August 1 finally came. Moving day. A friend from my teaching classes was going to be my new roommate. We had a great apartment on the other side of town. Max and Andie decided to move as well, to separate houses. Our relationship through that last day was still friendly-ish-to-cordial. I think it was a big relief and in the end, a saving grace for our friendship, that we all went our separate ways. Gradually Andie began to work her way back in to my life. She was still dating Max, but since they were no longer living together they were less frequently joined at the hip. She came to visit and brought her new puppy; we laughed as my 15 pound cat chased the 2 pound Chihuahua around the apartment. We began to talk on the phone at regular intervals, sharing the details of our final semesters of college and what plans we had for after graduation. I had decided to move to Oregon to take a teaching position; Andie was going straight to graduate school.
Slowly, gently, Max began to be a topic of our conversations. Normal stories at first, funny anecdotes and such. Then, tentatively, she began to open up. She shared with me her doubts and upsets regarding her relationship. I did my best to be her neutral sounding-board. At the same time that I wanted to be there for her, I couldn’t help the little jolt of Schadenfreude that I felt upon hearing about them fighting. I am unashamed to say that I encouraged her to break up with him numerous times. I have always been the friend to whom my friends come when they need some tough love. I am ashamed, however, that the encouragement was motivated as much from my own lingering feelings of hurt as it was from wanting the best for my friend. In the winter of 2005 Max accepted a job offer in Connecticut. I watched and listened as Andie agonized, as she is prone to with any major decision, about whether to go with him. Ultimately, she followed him to the East Coast as I made my way West.
It’s a funny thing about uprooting your life to start in a new part of the world. It has a way of making your former life smaller, almost quaint by comparison. It’s the same with getting older; as I rounded the corner into my mid-to-late twenties, the problems of my youth seemed much less important, and my priorities adjusted. I found myself really, truly forgiving Max and Andie for betraying me. It wasn’t a conscious choice; I just realized as time passed that hearing about him, or them, or their combined life, didn’t hurt as much as it had. Moving to opposite coasts was the best thing that could have happened for all three of us.
Now, talking on the phone was our only option. Andie and I would have marathon conversations that lasted until our phones were dead and our ears burning hot. We bared our souls, helping each other through the ups and downs of being in a new place. She listened sympathetically as my first year as a teacher unfolded, cheered my successes, and commiserated with my disappointments. She told me about their new life in New England and all the wonderful hiking and exploring she and Max were doing. We bitched about work, bills, and adult responsibilities. She begged for stories regarding the joke my dating life had become; as it turns out in Longview, Washington it is easier to find methamphetamines than a dateable man. Essentially the old closeness had returned while we were 3,000 miles apart.
On New Year’s Eve 2009 my phone rang just as I was walking into a restaurant with my boyfriend. It was Andie. “Hey baby, happy new year!” I said.
“Happy new year! Guess what? Max proposed! I’m getting married!”
I was immediately filled with a powerful rush of joy for both of them. I laughed and yelled, “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!” in the middle of a street in downtown Portland, and I meant it. I was purely happy that my best friend was getting married to the man I had once adored.
Eleven months later, I stood on a beach in Mexico and watched as Max and Andie said their vows. From the moment she began walking down the aisle, I was awash in tears that continued through the ceremony and off-and-on throughout the reception. They were happy tears though; I was proud and happy for them, proud and happy to be a part of their day, and so, so glad that after a decade of friendship we were so close that I could be brought to tears by the sight of Andie in a wedding gown.
Nearly three years to the day afterward, she texted me a picture of two clearly positive pregnancy tests. Max and Andie’s son is one of the greatest joys of my life. His big blue eyes and giant smile melt my heart. Since his birth we have had two opportunities for visits and I am totally swept away by that beautiful baby every time. All of it, all ten-plus years of friendship, love, jealousy, and yes, forgiveness, has converged to this one point and created an innocent, perfect tiny human whose very existence renders personal history and the rest of the world unimportant.
Being his Auntie Alex has changed my perspective in a lot of ways. I like to think that I’ve become more loving and forgiving, but also more realistic. I’ve come to realize recently that part of my fundamental insecurity is, and always has been, the assumption that I am the only person in the world that feels like an insecure loser, and really, truly believing that everyone around me had their shit all figured out. When I develop strong feelings for someone this can result in me idolizing them, because of course this person I love is the most secure, the most perfect form of everything I want or want to be! Of course this is nonsense. It’s dangerous to idolize a human because humans are imperfect and they will eventually let you down. Humans can be selfish, thoughtless and cruel, and sometimes they don’t even mean to.
I’ve learned that loving someone, really truly loving them, means loving them for who they are, instead of some idealized, perfect version of them. I’ve learned that forgiveness is possible even when someone has hurt and wronged you deeply, and that by exercising the forgiveness muscle I have become a more compassionate, whole person in my own right. I’ve learned that I have had and still have trust issues; while they did not stem from this incident they were certainly reinforced by the situation. And I’ve learned that to develop the ability to trust I must first allow myself to trust, even if that person has let me down before.
As much as I learned from Andie about kindness, diplomacy, and generosity in college, it really took her being at her worst regarding all of those qualities for me to nurture them in myself, and appreciate who she truly is at her best. She is my best friend, my soulmate, but not my idol.