What is a “Friend” Anyway?

I have a friend, I’ll call him Edward. We have been friendly for about five and half years now. We had a mutual friend, a woman named Jill who originally suggested I pursue Edward as a romantic partner. “He’s single. You’re single. You’re the same age. He’s a really nice guy. Go out with him.” I think she must have been telling him the same thing about me because he started asking me to go to lunch, etc. However, there was no love connection and that was fine with me. We never did anything that could be constituted as a “date” per se, just lots of lunches or meetings at coffee shops over the years.

I have enjoyed having Edward as my friend. We were both bankruptcy attorneys and connected around this. We would dabble in talk about other areas of our lives. We had lunch on a semi-regular basis. We used each other to bitch and complain sometimes when something made us mad, especially in bankruptcy. One trustee in particular kept us in conversation. I went through a boyfriend or two over the years. Sometimes I would complain about them too. He told me all about his nasty divorce, especially because a mutual lawyer friend had helped him out with it.

Edward traveled a lot to faraway places by himself. I would ask him, “You went to (exotic city) alone?” He would tell me that he had and that he preferred it this way. Because of work travel and these travels, he had many airline miles saved up and could get upgraded. I told him about a boyfriend I had had a few years ago who was in the Million Mile Club and how we traveled together and would get upgraded.

Last year, Edward got a job in Montana, moving him away from the Northwest. I knew he had been looking for something outside of the self-employed bankruptcy world because he called me from the road on the way to an interview up near Seattle. He did not want this job and was talking himself into the interview. Actually, I think when he called me on the way there, he had no preference one way or another. He was indifferent enough that he was not nervous about the job. He had applied on a whim and if he got it, great, he would consider relocating, but if not, no big deal either. He called me immediately after the interview to tell me just how horrible the job seemed and to laugh about the interviewers and their bland questioning of preprinted questions. We talked his whole way home.

Shortly after that, he really did get another government job, as an administrative law judge in Montana. He closed his law practice and moved away. We have maintained contact, mainly through texts, but sometimes calls. He had a judge training in Reno and called to tell me about it. It sounded funny to me, the subjects judges have to learn about. I send him screenshots of the Map App on my iPhone looking like a coronary the roads are so dark red, blood vessels twisting and covering the screen. He commiserates and thanks his lucky stars he is far away in Montana.

I did have coffee with one of his bankruptcy attorney friends a few months back. He had mentioned that Edward had been in town a couple of weeks before and the two had had lunch. This stung. I felt slightly hurt that Edward had been in town and had not called to have lunch or coffee with me. Then I reasoned that he had probably had limited time and couldn’t fit it in. I was planning to ask him about it, but then got busy and forgot.

Basically, we have had this friendship and I have considered him my friend, in spite of not having lunch when he was in town. Sometimes we communicate several times a day for a few days. Other times we go several weeks without communicating. If I’m with a client who is taking particularly long to read their documents, I will send him a text like this: Reading. Every. Single. Word. He knows what I mean. We have shorthand texts for stuff because we have sent so many texts over the years.

In any case, this fall I was at a hearing waiting for my client’s turn, my head buried in a book. I keep one ear attuned during my reading at hearings so that I can hear when they call my client’s name. At some point I became aware another attorney said Edward and Montana and engaged. I perked up my ears to listen. I thought perhaps they meant my friend Edward. His is a relatively common name (his real name is much more common than Edward). What other Edward would be in Montana? Unfortunately, they didn’t say any more. I finished my hearing and left. Was Edward engaged? I sent him a text and said hi. We chatted a bit and then I said I heard you were engaged. He didn’t respond to that one. I then said, If you are engaged, then congratulations. He said nothing in response. We texted a few days later about something else and it never came up again. I thought this was weird, but actually forgot about it during the busy holiday season and living my life.

Then I was in court again reading a book, half paying attention to the hearings, but mostly occupied and focused on my book. It’s been snowy off and on in Portland. I heard Edward’s name, and Montana. I half listened. Oh yes, the weather in Montana is worse than here so they deal with it better. Yada yada. Haven’t heard that 8 million times. We get it. Portland spends less on snowplows than places where it snows all winter. That’s fine with me. They should spend that money in other places. Old news. Then…Edward is a judge. He has a cushy job. He gets holidays paid. He leaves at five. Again, old news. I pulled out my phone and texted Edward: “They’re talking about you in court this morning.” Him: “Why?” Me: “You have winter weather and a cushy government job.” Him: “LOL” I turned back to my book.

