For the longest time, the biggest mystery of my life was, “Why does Anaid hate me?”
The question literally haunted my dreams. Sometimes we were friends again, sometimes not.
“Babe… Babe!” I would nudge Mr. D in the middle of the night, and he would roll over in a fog of delirium.
“Why does Anaid hate me?”
He would kiss me and tell me to go back to sleep, and eventually I would, but the question always lingered. Mostly because, what the fuck?
I watched a lot of Murder She Wrote as a kid, and I feel like I’m good at putting clues together. But when I dissect the anatomy of our friendship and breakup, nothing makes sense.
Anaid and I became friends in high school. Bus buddies. I remember the first time I saw her, I thought, “Is she Indian, too?” And then, “Is she prettier than me?”
She was Puerto Rican, and yes, she was prettier than me. She was prettier than everyone. She was the Kelly Kapowski of our nerdy math-and-science school, although we didn’t have a Zach Morris. We had a Clifford the Big Red Dog. And he was sweet and geeky, with bad skin and a handsome face he hadn’t quite grown into.
They were great together, voted Class Couple in our senior yearbook, although, of course they were. Nobody else came close.
I never knew their relationship well. Looking back, did I even know our friendship?
One afternoon, we devoured a bunch of cupcakes on her kitchen counter, and the next morning she told me her sister had baked them for her classroom. We laughed the whole way to school. I think that was freshman year.
We went on a double date sophomore year: Anaid and Clifford; Mr. D and I. We watched Foolish, and to this day, I think that’s our claim to fame: that we might be the only four people on earth to have seen this movie. I’m pretty sure it was good, too, but I don’t really know. I only remember how Mr. D placed popcorn on his shirt, so that rather than having to reach into the bag, I could touch him in a way I never had before, an innocent intimacy that even now, 17 years later, makes me smile. We never kissed or went on another date in high school, and that was okay. Anaid and Clifford stayed together for years.
Junior year, she and I worked on a “History Day” assignment with Turtle, another bus buddy, who left our one (and only) study session to ease our hunger pangs with Keebler Club crackers and white American cheese. The following week, when we had to “perform” our sketch (it was my brilliant idea to do a dramatic interpretation on the fallout of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung), Anaid hid behind the curtains and recited all of the lines for Turtle and me to parrot to our teachers. It was such a shitshow and one of our favorite things to laugh about years later, always in awe of the fact that we didn’t fail.
We were moody, broody teenage girls who loved commiserating, obsessing, and singing 90s R&B. We dreamed of dancing like strippers in a high school talent show.
“68’ll be my code; if you ’bout it, girl, let’s roll; told you was no limit cause tonight anything goes.”
We loved Master P, but what did we know about any of that?
I knew nothing. I’m not sure when exactly Anaid started to know. She was very elusive about her sex life.
Turtle ended up dating some girl in high school, losing his virginity to her at junior prom, and I remember this only because Anaid freaked out. Didn’t speak to Turtle for months, maybe years. Nobody knew why. She once said it was because she and Clifford were waiting and she felt disappointed in Turtle for not making the same choice, and I remember thinking, “Who made you goddess of other people’s morality?” I don’t know if I said that out loud. And I’m not sure I ever fully believed her.
Anaid and Clifford broke up in college, right around the time I met Oric. He was a handsome, controlling, condescending Republican, and I was smitten. I married him at 22. Anaid was in my wedding. Minutes before the ceremony, she held up my wedding dress as I squatted over the toilet, saving me from what would have otherwise been the most mortifying moment of my life.
She had come with Mr. D, as friends. I hadn’t seen him in years—had invited him at the very last minute, in fact—but he showed up and handed me a fat envelope stuffed with 25 twenty dollar bills. He caught the garter at the end of the reception.
I knew marriage was a mistake but I made it anyway. At the time, I was commuting by train to Philly and had developed an intense crush on a fellow passenger. “I would sleep with him in a minute,” I thought, and separated from Oric soon after.
I divorced at 24 because life decisions shouldn’t be made by people who know nothing about life. I started hanging out with friends again. With Mr. D. With Anaid. She had been seeing someone in secret, speaking of him only by his nickname, Slick. We all assumed it was Turtle.
