Mu-An Chiou

We don't have to be friends

Sometime last year, at the height of my mental health crisis, I had a text exchange with a close friend. We have been friends for almost ten years at that point.

In that exchange, I asked a question that offended them. They called me insensitive and disrespectful. I was puzzled by the sudden emotional reaction, especially so since I believe I have yet to see them lose their temper, at least not to me. Regardless, I apologized immediately and, perhaps cowardly, made the excuse that I was on a lot of pills and might not be my usual self. They said, “Get well soon,” and that was our last conversation.

We don’t have to be friends.

They knew something was going on with me, and we only just had a long, impromptu evening chat in my kitchen a few weeks before the incident. At the time, I didn’t overthink this. I was confused, but I genuinely thought that perhaps I was out of line, and once they stopped being mad about this, we would talk again. But as time passed, I started to think that even if I was out of line, our friendship should withstand more than this one question. Why couldn’t they have given me the benefit of the doubt? Why couldn’t they have reacted more sensibly, like, “hey, that was not cool,” and we could have just moved on?

Evidently, they could not have, so we don’t have to be friends.

As they assumed malice from a simple question (I know it’s subjective), they chose to regard me as someone who would be intentionally insensitive and disrespectful towards them. I thought trust and mutual respect had been the prerequisites for our closeness. Perhaps I was mistaken.

We met twice in social settings afterward. Our eyes met, but we both averted quickly. Pretty childish, wasn’t it?

We don’t have to be friends. I don’t want to have to keep this ordeal on my mind. Nevertheless, at the end of the day I care too much about our friendship to simply let it go.

Perhaps I should reach out. Perhaps it was I who was being too stubborn to extend an olive branch. Perhaps I was too fixated on who was right and who was wrong. Perhaps if I did care, I should be able to do all the things I said they should have been able to do.

Why can’t I give them the benefit of the doubt? Why can’t I try more than hiding behind the pills? Why can’t I text them now? I don’t know.

I guess we don’t have to be friends. Maybe in some small ways, I consider it indignified to have to be the one to have apologized and then also reach out proactively, as if I needed them more than they needed me. What blasphemy that would be.

Well. We don’t have to be friends, because I am apparently considering ridding them out of my life completely. What is left to be salvaged if we don’t even have trust? At this point I might have ceased to care about our relationship altogether.

By putting this in writing, the burden leaves me.