Ann and John were friends for more than 5 years, having been introduced by a mutual acquaintance. They got along well, shared common interests and belonged to a few of the same online groups. Over the years their relationship blossomed into a strong friendship but never anything of a romantic nature. Ann was happily married for many years and John was always the perfect gentleman. Even though separated by thousands of miles and never having actually met in person or talked on the phone, they got to know each other very well. They emailed and texted regularly, exchanged small but meaningful birthday and Christmas gifts and shared information they were not comfortable divulging to other people.
John enjoyed going for long walks and visiting different locations near his home; he also had a passion for photography and would often text Ann photos he took while walking. Ann thought the photos were some of the loveliest she’d ever seen and encouraged John to create a coffee table type photography book. He liked the idea and was pleased that Ann was enthusiastic about his photos. He was also extremely computer knowledgeable and could easily put a book like that together.
Ann wasn’t as computer literate as John and would frequently reach out to him whenever she ran into a technical problem; he was always happy to help, many times going above and beyond. He was not the least bit condescending and displayed a great amount of patience. He was the impetus behind getting her website set up and operational, something for which Ann was extremely grateful. She called him her ”answer man”.
They had their own points of view as well, of course; after all, no two people can always agree on everything but there were very few serious differences of opinion. In fact, one day after a rather meaningful email exchange, John admitted to Ann that she was probably his only friend. Reading that made her feel honored yet melancholy at the same time.
John seemed to be more patient and accepting than Ann. He took most things in stride, willing to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Ann, on the other hand, was the emotional sort who wore her heart on her sleeve. She had little patience for people who didn’t follow through on promises or who didn’t react the way she expected or wanted. Ann was a passionate woman and felt people should share her passion; that was unrealistic. She set herself up for falls more times than she cared to admit but old habits die hard.
As transcendent and meditative as John was, his Achilles Heel was criticism. He frequently felt people did not appreciate his work and accomplishments, often feeling overlooked or brushed aside. It was a real sore spot with him and he was quick to point out other people’s creative shortcomings. He would say to Ann “Look at that! Thirty-six ‘likes’ for that pathetic piece of rubbish!” Ann commiserated with John but kept her comments to a minimum. She believed John needed a sounding board; he was making a point but wasn’t really looking for validation from her.
Sometimes Ann agreed with John that he wasn’t being treated fairly but she couldn’t help picking up on an underlying jealousy on his part. There were those awkward times when Ann felt John’s work simply wasn’t as good as he thought it was but she kept her critiques to herself for the sake of their friendship. John did not appreciate being criticized and would probably get in a snit if Ann started pointing out where his work fell short or in what ways it could have been better.
However, one day a great difference of opinion developed between John and Ann about one of their groups and she took it very personally. In truth, she had every right to take it personally and made no bones about it. She let John know how upset she was, saying he had no business doing what he did. Yes, she was quite vociferous about her disappointment and didn’t try to hide her anger. The issue dealt with one of their online groups; Ann felt John acted impetuously and went behind her back. In fairness to Ann, she tried to soften the accusatory blow by telling John she considered him a man of honor, one who normally would not behave in such a manner. That was not pandering on her part; it was the truth. Ann never thought John would do what he did without consulting her (or anyone) first.
Ann probably tried a little too hard to get John to understand why she was so upset. After a couple of texts to John, he responded with two GIFs – a mountain and a mole peeking up through its hill of dirt – which Ann took as an attempt at humor on John’s part. She thought John was trying to put the incident behind them and she responded with an emoji of herself giggling over the mountain/molehill images. Apparently she was mistaken; clearly John didn’t want to read any more explanations and the GIFs were more of a reproach than an attempt to make nice.
That’s when the unexpected 180 happened. Just like David Copperfield, John disappeared and Ann didn’t hear a word from him again.
In the blink of an eye all communication from John came to a screeching halt. Over the course of the next ten days Ann reached out to John three times; the first two messages were short texts asking if he was okay since she hadn’t heard from him. The third text Ann sent was more direct; she made her concerns known and asked if perhaps he was not feeling well, was busier than usual or was annoyed with her. After that message, John finally replied with a curt response which loudly implied “You assaulted me with your diatribe. I wonder why I bother doing the work I do. If you want to take over the group, it’s all yours.”
Translation: “I’ve had it and I’m outta here.”
Ann was stunned and wrote back apologizing to John, asking him to please write to her, clear the air, try to get things back to ‘normal’. She truly made every effort to salvage their friendship; her text was sincere and heartfelt and she hoped John would consider a reconciliation. He never responded.
Ann is no fool. She is a smart, savvy and intuitive woman; there was more to this than met the eye. Yes, she knew John had recently had an unusual amount of upheaval in his life but his reaction was beyond the pale; truth be told, he was not the only one going through upsets. Ann had some troublesome health issues which weighed heavily on her; they clouded her judgment and made her short-tempered. But to allow a once viable and congenial relationship filled with thought-provoking conversations, many laughs and good times disintegrate overnight was a shame and the way it was handled was wrong.
Ann has recently come to grips with the incident and has found closure in her own inimitable way. One thing she is quite certain of is she was a ‘scapegoat’ of sorts, a means for John to get out of the group; their friendship was collateral damage. She believed John was capable of many things but completely erasing five years from both their lives and destroying a wonderful friendship was something she would never understand. How does someone do that?
What a surprising and unpleasant turn of events. What a shame.
NAR © 2022