The whole thing happened months ago. It was one of those whirlwind romances, the sort of up-swept, romantic courtship that nobody but the two of them could possibly keep up with. One minute, I was asking, “What’s the deal with you and Jesse ?” The next, they were living together. I got on board. There’s no point in not supporting a relationship because it got serious too fast. I mean, how much time does a relationship need? I’ve never known. Maybe I don’t know how to get caught up in a moment. Anyways, that was a long time ago now, and they’re still together. Maybe sometimes when it’s love, it’s love.
Maybe it was my mistake. I hadn’t known Madeleine for long when she and Jesse fell in love, but we were close. Yoga friends. Weekday lunch friends. We had a real grown-up style friendship, like the kind you see in movies. When Madeleine fell in love with Jesse, she never wanted to go to breakfast just the two of us anymore. Jesse and I became friends. It wasn’t intentional. I tried to make her feel welcome. We got along. Jesse always texted me back right away. She made my friendship a priority. That’s how it seemed even though, looking back, I never once saw her without Madeleine.
Madeleine felt threatened by my friendship with Jesse. When she told me, I didn’t know what to say. I could understand, but comprehending… I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. She felt like I didn’t want to be her friend anymore, like I was keeping her around out of habit, or guilt. None of that was true. We still had lunch. I still invited her to yoga. I think part of her knew that. At the very least, she said she did.
“I don’t want you to think this is something you’ve done wrong.”
“These are my insecurities.”
“I just wanted you to know how I feel.”
Conversations like that hadn’t been part of my life since I was a kid. I didn’t really know that adult friendships could run so deep, could require any sorting out. We handled it as well as anybody could. Calm, supportive. There’s no point begrudging somebody their feelings, no benefit. If she felt I ought to know, I was glad she told me.
I don’t know how she explained things to Jesse. I know that the next day Jesse asked me what we talked about, and I kept it vague. I’d never been friends with two halves of a couple before. I never thought it would hurt anyone. “I guess I’ll be the one to back off,” Jesse wrote to me. “You were Madeleine’s friend first.” I guess I thought that meant she was friend dumping me.
I didn’t expect the text I got a few nights ago. Jesse wishes I would have fought for her friendship. That’s how she said it.
I don’t know how to explain this to Jesse, who was my friend until a couple of months ago, but isn’t now. I care about them both. But Jesse doesn’t understand a no-fault ending. She needs blame. She blames Madeleine for feeling threatened; she blames me for bailing. It was not my friendship to fight for. Wouldn’t fighting for that friendship have caused more friction in her relationship? And wouldn’t that friction have alienated them both from me and from each other at the same time? I mean, wouldn’t it?
I worry about Jesse more than Madeleine. Madeleine seems strong. I worry that she’ll start to second guess herself. I worry that she’s sitting home wondering if she knows how to be. I worry that she’ll turn out like me, constantly second guessing my perception of social queues. Jesse should not feel guilty for befriending me. She wanted to care about somebody Madeleine cared about. Jesse wanted them to share a life. Somehow, instead of forming a trio we formed two pairs. It was an accident. It wasn’t inherently wrong. It wasn’t wrong at all. This is just what happened. Madeleine should not feel guilty for her feelings; she should not blame them for the fallout. It takes courage to be honest about an emotion like that. She wasn’t in the wrong.
And okay, I feel guilty for stepping back, but I don’t think that I should. I never told Madeleine that Jesse and I no longer speak. The more complicated our dynamic became, the more every word I said felt like a betrayal. These days Madeleine and I barely see each other. My goal was simple: do the least harm possible.
There are times when nobody is at fault. I don’t have a silver lining for how it all went down. Staying away was the best way I knew how to be a friend to both of them. I hope we managed to walk away with their relationship intact. I want them to be happy. As for me, I’ve lost two friends. It still hurts, yeah. That’s a part of life. What I want to say when Jesse tells me she’s still hurting: It will be okay. These things happen. Things fall apart.