By Cairo Amani

2013 tried to break me, y’all, and it nearly did.

There were moments when I felt like a modern day Job, as if the universe had taken away all my armor and started shooting its sharpest arrows toward my chest. I quit my job, which tossed me into a financial bind unlike any I’d ever seen. My relationship got wedged between a rock and a whack place and, before any of this—like the snowball that got the avalanche going—I lost my best friend.

Oddly enough, I didn’t realize she was my best friend until the friendship died.

Just so that there are no secrets between us, let me tell you briefly about myself: Both my birth parents left me so I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother died when I was four and so, for the majority of my life, I was raised by my grandfather, some awesome stand-in relatives, and my friends. When I came out of the closet (fully) in 2010, my relationship with my grandfather kind of fell apart. So my friends really became my family.

I realized I probably wasn’t good company. So I spent some time alone.

Friendship grows from conversation, adventure, common interests, mutual involvement. Perhaps my relationship with Friend X was so powerful because of how naturally it developed. After walking across the stage with our diplomas, we griped about post-graduation unemployment together and then celebrated our new front-desk jobs. We lamented over stuffy offices when we wanted to immerse ourselves in art—and then we supported our out-of-work artistic endeavors. We went clubbing together, had scary-movie sleepovers and when she started to come into her queerness, I held open the door to the closet. I’d like to think that if a friendship begins organically, it will end the same.

But this end blindsided me.

Friend X explained she felt like we had grown apart or she had grown apart from our friendship and I was surprised because now she had a girlfriend, like me, and we were locking our hair and finding new jobs—I thought we had more in common than ever. Eventually, I became happy she made a decision that was right for her. No one should stay in a relationship that might be damaging to them—but I had no closure and now I felt really alone.

Suddenly all the things I did everyday were altered. Friend X and I had kept running Gchat conversations at work; she had been a good consultant for my novels; she stayed at my house when my girl traveled on business. Later, when I quit my job, was frustrated with my writing and my girlfriend and I were at odds, I really missed having her around to talk to. That was when I realized she was my “best” friend, when I began to notice the holes left by her absence.

Sometimes, people will leave you for ridiculous reasons. In this case, I think Friend X might have seen things I couldn’t. I was probably clingy because I have abandonment issues and maybe her new relationship intimidated me and I felt like I might be completely erased. I was probably selfish and asking too much of her. I’m not saying Friend X holds no blame for the way things ended but I am saying that in her absence, all I am left with is me. And even if she was still around, I can only improve myself. Not other people. We all have to remember that.

You cannot replace people. Not friends, not lovers, not parents.

The loss of Friend X was, perhaps, the first time I had to take a look at myself and realize how far I had spun away from who I used to be and wanted to be. My laidback personality and good-natured sense of humor had faded into a negativity that slipped right under my radar.

I realized I probably wasn’t good company. So I spent some time alone.

Mastering being alone is one of the most important lessons of adult life. You get tired after work, you want to watch Netflix and eat ice cream. You learn the weekends don’t always equal clubs. Your friends might not want to spend two hours in a cramped independent bookstore so you go alone. Sometimes being alone comes organically; sometimes you have to make a point of learning. And when you can spend a week alone and emerge from that aloneness with contentment instead of a crazed social thirst, you can move on.

I forced myself to get a new best friend; someone who was Friend X without being Friend X. I tried to build-a-buddy. Of course that failed miserably.

So then I got real and I began to foster my other friendships.

Friendships are plants. You nurture them and they grow. Friend X might have been my best friend but that was because I made her my best friend. I was lucky my other friends were around when I needed them. I found that fostering friendships was easy and that my relationships developed smoothly and bloomed just as strongly as I needed. Possibly because I had learned another big lesson.

You cannot replace people. Not friends, not lovers, not parents.

But you can let new people take root in your garden wherever their seeds fall. And you can water the friendships you have and let them grow and enjoy their beauty.

I won’t lie: I have tried to invite Friend X back into my life. Last year. It was the sort of invite that involved balloons and cake and knocking on her door and begging for forgiveness. I don’t blame her for not responding. But as I learned that only Moses can part an ocean and the rest of us just have to follow the current, I did less knocking and less begging. In 2014, I opened my door and let Friend X know it will always be open. But I’m no longer curled up on the other side waiting.

Cairo loves moleskin notebooks, considers Scrivener a godsend, and enjoys reading, dancing, and board games that involve doing silly things for points. You can find out more about her here:

Photo credit: Sil the Photographer

3 Responses

  1. Beth

    Thank you so much for this. It is so rare to find sensitive, thoughtful pieces on friendship breakups, on losing your best friend in this way. I lost my best friend five years ago (completely different circumstances I should add) and have never stopped missing her. I’m over it inasfar as I accept what happened, forgive myself and her for our mistakes… but I think there will always be a small part of me that hopes she will walk through the door.
    “In 2014, I opened my door and let Friend X know it will always be open. But I’m no longer curled up on the other side waiting.”
    Thanks again. This touched a nerve and made me feel happy and sad together.

    • Cairo

      Hi Beth,

      Thank you so much for those kind words. It touches me tremendously to hear people say this speaks to them. it is so helpful to see I’m not alone in a lonely situation! Solidarity is amazing in that way.




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