For the next three Tuesdays, I will be sharing the story of my friendship with P. and the ways she continues to affect and even haunt me, now that she is gone. Because her story is one of pain and sadness, I will protect her identity by simply calling her P. This is the second in a four part series. Here is Part One: Meeting and Becoming Friends with P.
Part Two: Growing Up and Growing Apart
P. and I kept in touch by meeting a few times in person and through e-mail because after I got married we lived 7 hours away from one another. I got busy with work and trying to earn tenure, all while juggling a demanding department chair who got mad if I didn’t share her tuna fish sandwich at lunch. P. pursued a nursing degree.
After I had my first child in 2004, we lost touch. We were each busy and just didn’t stay in contact as frequently, but there had been no splinter in our friendship. Our friendship was a good one, and after a period of not talking because of the busyness of life, we could simply pick up where we left off as if no time had passed.
Unexpected, Sad News
When I reconnected with her two years later via e-mail, in 2006, I discovered that her mother had passed away in 2005. She had had breast cancer and was getting her very last chemo treatment when she had an allergic reaction to the chemo and died.
The loss seemed crueler because the chemo had eradicated the cancer, but in the end, P.’s mother still lost her life. P. was very close to her, so I knew she must have felt the loss of her mother deeply.
It was much more deeply than I had ever imagined.
She recounted having panic attacks after her mother’s death and having to step down from her demanding job as a nurse supervisor. I tried to call her rather than talk about such sensitive topics over e-mail, but I always got her answering machine. After awhile, she no longer responded to my e-mails, and I worried that I had hurt her by not contacting her personally about her mother’s death (though I had tried!).
While we were no longer in contact, I never lost hope of speaking with her again. I searched for her sometimes on Google, and in 2008, I saw on a public document (that should have been private) that she had been disciplined at work and was asked to go through a rehab program. At the time, I thought she must have developed a drinking problem. She did drink in college, and after the loss of her mother, I feared she had turned to alcohol to comfort herself.
Little did I know the problem went much deeper than that.
That year I discovered that she had joined Facebook, and I tried to contact her that way, to no avail. I even e-mailed her husband, whom I had never met, and at his insistence, she friended me on Facebook, but it did me no good. I never heard from her, and she didn’t even write on Facebook.
A few months after she friended me, I saw that her husband had written on her Facebook wall, “I don’t want to confuse your feelings, but I made my decision because it is best for both of us.” When I saw his location change to a southern state, I knew they had broken up only two years after they were married.
We live in a world where you can search for someone via the Internet while sitting in your living room. You can learn that something is wrong, perhaps terribly wrong, as P.’s discipline report online and her husband’s post on her Facebook wall warned me. I just didn’t know what was wrong, and I didn’t know how to contact her. I could see her through the veil of the Internet, but she was just as unreachable as if I knew nothing about her.
Come back next Tuesday for Part Three.