I had a very close friend in high school, “Patrick,” who I lost touch with after graduation. Sometime during grad school (still in the days of landlines), I was overjoyed to receive a call from him. He was visiting my city, and we made plans to get together. After I hung up, my female roommate, who was always making lewd remarks about my male friends and trying to hit on them, asked if he was cute. I didn’t want my roommate to treat Patrick like her latest conquest, so I replied, “He has a lot of acne, or at least he did when I last saw him. And I think he’s gay.” These things were true. I hoped that mentioning the acne would make him less appealing to my roommate and that my genuine belief that he was gay would make him unavailable. I picked up the phone to make another call and heard no dial tone. I hadn’t placed the phone properly in the cradle and there was a good chance that Patrick had heard every word.
I was horrified. He did not call the next day, which seemed proof enough. But a few days later, he called to apologize, saying that something had come up and he hadn’t been able to meet me. “Are you mad at me?” I asked, hoping he would confront me. Instead, he replied, “No, why would I be mad at you?” I couldn’t bring myself to apologize, then or later, because if he hadn’t heard, I’d be forced to tell him what I said. Instead, I let the friendship lapse out of guilt and accepted its loss as the price of my being a jerk. He also never contacted me again until recently, when I received a friend request from him on social media. We have exchanged basic catching-up messages, and it’s stirred up these feelings of guilt and loss again. He meant so much to me, and I ruined it. Maybe his contacting me is his unspoken forgiveness! Or maybe he thinks he’s the one who ruined it by flaking out on me that day! Or maybe he assumes we just naturally lost touch. I’m all for owning up to my mistake, but I don’t want to create unnecessary pain. Should I confess?
—Still Hung Up