¡hola papi!

‘Two Years Later, I’m Not Over My Friend Breakup’

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s ¡Hola Papi! newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

¡Hola, Papi!

A couple of years ago, I cut off a friend I had known since high school, and I’m still feeling hurt over it. We were totally codependent when we were friends. They were also narcissistic and passive aggressive, and our falling out was particularly venomous.

Becoming friends again isn’t really on the table, but I’d like to move on from the pain of losing them. I don’t know what to do. I’ve gone through romantic breakups and bounced back within a few months, but for some reason, this friend breakup is different. Our social circles recently started to overlap a bit, which has stirred these feelings up again for me. Although I haven’t seen or spoken to them, the thought of them feels like an irritated wound. I feel kind of pathetic. Any advice?

Friendly Fire

Hey there, FF!

I’m sorry to hear about you and your friend. Even if the relationship needed to come to an end (it sounds like it did), it still hurts to lose someone. And indeed, losing a friend is a special kind of loss — one that is bound to feel different from, say, a romantic breakup.

Different kinds of losses are bound to hit us in different ways. There are many shades of disappointment, sadness, and loneliness in life. Lately, I’ve been sampling them all like a run-through writer with a sweet tooth in an artisanal ice-cream shoppe. To be frank, I’m taking some L’s lately, as the kids say. Lots of L’s. A beautiful collection of L’s to place in one of those glass cases that abuelitas love — the ones they use to show off their creepy tchotchke collections. You know what I mean. Those little porcelain figurines with red cheeks, crafted by German witches in the Black Forest exclusively to market to abuelitas.

Which is to say, FF, that I, too, am trying to wrap my head around the idea of losing people and around loss more generally. Lately, I’m feeling like I’ve wasted a ton of time on people, projects, and ideas that never made it to fruition. I’ll never get those hours back. What was it all for?

But in my more lucid moments, moments that come and go like any other, I’m able to better appreciate loss — what it is, what it does, and how it should be approached. Loss isn’t just a part of life. Loss is life. Loss is how life begets itself.

If you pay attention, FF, you will notice all of the little losses that come and go in only a day’s time. That corner store you love to go to, the one you think of as so reliable because it’s right down the street and open at absurd hours of the night, stops carrying that one brand of ice cream you always get. A miniature heartbreak never shared, because it’s too trivial. You log on to Facebook — God only knows why, maybe because Twitter is dying and you’re morbidly curious — and you see that your classmates from high school look so different now. They’ve aged. You get emotional on the subway. You hold a beloved orange cat tenderly in your arms, and he purrs, and you try to pet him in such a way that he won’t get restless and wriggle away from you. But, of course, he’s a cat, so he does, and a moment’s peace comes to a predictable end.

Little losses, all the time and every day — right down to the cellular level, as our bodies die, regenerate, and die again, propelling us forward and clearing the way to tomorrow. A tomorrow that, even if it feels an awful lot like today or yesterday, is nonetheless entirely different regardless of whether you realize it.

To move is to lose, FF. Our world is in constant motion. It’s painful when someone or something we cared about goes away — no matter the reason. It’s a different kind of pain, perhaps even an awkward one, to lose someone who’s still with us, whose comings and goings are still legible, crossing paths now and again, reminding us of a person we once considered close.

But as surely as there is loss, there’s living. There’s connection, happiness, warmth, excitement, and new things. Yes, losing a friend is hard, and it’s hard in different ways from a romantic breakup, which at the very least has more templates and scripts for handling it.

My hope for you, though, is that you’re able to take the good things from your friendship, to let yourself keep those things with you as you go on your way, even as you acknowledge that what you once had with this person is now gone. If you can forgive yourself, do so. If you can forgive them, do so. That doesn’t mean reaching out and trying to patch things up. It means finding peace with the way things are.

And who knows, FF. For you, as much as for me, tomorrow could hold absolutely anything.

Con mucho amor,

Originally published on May 3, 2023.

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s ¡Hola Papi! newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase Brammer’s book, Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessonshere.

‘Two Years Later, I’m Not Over My Friend Breakup’