Some people are the perfect lunch partner. Your relationship exists within the blissful confines of a scheduled meal wherein you can catch up on where the other person is working and who they’re fucking. They’ve been in your life a long time. They were with you the first time you got drunk and threw up all over your mom’s car. They knew every detail of your high school relationship, your first love or whatever. At one point in time, you didn’t have to schedule something every few months to inform them of the happenings of your life because they were with you as it was actually going on.
But things change. You know this. I know this. That’s the way life goes. Friends slowly lose their relevancy and it’s a sad thing. They become a casualty of time (or lack thereof) and the only way to keep them on is to have these lunches, to have these talks when you can feel close again for a moment. It leaves a little ache in your stomach, a little feeling of “We’re getting older. Fuck me,” but overall these lunches are positive and necessary. Wouldn’t you agree? Yes, I thought so.
I’m not really here to talk about the people you can get lunch with. I’m here to talk about the other ones, the people who you’re incapable of sitting down with over some iced tea and club sandwiches on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon and talk about romances and career goals and the weather. These are the people who meant the most to you and now they have to mean nothing. There’s no other choice. These are the people you can have no in-between with. Maybe it’s because you loved them too much at one time and they didn’t love you enough. Maybe they acted as your second family until something horrible happened that split an irrevocable line down the middle. I’m talking about the first person you were able to love and adore or the first best friend who acted as the peanut butter to your jelly. These kinds of relationships can’t have a subtle dissolve. The passing of time can’t chip away at the relationship with precision, until one day you wake up and realize it’s been reduced to bits of chalk. If that were the case, you could have lunch with them and try to salvage things. After all, there had been no blunt trauma. You had been asleep when the friendship turned to mush. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. You can resuscitate it over a series of meetings. There’s hope.
If it were only that easy for every relationship that got away from you. The people you’ll never be able to have lunch with are the ones that didn’t have a happy ending. They exploded right in front of you and caused a loss of appetite, a night of heavy drinking, a regrettable exchange of words. The key difference here is blame. The dissolution of a monumental relationship always carries blame. It has to. Who wants to take responsibility for the death of something so special? Oh, you wish you could pinpoint it on something vague. Maybe something like conflicting schedules, new significant other, change of location. But this isn’t possible with the people that once defined your life. Something nasty has to have expunged them from your life. Otherwise, wouldn’t they still be there?
Let’s say you did have lunch with this person. What would happen? I’ll tell you. You would meet them somewhere neutral on a day that was unseasonably warm and make sure you looked your absolute best. When you saw them from far away, your stomach would instantly drop into a puddle on the floor of the restaurant. It would stare back at you, now separated from your body, and say, “Why the fuck did you do this? You knew it would kill me. You knew I would be lying here on the floor the second you saw them. Put me back into your body!”
During the lunch, you order salad and don’t eat it. You struggle to talk about anything with the person who once was your everything. It won’t be easy. Watching the people pass by with their friends and lovers in front of the restaurant having their moment together, it would become clear that that kind of moment no longer belongs to you and this person. Looking at their face would be too unsettling so you’d spend an inordinate amount of time stirring the sugar into your drink and watching it fade. Once that’s finished, you’d have to fixate on someone else in the restaurant. Maybe a little boy who’s screaming for food or an attractive young professional. Everything they would say to you would sound like static except for one thing: “Let’s get the check.” When you leave, you’d pick up your exasperated stomach from the floor and try to push it back in. It might not fit right for the next hour or so.
See? I told you. You can’t get lunch with these sorts of people. It’ll be like picking a scab that’s about to heal. Some endings are more painful than others and far more permanent. It’s hard to settle for a lightweight lunch-filled relationship when it used to be so much more than that. But like I said, that’s the way life goes. You know this. I know this. Check, please.