It happens every year. December. A few days after the twenty-fifth, and the “Let’s grab dinner!” text moves into your field of view like a drop of precipitation. The “Let’s grab dinner!” text starts high in the air, above your apartment, and makes six-inch circles as it floats past your neighbors’ windows and into yours. The “Let’s grab dinner!” text falls onto your iPhone’s screen. The “Let’s grab dinner!” text begins to melt.
It’s the friend from college. You used to eat dinner with her every night. You sat on her futon with a Boca Burger and gave her a guided tour of your sexuality, making pit stops for the word “so.” She made you a cup of Oolong tea, and you planned a road trip together: New York to Chicago to Portland, with stops along the way to read Lorrie Moore excerpts in meadows where mugs of mulled wine would materialize in your hands. It never happened.
And now, per The Law Of College Companionship, you meet every three months at a restaurant with a poetic menu. How many people, you wonder, did she ask to dine at The Little Owl before she thumbed that text to you? For weeks, you float your lapis and grey iMessage droplets into each other’s faces, dancing around a Little Owl, until it happens, and it rains, and you have to Google The Little Owl twice, and call twice, to confirm and re-confirm the reservation. And then The Little Owl calls you at work, and you Google directions, and the subway is a hog pit, and now you’re sitting across a wooden square from a blinking artifact of your past.
You stare at italicized sauce descriptions. Google cheeses. Gnaw your nostalgia. Laugh until you perform laughter until you’re all can-I-just-go-home-and-order-in-or-do-we-really-have-to-do-this?
As I grow, I’m enduring more of these. And, believe me, not all of them are so full of…money and canapés. They’ve happened in bars as often as anywhere else. But no matter the setting, there’s something about them that’s…well, depressing. The “Let’s grab dinner!” dinner feigns nonchalance as it builds a house of formality. The “Let’s grab dinner!” dinner jolts you into the realization that, as you grow, ninety-nine percent of your friendships will become pallid ghosts of their former selves — they will devolve into texts about schedules and “I think I’ll get the clams!” And if this is what’s in store for me as I embark on my thirties, then I may need to build an app that blocks these texts, or perhaps spits out an autoreply: “Harris Sockel recognizes that this friendship is dying. He thinks you should just, after all these years, put it out of its misery.”
But no. Here we are, doing mouth to mouth on our ailing relationship over glasses of wine and water.
“I’m going to Harvard Business School,” she screams as she palms a heart of palm. She looks at your pupils and bites the vegetal heart with her front teeth, smiling with a mouthful of fiber.
The Little Owl has delicious food.
During dessert, you collect bean curd with a tiny silver spoon as you are asked How Is Work And Are You Still Doing [INSERT MANGLED REDACTION OF YOUR RESPONSE FROM THREE MONTHS AGO, WHICH WAS ALSO SHOUTED OVER A PILE OF WET CARBOHYDRATES]? You walk three balance beams in your mind and fall off the last one.
Work is “fine” and “I am learning a lot” and it is “exciting” because it is “challenging.” Yes, I said it’s ““““““exciting.”””””” There are scare quotes embedded in your temporal lobe by now, and they dig their claws into your cortex whenever you answer this question.
Finish your plate of curd and quince. Pay that bill. Laugh about math. It was great to see you, and I am happy for you, and for both of us as we lap up amino acids and walk with terminal velocity toward death.
Oh, Miss “Let’s grab dinner!” I love you. Really, I do. And I’m proud of you. But don’t you hear it? Literally every time the “Let’s grab dinner!” text appears, my iPhone plays a feeble recording of a death knell. Listen. Close your eyes and listen. You can’t not hear that, right? Our friendship is in a persistent vegetative state, minimally conscious and drooling, and should leave this mortal coil posthaste. And it will. And that’s OK. Sometimes you have to euthanize your friendships. Let go. All will be forgiven.
Check out Harris Sockel’s new Thought Catalog book here.
This post originally appeared on Medium.