Then… “His wife got a job with the state, too, so they both have the same days off.” Umm, what? His wife?!? I heard that. His wife got a job with the state, too??

I was completely taken aback upon hearing this. Clearly they were talking about my friend Edward in Montana. What made me feel taken aback was the fact that Edward is married and he never told me about it. And the guy who said this about the wife getting the job with the state too, said TOO, which means also, which means that Edward had had this girlfriend-fiance-wife before he left and moved to Montana over a year ago. She got a job too.

Not only did Edward not tell me about his wife, he didn’t ever mention he had gotten a girlfriend, or gotten engaged to her (and he ignored my texts about it), and then married her, and never once in our many, many conversations did he bring her up. Not once. He had a wedding. Weddings aren’t generally small affairs, and considering Edward is close to his family, I doubt it was an elopement, but even then, why not share?

Why?

Seriously. Why is this? I have been mulling over the existence of this wife ever since I heard about her. In the meantime, Edward has texted me. I haven’t brought it up because I don’t know how to. I’m not jealous that Edward has a wife; I am confused as to why Edward never told me. Is it because I’m female too? Does he think I want him for a husband? Does he want to keep his options open? I just don’t know and it’s weird.

I called a friend yesterday and described my friendship with Edward to her and then described what happened in the hearing. She was as baffled as I was and understood completely my confusion. She believes that he didn’t mention this wife (or the girlfriend and then the fiance’) because he wants to keep his options open, however slim. Maybe I’m naive, but that just seems ridiculous to me. He has to know we aren’t going to have a romantic relationship. We haven’t in our five and half years of knowing one another made any attempt at a romantic relationship. We live three states apart. Really, this can’t be it. And if this isn’t it, what is it?

Edward texted me this morning about the weather in Portland (it’s snowing, profusely). He then asked if I have hearings today (today is hearing day in Vancouver). We texted a bit. Throughout it all I kept thinking about his wife and wondering if she knows he’s texting me and if she is cool with it. Maybe that is why he doesn’t mention her, she would be jealous? But if she is jealous, why not tell me she exists? I can’t figure it. I thought about bringing it up, but I’m not sure how. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing to bring up via text, but it would be weird to call, too. “Um, hi, Edward. I have something to ask. Are you married?

How do I make him understand that isn’t the fact of the wife that bothers me, it’s the fact he didn’t tell me about the wife that bothers me. Why didn’t he tell me? It’s weird now. I thought we had the sort of friendship where we would tell each other about these kinds of things. We don’t have super deep, level 4 conversations, but we are beyond the weather, even though it’s mostly what we have talked about recently.

Maybe I’ll send him this blog post. Hey, Edward! What’s up? Why didn’t you tell me about your wife? Did you think I would throw myself on a pyre in grief that you were no longer available to me as a romantic partner? Do you want to keep your options open? Did you just forget to mention it and now it seems weird to bring it up? (Did it ever occur to you that I have had a couple of boyfriends in the last few years and even mentioned them on occasion so mentioning a girlfriend and then wife would be okay?)

I don’t know. I’ve been meaning to write about the discoveries I have been making about myself and friends. Too often I realize that people mean more to me than I do to them. People expect less from friendships than I do and I’m hurt and confused when they turn out to be less than what I thought. I know Edward and I have had conversations of depth, but we have had a lot of shallow ones, too. Maybe to him our friendship, or perhaps I should call it acquaintanceship, has been too shallow to mention major milestones like getting married. He discussed the pain of losing his dog with me. This is the sort of conversation that to me meant we were friends, but I should not have made such an assumption. I might not be the sort of person who would discuss my pain at the death of a dog with someone who is just an acquaintance, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is like that. I shouldn’t be hurt, but I am. Not because of the relationship he has with her, but because I thought I was more of a friend to him than I am. Add him to the pile. I’ve discovered it’s a theme in my life and he is just another piece of that puzzle.

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