Sometimes, the depression hits hard, and I’m left breathless by the abruptness of it.
Sometimes, it moves sluggishly through my veins; like poison, the numbness spreads, and I’m powerless to stop it. Breathless from the utter empty I feel. Gasping to try and fill any part of me with any semblance of anything I can. I am not alone. I am not alone. I am not, and yet, I feel like I am, and all I can do is write away the empty because I need to hold the good. Need to feel the good. Need to remember the good.
It’s an exercise in futility anyways.
But over the years, I’ve learnt to channel this pain into words that flee before me. Like a basilisk, this empty slithers, and I am the spider.
I wish I had some tragically sad story to tell you, but truth is a cruel circle and in everything we say, there will always be falsity. Our perceptions after all, are skewed. We are all such lonely, loveless creatures that we create illusions of ourselves. And she says “you better watch what you say kid”.
She is no more a saint than I am, but we are who we are, and friendships break down.
A and I met outside a pub the first month I moved to Shanghai. In true drunk girl fashion, she proclaimed that we were “BFF’s” and dragged me into a cab to another club. The only difference was that out of all the people she met drunkenly, I was the only one that stuck.
Days bled into months as I experienced Shanghai the way most foreigners do in the beginning: fast and hard. So often, I woke up with no idea of what day it was. Shanghai was the fairytale: one endless weekend where everything was in excess.
To a kid from suburban Vancouver, where underage drinking and smoking pot was the most hardcore thing I’d ever done and whose idyllic youth was punctuated by trying to live life according to Kerouac, Shanghai was a mecca for the new age revolutionist: a portrayal of everything On The Road.
A was my introduction to this world. After a while, the endless partying started taking its toll. I was finding it harder and harder to keep up. Tired at work, but unable to sleep at night. A told me she had a solution.
The first time I tried Adderall as a recreational drug with alcohol was the best feeling in the world. I didn’t need to eat. I had so much energy, I was the freaking energizer rabbit. And then A gave me Coke. And I was flying. Too hyper to sleep; I couldn’t stop moving. I had to dance. 2AM blinked into 4 and before I knew it, I was at work and still moving. Constantly.
Adderall and Coke coupled with alcohol is a potent combination. What nobody told me was that the high I felt, the clarity of mind I experienced would come at a greater cost of a crash. A crash that scared me but not enough to stop. The high was addictive; a mental clarity coupled with an abundance of energy that I liked enough to keep indulging.
Things are cheap in China. Compared to Vancouver, where the taxes alone make you want to commit suicide. Buying recreational drugs in Shanghai is comparatively cheap and the people I was hanging around made it a compulsion. After a while, this habit became expensive. It started taking its toll on my mental health. I was hyper, sure, but I looked tired. I was irritable. My body was breaking down. My hormones were fluctuating. I’m not going to lie. Puberty has been kind to me. Where most girls start noticing a slower metabolism, mine increased. Fat probably kept burning from my constant moving and irregular hours. I was hot and I flaunted it, but this kind of lifestyle wasn’t meant to last.
In the city that never stops partying, acquaintances are a dime a dozen, but friends are hard to come by. A was my best friend. I trusted her, and in a sick, destructive way, we loved each other. But sometimes, just because you love someone, doesn’t mean they’re good for you.
On the surface, she had the perfect life.
Born into a rich Shanghainese family, she drove a nice land rover, had an apartment with a Jacuzzi and a swipe of daddy’s credit card meant that doors were always open.
But she wasn’t happy, and for a long while, neither was I.
I can’t tell you the amount of nights we stayed up talking till the sunrise, too hyped up too sleep, too depressed to care. Partying, drinking, dancing, talking… Philosophy of the walking dead.
Our biggest problem was that we were both numb. We thought we were just bored.
But I was lucky.
I met someone who liked me enough to change me. I had a family who cared enough to worry about me. A, on the other hand, didn’t have this one luxury.