“Are you fucking kidding me,” I’d prod. “If it’s not Turtle, who else could it be?”
She was adamant. She wouldn’t say. It was just someone who would “complicate” some of their shared friendships, though when she finally admitted the worst-kept secret, it became obvious that she liked Turtle. A lot. It was in the way she spoke of him, in the future she never explicitly described but somehow always palpably seemed to desire.
I was seeing Mr. D around then. Off and on. We had our own drama and baggage and were definitely off the night Anaid asked me to come to the bar with her and Turtle. It was a Thursday, and Thursday nights at this particular bar were always good for stories to last through the following week.
That evening, I happened to be in Turtle’s neighborhood at some “buy my overpriced cheese and crackers” party. Afterwards, I walked to his door to head out, but he wanted to meet a fraternity brother at another bar first, and that was fine by me. Anaid was notoriously late for everything. My phone was dying by then, so I never texted her, and my thoughts quickly vanished the minute I spotted my train crush, sitting on the opposite side of the bar. We smiled, we waved. I walked over and we had our very first conversation. He was nice and I would have left with him in a heartbeat, but I didn’t.
I left with Turtle, and we headed to the Thursday night spot, and as I walked in the door, I saw Anaid, drunk and furious. I was a horrible friend for standing her up at the bar. It was my fault that she had gotten so drunk, so quickly. There may have been other words exchanged; I can’t remember.
She stopped speaking to me. Would not answer the phone or respond to a text.
Her father was sick at the time, and part of me wondered if that was the reason for her distance. (As the Great Gazoo tells Peter Griffin, “It’s not always about you, fat man.”)
After about a week or so, I did the only thing I possibly could. I drove to her house, stalker-friend style. As an apology, I brought my ratty but oddly suggestive t-shirt from Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream. SLIC. It featured a dripping cone and the words “You deserve a good lickin’.”
I handed it over and we walked around her block and she told me she felt I was too demanding a friend. She didn’t want to be coerced into this conversation, she said, and she didn’t want to write me off, but she also didn’t quite know how to explain or articulate her feelings.
I drove home with no answers, and we stopped speaking completely after that.
About a month later, she unfriended me on Facebook; odder still, so did her mom.
When I would see her at the bar from time to time, her face dripped with unexplained vitriol. Loathing that stemmed from deep within her core. Like I had taken her man and murdered her dog.
“Oh my God,” I would say to Mr. D or whichever mutual friend witnessed these weird exchanges. “She fucking hates me.”
Nobody seemed to know why. I once saw her sister at the bar, years later, and even she didn’t know. “Yeah, I never really understood what happened there,” she told me.
It was the Great Mystery Of My Life. Why does Anaid hate me?
Seven years later, I still don’t know. And she now works one row and five cubicles away.
For about the first year at my job, she continued her signature “if looks could kill” glances.
She once opened the bathroom door as I was walking out, and when the door hit me in the face, she smirked.
She either ignored me or showered me in stank face, making it abundantly clear that she wanted nothing to do with me. Eventually, I stopped caring. Not completely, but more than I ever thought I would. She no longer haunts my dreams, though I sometimes want to walk up and say, “Isn’t the universe funny? Don’t you think we work together for a reason?” Or “What the fuck is your deal? Can’t we squash this? Isn’t it exhausting to hate me?”
I’m lying. I still care. Maybe because it’s so unresolved. Because breakups, even among friends, especially among friends, should come with explanations.
Or maybe it’s my own ego-driven disbelief. You hate me? How is that possible?
I only reached out to her once, last August, in an email, in which I included a link to a research study that found “the single best predictor of well-being was gratitude.”
“This post reminded me of your yearbook quote,” I wrote. “It remains one of the smartest and best things I’ve ever read, and it’s something I try and remember every day.”
I added a bit more, just a few lines saying that I’d love to hear more about her life and tell her about mine, and that this note was my open invitation for lunch or coffee.
She never responded, and I doubt she ever will.
But I hope she’s found the future she once dreamed of, that the words she immortalized next to her senior year picture have come true.
That she’s “living a wonderful life and knows it.”