A Friendship Ghost Can Hurt Just As Much As A Romantic One
About a year after returning to London from LA, I was walking home from the tube one night when one of my closest friends blanked me in the street. It was as I waited at the traffic lights, thinking about what I’d buy from the Co-op for dinner, that I saw her. Becca was coming down the street towards me, on the other side of the road. She was dressed in her trademark leather jacket, white vest-top, ripped jeans and Doc Marten boots. She had dyed a streak of her fringe bright pink. I felt the pang of not knowing she’d decided to change her hair; it’s the kind of thing we would have talked about. But that was before.
We hadn’t seen each other for a while. I wasn’t sure why but Becca had started ignoring my texts and emails. At first, she’d reply with a few non-committal words when I suggested meeting for coffee. A birthday message I’d sent had been curtly received. It was weird. It wasn’t like her. It wasn’t like us. But, I reasoned, maybe she needed space. There had always been something unknowable about Becca, an unreachable quality that meant when she bestowed on you the gift of her attention, you felt special. When it was removed, it was as if the seasons had changed and you were left outside without a coat in the windy chill of autumn. I told myself it was nothing to worry about, that Becca just needed some time. I didn’t want to annoy her by pestering her endlessly.
Then something even weirder happened: Becca stopped answering altogether.
Seeing her in the street that day made me oddly nervous. And yet, I reasoned as we approached each other, Becca was one of my dearest friends. There was no need to be anxious, I told myself, grabbing more tightly to the straps of my bag. We’d say hello and the strangeness that had been festering between us over the last few months would dissipate and we’d hug and chat and I’d feel much better about it all. I’d probably been inventing the distance, I thought. I had a tendency to do that: to imagine the worst when I hadn’t heard from someone, when in truth they had simply been busy or preoccupied or on a work deadline.
“I was so shocked, I actually laughed. Her blanking of me had been so nakedly deliberate, and I wasn’t sure how to react.”
We got closer and closer. Although we were on different sides of the road, I could quite clearly see her turn her head and clock me. There was a flicker of recognition in the way she tilted her face. She didn’t smile. I caught myself in the act of raising my hand to wave: an automatic reflex. Embarrassed, I brought my arm back down by my side. Becca carried on walking.
I was so shocked, I actually laughed. Her blanking of me had been so nakedly deliberate, and I wasn’t sure how to react. I failed to say anything in the moment. I couldn’t reach for the right words. In place of where there should have been the shared vocabulary of our friendship, there was instead an all-encompassing shame. I felt humiliated. My internal logic decreed that I must have committed some terrible error. What had I done or said or not done or not said to make her act in this way I never got an answer from Becca, because it turned out that blanking me in the street was the start of a comprehensive ghosting. I would never hear directly from her again. No more calls or emails or texts or cups of coffee. No more nights out, laughing riotously over one too many vodka tonics. No more long conversations where we would talk about everything from casual sexism and politics to the best romantic comedies of all time and the optimal ingredients for a sandwich filling (me: cheese and tomato; Becca: tuna mayonnaise). No more of Becca’s eight-year-old daughter giving me unsolicited style advice.