She was always chasing after the elusive something that I apparently had.
One day, after a long break of not seeing each other, I was in Hong Kong when I received a desperate message of SOS. “Will you lend me 15,000? I’m in the hospital”.
Panicked, I tried to call her. No response.
The next day, I received another text asking for 3000 to help pay rent. By this time, I was worried, but beyond that, I was suspicious.
For a 21 year old to hear that her best friend was in a hospital followed by a desperate plea for money in the span of 2 days is worrying. What’s even more worrying is when that friend has never asked for money before.
A showed up on my doorstep jittery and jumpy. Her eyes unfocused, her body skinny to the point it was almost skeletal. Her complexion, which I’d always been envious of, was pallid and drawn.
This girl was not my friend.
This thing couldn’t possibly be the person I’d spent hours talking to about our dreams, about the emptiness and how we’d get out of this abyss and about what happiness meant.
This was a stranger, wearing an even stranger mask, and I did the hardest thing I’d ever have to do.
I could give you a million reasons for why I chose to not lend my best friend money in her time of need.
The truth was I was scared, and I was selfish.
I knew to some level that she was in trouble, and a large part of me wanted to just give her the money. But a bigger part, the part that actually cared, whispered that if I did, I may never see her again.
A hasn’t spoken to me in almost a month.
We used to talk everyday. We used to go out every night. Now, whenever we run into each other, it’s an awkward silence that chills the room. She refuses to acknowledge my presence, and I simply bow out.
When I refused to lend her the money, she started accusing me of things I hadn’t done. She brought up lending me money when my credit card was stolen, twisted stories about staying beside me while coked up. Her reaction showed a vindictive, vicious side of her I never knew existed.
For months, people had been telling me that she was manipulative; to cut her out of my life. I had hung on because I loved her. I had seen a side of her I thought only me, as her best friend, was privy to.
After our falling out, I discovered who she really was.
I can’t say that it doesn’t hurt.
I can’t say that she doesn’t hurt.
I can’t say that I’m not hurting.
But sometimes, just because you love someone, doesn’t mean that they’re good for you.
I have friends tell me that she misses me. That when she’s drunk, she talks about me. But she can’t forgive me, and I can only wait for time to allow me to forgive her.
I’m finding that difficult because as more time passes, the more she wallows, the angrier I become. And retaliation is becoming difficult to circumvent.
I am finding flaws in her character that I used to gloss over.
I am becoming bitter at her anger.
Tired of being left out.
She has manipulated the people in our lives to buy into her side of the story. She was here first. I am the newcomer. And she has capitalized on it.
I can only acquiesce and respect their decisions to believe her stories.
According to Mirriam-Webster online, Shanghai means:
To put by trickery into an undesirable position.
To put aboard a ship by force often with the help of liquor or a drug.
Her manipulation slays me. Looking back now, I can say fully that as much as we loved each other, we fueled the other’s destruction. I’m not taking the high road any more than she is. Both parties have been hurt. Both parties have lashed out and tried to be even more vindictive.
But absence has a way of numbing as much as festering. Time is the greatest distance after all.
She’s in a better place now.
Or so I’ve heard from mumbles through the grapevine. Awkward encounters with mutual friends have shown me that in this city that never stops changing, people are just as easily replaceable. She is ever the busy queen bee and I am the tossed aside ex-best friend. Day old newspaper, and as much as I miss her, as much as I miss her friendship, I have to stand by what I did. I have to stand by what may have been the most difficult decision in my life. I have to believe that by turning her down in her time of “need”, I may have just saved her life.
I’m not proud of who I was, but when the empty hits, I’m desperate to fill it. To fill it with any means necessary, and all I can do is write out the anger. The depression. The pain. Because if I don’t then I lose. I will have lost a friend for nothing.
So I have to remember. I have to remember what I’ve learnt, and I have to remember the regret, and I have to remember that eventually, this fleeting emotions will pass, and I’ll be OK again. I have to be.