The Sadness of a Friendship Fizzle

A Burst of Yellow | Photo by Alice Sherlock

Lots has been written of the sadness that comes with friendship breakups, but less about a friendship fizzle — those friends that fade away without trace. For me, an extra layer of sadness exists within a friendship fizzle, as I ponder the declining moments and unanswered questions. Even after a number of years, one of my fizzled friendships still takes up a lot of space in my head and heart.

We met aged 16, in our first week of A-Levels, both newbies at an artsy college far away from our high schools. A warm sunny September day had given a mutual friend the perfect reason to invite us both to eat lunch in the central courtyard on campus.

As usual, I had my trusty Marmite sandwich on seeded brown and a packet of Quavers.

“Only eighty-six calories!” she babbled at me as soon as the distinctive yellow packet was in her vision. An eruption of laughter and a discussion of noughties diet culture ensued, and just like that, our friendship had been sealed and bound over a shared love of the classic curly snack.

Within a week we’d met each other’s families; within a month a girls’ week to Ibiza had been booked. Over our two year stint at college, we were inseparable, muses, addicted to each other like magnets.

Our balance was calming: I was the observer and she was the doer, leaping into action to make something happen. But above all, we shared a silent understanding in a way no other friend had even come close: we were both an only child raised by a wonderful single mum.

To celebrate the end of our A-Levels, and after persistent persuasion on her part, she indulged me in my camping debut. My battered Vauxhall Corsa just about made it down to Devon, and over the weekend our connection expanded with a ton of friends and a collection of random memories.

A few weeks later, she packed me off to uni with a bag of Malteasers, a copy of Cosmo, and a box of condoms. I’d be back in Brighton every few weeks, I told her.

We kept in touch; stolen calls and sporadic texts. Bursts of gossip in the corridors between classes had disappeared, and our new normal had become pre-planned fully-scheduled conversations. We listened and laughed at each other’s stories — involved and interested — yet it wasn’t quite the same as being alongside one another multiple times a day. Our shared understanding of place, time, and experience had dissipated and we were sadly no longer an excitable cheerleader observing from a short distance.

Slowly over my four years at uni, our communication shrank to less and less. There was the odd message and social media engagement, until one day I woke up and realised it had been literal months since our last proper chinwag. The days had so quickly, so unexpectedly, stacked up.

There was no dramatic end. We didn’t have a big breakup. It just… fizzled. The two of us faded. Our chapter together had come to a natural close.

That moment was the instant and painful realisation that some friendships are not meant to last forever. But unlike a friendship breakup, where there’s a clear termination and logical sense to separate the phase of your friendship and the time post breakup, a friendship fizzle is completely different because there’s no end point to acknowledge.

At what stage were we no longer friends?

For us, there was nothing to blame, no defining point that had brought our close; a finale had been missed completely. Ambiguity and confusion blurred all sense of lines, and the simultaneous feelings of sadness and need for closure are jolting and disorientating. I still find it upsetting even now.

Despite all these years passing, I still remember everything about her: the passcode to her iPhone; the ubiquity of orange Odeon tickets on her bedroom wall; the fact she hated shepherd’s pie, but liked it when the mince and mash were served on her plate separately.

And the gratitude I’ll always have for her, as I smile at the memories of her baking me not one but two cakes for my 18th birthday, the surprise ticket she bought me to see Miranda Hart, and, of course, the intense intimacy we shared, being by each other’s side for our passed driving tests and thrilling sexual debuts, both notable events in the teenage experience, and for us, occuring within weeks of one another.

It’s not a failure that we don’t speak now. Our deep friendship, although short, still binds us. I’m immensely thankful to have loved her, and our time as friends will forever have a special place in my heart. I can say with absolute certainty that I’m a better person having known her.

Most of me really misses her, wondering if now I’m back in Brighton — the home of our memories — our paths may randomly cross. That other part of me, a miniscule amount, almost hopes we don’t meet again, my anxiety already stirring as I worry about the potential differences that might have developed between us.

And where would we even start to catch-up on all these missed years? Would I begin with now and work backwards? Or chronologically, beginning all those years ago and moving forward in time?

Despite this wondering, all of me, every little piece, wishes she is safe, happy, and healthy. I will always grin from ear-to-ear looking at old photos of us. I will cherish our friendship forever. And I will always wonder whether to randomly slide into her DMs to send a meme I know she’d absolutely love.

(Maybe one day, I’ll actually have the courage to do it.)




I like falafel kebabs, leopard print, and over thinking

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Alice Sherlock

Alice Sherlock

I like falafel kebabs, leopard print, and over thinking

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