I learned a lot about being a friend when I was alone.
Crowded rooms are consistently the most complicated and lonely places to find oneself. Standing alone while clusters of your former friends close themselves off to you is more painful than comprehensible. You lose basic knowledge of how to stand comfortably, of what to do with your hands, of how to breathe steadily. Everything becomes foreign and all others tower over you with glances of discomfort, judgement, and the slightest pity. Never enough pity to truly care, though. Only enough to make them feel better about themselves. The noise of their voices may be loud but nothing is as deafening as the silence you feel.
Fair weather friends mask themselves behind insincere comfort and Hallmark card “hello”‘s. When you need them most, they will say their pities and disappear as if they never heard you speak. They will invite you into their lives when they need something, whether it be comfort, a punchline, pity, or shelter. They will take all you are willing to give but they will never need you. They will claim you as their closest companion when your name has radiating sun but the minute it makes hostile headlines, they vanish. They join the echoes of those who never really knew you, you never truly cared, all speaking simultaneously out of turn.
People talk and people talk a lot. Your name will fill their cheeks and find its way into sentences it never belonged in. It will become a punchline and a slur, echoed in every shady joke and sarcastic remark, said even by those whom previously professed their loyalty and amicable bond to you. Hallways become choirs filled with whispers, all coming to a halt as you pass and resuming once they see your heels. There is no pride in this, no way to keep your head high or act as if you can’t feel your lungs collapsing in on you. There is just walking. Walking through and through and through until you are home and can collapse in peace, sitting on the shower floor and finding serenity as for once, everything else is obsolete and the water on your skin is all you can feel.
People like to turn others into villains. It’s seen as a black and white film, the audience watching from afar, laughing at pain and speculating kind intentions. People trespass on other people’s lives, peering in through boarded up windows and crawling through broken fences. They only see distorted truths and hear partial words, all out of context but they take them as the whole. They don’t pause to process what was said or consider hearing the opposing position. What they hear from their hero is gospel.
When you don’t speak, others speak for you. They speak of untruths and disgusting perjuries, painting you into someone you have never known. People create an image of you that is so far from reality yet nobody questions the distortion. This new version of you will become every reason anything falls apart, things completely unrelated to you. People will forget the reality of your green eyes and only know the steel, grey ones that have been coated over. No matter how hard you try to be seen, the calumnies cloud their vision and you remain an image of fabricated toxicity. People suffer sequaciousness and will follow other’s thoughts until they must be carried. The only way to be known for yourself rather than some twisted fictional villain is to move and to move far, far away.
Real friends can be found in constellations, in the hallways you always passed but never really saw. They are found in an old lover’s newest fatality and in shared playlists. They will share the concept of middle names being preferred and the undying love of watercolors. They will see your eyes and know the truth behind them. They will stand behind you as you begin to fall and remind you how to exhale when you find yourself suffocating. You will see them in people you barely know and they will see you with more clarity than those who have known you for years. It will feel foreign but will feel revolutionizing. It will be a mental metamorphosis and you will bloom.
The world looks far different when you’re looking at it through your eyes and your eyes alone, no lenses from another or spotlights on sins. It’s clearer, cleaner, crisper. It may be harsher and not nearly as rosy, but it’s breathable. The sky may be pouring but the rain is cleansing. Looking at things through your own untampered perspective is revolutionizing, especially when your whole live you’ve lived with someone else’s eyes right beside yours.
If I have learned anything, I’ve learned it is far better to be alone in a crowded room than to be surrounded by those who speak your name like it’s a sin.
Beautiful Arden. I have felt many of these feelings. Thank you for putting them into words.