“You don’t even know me. No one does. Everyone thinks they know who I am and what’s best for me, but they’re all wrong. Even you.”
I still remember every word you said the night our friendship ended. They echo through the canyons in the back of my mind as I lie in bed, desperately trying to get some sleep. I hear them when I’m driving, and when my Timehop wants to tell me about all the things we did a year ago, two years ago today. Sometimes I wonder if you even remember that night or the words you finally let out.
I’ve known a lot of Stevens over the years, but never one who talked like that. There was the Steven When Your Mom Wasn’t Around and a much more unpleasant Steven When Your Mom Was Around. And there was Steven When Dinner was Ready. There was Sore Loser Steven, Lying Steven, Drunk Steven, Hung-Over Steven, and, one of my personal favorites, Immediate-Post-Breakup Steven, who specialized in junk food, Coors Light, and “It’s just allergies, you asshole.”
The really amazing thing, though, was how seamlessly you were able to transition from Steven to Steven. Whenever you came close to any sort of vulnerability, you switched everything around in a last-minute attempt to change the subject. I remember one day in particular that it really caught me off guard. We were driving home from B-Dub’s and I asked if you were still talking to that Cody guy you’d introduced me to a few days before. All you did was turn the music up a bit louder (The 1975, I think–a band I hate, but in avoidance of argument, never voiced my distaste for) and, a few moments later, ask if we had bread at the apartment or if we needed to stop by Wal-Mart before going home. I admitted that I had no idea what the status of our bread supply was, and I assured you that if things didn’t work out with Cody, you’d find someone else soon enough. I was immediately introduced to Extremely Defensive Steven, who told me to mind my own fucking business for once and then drove like an escaped felon for the remainder of the way home. After miraculously making it back to the apartment in one piece, it was discovered that the only source of bread we had left consisted of a heel and a normal piece, which must have been unacceptable, because I got to spend the rest of the evening with Silent Treatment Steven.
That was one of many bad days, but I guess the demise of our friendship really started when I asked you if you thought about going back to therapy. You’d been through a lot. Coming out is tough; not everyone can be Ellen Degeneres. I knew that you had dealt with things a little better and just been a bit more positive in general when you were still seeing your therapist back home, and maybe it would be helpful to talk to someone during school, too.
“I know this is, like, the last thing you want to talk about, and I know I probably sound like an overprotective mother, but what do you think about just talking to somebody up here, too? You know. College is stressful. Lots of kids do it. I’ve heard that Student Health does a great job.” I was treading lightly, but apparently not lightly enough. Netflix Steven actually looked up from the anime for once. That was the real deal.
“What, do you think I still need help? Do I seem like I’m not okay to you?” Hurt Steven asked.
Well… Kind of, I thought to myself. I wouldn’t dare actually voice that opinion.
“I just mean that you’ve made a lot of progress and you don’t want it to get reversed by the added stress of school and everything..” I suggested.
“You know, you really don’t have to hover all the fucking time. I can deal with things by myself and there’s no need for you to play Mom. I have one of those. She doesn’t nag at me nearly as much as you do.” Hurt Steven was not holding back. “You think you can just wander around fixing everyone and you can’t. I never asked for your help. You don’t even know me. No one does. Everyone thinks they know who I am and what’s best for me, but they’re all wrong. Even you. If I needed help, I would ask for it.” You shut off the Wii and disappeared into your room for the night.
Since that night, our friendship hasn’t really been the same. We still go to Taco Bell for dinner when neither of us feel like cooking, and we still carpool when both of us are going home, but we certainly don’t talk like we used to. We live in the same apartment, but we’re not friends. The only Steven I’ve seen for months is Isolated Steven– a Steven who has no desire to let anyone in. Maybe someday all of the defense mechanism Stevens can just finally melt away, and all that will be left is the real Steven, the one you were always too unsure of to let live. I think he deserves that.