How Trauma Bonding Invited — Then Destroyed — a Friendship
I found a kindred spirit during times of great stress. But when it was time to grow, we drifted apart.
I was attending a student event during my second year of college when I met her. The first thing I noticed about Clara was that she was one of the only other people of color in the room. In fact, her skin tone so closely matched mine that we could have traded foundations. She was my height and had straightened black hair. Over her preppy dress, Clara wore a pristine leather jacket. And though I was across the room from her, I could hear her animated chatter. I could tell even before meeting her that Clara would be easy to talk to.
So I was overjoyed when she introduced herself. From our first conversation, I learned that Clara was a third year pre-law student and, like me, was from California. After I told her I wanted to meet more people that year, Clara told me she was happy to talk to me about other student organizations I would be interested in. I made a mental note to reach out to her after the event and to add her on Facebook.
Her close friendship kept me tethered to the world outside of the nightmare I was living in.
As 2013 melted into 2014, Clara and I became inseparable. When we weren’t at meetings, parties, or events, she would come over to my apartment, where we indulged ourselves with gossip about the men we were into that week. She was brilliant and witty and had an acerbic sense of humor. And as I got to know her, I discovered that Clara was also generous and had a wealth of compassion and sympathy for her friends. But what I appreciated most about her was that she didn’t find it useful to judge people in their difficult moments.
Michael Brown was shot right before I started my third year of college. In the wake of Mike’s murder, and as the Ferguson uprising brewed to a fever pitch, the hopelessness and confusion I felt turned into rage as I watched mainstream journalists malign young Mike, Ferguson, and Black Americans. It broke me to see my people dehumanized and violated for their public expressions of grief and calls for accountability.