The Friends We Never Had

While I am more than deeply skeptical about the supernatural world, I had a few weeks ago what I can call only a premonition.

My partner and I were sitting at a local brewery, and I had this sudden and random thought: A former more-than-friend contacting me more than a decade after ghosting me to tell me a mutual friend had died.

Both people in that thought are people I have had no contact with for many years, although I once considered one of them (the one I imagined finding out had died) my best friend.

In no more than thirty minutes from that thought, I had a chilling real experience: I put down a book I was reading, glanced through Facebook on my phone, and saw a post that the person I had once considered my best friend had just died.

I was quite disoriented, and shared the whole event—premonition—with my partner, who asked how I was feeling.

To be honest, it took several days for me to work through and confront how I felt, both about the premonition event itself and of course the death of a person I had once considered my best friend.

There is more, of course, to why this entire situation bothered me, disoriented me.

The person who ghosted me made a statement to me that would prove to be about the last thing they ever told me; they said about the person who I once considered my best friend: “He is not your friend.”

Among the many parts of our parting that were messy and painful, even though that was over ten years ago, I remain haunted by the sincerity of that message despite the layers of doubt about that relationship I had to navigate.

Being ghosted means being left without full closure, but this ghosting also left me with a puzzle I never was able to piece together.

Without any real evidence, I believe that warning—that he wasn’t my friend. However, I can’t shake the need to understand that even as I have made complete peace with both the ghosting and the reality that someone I considered my best friend was in fact a friend I never had.

I am not religious and I have a very strong aversion to tradition and formality (anxiety reflexes, I think); therefore, death always puts me in awkward public corners.

My parents died within 6 months of each other only a few years ago. Being the dutiful son in the way people expected, the normal way, added to the weight of their deaths for me. Their deaths overlapped my mother’s sudden stroke and debilitation so by the time they died, I was drained in ways that were far beyond simply having to live through the sudden health decline and deaths of your parents.

I was completely at peace with what I wanted and could do during those months with and for my parents in terms of I know that my parents were and would have been the very first people to understand and not judge my abnormal responses and behavior.

I don’t play expected roles well. I am deeply attracted to people who do not expect or want me to play roles as a result.

That brings me back to friendship.

My partner has noticed that I am prone to referring to several people as “someone I used to consider my best friend.” In fact, my life’s highway seems to be littered with those folk.

That phrase is not one of bitterness but one of an awareness that comes with having lived into my sixth decade.

Today, I still stumble a bit when I refer to someone and tag that with “my best friend”—even though I have come to a place where I have created a space for embracing that designation in a way that resists idealizing and seeks to honor how someone has demonstrated to me their degree of friendship.

The path to resenting someone you once called your best friend is paved with your own projections, your own hope or want for that person to be your “best friend.”

The best kind of best friend is one that you realize after “best friend” has already just happened naturally over time.

I think I am in a place where I can enjoy someone else for who they are, without expectations of them being anything other than who they are. Some of that, again, comes with age and can only occur when we are as comfortable with ourselves as is humanly possible.

I suspect no one can ever be entirely comfortable with themselves, but we can come close if we are willing to look hard at who we are in our bones and still like/love ourselves.

Idealism is a delusion. Blunt recognition of Self and others is a gift, a liberation, an opportunity to recognize someone as your “best friend” without the traps of either word—”best” need not be exclusionary and “friend” must not be an obligation.

I have again and again over the years found a sort of solace in the work of Kurt Vonnegut, someone who too seemed out of kilter with this world but gleefully willing to look hard at himself and that world. Vonnegut always felt like he was able to provide some soothing but dark words of wisdom, almost as if he were an old soul all his life.

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is,’” he wrote in A Man Without a Country, quoting his Uncle Alex.

The more I think about friendship, the more I believe this is the key to happy friendships—enjoying all the nice in the moment regardless of anything else.

I sit here left with a quandary about whether I did, in fact, have a premonition. Could the person who I once considered my best friend cast himself into the universe in such a way that something like my soul sensed it?

Is there something beyond our traditional awareness that keeps some of us forever intertwined?

Once ghosted, are we forever haunted?

And just what in the hell do we do with those friends we never had?