We Can’t Be Friends

“Why weren’t you there?”

Christine asked the question, trying to fight her tears. Ronald looked her in the eye and knew she was fighting a losing battle. He knew the tears would come and he knew that anything he had to say, if he remained honest with her, would only give her a stronger reason to cry.

A part of him didn’t care. Part of him wanted her to cry. “You’re kidding, right?” said Ronald, his frustration taking over.

Christine’s own frustration began to surface. “No, I’m not. I want to know why you refused to attend my wedding.”

“Christine,” he began, then sighed. “I don’t, for one second, believe you really don’t know the answer to that question. And if you don’t know, then I’m certain you don’t want to know.”

She sat down on the porch swing, unable to make eye contact with Ronald at this point. “It’s just that… so many of you missed it,” said Christine, her voice becoming quiet.

Ronald leaned against the railing, his arms crossed, still looking directly at Christine. “If you want to hear what I have to say, I’ll say it,” he said calmly, “But you have to be sure it’s what you want to hear. Because I am more than willing to continue repressing all relevant thoughts and feelings.”

“Repressing?” she asked as she looked up from her own feet.

“Been doing it for years. I’ve gotten good at it.”

“No,” Christine said firmly, “Tell me.”

Ronald took a deep breath. “Let the record show that you insisted on this.

“I feel confident that I can speak for most, if not all, of the others as to why they chose not to come to your wedding. They thought you were making a mistake.”

Christine’s mouth dropped open, as if in shock, but she closed it as soon as she saw Ronald’s finger shoot up, warning her to let him say his piece.

“No one really wants to talk to me about it, which I appreciate. But the few who have brought it up have told me they think your relationship with Michael moved too quickly. They think you were being rash and impetuous by not only getting engaged so soon after you started dating, but also by setting a wedding date that looked like you were trying to sprint down the aisle.

“And it seemed really out of character for you. Carrie was your best friend. You talked to her about everything. Except when it came to your relationship with Michael. Whatever that means between you and her is between you and her. It’s really not my place to say.”

Ronald really didn’t want to bring up concerns that Carrie had spoken with him about. But if he could have, he would have blatantly told Christine that Carrie knew she wouldn’t talk about the relationship because she knew that Carrie would point out the truth of how toxic the relationship was.

“And you?” Christine asked, “Did you think it was a mistake?”

Ronald laughed a little at that. “For me? It goes way deeper than thinking you were making a mistake. And I really wish you would stop pretending you don’t know what I’m talking about,” he said, his anger rising once more.

Christine wiped tears from her cheeks, finally looking back up at Ronald and recognizing the hurt on his face.

“You broke my heart,” he bluntly stated. “You were one of my best friends. In spite of that, for a long time, I was naïve enough to believe that I was in love with you. You could only see me as a friend, and that would have been fine. But you kept me on a hook. You kept me at arm length at all times. You would pull me in, knowing I would do anything for you at the drop of a hat. Then you would push me away as soon as anyone other than me began to show interest in you. I lived this cycle with you for years, hoping… praying… that one day you would come around. Clearly that never happened.”

“I’m sorry,” Christine said, almost at a whisper.

“Don’t be,” said Ronald flatly. “We were friends and I wanted more. Can’t help that. You never saw me as anything but a friend. Can’t help that.”

He turned his back to her, looking out at the suburban neighborhood that lay before him. Ronald continued, “I know you think we can go back to being friends.” He shook his head. “We can’t be friends. We can never be friends.”

Turning again to look at her, Ronald hoped to convey his sincerity. “I truly wish you nothing but happiness and I really do hope that everything between you and your husband works out. But I will never be that guy again. I will never be the person you think you can call to be a shoulder to cry on who will shower you with praise and make you feel good about yourself when the significant other you’re with treats you in a way that’s less than you deserve.”

He walked over to the front door and poked his head in, yelling to Carrie that he was going to take off. Ronald knew his friends would try to stop him and keep him there if he gave them the chance. But none of them really knew how hard it was for him to be around Christine, even all these years later.

Without another word, Ronald stepped off the porch and walked confidently toward his car, leaving Christine on the porch swing, holding her face in her hands.


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