by Danya Kaufmann
I hit send at 19:44. It was a Friday night in February, about a year after Eve and I had our “talk.” I was crying on my boyfriend’s bed, soaking his pillow, while he was in the living room, unaware. Eve was hardly a part of my life anymore, but I still felt that our friendship was salvageable, if only I sent the right text.
“Hey Bub,” I wrote in Hebrew using our age-old nickname. “I’m sad we’re not really friends anymore. If you still feel like it’s too much, I respect that. But if you do want us to try – whenever and however suits you, I’d be happy to.”
At 20:57 she answered, “Hey Bub. You’re in my thoughts a lot…I’m in exam period, and working a lot (actually at work right now!). When things calm down in a little bit, I’d be really happy to meet. Sending a hug and Shabbat Shalom.”
I got out of bed and walked to the living room to show Yotam the message. We’d been going out for just a few months, but he’d heard about her. He looked at my phone, and then at me.
“She hasn’t really said anything.”
“Yes she has,” I insisted, taking my phone back. I reread the message. “She said she’s really busy but wants to see me.”
He looked at me and smiled. I sat down to show him the previous messages. How bizarre, I thought, to be analyzing Eve’s messages with Yotam. That used to be her job.
It didn’t really work, either. Yotam didn’t know how to analyze text messages—the importance of the time lapse, the necessity of measuring the length of the message, the use or non-use of emojis.
“Okay,” he said, resigned. “You’ve done your part, though.”
The first time I’d told him about her, my ex-best-friend, he listened intently and then told me that he’d also had a long break in a friendship. Then one day out of the blue his friend had written him, “Hey dick,” and they’d started talking again.
He didn’t get it. But that wasn’t the issue. The astonishing, inconceivable issue was that Eve didn’t know he existed.
She didn’t know about this new, central character in my life. This tall, strong, freckled man who walked slowly and thoughtfully, who listened and made me laugh and liked his salad very finely chopped. And for whom I was willing to chop it very finely.
But without telling Eve about him, without analyzing his words and actions together, without sharing and reliving every date, every fight, every kiss—something about it felt incomplete.
I answered her two hours later, to show I didn’t care. But I used Bub and a smiley face to show that I did.
It’s miserable anyways, but at least there’s standard protocol for romantic breakups: eat chocolate in bed, watch romcoms, send drunk texts. Find someone new.
But what do you do when your best friend dumps you? Watch movies about…friends? Go out and have “casual friendships”? What is it even called? A friend-breakup? That just sounds second class, as if it’s not a real breakup. Then what is it?
And why, so many years later, am I still not over it?
Every woman I’ve spoken to about Eve told me she’d had a similar experience. Similarly heartbreaking, similarly devastating. One woman told me she dreamt about a friend she hadn’t spoken to in years, four out of seven nights a week.
“But that’s just growing up” they all told me, whether in words or with their eyes.
I was walking home from work with a friend one evening, years ago, when I spotted Eve across the street. I saw her through the glass walls of the new wine bar in Rechavia, my quiet Jerusalem neighborhood. I dragged my friend with me and she stood in the doorway as Eve and I embraced.
“How are you?” she asked.
We’d never done small talk before. It had always been straight to yeast infections and blowjobs, our mothers and our futures. But here we were, saying nothing at all.
She didn’t know about my job, or about Yotam, or about trying to decide if I should move to New York or stay in Jerusalem with him. Any truthful answer would require a lot more knowledge than she had, so I just said I was good, and asked about her.
“Where do you know her from?” my friend asked, after Eve and I said goodbye and we continued on our walk home.
I stared at the sidewalk. As if Eve were a friend from anywhere. As if she weren’t a built-in part of my life, as if she weren’t, in fact, a part of me. Where I knew her from implied that our friendship had been based on chance—time, place, circumstance. As if there were any possibility of not knowing her.
“Oh, she’s a friend from high school,” I answered.
I haven’t seen her since.
The first time we spoke was by the dark gray lockers in high school. She had a corduroy backpack with a floral print and a million pockets. And yet she always seemed to be holding something in her hand and running somewhere. Like me.
“You’re Eve, right?” I had asked. “Netta said we have to be friends. She said you’re ‘a treasure.’”
Eve laughed, her lips spreading wide across her bright, freckled face. Dark brown hair, a delicate, defined nose, and big, hazel, catlike eyes. Stunning, even in high school.
She came to my house one afternoon and we baked chocolate chip cookies and laughed until we cried. Quite soon, and for years later, she was the first to hear about everything. My latest crush, a new thing I wanted to be when I grew up, another failed driving test.
On her twentieth birthday, we spent the day walking around the port in Tel Aviv. Tucked between the fancy, grown-up clothing stores, we found a fancy, grown-up sex shop. The sign read “Sisters” in red and pink bubble letters. We slipped inside, enchanted by the bright colors, the unfamiliar toys. The possibilities.
“Let’s get you something for your birthday,” I said. We were both scared shitless, of course. But I spoke with the confidence of an older sibling in line for a roller coaster. After asking what everything was and how it all worked, we left giggling, with a miniature Pocket-Rocket for her and a promise to tell me how it was.
