I was 18 and a college freshman when Roni W.* and I met. She was 28 and had a master’s degree, but was in a career crisis. She no longer wanted to teach, which is how she wound up working at the same dive bar I did. We were different in many ways, not the least of which was that my family background was fractured. When we met, I’d just aged out of foster care. Roni’s family was stable and solidly upper-middle-class. But because we were both at a crossroads in our lives, we bonded on a deep emotional level, doing everything together that best friends do. We shopped, partied, cried and dreamed—and at alternating moments, we saved each other.
When I decided to leave school to make more money working full-time, it was Roni who pushed me not to, reminding me that getting a bachelor’s degree had been my goal. With her encouragement, I reenrolled in school and completed my studies. And I still remember the night I stayed with her because she was too scared to be alone when she told her parasitic boyfriend he had to leave their apartment.
Over five years, we shared every aspect of our lives. But then Roni’s life went in a new direction. While still working at the bar, she’d begun building a career as an advertising sales rep. Then she fell in love and became engaged. Eventually, we stopped speaking every day, and when we did talk her voice was distant. Roni was definitely too busy to see me as much as she had before. When I confronted her about it, she suggested I was imagining things.
By the time she wed, we weren’t best friends anymore, although she claimed we were and said we’d be friends forever. It wasn’t true. Roni moved to the West Coast and we lost touch. I was 23 by then, and the excruciating pain I felt at losing her friendship—which brought back —lasted for years and was worse than any pain I felt after breakups with men.
*Names of subjects have been changed to protect their privacy.