I met Johnny in the bookstore. He was going up the escalator as I went down when he called out to me. He shouted down to me: “I love your dress! I live in Parkside too!” For a couple weeks I’d catch him coming and going, and he’d always warmly greet me with,“Hey polka-dot dress girl!”
It turned out we were on the same floor, and for the rest of my freshman year, my door was almost always wide open with the sole purpose of letting Johnny come and go as he pleased.
Mia was Johnny’s friend first. I don’t remember when we met; I think we bonded over Beyoncé. We all went to the beach together one day in January and, from then on, my door was open to her too.
I thought I’d found my people.
I went to a prestigious high school in New England. It was, in the classic sense, a college preparatory school, and I had been groomed for years to find a university that was not only well-respected but also a perfect fit.
Part of the perfect fit, the narrative suggested, was the incredible group of friends who matched your intellect and pushed your buttons in all the right ways. I thought Johnny and Mia could be this for me. We’d discuss feminism and contemporary art, along with our sex lives, in vulgar detail. We’d get drunk together and push each other into the arms of strangers. We supported each other through mental illness and even the passing of a loved one. Perhaps it was ill-fated, but it was also toxic from the start.
Before Johnny and Mia, I didn’t isolate myself in social hierarchy. But Johnny, Mia and I became so fixated on our brand of Tumblr-approved detached social interaction that we felt superior. I still apologize to people from my freshman floor when I see them around, hoping to make up for all the closed doors and cold expressions I so casually shut myself behind in those halls.
We were happy. We would laugh all night and dance until 5 a.m.
I got a boyfriend in January, and the two of them encouraged much of the relationship. They were definitely most interested in his chiseled muscles and Italian accent. Beyond that, they expressed doubt. I dove into a relationship as they encouraged a hook-up situation or even cheating. When I decided to make the commitment to long distance, Johnny insisted I move not too quickly.
The boyfriend and I had our issues, but Johnny and Mia didn’t know. I don’t quite understand what made them so committed to stopping us.
Over the summer between freshman and sophomore year, we talked a fair amount. I still ask myself whether what was to come in the fall was a result of my not calling Mia enough. I still worry if it was because I was not supportive enough as she grieved for her loved one. Mia talked a lot about wanting to come back to Los Angeles; she was bored staying at home all summer.
I knew she was going to join a sorority, and I thought about it, but decided not to. We made plans with Johnny for the Friday before the first day of classes. That’s the last I ever spent time with them.
Nothing happened that Friday that was out of the ordinary, nothing to suggest we’d never even share a smile after that night. Weeks later, we got drunk, and we caught up. Mia talked about her new sorority. Johnny talked about boys. I thought we were still friends.
On Oct. 14, Johnny and I had concert tickets. On Oct. 12, I realized I hadn’t seen him since that night in August. He never returned my texts asking to hang out, and once, I even saw him leaving my apartment building and he didn’t look me in the eyes. Mia was missing too, and I knew I had to ask if they were coming back.
So I made it clear that I no longer wanted my messages ignored, and asked one final time if he wanted the ticket or not. He backed out, and I knew that was it.
I saw the two of them walking together on campus a month later, and they kept their eyes on the ground.
Losing a friendship can be worse than a romantic broken heart because friends don’t feel the need to break up with you. They can simply disappear. Johnny and Mia didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, and probably don’t think they did anything wrong. There’s a difference between growing apart and cutting someone off, but the standard of our age group says detaching is OK.
Because of this standard, I still lack answers, even for this column.
Emma Andrews is a senior majoring in international relations. Her column, “Before & After,” runs Fridays.