In a photo from my twenty-first birthday party, I’m wearing a bubblegum pink sweater and cherry lipstick and my curls are bouncing around my face. She’s wearing a shiny, leopard-print jacket and her hair is up. We’re blowing kisses to the camera. We’re sparkling. She was the one who took my birthday themes most seriously, the one who came first to help and stayed last, recapping the party with me as we swept.
Years later, she wore a leopard print tank top to a street party on Purim. She was pretty enough for a pixie haircut, just as she’d been pretty enough for banana-colored sweatpants in high school. The party was mobbed with minions and sexy cowgirls. We snuck into someone’s yard, right by the main piazza, where there was more room to dance, pretending like we belonged there. Eve danced dazzlingly, and I imitated her moves and tried to make her laugh.
We talked, endlessly, about our futures and aspirations. We went on a trip one Saturday, early in our friendship. After a short hike, we sat down to eat sandwiches and she told me she wanted to study psychology. I gaped at her. Psychology? Like sitting-in-an-office-listening-to-people’s-problems-all-day-psychology? I could think of nothing more boring or banal, and especially for Eve. She needed to be something big, something brilliant, like a singer or actress or prime minister, at least.
She did it anyways.
On the evening of my twenty-fifth birthday, I sat at one of the wannabe-hipster bars in the shuk and waited for Eve. I had friends coming over that Friday—birthday party tradition still intact—but Eve and I were going to mark the day itself, November 18th. She was late.
The fish stall on the corner had already closed for the day, but the salty, nauseating smell was still stuck in the air between the market’s stone walls. I looked around at the happy couples and groups as I waited for Eve to show up. I asked for a glass of water. When the waiter pointed to where I could pour a glass for myself, something in me cracked. I felt alone.
By the time she arrived, pint of melting Ben and Jerry’s and spoons in hand, my face was wet.
“Oh no!” she said and hugged me. “I’m sorry, I rushed over as soon as I finished my class.”
“That’s okay,” I said, wiping away the tears. We got started on the ice cream.
That Friday, she came early to help set up for the party, like she always did. We stood in my cramped kitchen and dumped bags of chips into bowls, snacking as we worked. I told her how upset I’d been waiting for her the other day. That I felt like she didn’t care.
“I’m sorry,” she said and looked away, and then back at me. “But it was just a few minutes.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I said. “But that’s not the point.”
The point was the creeping sensation I’d had for months, that I was always waiting for her, always the one inviting, always being turned down. The feeling that maybe this all mattered more to me than it did to her.
She listened quietly and then wrapped me in a hug. A long, close one, like all of our hugs. I softened. “I’m sorry, Bub,” she said.
I smiled and, feeling lighter, went to open the door for the guests.
Later, after the whole thing was over, I would wait for another apology. I’d forgive her again, of course, but still want to hear it. An acknowledgement of how she’d hurt me. Only years later, when I’d finally understand that there would be no apology, and that we would not be friends again, would I begin to question whether an apology was in order, and whether any of this had to do with right and wrong at all. Because what had she done wrong, except need more space? And what had I done wrong, except want more Eve?
A few weeks after the party, we met on campus in one of the breaks. We found a spot on the lawn, between the main building and the law faculty.
“Now it’s my turn to say something,” she said. The sun brightened the outer limestone walls.
“Bub, I love you,” she continued. And I can’t imagine my life without you.”
“But I feel like I can’t keep up with you. I…we’re different. You’re spontaneous and I…I just need more time. More space.”
People we knew walked past and we smiled at them and then looked back at each other.
“I find myself lying that I have other plans, so I won’t hurt your feelings,” she said.
I looked at her eyes. Majestic, like a peacock on display. They were sparkling and damp and looked at me expectantly. I couldn’t imagine my life without her, either.
“But you can always say no,” I said, picking a blade of grass and rolling it between my thumb and forefinger. How often had she lied to me? I had assumed that just as she knew everything about me, I knew everything about her. I knew how she felt about her boyfriend, her mother, her father, her friends. I’d never considered how she might feel about me.
I knew she needed more alone-time than I did. But when she was in the mood for people—was she in the mood for me? Or would she rather be with her new friends? Or her boyfriend, whom I’d known and since his ponytail days in high school when they’d started dating? That afternoon on the campus lawn may have been the first time it occurred to me that he was not just another subject for us to talk about, but someone she loved. More than me.
It was on that same campus lawn that Ben had told me he thought we should just be friends. It was where I’d told Eran that this was all I had to give right now, and he could take it or leave it. He left it.
This was the setting of rejection. This was the language. But this was Eve.
“It just seems crazy that I’d be by your house but not tell you I’m there because I don’t know how you’ll take it,” I said, recalling the night I’d stood by the blue gate of her building in the center of town. I had taken my phone out to call her, scrolled down to B for Bub—and then put it back in my pocket without calling.
Eve considered this. “I don’t know,” she said, searching my face for a sign that I understood. “I don’t think it’s that crazy.”
