I have a friend who seemed to have stopped talking to me. I might have mentioned this before. We haven’t been in very close touch since I came to Country X, but she hasn’t entirely fallen off the planet. There are these sporadic emails.
But then I wrote to her to say a little bit about some of the things that were going on in my life when we were kids and her reply was really condescending and I told her as much in probably not a very nice way. Then she never responded to that. Not to say, “I’m sorry, ” or even, “That was totally uncalled for.” That was, I think, in October.
So finally I wrote to her again—what’s going on? Nothing again.
And it’s really painful. It’s painful in a totally unexpected way. One piece of this that I hadn’t realized is that she was Lana’s friend. I had an idea about this, because a few years ago this friend sent Christmas presents completely out of the blue. We haven’t exchanged Christmas presents since we were children. But anyway one year there was this package with five or six things in them, and one of them was a shirt, which was a decidedly Lana kind of shirt. I mean, no one else would like it. No one else at all. It made it clear in a very visual way that the person my friend remembered was Lana. Other parts must have been around, but Lana had to have been very much a part of this friendship.
Lana is five. I’m looking back on kindergarten and on my experience in college as an assistant in a kindergarten class, and one of the most devastating things that can happen to a little girl is to have her friend stop speaking to her.
But also I don’t think Lana ever had any friends. The social scene was not her realm. She was intent on keeping everyone alive, on controlling the little parts so that their instinctive reactions didn’t jeopardize our collective physical safety, on practical matters like cleaning up cuts and blood.
Somehow, this friend connected with her. Maybe, they had something in common. My friend was busy raising her younger siblings. Lana was trying to keep Sammy and Hannah and Ruthie all in one piece. I don’t know. I don’t know what it was.
We were close in the years when everything seemed to really happen: when Nata died, when I had a miscarriage, and everything became simply hopeless for me. I have an idea that, in those years, Lana’s stoicism became hard to maintain, and it became really difficult to stay focused on keeping everything together.
It helped to have this friend, to have someone to talk to about at least some pieces of it, and someone to help with the feelings that were breaking through from other parts.
Then, as now, the friend stopped speaking to me. The silence lasted maybe three years. It might have been four. And then a mutual friend gave me her phone number. She wanted to talk again.
For Lana, this is a replay of this. It’s devastating for her now, just as it was then. She’s five—that’s one piece. She’s had exactly two friends in her life: Nata and this other friend. That’s a second piece.
Maybe a third piece is that Lana is beginning to understand she can have feelings about things. She can be devastated. She can grieve the loss of both of her friends. At the same time, there is also this surprise about it. Do I really feel this way? She does.