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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Bad Friend


I don’t know how to tell this story. All I know is that it won’t be funny. It’s not funny. This morning, at 3:30 AM, Andrea woke me up saying,

“Maggie. Sean Caulfield passed away.”

“What? How?”

“I don’t know. I got a message from Mallory.”

Oh Mallory. She broke that guys heart and he survived that – the two coming back together as friends. It turns out that he didn’t survive meningitis. Meningitis. There are so many stupid ways your life can be cut short. My favorite TV show ever was Six Feet Under and each episode would open with a death – mundane or unusual. A long life or one cut short. Each of these people would make their way to the Fisher and Sons Funeral Home.

Later this morning, I received another message of Sean’s passing. It seemed more real at 1030 AM than it did at 330 AM. 330 AM news can be dismissed as a bad dream.

I met Sean 20 years ago when we were both in our 20s and working for Hearthstone Alzheimer Care. At least a lifetime ago. Each of us different people than we are today.

This sounds as if I’m a good friend. Only I’m not. I wasn’t. I’m bad at friendships. I let people fall away or go. And that’s what I did with Sean. I remember the last call he made to me – I can’t recall when this was but I still remember where I was when I declined his call. I was on vacation, walking into a restaurant with Andrea. He left a voice mail. I never called him back. I wasn’t mad at him. No hard feelings. I was just moving in this different direction. Which apparently was apart. There are a few other details that I’m not going to get into here because it doesn’t even matter. Especially not now.

I’ve kept tabs on him – I knew he was in Scotland. Maybe that’s what his VM said? I can’t remember. I do this and I can’t tell you why I do this. And now, he’s gone and I feel I could have been a better friend. Did I tell him how talented I thought his writing was? I think so. Did I tell him how much he helped me in my own path to and on sobriety? Mmmm. I think yes. I’m almost sure of that. Almost.

I’m the queen of acquaintances. I have over 600 of them on Facebook. Facebook calls them friends. I call some of them friends too. Only I am a shitty friend. Right now, there is this situation in our life that’s akin to Andrea and I having been handed a gift. A surprise. And we’re pulling the crumpled tissue paper out to understand it and to see what it is – to understand what we’ve just been handed. And I was thinking about this situation and thinking, “Who can I call to talk about this?” And not a single fucking person came to mind. I’ve paid co-pays for the pleasure of sitting on a couch at a therapist’s office simply to unpack life’s proverbial surprises. I often feel I’m one person away from being a hermit – and that one person is Andrea. Mostly, this isn’t a reflection on anyone other than myself. I’m not writing this so people will tell me the contrary. I’m nothing if not self-aware.

So now there’s this funeral on the horizon and I’d feel like an disingenuous asshole if I showed and will look like an asshole if I don’t.

Today, as I drove in my car, I thought, “Well. Let’s pretend everyone’s going to die tomorrow. What should you do today?” No answer came to mind.

I often write to make sense of things and there’s no making sense of this. No making it right.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves


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