A few weeks ago, My Other Ex released. I was incredibly proud to have my writing in this anthology, which is getting amazing reviews and has sparked some great conversations about the power of female friendship, the pain of that loss, and what happens next.
This is about what happened next for me.
If you haven't read the book yet, you really should. This will make so much more sense if you. Go ahead, Amazon is but a click away. And even if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for free and read it right on your phone or iPad or whatever else people use these days.
Anyway, hopefully you read it, and you know a bit about Janie* and Lucy* and me. How I lost two women I was incredibly close to - one by her choosing and one by mine. Trust me, I was in no way the innocent party in either of these stories. And neither were the other women. This is not a good guy/bad guy story. This was a story about how the way we ended these friendships - abruptly and with silence - shaped me and how I grieve both losses.
I have not spoken with Janie in over ten years. I have not spoken with Lucy in eight.
The day after the book released I received a Facebook message from Janie.
I'm going to be completely honest here. I saw her name in my Facebook message list and I panicked. Of course she read it. What else could it be? Oh my God, she was furious. She had to be. We weren't in touch, so I hadn't run anything by her. She hadn't been asked about sharing the story. But there was no relationship to risk, and I was just telling my tale. And let's be honest, it wasn't like she could reach through the computer and physically harm me. Still, I wouldn't open the message. I was too afraid to read it. And I didn't want to read it, have Facebook tell her I read it, if I didn't know what to say.
I posted in my Facebook writing groups. I opened up my buried insecurities to my online friends. They all encouraged me to read the message, that chances are it would be a good experience for me, and that they were there for me. And if it wasn't good, it wasn't like it was damaging an intact friendship. They were there for me.
That message sat for over a day while I fixated on it - staring at the first line that I could see without officially opening the message. I wasn't feeling like a confident writer who didn't care what people thought. I was feeling like a girl who'd lost her best friend and didn't want to live that loss again.
Finally, I made Adam open in and skim it to let me know if I should prepare myself for a verbal onslaught. He thought I was being a little paranoid, but luckily, he gets me. So he did.
Adam: You need to read it.
Me: Is it bad? Is it good?
Adam: Stop. This isn't for me. You need to read it.
So I read it.
Turns out that ten years was enough time for both of us to look back with some detached clarity. Through our mutual Facebook friends, she knew that I was going to be in this book and had a hunch that my contribution may have something to do with her. So the day that the book was available, she bought it, and she read it.
I won't share every detail, but the message was overall one of maturity, reflection, and apology. She told me that her story would have been different had she told it, but she understood that is always the way stories are told. She admitted to doing some crappy things, for what felt like really good reasons at the time, but that the further we got from the break up, the less possible it seemed to be to say "hey, remember me, who did a crappy thing to you? My bad". It was a note that helped me realize that telling any story requires real bravery. Bravery in sharing the story, bravery in responding. She said plenty of other things as well, but I'll not violate her privacy any further, at least not now.
Because the silence has been broken.
The door, slammed and locked with such finality ten years ago has cracked open.
Neither of us seems sure that we want to walk completely through the door. We've grown a lot in ten years and we've moved on. We're both comfortable with the people we've become. Damaged relationships can indeed be resurrected, but everyone who has experienced a relationship that had a severe wound knows that, even if the wound wasn't fatal, there will be a scar left. It's not the same relationship. Even once forgiveness has been granted, completely, there will be marks.
Our conversation that started with that message has slowed to a trickle, because we're still being careful with each other. We're taking time to exchange messages, making sure that we say what we truly want to say, feeling each other out to see how we want to proceed. I'm not sure where things will go from here. I'm not sure where I want them to go.
I do know that breaking the silence is what cracked the door back open again. Writing my story - our story - was the first knock. Her response let me know there was still someone there.
And now that the silence is broken, we figure out where to go from here.
* not their real names