Transmodiar recently did something for me that I really appreciated.
My favourite actress... has not always been my favourite actress. It's a title, not a person; different people have held it. Before the incumbent, there was someone else. A friend who was also my favourite actress. I'll call her... Emma Stone. (She's not Emma Stone.) Emma Stone lived about an hour and a half away from my city. I'd regularly drive to visit her to have dinner and spend the evening talking about the art of acting, which, as a socially awkward man, I really benefit from hearing about. Then I'd come home.
Emma Stone was one of my favourite people and I was very proud of and grateful for our friendship and I lived for when I got to see her. In 2019, she had to cancel a lot of our evenings due to some family obligations and work emergencies, but it was alright -- she was going to be in my city that summer to perform her show. Also, she'd said I could build her website for her new show and I was excited to get a new portfolio piece (although I was going to ask her boyfriend, a brilliant graphic designer, to make the posters and animations).
I knew would see her soon enough. I looked forward to it. And I accepted her cancellations because I knew I'd see her when she was in town. I didn't see her when she was in town; she told me she'd make plans with me, texted me when she got into town to say we'd make plans, then promptly ignored every message I sent asking her when was free.
I didn't think anything of it; she was busy, we had two weeks. But when she had four days left before she left town, I asked her to please pick a time. She picked one. Then she withdrew it, saying she was busy. She said maybe it would be easier to do a group hang on the Friday before she left town. I said that'd be fine, where and when? She promptly did not answer.
I got a message from her on her second-last day in town. It was a list of the plays she planned to see before she flew out. She said I could see them with her. I reviewed the list and determined that if I went to any of them, it would be only for the dubious privilege of sitting next to her in the dark in silence; she would be moving to the next venue so urgently that we'd never have any conversation. I said no. I think this was the exact moment when I realized this friendship was over.
But I did review her schedule and arrange for us to 'accidentally' run into each other shortly before she left town. She asked me if I was enjoying the festival. I ignored the question and told her that I'd let her know when her website was ready. Then I got the hell out of there.
Emma Stone sent me a message saying she was sorry, that she'd been distracted during her time in town, that her brain had been such a mess she could not plan anything. She said it was hard because she was in town to work and her boyfriend and cousin had been staying with her in her rented accommodation during the festival and they had all wanted time with her. She said that she knew it felt like our friendship no longer mattered to her and she promised it wasn't true.
I told her it was fine. But it wasn't fine.
She told me she would like to make plans when she was back from her tour and I said that would be fine too. But it wasn't fine. I knew even as I said things were fine that I could never sign up again for another two weeks of wondering why I wasn't worth a half-hour or a text to let me know it wasn't happening. Wondering why a supposed friend thought it was alright to have me wait for her right up to the day after she left town.
I built the site for her new play and began reviewing candidates for a new favourite actress. Because while I strike out regularly and hilariously on romantic dates, I do really well with platonic female friendship. Women have always treated me as one of the girls. (This is also part of why I strike out so often on dates.) If I needed a female friend to hang out with me to talk about acting and Emma Stone couldn't be counted on to show, well, there were plenty of people who'd be up for taking her spot, and they'd put in the minimum effort to keep it. There would be at least thirty or forty applicants.
(Alright, FINE. There were three.)
I identified someone suitably chatty, eccentric and talented. I will refer to her as Felicia Day. (It's not Felicia Day.) I asked her if she would like to be my sexlessly platonic friend with whom I'd have long dinners to talk about the art of acting before going home (separately).
I said I also really liked how she would let me know when she was busy fundraising or rehearsing or needed time with her boyfriend and wouldn't be available for anywhere from 3 - 90 days, how she sometimes asked me for help with projects and would be silent and unconversational but also clear that it was a work request and not a social call but that there would be a social activity within 5 - 25 business days. I said I saw our relationship being that of adoptive sisters like Kara and Alex Danvers on SUPERGIRL.
"That would really work for me," said Felicia.
I sent Emma Stone her website credentials, hosting and back-end passwords and a lengthy instruction manual so that I would never have to work with her to make any updates or changes to her website afterwards when she finished the play it was to promote and might want to change it to promote another. I directed her to change the passwords and assured her she could do all the updates alone. I'd felt indebted to her even after everything; I told myself that my debt was settled.
Emma Stone texted me to say she'd be in town for another theatre festival and would I like to make plans to see her? I wrote back Jesus no, that I wasn't putting myself through another round of waiting for someone who wasn't coming, that I'd chosen somebody else to be my platonic favourite actress friend, and that I was sure she'd be fine without my friendship seeing as she was obviously in demand and had her boyfriend and her family and plenty of important friends who were apparently worth her time and that she would clearly thrive with or without me in her life and also that the hosting on her website was paid up for the next two years.
Emma Stone sent me a response. A text message. It was very long. I did not read it. I was afraid to. Perhaps her text would be aggressive and cruel (although I've never known her to be), perhaps it would be gentle and kind -- but I knew it wouldn't make me feel better and I declined to look at it except on occasion with my glasses off. I'd then close the text without reading it and every time I did that, it felt like savagery, like violence, like slamming a fist into someone's face.
I kept thinking I'd read it when I wasn't busy, when I had time to be hurt and paralyzed -- but I finally realized that there was never going to be a good time for that kind of grief.
Finally, I told Transmodiar everything. I told him of how this was weighing on me still. Making me sad over a year after the original incident. I told him that the unread text message was haunting me. I felt like I had to read it eventually, but I would never want to. And I asked him to give me permission to delete the text unread, to never look at it, and to let it take up no more of my life or the flash memory on my phone.
I give you permission.
It's been months of radio silence on both your parts. No point in ripping the scab off the wound if you don't intend to revisit the situation. You've got a new friend. Invest that time and energy on them.
I know how it goes, but when you get to my age you just accept that people flow in and out of your life, and there's no use investing anxiety and concern on people who aren't around any more.
I deleted the message. Along with all of Emma Stone's previous messages. Because Transmodiar said I could. He gave me permission to let go of all the exhaustion and loss and frustration and dented self-worth and anxious confusion and seething exasperation. He reminded me that I had places to be, people who were waiting on me, obligations to uphold and a lot reasons to put all this in the ground, leave it behind and move forward.
You'll get shit done -- and you also have a bunch of weird friends in your weird orbit. You're a weird guy with weird friends and it's wonderful -- you're going to be fine.