Sunken Ships is a Zikoko series that explores the how and why of the end of all relationships — familial, romantic or just good old friendships.
Anita* and Cynthia* are cousins with a four-year age difference. They spent a lot of their free time together as children, but one incident changed the trajectory of their relationship. Now, it’s been over a decade since they spoke. Here’s *Anita’s story:
I’ve known Cynthia all my life. That’s the good thing about family. You don’t have to find them; they’re already there.
Cynthia and I were close in age, unlike many of our other cousins, so we spent a lot of time together. Easter, birthdays, Christmas, name it. If there was a reason to go over to her house for the holidays, I’d take it with joy.
Until one day, I was at her house and she ignored me. That’s when I decided I’d never go back.
The short story is that she chose her friends over me. The long story is that her parents were throwing a party for their children and their children’s friends. I was around two days before because I’m family and I just spent a lot of my free time at her place.
That day, she had promised me we’d play some games together, and I was very excited. Then, the guests started arriving, mostly girls from her boarding school. When it was time for us to play our game, I reminded her about it, and she said she didn’t have time, that she was busy. It turned out she was “busy” watching television with her friends. For the whole day, she ignored me completely. I went home the next day as planned, and never went back to her house again.
Why didn’t you go back?
I was hurt. I felt abandoned by the only friend I had. Making friends was a tough thing for me to do because a lot of people only wanted to talk to me because their parents told them to. I was one of those “smart” children parents wanted their children to associate with. At the time, she saw me as a person not just a way to improve her intelligence.
Plus, the situation brought insecurities I didn’t even realise I had. I started to withdraw and stopped being the happy and cheerful person I once was. From then on, I began to see myself as less than everyone else. Self-esteem issues are a bitch, and I can tie mine to that one scenario.
But you’re family, how did you not talk to her for over a decade?
I just avoided her. She might be family, but it doesn’t mean we have to talk to each other all the time. I went to boarding school too, and for some reason, our calendars never synched. We were hardly on holiday simultaneously, so not seeing her was easy. Whenever her mum asked me to come over to her place, I’d make up an excuse.
We didn’t even go to Universities in the same country, so dodging her wasn’t a challenging feat. We only ever saw during Christmas because we gather at our grandma’s place for the holidays. Even then, there are a lot of cousins and many rooms to hide in. I just talk to someone else, and if I can’t, I hide.
Did you ever bring it up with her?
No. I wonder if things would have been different if I had just told her, but the situation was so embarrassing. Even saying it right now is embarrassing.
Also, I was hoping she’d bring it up herself. I wanted her to approach me and ask why we weren’t talking anymore, but she never did. One of our cousins did though. She asked me why I didn’t speak to Cynthia anymore, and I asked her, “why doesn’t Cynthia talk to me?” It’s not like she made an effort to reach out and I refused to speak to her. I talk to her mum, who is an absolute sweetheart, so if Cynthia talked to me, I’d probably talk back.
The conclusion I’ve reached is that she doesn’t like me. Maybe she never really did.
Do you think you’d ever tell her?
Maybe. It took me years to work through a lot of the issues I developed based on that experience — the years of battling insecurities, questioning my self-worth and other things. I’m still figuring it out, but it’s a lot less now. In a way, I’m thankful to her for teaching me early that people will leave you for other people. It’s not a reflection of your worth; it’s just how it is.
If we see at Christmas this year, maybe I’ll bring it up. I can’t keep dragging something that happened years ago. I’m an adult now, and so is she. Plus, it would be nice to actually hear what she has to say. It might have been a big misunderstanding, and I’m overreacting.
Do you miss her?
Sometimes. I’m not close to many of my family members because a lot of them are much older. She was one of the few people who was actually around my age. I miss what we had and what we could have had.
Do you hate her for how she made you feel?
I used to, but not anymore. One thing I realised a little too late is that she grew up. She may have been around my age, but she still had four years on me. She also had friends outside of me. Sure, she could have handled that situation better, but I’m not the only friend in her life. I tend to be very intense when I care about someone, and I usually expect that intensity in return. However, not everyone can give it, and that’s fine because it means I just have to find people who can.
I’ve grown up as well. I’ve been the older cousin who’s had to entertain the younger ones, so I get how she feels, but I just wish things happened differently.