After that day, I tried to apply the rules I was slowly, begrudgingly learning about dating—to Eve, my best friend. To tone it down, to give her space, to not be so much.
One evening, she called me, pretending everything was the same. I hated when she did that. She was just taking our friendship down a notch, like it was just a matter of setting a new temperature on the oven.
“So what’s with Reuven?” she asked about the guy I’d been dating for the last couple of months.
“Oh, we broke up,” I said, as breezily as I could. “A while ago.”
I hoped it would sting.
Yotam and I went on our first date the day after I submitted my application to master’s programs in America, not imagining that he’d stick around long enough for it to matter. When I got rejected by the first school, he was the one I told.
A couple of months later, I woke up in the middle of the night with a violent cough and he got out of bed to gargle saltwater with me, because he said that would make it better. I looked at him, mesmerized. He was making me better.
When I did get accepted, it was Yotam I was scared of leaving. Not Eve.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I sent Eve that message, saying I still wanted to try to be friends, whenever and however she wanted. But her schedule never did clear up.
A few weeks later, Yotam and I walked along a rocky path to a spring in the hills of Jerusalem. It was one of the prettiest ones, with a giant mulberry tree, which he climbed, of course—just steps away from a well of cool water.
“Do you think you were in love with Eve?” he asked. My stomach tightened. I focused on the dusty white path beneath me. I’d thought about it before, of course. I recalled the time I’d dreamt we were having sex, and woke up dizzy and disturbed. Still in bed, I called her in the morning to tell her. She laughed and asked, “Was it good?” I laughed, relieved, and said I didn’t remember the details.
But no, we’d never kissed or looked at each other in that way. We were friends, not lovers.
But yes, it was one of the most intense and intimate relationships I’d ever had; yes, I was incapable of letting her go; yes, I thought she was beautiful.
“I don’t think so,” I said, turning to Yotam. “But I don’t know.”
In the spring of the following year, I sat in a small library at university, on the seventh floor of a brick building. I was on a yearlong master’s program in New York and Yotam was in Jerusalem, and we were constantly trying to bridge the misunderstandings of a seven-hour time difference and 9,194 kilometers.
Eve and I texted twice while I was there. Once on her birthday, once on mine.
There had been no more “talks.” It was over, just like that. Something I had thought would last forever, not only died before the end of our twenties—it didn’t even go out with a bang. It just faded away.
I placed my gray backpack on the chair beside me and opened my laptop to read our old messages, from the beginning.
It was awful.
Reading old texts always makes me cringe, but this was worse. As I trudged forward in time, message by message, I felt a knot entangling itself in my stomach. From a certain point in our chat, I realized, nearly every communication had been initiated by me.
Are you in Jerusalem?
Are you at school?
The swelling in my stomach crept up toward my chest.
Want to go to that party?
How could I have sent so many messages? How had I not seen the pattern?
Want to get a coffee?
Where are you?
The knot climbed up to my throat. It tightened as I arrived at the silence of the last few months. Silence broken only by a few sporadic messages. A short goodbye message from her when she heard I was leaving. A birthday message in November. Another one in January: “Hey Bub, Mazal Tov! Hope you’re having fun, today and in general! Wishing you a good year and may you be surrounded by people you love…” A message that could be sent by anyone, to anyone.
And then I erupted.
I ran out of the library to the school bathroom and locked myself in a stall, at age twenty-seven, to sob. I wanted to pull my hair out, my organs out, my whole self out.
It was as if, for years, I’d been trying to breathe life into a dead bird, confusing its last instinctive wing flaps for existence, for life. How had I not seen it was over? Had we broken up on the campus lawn, or was it really months before that? Or maybe years? Was it over when we finished high school? Or had it never started—was she just my best friend, but I not hers?
How had I let myself be so vulnerable? So insistent, so out there, so much?
Yotam and I survived my year in New York. We were cuddling in my Jerusalem apartment one day, calling each other sticky-sweet names, when he called me Bub. I pulled my head back and looked at him.
“You can’t call me that,” I said.
A few months later, I heard from a friend that Eve got engaged. I wasn’t her maid of honor. I wasn’t there.
Yotam and I live together, in the same quiet Jerusalem neighborhood, near the wine bar. I call him Kof, which means monkey, and when I’m feeling particularly affectionate, I add sheli, which means mine. He’s Kofsheli, just as Bub was Bubsheli.
I’m thirty-one. I have a few gray hairs that I look at when I brush my teeth. Does Eve?
Have I moved on if I still think of her every time my laugh gets stuck after one short, surprised burst like hers did, before the ultimate cascade of it? Every time I say “stop,” in her incredulous, overly dramatic way when someone tells a story? Every time I pass the Jachnun Bar’s greasy tables where we used to sit and flirt with the guy at the counter?
Have I grown up if I still count her among my close friends before I remember? If I think it might be her when I see a light skinned woman with short, dark hair? Or when I see a small, lime green car—and hope it’ll be Eve behind the wheel.
About the author:
Danya is a writer and lawyer living in Jerusalem. Her writing has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and The Times of Israel.