When I was younger, I used to think that the friendships I made in high school would last forever. I had moved from one city to another, and in so doing I had kept all of the friends I had made in Dallas and made a whole new
set in Austin, and some had even migrated with me. A lot of my high school friends went to the same college I did, and I ended up rooming with one of them. It seemed then as if the connections I had made in my life were
permanent.

It’s strange how people drift apart. I think part of what keeps people together is repetition of contact, and when that disappears people start to fade. Happy memories once so sharp and lcear become faded and greyed, leaving
only a positive sensation at the mention of an old name. Flames of friendship have grown cold by age and neglect, reduced to dimly glowing embers, some gone out entirely.

I remember with shock being in grad school at UNT, and running into a high school friend who’d gone to Baylor when I went down for an ACM programming competition. He’d risen from constantly having to ask me how to solve problems to helping proctor the region’s hardest coding comp. It was only the passing shock of recognition, but we managed to exchange about a dozen words. I didn’t know what to say. We were never close, but we had always been on good terms, and then one day he was gone, off to a different school. When we saw each other again, it was like a physical blow, a memory that begged for attention that I simply couldn’t address because of the artificial constraints of time and protocol. It felt very disconcerting.

I remember ending my relationship with The Ex and trying to go back to pick up a friendship with one of my oldest and longest friends, the first to whom I ever extended the title of brother. Things never really did work out from that point; those six years I had been in the relationship we had hardly spoken with each other—such is the power of emotional abuse—and other issues came up in the meantime that tested our ability to rebuild what
we had lost. Seventeen years came to a close in 2001, and I still haven’t really recovered.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately missing the tabletop gaming days of college down in Austin, of my roommates then and the marathon sessions we would run. I found one of them some time ago; he’s living in DC now, married and a permanent resident if not a citizen, if I remember right. I never managed to stay in touch. That one was my fault, and I still feel poorly about it. I keep saying “I should email him again,” and then I never do.

All these things have been heavy in my mind lately. I had to let go of someone else in my mind recently. To reference That Damned Book, it had come to feel as if I had had to amputate a limb when the friendship went bad. I didn’t want to do it, but it was watch it fester and pray it would heal, or admit I couldn’t save it and get rid of it before it cost me anything else. The switch from one state to another always leaves me melancholy. I never
feel afterwards as if I’ve done enough to salvage my relationships, and yet looking back at them I can never figure out what I would’ve or should’ve done differently.

Letting go is never easy for me. There’s something in my mind, and I can’t tell what it is, that doesn’t let me “pick up where we left off”. Going through the routine of trying to salvage a dying friendship usually costs me whatever trust I had for a person, and that’s something that once gone is even harder to get back than it was to build the first time; there’s always the lingering memory of having been “betrayed” once before. Not every friendship I’ve lost has been because of that, mind you. Some I’ve just had to end because of moving or distance. The ones that I had to end for my own sanity’s sake, though, are usually gone for good.

I don’t like this in myself, but I think this is just another part of Hare to me. I must feel Safe. The people who have changed and become Unsafe in my mind, they must somehow show me that they are Safe again, and I must be able to believe it. I know from experience that it is possible to recapture it; I’ve managed with at least two people before. I absolutely had to have them away from me, and then when they were gone I found myself missing them and back. It’s possible. It’s just very hard.

If it were something so simple as assigning a value to each person, Safe or Unsafe, that would be easy. The truth is never so simple. There are degrees of Safety, and I can’t say casually or with any certainty where someone stands on the rankings in my head. I only know when someone has transitioned to Unsafe, by which point it’s almost certainly too late for me to fix. To bring someone back from Unsafe, I must actively try to be around that person, and doing that means Danger, which makes any honest evaluation of the person in question difficult.

The real problem with all this is that the people I’ve lost because they’ve become Unsafe in my head tend to be cast in a negative light when it’s not warranted. I see the worst in people that I’ve written off in this fashion, as a justification for why I removed them from my life. “He was abusive.” “She was crazy.” “He was clingy.” I end up
focusing on all the bad points, however negligible, and forgetting about the good ones no matter how great.

I’m not sure I had a point to all of this, really, but I’ve been in a heavily introspective mood of late. The backup node to our network vanished thanks to a burgeoning personality conflict, and a comment made at one point about being “just another person Kristy’s left behind” has made me wonder about all the people no longer part of my life.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss them. I’d be lying if I said I wanted them all back.