What a horrid word, yet seeming so soft and simple for what it really means. It contains the word “friend” yet like the word “unwind” it implies something else. It indicates an unraveling of something that bound you with someone else. Like an old sweater, being pulled until it is nothing but a length of yarn and no indication that it ever held any other form. To be able to burn a bridge because one little word is that tenuous thread that holds worlds together these days. That it has become the validation of who someone is in your life.

Friendship doesn’t work like this. Unfriend in this case is more like “abort.”

If you were my friend, you are always going to be remembered as such. I still care. I can’t help but care and hope you are well and safe and happy and smiling and laughing. I can’t help but love you. If it is possible to delete these feelings I had for you, the moments we shared, then it was never friendship.

It takes a lot to push that button. The one that renders so much of what we shared to digital vapor. If I pushed it, know that it was a decision I did not make with a light heart. My finger flinched. I had doubts. If we didn’t have the “friend” button would we have ever been friends? My stomach balled up with a fist of acid. I fought anxiety attacks and made myself breathe long and slow and steady breaths until my heart calmed itself again. It took a while–not like the way hearing your voice could make it beat normally again in seconds. I stopped sleeping.

But looking at you through that digital glass was more than I could take. Pretending things could go back to “normal.” Convincing myself that I wasn’t in pain every moment I was missing out with you. Wondering why I couldn’t come with you, or why you didn’t want to come with me. Why I didn’t make the cut. Why I was an option and not a choice.

In pushing that button, I have erased myself. I understand that. It wasn’t to send a message. It was to stop me from hurting myself anymore. Like a missing tooth, eventually you stop putting your tongue in that space where it once was. It was never done out of anger. It was done out of love because I could no longer continue to walk down that path of resenting the times we shared. Knowing that I would get to hold onto a piece of something we shared for many, many years. Just like I promised. To always be yours.

I chose to love you unconditionally. Which isn’t the same as turning a blind eye to watching someone unravel themselves, or waving at them from the shore as they drift away and pretending you don’t know what is happening. Validation is accounted for with how many “likes” or hearts you get from other people, when I could only give you one heart: mine. I made a boundary with myself when I touched that unfriend button, that I wasn’t going to let my love for you become something awful.

It can also mean that the little spark that you ignited in my heart gets to burn forever. With or without you. Outside of the parameters of an app.

I’ll keep it safe.

You were never my unfriend.