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Are We Not Talking Now?

There’s nothing quite like the enduring awkwardness of frequently interacting with someone with whom you’ve had a messily romantic past, even if the romance was one-sided. Particularly when there were never any specific parameters discussed or arranged — often leading to questions such as “Are we not talking anymore?” or “Can I sit near-ish you still?” and “Damn, can you give me back that $10 I lent you and maybe that lighter?”

At the start of the semester, I had a brief, but relatively intense, relationship that end us still sharing a class for the remainder of the semester. We parted on good, though nevertheless awkward, terms. I remember as I left his house for the final time before that oh-so classic bittersweet goodbye kiss, asking, “So, what, we’re going to…stop seeing each other socially and just sit next to each other in class two days a week as…friends?”

“Yeah,” he said solemnly, fully convicted that this was in no way a bad idea. “We’re still totally friends.”

We did sit in class together, work on group assignments, share notes when we skipped lectures, all the things that friends did. We even tried to socialize outside of school stuff — or, at least, I did. One awkward hookah seemed to be enough for him, and he called sick on our next planned venture of dinner at a local Greek diner. I got the message. We were for realsies no longer anything but classroom buddies.

Can you maintain some semblance of a friendship following broken relationships of a more romantic nature? “We can still be friends!” The most cliché, over-used line in break-up history, only surpassed by “it’s not you, it’s me.” (I was a lucky duck and heard both in at the end of my early spring semester fling). Is it ever true? Is it even possible?

Personally, I’ve never had anyone stick around in my life long enough to find out. If the break-up wasn’t so messy as to send the other person into complete and utter radio silence, then the progression of life simply kept us apart — graduation, moving, or drifting friend groups meant that those I had once dated seemed to gracefully fade from my circle. The last time I tried (before this spring), we quickly fell back into old patterns, our usual rut, and less than a month later had our biggest (and final) falling out that established a solid brick wall of silence for over six straight months. Something that, in retrospect, we both needed.

I’d like to think that it is possible to build a descent friendship from the pieces of a broken relationship. After all, that person held a special place in your life, and, provided things were not too messy, could prove to be a loyal, arm’s-length sort of friend. Maybe I am just being a naive idealist here, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep those people that were once so dear to us at least kind of close?

At the very least, I should think that a termination of a relationship shouldn’t automatically result in icing a person out. Civil conversation isn’t too tough to carry on, even between people that loath each other — diplomats, world leaders, and politicians do it every day. You’re smarter than them. Surely you can carry a bit of ho-hum small talk over the weather or some other irrelevant bullshit. You’ll feel like a better person for it — even if the bastard did skip out on getting gyros with you.

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