Thursday, September 30, 2004

Vanilla Latte with a side of huge surprise

"Holy shit."

Words don't often spring out of my mouth without going through the brain filter first, but this was a special case. Those words sprung before I had a chance to even process what I was seeing. Rather, who I was seeing.

I stopped at Starbucks on the way home from a meeting, way across town from my home. I should have known when I made the last minute decision not to stop, followed by an even-more-last-minute decision to stop anyway, that it wasn't going to be my average experience at Starby's. It always happens that way.

They saw me first.

I heard my name and turned around, so fully not expecting to see these two that, after my quick outburst, I was literally rendered speechless.

These two had been my two closest girlfriends. If two years ago I had gotten engaged, they would have been my two bridesmatrons. Me, C. & M. We shopped, we took road trips, we celebrated New Years with crazy outdoor dinners in -30 degree weather, we dieted and broke diets... all together.

Unfortunately, I had given two less-than-deserving people the highest honor a friend can bestow: I trusted them. Trusted that they were the dedicated, caring friends I believed them to be. The truth came out in late March 2003 when I went to dinner with them as part of a large group... and C.'s husband innocently mentioned that he was going to miss his wife when she went on "the trip" next week.

The trip, you see, was a trip that we-three had planned together. A second-annual road-trip across the country to B.C. to visit M.'s family in the Okanogan Valley.

But, plans for the trip had fizzled out a couple of months earlier when the interest level wained. Or, so I was told.

The truth was, M. had un-invited me and invited her sister & brother-in-law instead but was too chicken to tell me the truth so she lied and tried to hide it. I was never to know about it, but C.'s husband wasn't warned that he wasn't supposed to mention it around me. Oops.

I sat through the rest of dinner with a plastic smile on my face, and even tried to tell myself that it wasn't a big deal. That is, until my guy (who was just two-weeks new at the time) said, "You're really hurt by this, aren't you..." At which point I had to acknowledge that I had probably never been hurt by friends like this in my life.

C. was very apologetic but realistically, she was just along for the ride. She should have told me what was going on but she wasn't the one who masterminded the Big Lie in the first place. It was M., someone who had told many, many, many small lies to me over the course of our friendship... but I had always let it slide because I knew she had a tendency to avoid conflict and confrontation, and I accepted that she'd rather tell a white-lie than face a situation. Whatever. It had never been anything major. I suppose I should have realized that it would morph into something bigger one day. My bad.

They tried to backtrack and invite me, but it was too little, way too late. I couldn't have gotten the time off work at that late hour anyway, never mind the fact that I certainly did not want to go where I clearly wasn't wanted in the first place.

And so, I stopped talking to them. They didn't really make an effort to get in touch with me, embarassed by their actions I can only guess. Actually, I did call C. once, but she didn't call back and I wasn't willing to make the effort anymore. Who would? Interestingly, I actually felt a weight lifted off my shoulders not having to worry about them. There's obviously a lot to say about how the friendships quite obviously weren't what I believed them to be, but that's another post.

Fast forward about a year to this past February, when another good friend (an actual good friend with good intentions), ran into M. at the mall. M. said that the reason she hadn't talked to ME was because I had apparently "gotten weird". I'm still not sure what that means, though I do know that I went to M.'s father-in-law's funeral to support her, just a couple of months after the trip fiasco. The gesture went completely unappreciated. C., as it happens, didn't go to the funeral at all. Yet, *I* am weird because I was so hurt by their actions and didn't want to put up with the bullshit anymore? Sure.

So, when my friend told me what M. had said, that was my final straw with her. I wrote her an actual letter (on paper, with a pen, and I mailed it), explaining that the reason for removing her from my life was because she had treated me so shabbily over the years, and that I hoped she had more respect for the rest of the people in her life because nobody should be treated by a friend like she treated me. I wrote to C. also, just saying that I was sad that she had appeared to take M.'s side but I wasn't willing to fight for the friendship.

And that was that.

Until Tuesday night, when I walked into Starbucks and there they sat. I was paralyzed with indecision. What do you say to two people you've removed from your life in such dramatic fashion? Because, really, it's not often that someone confronts you the way I did with them.

I was friendly, polite, and somehow ended up sitting with them for about half an hour. I didn't allow a moment of silence, lest it be an opening to mention the letters. You want to talk about a great big pink elephant sitting on the table. Oy. I just wasn't in the mood to defend myself.

Long story short, C. said she was really glad to see me and asked if she could have my new numbers so she could call me. I gave a card to both of them out of politeness, though I really don't want to hear from M. I would like to hear from C., though I don't actually expect her to call. She's just like that. Good intentions, not so good with the follow-through.

And so it stands. The last two people I could have expected to run into in the very last place in the world I might have thought I'd see them. It just goes to show, you really never do know what's around the next corner.