I became very close with a friend-with-benefits I had met over Tinder over a year and a half period. We had great times together and I really cherish our friendship. She eventually moved very far away, which marked the end of our physical relationship. We kept in regular contact for a month or so, texting about shows we were still watching, how the move was going etc. Predictably our texts gradually became fewer and far between. No problem there.
It’s been seven months, and for the past approximately four, I’ve sent infrequent “how’s everything, hope all is well etc” texts, about one every other month maximum. And there’s just no response. She looks at my Instagram stories and responds whenever I like hers. She’s sent butt pics twice and then told me she’s been a covid incel. She just totally ignores my texts. Again, I’m just texting to keep in touch and ask how everything is, they’re not needy or horny or frequent.
It sucks because I genuinely don’t understand why. Especially with lockdown etc, being lonely, and that I lost my job. Pre-lockdown (a lifetime ago) we had plans all set for me to visit in May, which were obviously scrapped. It’s weirdly cold and I can’t help but think there is some gap in my self-awareness. I don’t want to interfere with her life on the other side of the country, so I’m not gonna ask her why. It just sucks and really solidifies the loneliness.
Left on Read
I confess this question makes me feel pretty bad about myself, since I’m now thinking about the various “How have you been?” texts I have responded to dismissively, or late, or not at all. This is never a reflection on how much I care for the person asking, simply a function of how increasingly difficult I find that question to answer.
Covid has obviously eroded or destroyed countless things in all our lives including, for me and perhaps for your friend as well, the ease with which we maintain a lot of our relationships. That vast array of people you talk to somewhat frequently but not every day, the people you have dinner with every few months, the people you would see but not stay with if you are visiting their city. All of those relationships that add immeasurable texture to a life and are predicated on the simple joy of catching up.
The problem, for me, is that it feels like there is simply nothing to catch these people up on anymore. Too many things are happening but also nothing much is happening at all, and I find I have nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Life is dull and that has in turn made me a dullard. Even the things that qualify as events don’t feel like enough to sustain any real contemplation. How have I been? Well, I moved to a new city, and now I’m in a new place doing the same things as before, mainly dishes and fretting.
How have I been? I’ve been remembering how when I was a kid, I encountered a story somewhere, maybe on the news or perhaps passed on by another child, I can’t recall, about an elderly retiree who had to eat cat food because her social security wasn’t enough to cover her monthly expenses, and she had no family to support her. This story was wildly distressing to me. I remember crying about it for ages and asking my mother how it could possibly be true—my childish sense of how the world was meant to work just could not assimilate something so grim. To this day I absolutely cannot read stories about elderly people who are abandoned and alone without being reduced to a blubbering mess for hours. It is my greatest fear by far and the past few months have made it clear that it could very well be my fate. I have zero chance of retiring and will have to work until I die. And even once there is a vaccine and covid restrictions are lifted there is everything else about modern life that conspires to keep us separate from each other and I am worried that the way I know how to love people best—in person, or at least with the promise of that—is terribly ill-suited to the world we have left to us. I realize that retreating into myself because I am scared of being left alone is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but recognizing a pattern is not sufficient to change it. Anyways enough about me how have you been? Are you still dating that photographer?
This is all to say that I wouldn’t be so quick to imagine you have done something that caused your friend to stop responding. These are strange times, and they cause us to do strange things. Or not-so-strange things, like become depressed in response to depressing circumstances. I certainly hope that some of the relationships I’ve let wither away through neglect can flourish again, when things are different and hopefully better. In the meantime, if you care about your friend you should can and should, on occasion, just tell her how you’ve been feeling. “I watched a great movie tonight and I think you would like it.” “Hey did you see that guy got caught cranking his hog on Zoom.” “I miss you.”
We may not all express it in the same way but we all miss each other. At least, I think that should be the operating assumption for as long as it remains difficult to tend to each other’s needs.
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