16: One Door Closes

Some would say that everything happens for a reason.

This isn’t a story about catastrophe, the way that most of these have been. This is neither delusion or collapse – we were friends, and by some standard you could say we still are. In the strictest sense, it’s not loss, but it might as well be. It’s a sort of drifting away, despite the best of intentions – a hollow, wanting feeling that leaves me wishing I could change all of it.

I met Amber maybe a month after Ramona, but unlike the latter we connected almost instantly. (Yes. That Amber. The Amber that I keep telling all of you that I’ll get to eventually.) Amber was a Nintendo fangirl and a guitarist – someone I could ramble about games and about music with for any length of time, and someone I saw somewhat frequently, both in general at club nights and specifically through a mutual friend, Joel (who, incidentally, was also my initial connection to Roxanne). Even so, as much as I have a habit for falling madly in friend-love with people (see also: Ramona, Caitlin, Roxanne, Kyle, a few others you’ve seen here and several you haven’t), that was all it was. I had just started dating Stacy about three months prior, and I wasn’t interested in anything else, aside from a willingness to play music with basically anyone. (See also: offering my services as a bass player to Kyle. If there weren’t overwhelming evidence to the contrary, one would almost think I had some concept of boundaries.) Even if I thought she was cute, I wasn’t interested in acting on that. Still, since everyone Stacy had dated prior to me had cheated on her, she got a more than a little jealous over Amber in particular. And female friends in general. And the concept of female friends as an abstract. (The single exception here is Jamie, the obnoxious little sister I never had.) Soon, I found myself caught in up in a number of fights, both between Stacy and Amber and between Stacy and me (the ones between Amber and me weren’t quite so heated), over Stacy’s idea that Amber went through men and Amber’s idea that Stacy was jumping to conclusions about her. (Granted, one of those was true, but…) Eventually, Amber ragequit our friendship multiple times, citing the fact that Stacy was too busy trying to sink a ship that didn’t actually exist for us to have a conversation in peace. Regardless, no matter how many times it happened we always managed to reconnect, if only because I don’t have a concept of when to give up on things (or people).

Stacy told me once that Amber would be the end of us, and to mark her words (that last part is a direct quote). In a way, this was close enough. Remember that what finally ended things was a single escapade with another guy. I actually might have been able to live with that being a mistake. The fling in itself didn’t even matter to me that much; it actually took me until meeting Kim to figure out why I didn’t care specifically about the action that my girlfriend had gotten. What I couldn’t get past was Amber. The fact that Stacy spent months convinced that Amber was just trying to steal me away from her and that I was going along with it. That even after Amber had gotten engaged and this whole thing was well beyond being a moot point, she still wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I might want to catch up with a friend IRL unless she were involved – which was near impossible, given the way they felt about each other. Yet, even as convinced as she was that I was going to either leave her for someone new or outright cheat on her with someone new, Emilio happened. While I never cared about the fact that she was attracted to someone, or even what she did with that (which, as I’ve said elsewhere, raised a whole host of other questions at the time), I did care about how I almost lost someone that mattered to me because of a possessive streak. About the fact that she tried to kill something that I valued just so she could feel more secure, yet couldn’t hold to normal standards in a relationship, let alone the wildly unreasonable ones she expected of me. Even thinking about it I feel like I threw away something I should have fought harder for, and that’s one of the few things in that relationship that I’m really not over. (If I’m being honest, it pisses me off writing this. Or editing it. Or remembering that this piece or these events exist. What was it I said again about Yuki, and about these sorts of things being toxic?) If this had been a guy this then none of it would’ve mattered, but instead I spent two years performing a balancing act to maintain a friendship with someone entirely over the Internet, to keep peace in a relationship that didn’t even last. It all seemed sort of… pointless.

Still, somehow my insane persistence paid off for a change. As much as she distanced herself at times, she never completely cut contact. (Admittedly, it probably helps that her problem was with my girlfriend and not me.) We still spoke somewhat often, albeit almost never face-to-face. She even made a couple of attempts to invite both Stacy and me to parties (that never panned out, because reasons), though when those failed it became the main reason why I didn’t get one to her wedding. After the breakup, though, she was actually the first person I made a point to see; we watched Scott Pilgrim (and maybe Mean Girls?) and caught up a bit as she let me ramble about the downward spiral of my breakup for half the night. Another time she roped me into a 5k (on the promise that she had single friends who were going, all of whom later bailed), after which she and her husband (did I mention that this whole mess with Stacy continued past Amber’s wedding?) convinced me to take a shot at playing League of Legends with them. Past sunrise. We saw Catching Fire, as she introduced me to an amazing movie theater that was also a full restaurant, and hilariously spent the entire time in a jacket I’ve otherwise only ever seen on Claire. Things were different, but this, at least, was better.

Then, she left.

It wasn’t me, it wasn’t her, and this time it wasn’t Stacy. There was no self-destruction or drama or insecurity at play here – simply life getting in the way. I still wish she hadn’t, and I still can’t fully describe how it felt to find out that she was moving less than 6 months after finally being able to talk in person. (Irony. Irony everywhere.) Even so, knowing that it didn’t end just because she isn’t around, it doesn’t have quite the same sense of loss that others have left. Amber was the best friend I never saw, with the harshest end that never happened.

In a way Amber was sort of a precursor to Ramona – someone I could share my basement-dweller interests with, who just happened to be a girl. Stacy and I connected in a few different ways, but common interests were never really a large part of that. Amber filled the same sort of void so well that if that last part hadn’t posed such an issue to my girlfriend I probably never would’ve had much reason to care about talking to Ramona in the first place. (In fact, I never spoke of the latter to Stacy specifically because I knew she’d feel threatened and didn’t want to follow that path again – not that it mattered in the long run, with either of them.) She was even literally an Internet friend for most of this time frame, if only because of Stacy. Still, she’s one of the few tales (pre-Crisis) that ends sort of well. She was the first person that I used the words “I love you” with in any context (in this case, actively declaring it as friend-love and simply lamenting that she was leaving) without it all somehow collapsing or backfiring on me later. (To this day, that number is still only three – the other two being Roxanne and Zoe, the cool older sister I never had.) She’s the only one who didn’t entirely lose touch after settling down – marriage and babies and the like – even despite being some 700 miles away. We’re not that close anymore, but there’s no catastrophic end to this story, and even now we’ll still have random repetitions of “HEY! LISTEN!” over text from time to time.

I do wonder, though, what would’ve happened if things hadn’t been as distant as they were – and sort of are. Everything with Ramona probably wouldn’t have happened, since what I had with Amber was exactly what I was eventually after with her. I wouldn’t have had a colossal breakdown (since even then, one had to push some very specific sorts of buttons to put me in that kind of state), but also wouldn’t have found myself compelled to get better. Any one event can be traced back to the ones that happened prior – these are called chains of events for a reason, after all – but even as part of a clear pattern it feels disconnected. In Ramona’s case it at least makes sense, in the sense that one flows directly from the other (it does have a direct connection to my obsession with obsession), but with Amber no amount of talk about butterfly effects will ever justify this to me. There’s no if/then that I can use to draw meaning out of the drama. There’s no lesson or insight about it that somehow makes me or my life better. There’s just this vague approximation of loss – the next worst thing, knowing that we’re barely in each other’s lives yet still wish each other well.

As I said, some would say that everything happens for a reason. I fucking hate that phrase.

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