When Friendships Die and it’s Nobody’s Fault

This is our coffee shop. It’s where we always meet.

It’s Friday. It’s the day we always meet.

Normally, we spend hours here, sipping our coffees, laughing and telling bad jokes like teenagers, trying out new thoughts on each other like we’re in the dressing room trying on dresses for prom.

There’s no judgment. We practice what we teach: we are not our thoughts, they come and go, and we simply can choose what we take in and what we don’t. I’ve never had a friendship so free of judgment and expectation.

We buy our coffees, as usual — mine a chai tea latte, hers an americano. I’m always amazed at how much caffeine she can drink. We sit down and smile at each other. My shoulders feel tight, and I press my fingers into my breastbone, pushing back a sharp ache that feels like a bruise.

“We could just not talk about her, you know,” she suggests as we settle in. “We could just talk about what’s going on in our own lives.”

“We could,” I agree. “But how are you going to do that? You’re going to have to constantly take her out of the stories, and that’s a lot of work. It’s not like she’s disappeared.”

“I know, but this isn’t about her, you know. This is about me, and you, and us.”

“It’s always about her. It’s still about her,” I argue.

A few months earlier, I freed myself from a business partnership that had turned toxic. Only recently had I regained my trust in my own intuition and direction in life.

To get out of the partnership cleanly and with no strings, lawyers had to be involved. So much needless money and time — months! — spent. So many accusations. So much stress, loss, and pain.

The woman sitting across from me now is my best friend, my co-teacher, my soul mate, and she is staying behind to keep working for her, my ex-partner. She agreed to fill in the void I left behind so what was now her business wouldn’t suffer.

I, on the other hand, will never set foot in that business that had once been my grandest vision, my life dream.

“I want to talk about my new work too,” I push in. “You know, I’m starting over, and my yoga classes are filling back up again.”

“Yes, she’s not very happy about that. She thinks you’re stealing students.”

“You can’t steal students,” I retort angrily. And then I sit back, push on my temples, dialing back the rising emotions. I don’t want to get angry with her. I want us to be us — the yin and yang, the frick and frack, the Thelma and Louise. And if it weren’t for her, I believe, we still would be.

“If we always have to be careful what we say to each other, then this isn’t our friendship anymore,” I say, knowing the danger of the waters I’m wading into.

“I know,” she whispers.

“What should we do?” I ask, as tears fill my eyes. Then, I am consumed with panic. We are taking this too far. Backpedal, backpedal.

We can do it; of course we can! We just need boundaries, that’s all.

Besides, there is so much more to talk about than just the business. Our children, our families, our work….oh, but that’s where the problem is. We can’t talk about our work without triggering each other.

“You know,” she says to me, “sometimes I even know some news about the center is going to trigger you, and then I tell you anyway. I don’t know why I do that. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Suddenly, the shadow side of our tell-each-other-everything friendship reveals itself. I don’t want to know this. She loves me, or so I thought. But this — purposefully triggering someone — isn’t what friends do.

Our friendship is slipping out of my fingers and there’s nothing I can do to save it. I keep hoping that she’ll say something, do something — tell me she’s going to leave the business and we can pick up where we left off on our grand idea to build something amazing together, just she and I.

But that ship has sailed, and as I look across the table, I see the pain and struggle in her eyes as well.

She wants me to tell her I’m happy for her and her newfound opportunities.

I can’t. I won’t. I’m not.

We finish our coffees. We give each other a hug. And we drive away in separate directions.

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