Confessing to Being a Bad Friend

Friends; Illustration by Carolyn Figel
Illustration by Carolyn Figel / Instagram: @carolynfigel

Ninth grade was when I moved to a new school, in a new country, without my newly college-attending brothers and without any friends. The transition was softened by a budding friendship—another recent arrival, also far from home: Dalia, of Sydney, Australia. Only we understood the utter injustice of our recently ruined lives and promised each other up and down we’d never call this new place home. We walked the halls of high school with an air of we-don’t-like-you-anyway in matching navy blue high-top chucks with the laces tied under our ankles. The time between classes was for planning out the weekend we’d spend together, and each weekday I arrived home from soccer practice to the same welcomed note: “Dalia called for Leigh.” I would survive without my brothers now that I had something like a sister.

 
They threw eggs at the side of her parents’ house. They threw toilet paper too. What did I do? Absolutely nothing.
 

Fast forward a few months. I received an invitation to my first high school party. Dalia was not invited and I decided that betrayal was the price I’d pay for admission into the mainstream. I arrived at the party to find out that the upperclassman’s house was next door to Dalia’s and that her second-story bedroom window looked directly into his backyard. As the night went on, the knot in my stomach loosened—maybe she wasn’t going to be propelled by the shouts and music to look out her window and behold my lack of loyalty.

Until, of course, she did. The host of the party spotted her spying first and started a show of slurred-worded bravado about the snitch bitch next door and how she better shut that curtain quick or something bad would happen. And so she did shut the curtain, and he and his friends made sure something bad happened anyway. They threw eggs at the side of her parents’ house. They threw toilet paper too. What did I do? Absolutely nothing.

It was the first crime in a brief series that ended our friendship. She was a good friend to me, and I was not to her. Fast forward again. I’ve grown up and these days I am a good friend. But it’s occurred to me on more than one occasion that the shame I harbor from this failed relationship has had lasting (albeit positive) effects on how I treat the people I love. A lot of airtime is dedicated to high school bullying, but I think Dalia forgot about me long before I’ll ever forget about her. Some 15 years later I still feel a pang when I see photos from her life pop up on Facebook. It is a life full of friends.

Carolyn Figel is a freelance artist living in Brooklyn. In her free time, she enjoys attaching googly eyes to subway signs and writing short descriptions about herself. Her work has been featured in MTV, Lenny Letter, Vice, and various other publications.

This feature originally appeared in the Memory issue. Find more inspiring stories from that issue here.