Sam and I were 17 and running wild in “love.” Now we are twenty, broken up and trying to be friends. I’m trying to figure out if this is possible or if it only works for Elaine and Jerry on Seinfeld.
I’m trying to be a good person to my ex. He’s a nice guy– an ass for most of the time we were a “thing,” but generally, a pretty sweet dude. Nights together were few and far between, especially after a few moves across the country. When it did happen though it was great. It was holy ground. Those happy times were almost two years ago and now holding hands is a revolting thought.
We’re in a different place. But there’s something weird about it. It’s not really him: He still has his abs. It’s not me: I still have a hairy chest. It’s us. We are in this weird in-between and I hate it.
A perfect break up goes two ways. One: you despise them, wish death on them and hope they get some skin disease and lose all their beauty. Or two: you are friends like Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. You write lyrics like “the rest of the world was black and white, but we were in screaming color” to fill nostalgic songs about the good times. You actually respect them for who they are.
I can’t do either with Sam. I’m trying, but I don’t know how to have a perfect friendship with him from 2000+ miles away. College is the official reason we split, but God knows that’s not the only reason we can’t be friends. I still love the way he talks about his hopes and dreams. I still hate how he never remembers anything important to me.
I’m conflicted because of the memories. I feel like I can still feel the cold air from the night we ran around in the river. His stupid red hair and my huge afro were like joyous jumping fish in the water. I hear branches crunching beneath our feet and leaves breaking in our hands. Days when I can’t remember how home feels, I swear if I look in my old jacket I can find some of the leaves we play fought with. They’re like old photos I never want to look at, but never want to be without. Maybe that’s what Sam is. I’ll always want him there, but I never want to be with him.
Now that all those happy-together moments are in the past, can Sam and I really talk about the dudes he sleeps with or my hopeless crushes? Can we pretend nights laying on the couch watching The Sopranos until 4 a.m. never happened? How is a guy that is the most important man to ever be in your life going to magically turn into a friend? I hate him so much, but then I don’t. I love him so much, but then I don’t.
His friendship is the most frustrating commitment in my life. With my other friends, I have perfect friendships. I can tell them everything. They can call me at 4a.m. and I never question it. We can eat steaks at noon and it feels right. With them I know the line is drawn at sex, since I’m gay and they’re women. But even 2000+ miles away, every line with Sam is blurry. It’s like I can’t even find a pen because he distracts me too much to search.
I can’t hate Sam for who he is, because that’s exactly why I like him. Part of me will always remember despising Sam like that teacher who enjoys failing students. Then part of me will remember adoring him like he somehow morphed Jamie Foxx and James Dean to create the perfect man. Our friendship isn’t ever going to be black and white— maybe we are forever going to be screaming color.
I’ll try to think of that when he calls in twenty minutes. We’re probably going to chat about cars or classes. I’ll smile and he’ll laugh with that idiot chuckle. Everything will feel confusing for an hour or so, but also like I just went back home for the night. My main goal for this call will be to find a middle ground that allows Sam the friend come out to say “Hey man!” while letting Sam the love fade away into my memories.