What it feels like to get ghosted by your best friend


“I tore through our dilapidated sharehouse, desperately looking for some evidence Tom still lived there. Everything – his shaving cream, the expensive kitchen knives, that ugly poster I’d hated – was gone.”

Tom and I were 14 when we met at our high school’s overnight art camp – him freshly gangly with blue-banded braces and me covered in eczema, perpetually rocking a combination of braids, bows and bobby pins (all at once). Our deeply Catholic Queensland high school had planned the most rigid, uninspired art camp experience of all time.

It was after the evening prayer time – when we all lined up to receive a watery cup of hot chocolate and a single Milk Arrowroot biscuit – when we first spoke. Tom was a notorious troublemaker with lots of friends. He was also a boy, and these two facts meant I steered clear of him at all times. After approaching me with a dead-on impression of our geriatric school pastor, he offered me his biscuit. We snort-laughed together until our 9.30 bedtime.

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He never really left me alone after that and I certainly didn’t mind. I initially thought he might have a crush on me (that’s what it meant when a boy teased you, apparently), but that idea was squashed once we became closer. There was nothing even remotely romantic about our relationship. It was platonic, uninhibited bliss – friendship in its purest form.

There was something distinctly comforting about a boy who constantly wanted to be around me, but had zero interest in me as a sexual being. Our relationship was wonderfully silly and free of teenage angst, a fit of giggles all the way down to its core. We didn’t gossip, but not because we really wanted to and believed it was ‘above us’. We were simply too preoccupied with the long-running gag about our third-period math teacher and his armpit sweat; too caught up in our bubble of inside jokes to contemplate the salacious actions of our classmates.

I was truly obsessed with and completely fulfilled in Tom’s company. We did everything together, faced all of those awkward milestones – school dances, first kisses, bad haircuts – with annoying resilience, content in knowing at the end of it all, we had each other. We graduated and instead of making the underage pilgrimage with our friends to schoolies on the Gold Coast, we saved our money for a week-long holiday to New Zealand.

When I was accepted into a university in Sydney – knowing he had chosen to stay close to his parents – I was completely crushed. My mum was almost relieved, a little worried that I had spent all these years skipping parties for sleepovers at Tom’s house. She told me she understood we weren’t romantically involved, but would still ask if I was ‘definitely sure’ there wasn’t anything going on.

We were often an assumed couple, which ultimately led to my first (and only) high school boyfriend Micah breaking up with me. He was insecure about how much time I spent with Tom; didn’t like the sleepovers or movie nights or study dates. I’d seen us hurtling towards a breakup for a while, and did absolutely nothing to stop it. Tom hated him anyway.

I’d lived in Sydney for a year before Tom came to stay with me. Over our then-five years of friendship, we’d both changed a lot – growing apart just enough for it to be a little awkward when I met him at the airport. That awkwardness quickly dissipated over multiple jugs of cheap beer, shared with my three besotted housemates. Tom was a true charmer, telling jokes in such quick succession that when he left momentarily to use the bathroom, he returned to a table still doubled over with laughter.

When one of our housemates later decided to move out, his suitcase was rolling over our threshold within days of hearing the news. For Tom, the move meant a different city, a new job and an entirely new friend group. For me, it meant a familiar addition to my already-functioning Sydney life. In retrospect, it was probably quite hard for him. Which might’ve contributed to what happened next.

While Tom was physically closer than he’d been in a long time, he started to feel distant. He started spending the majority of time with an elusive group of ‘work friends’ from his bar. They were all over his Instagram stories, sipping drinks and giggling at bars and restaurants I wasn’t invited to. He was suddenly absent from our weekly house dinners, an occasion he’d previously shown enthusiasm for. Despite my best efforts to make them stick, he’d consistently blow off our plans with a flippant message.

Our conversations felt withheld and stilted. It was as if our plethora of inside jokes had been suddenly replaced by banal questions and polite replies; with me moving closer as he pulled away. I tried my hardest to preserve the dynamic that suddenly felt like it was slipping, but it seemed to only make the situation worse. My housemates – who had already formed their own relationship with Tom – were confused, and I was pathetic.

One weekday, I came home from work to find his room entirely vacated. He’d sent a message in our group chat, telling us he’d found somewhere else to live – but it was okay, he’d look for a replacement. Truthfully, I’d seen it happening in slow-motion. One of his best work friends (a girl I’d followed on Instagram after accidentally liking a photo from three years ago, mid-stalk) had posted on her story about looking for a housemate, and I suspected he’d make the jump. I just thought we’d stay friends.

I tore through our dilapidated sharehouse, desperately looking for some evidence Tom still lived there. Everything – his shaving cream, the expensive kitchen knives, that ugly poster I’d hated – was gone. He didn’t pick up any of my phone calls or answer any of my texts. A week later, I finally got a response. ‘I’m sorry,’ it read. ‘It was the right decision for me.’

My fury quickly turned to sadness, my destructive behaviour would rapidly become suspiciously calm. It was heartache like I’d never felt before, an experience that left a Tom-shaped hole in every picture and memory we had together. Four years on, I’ve been ghosted by men in different capacities – but nothing stung like a best friend.

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