Question usually uttered after a breakup. I have been asked this question once, and I just said "sure," or something to that effect at the time. After giving it a bit of thought, though, I think the best answer for me is "Let's just not be enemies." I don't want to hang out with you or chat on the phone often about news of the day or share witty aphorisms about modern society. It's good enough for me if you don't hate on me, and I don't hate on you. I will say hello when I see you, and you can reciprocate. I won't call you to find out what you are doing this Friday, and do you want to go to the club. Don't call me about the stress you are having at work. I won't burden you about my family sweating me. We won't be friends because we won't make special efforts to interact. We aren't enemies bacause I bear no ill will towards you, and you none towards me. Maybe it isn't perfect, but it gets the job done.

I've asked this question twice.

The first time, I didn't really believe that we could be friends. It was all too upsetting. He went for France for a year and we barely kept in contact.
However, we're both now, 2 years later, in a place where it doesn't hurt to see the other. My memories make me smile as opposed to feel sad; it's a place I never thought I'd see.

He's now at University with me again and it's great having my friend back. I'm truly overwhelmed that this person who I hurt so badly would still want me as a friend. That's the kind of friendship that lasts a lifetime.

The second time... well, we'll see.

As I stood in the parking lot holding Ady a few moments for what turned out to be the last time ever... she asked me the inevitable question, "Can we still be friends?"

We had done pretty well to that point, some tears on both sides, but thats to be expected when you're walking away from someone after seven years.

I had given this question an unbelieveable ammount of thought, and I knew she was going to ask me... because she always had when we broke up in the past, and we had always told each other no matter what we would be friends...

For seven years we had been... lovers... best friends... a single person in two bodies...

I felt tears start to well up in my eyes before I even opened my mouth...

Then I said the hardest words of my entire life. I said very simply, "I'm sorry, but I can't, I'll never be able to let you go."

I think she almost hit me, I can't be sure, but she jerked like she had stuck a fork in a light socket.

Then the tears really started for both of us.

She asked me how I could do this to her after being her best friend for seven years... how I could just walk away...

How can you answer your best friend when they ask that question?
How can you answer the lover who you still want?
How can you answer the person you thought you would marry and spend a lifetime with?

There is no good answer to any of those questions and the real answer is simple and selfish. When it comes to pain, I've been hurt enough in life. To see her all the time, to brush against her skin as we passed through doors, to know the woman I love had choosen something or someone else over me... I wasn't willing to be hurt anymore.

It still hurts. A lot. Even though I know what I'm feeling now is nothing compared to the pain I would have endured watching her move on with her life while I quietly loved her in the distance.

So the moral of the story? Don't ever ask that question. Enjoy the last touch. The last words. The last eye contact. The last time the person will wipe a tear from your face in compassion. Just let it go and if you both can be friends, all the better-- but let it happen in its own time, because the pain of the memory of a situation like this isn't worth the asking... and its not an easy question to answer truthfully. It hurts too much no matter how you answer.

Never, for any reason, ever, ever, no matter what you do, ask Can we still be friends?.

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