I thought Robin was the coolest person I’d ever met.
We liked the same music, bands like Bauhaus and Joy Division. Her knowledge of 80s Brit Pop far surpassed mine, and I fell in love with every new band she recommended. Robin loved antique stores and Goodwill, always knowing where to find the treasures in piles and piles of clothes. Her humor was sharp and dark. I could tell her the most horrible jokes, and she’d laugh heartily at everything. She was never shocked and usually said something in response that was equally messed up. I absolutely loved her for it.
I could say anything in the world to Robin without fear, telling her all my secrets and dreams. She kept them safe within her giant heart. I’d go to her house when our husbands weren’t home so we could watch shows like Nurse Jackie in peace. Sometimes I’d go just to sit on her couch for a while, my body wracked with anxiety and unable to define what was happening to me. She listened. She hugged. She didn’t judge.
During our times as friends, Robin gave birth to a little boy. When I was at my saddest, I’d hold her baby for hours. He was like a human Xanax, instantly melting my stress away. She never asked for him back unless he needed something, and then she placed him again straight into my arms. Holding him cleared my head and reminded me that life was a gift. I thought Robin was a gift, too. She helped me through so many hard times I never thought I’d survive.
People thought it was weird that Robin and I were friends. After all, we’d each married the same man, her before me. It seemed the world thought we should be enemies. We were determined to prove everyone wrong.
Robin was the ex-wife of my new husband. He told me she was insane and abusive, but he introduced me to her before we got married as if he was proud of her. He’d told me stories when we first dated of her being on drugs and crazy. I think he was still in love with her then if not always. When he knew he would see her, he spent hours in front of the mirror grooming himself to look “perfect.” He told me he wanted to rub in Robin’s face what a great husband she’d lost. I had my own ex-husband before him, and I didn’t remember caring what I looked like when I saw him. The whole thing seemed strange.
My friend wasn’t any of the things my husband said she was. She was a sweet loving woman who welcomed me warmly into her life. We went shopping and out to lunch, paying for each other when one of us didn’t have money. Her jokes dissolved me into a fit of giggles. We chatted about everything, and I valued her opinions. She was smart and thoughtful. It made me proud to call Robin my closest friend even if she was the only friend I had.
Things quickly went sour in my marriage. It didn’t take long before I realized my husband was a narcissist and a manipulator. I left him about four months after we tied the knot, but he made me feel guilty and told me I wouldn’t be able to function without him. When I failed at managing my life on my own, I went back to him with my tail between my legs. I’d leave him six more times before it finally stuck. He left me with no sense of who I was anymore. I was a constantly anxious bundle of misery.
At least I had Robin to talk to about it. Who would be better than somebody who experienced it for herself from the same man? She told me how tough their divorce had been, complete with stalking and violence and restraining orders. I was grateful that she “got it” and didn’t berate me for the times I was weak and went back to him. She knew how hard it was to get away from him and the mental toll of trying. She showed me a box of letters he’d written to her, desperate love letters to get her to stay with him. It was all so familiar. I couldn’t get past the first letter, my grief too severe over my failed marriage.
Robin helped me with apartment hunting almost every time I left him. She’d take me to her favorite antique stores to buy furniture for my new place, both of us hopeful that my nightmare of a marriage was over. I always disappointed her when it didn’t work out and I went back to my husband, but she never let it affect our friendship. She supported me no matter what.
I finally divorced my husband in the spring of 2014. Robin helped me file the paperwork for a restraining order against him. It was clear he wouldn’t leave me alone whether or not we were married. He still popped up everywhere in person and online to harass and threaten me. The man who started out so charming became a monster who I battled with nearly every day. It didn’t matter if I blocked him or avoided him. He wasn’t going away.
My best friend was there through it all. We made jokes about him to lighten the mood and bashed him at every opportunity. Robin and I were both grateful that our friendship survived him. He tried to get us to hate each other, but it never worked. Our connection was too strong by then, and I thought nothing could ever break it.
My ex-husband died out of the blue a year later. He was fooling around on the railroad tracks and got hit by a moving train. It killed him instantly. When I shared the bad news with Robin, I heard her drop the phone out of her hand. It sounded like she was sobbing as she handed the phone to her husband. She came back on the line only to tell me she couldn’t talk anymore. I felt confused by her intense grief. She’d hated him ever since I’d known her. Even though his death was sad and shocking, at least the harassment was over. Why didn’t Robin feel the same way?
She began to “ghost” me after that. She’d answer my messages with only one or two words. She didn’t call me when she woke up in the mornings like we’d been doing for years. I wondered what I did wrong, but was too afraid to ask her. Robin was such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t imagine it without her. Maybe she didn’t want a reminder of the husband we’d shared. Maybe I annoyed her somehow without knowing it. All I knew was there was a giant hole in my heart where Robin belonged.
We had a stupid argument at the end over politics. Robin and her husband supported Trump, and she told me it bothered her that I said things against him. I reminded her that friendship was far more important to me than politics. I never heard back from her again. It seemed odd after everything we’d been through together. I cherished our friendship, and I would never have insulted Trump again if I knew she’d abandon me over it. She was more than my friend. She was my family.
I spent the next few months heartbroken. Losing Robin was almost worse than a romantic breakup. It was as if our friendship never existed, yet it still flowed through my bloodstream and hurt like hell whenever I thought about it. I accepted it over time, but I still don’t understand it.
I’ve come to terms with the idea she may have kept me close so she could keep an eye on the ex-husband she claimed to hate. I remember how much time they spent on the phone and in person together even after he married me and how fondly he talked about her over the years. He used to swear that sometimes Robin said nasty things about me and thought I was a phony. I didn’t believe it then, but maybe it was true. I don’t think she wanted my husband for herself, but maybe she couldn’t let him move on either. After he died, there was no more information Robin could get from me. Our story was finished.
There are times when I think our friendship was real, small moments I recall in the trenches when we were saving each other’s asses. I don’t give those moments the weight they used to have. I’m still sad things ended even though she’s not the first person I want to call anymore when something happens. I think I’m more realistic now about what we really were. If she called me tomorrow wanting to be friends again, I don’t think I’d say yes. I’m not the same person I used to be. I’m much stronger now because I know I can count on myself when people let me down. In a strange way, I have Robin to thank for that.
I’ll always appreciate Robin and everything she did for me, but I think I can finally let her go now. Her part in my story is over. It’s meant to be that way sometimes.
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