of Sarah’s old friends. I clicked through to his list, and saw she was on it.
I clicked through to view her list, and saw a lot of her old popular friends, and old crushes. The guy she actually prayed about that he’d get divorced, and I found myself wondering years later when I later heard that he had. Bands she had been obsessed with back then. That dj we visited, who has gone after his dreams and made it big, gone national in what he wanted to do, and who I wonder a bit whether he’d think we were his first fan club or his first stalkers.
I flipped over to my family-related account, which gives my name, and sent an add request for her. (Against my better judgement.) Which she accepted the next day.
I flipped through her page. She’s married, no kids. Lives in completely different part of the country. Sister and sister’s kid are still in almost all of her pics.
I tried to compose a message to her about ten different times, and failed. I’m not really sure what to say.
Then this afternoon, I was adding some people, and decided to make lists to sort out who was who. And as I made the school friends list, I noticed. She was gone.
Even all these years later, it still made me want to cry a bit. Even after the rounds of healing that have taken place since then, it still made me feel lonely and rejected.
I looked for answers. I flipped over to my main page… what had I done in the last few days that might have made her annoyed? I’d only changed my status twice… I’d uploaded some kid pics I had on my other account but not this one, maybe she’s sensitive about the fact she doesn’t have kids? One of them was kiddo with MWS backstage pass on, maybe she thinks I’m an obsessed freak?
The last one brought me back a bit. As much of an obsessed freak as she was with one particular band when younger, no stone throwing room there even if she did think so. Maybe she’s still overly pressured by her sister and overly concerned with what other people think of who she associates with.
Or of course, maybe she really never did care in the first place and was all about the fact that I would listen and had a few radio connections.
Or maybe she didn’t know what to say any more than I did.
I’ve thought about sending her messages all evening.
“Ok, I guess that answers my question of what you really felt” is the one that’s been the most tempting.
But I know that’s not anything that would ever lead to anything good coming from it.
But it’s still really bugging me.
And I can’t tell if its just soreness from the old wounds being poked at again, or if it’s something I should pursue further in the name of healing and closure. For either of us for that matter.
It was so much easier way back then to just write her off as a social wimp pressured by a quest for acceptance and approval and feel sorry for her.