I’m not a good friend.

At least, I’ve learned I’m not a good friend. I try very hard to add to the lives of those who are dear to me but I often can’t tell when I’m having an effect. Unless people tell me honestly and bluntly how they feel, I have no idea what’s going on. Part of that is a result of the Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. Part of it is the anxiety. Of course, bluntness goes against the grain for most people so even when they’re close to me and I trust them, they often will sugar-coat their thoughts in an effort to be polite or not hurt my feelings.

It can take weeks or even months for me to process polite. Yes, I’m that slow on the uptake. Living in Canada, that means I’m often five or six steps behind everyone else. To other people I look like a fool, like someone who’s too stupid to get with the program. It’s annoying to people to have me standing around with no clue what’s going on. On top of that, I’m blunt and say things that come to mind without a second thought. I try very hard to be polite but I have no idea what I’m doing wrong.

That’s what makes me not a good friend.

Recently I had a friend end our friendship. At least, I think that’s what’s happened. I’m not sure. See, one day he simply stopped contacting me. No call. No text. No message on Facebook. Nothing. I know he got mad at me but I’m not really sure why.

Let’s go back. See, this friend is closer to me than a brother. He stood by me when all my other friends left me because I “wasn’t fun any more” (my father was dying and I was battling anxiety). He came to my father’s funeral and kept me from suicide in the aftermath. I’ve always been grateful to him for this and have tried to tell him so many, many times. Was I not clear? Did I not appreciate him enough? I don’t know.

I should explain as well that this friend has a habit that sends my anxiety into outer space. He’s chronically late or, worse, he cancels get togethers at the last minute. By last minute I mean a half an hour before we’re due to meet. He leads a busy life but, by his own admission, that’s his own doing. His day starts at about 6 am and ends at midnight or 1 am. That’s not my fault, though. Is it?

Things reached a point where the only thing we did together was go to McDonald’s for supper so I could have some time with his daughter (whom I love dearly). However, I got little time with his daughter as the time was always filled with the problems he was having in his life and how busy he was. At one time I was so depressed I was nearly suicidal when I called him, desperate to talk to someone. When I got there I said, “I’ve had a bad week.” His response was, “well today I had to do…” followed by a litany of how hard his life was. Every time we met was like this. A continuous rant about how hard his life was and how he had no time to himself.

A good friend listens, right? So I listened.

Yet it was the source of a new anxiety. I worried that he was working himself to death. That his beautiful daughter would find herself without a father one day because he worked himself into a grave. I couldn’t do much, I reasoned, but I could listen. So I did, shoving my own needs aside in my concern for him.

I don’t know when I clued in but it was the last time he made a date to go to McDonald’s so I could have time with his daughter. He cancelled. This time, though, I didn’t get a call or text. I didn’t get anything. He simply didn’t show up. My anxiety has a unique effect on my texting. I will cheerfully send a dozen texts to find out what’s going on. That’s exactly what I did. Yet I didn’t get a single response. I phoned him. The calls were ignored. Nothing.

Then the light bulb went on. I was the throwaway friend. The one that doesn’t matter. The one you can cancel on without repercussions. The one whose feelings don’t matter. The friend you throw away.

It hurt to realize it. I’ve looked back over the years and saw that I’ve always been the throwaway friend. The one you’re friends with out of pity rather than real affection. This knowledge left me hurt and confused.

I don’t have a lot of friends. I treasure those few I have. I have this fear in the pit of my stomach that I will die alone in some quiet corner of the world with no one to notice my passing. I hope not but I have that fear.

After all, I’m the throwaway friend.