One thing I realized not too long ago is that I isolate myself too often. I don't do it consciously, but I can look back and see it after it has been done. There are probably several reasons for this, but I think I have identified the most important one. You could say I have a history of friendship gone horribly wrong.
Before E came to my class in second grade, I didn't really have any close friends where I lived then. I wasn't completely alone either - there were a couple of girls in the class that I occasionally played with and I had made friends with a girl who lived in my house - but I still played alone most of the time and had no one I would call my best friend. I remember looking at her that first day in school and disliking everything about her - she was a neat, clean, polite, sweet little girl - but as early as that same afternoon we started talking and after that there was no stopping it.
It didn't take long before my father got worried about my friendship with E. Among other things, he told me that it looked like I wanted to hold E's hand all the time and asked if I thought I was going to marry her (not in a playful "naww" way, but to tell me to leave her alone). There are many things I remember saying to her. For example, I made up an imaginary friend named Penny, who I said was very shy and would therefore not come over and say hi to her. I once made E wait while I ran behind a wall (to "talk to Penny") and peeked at her through a crack in it, later claiming that the eye she had seen was Penny's. That time I could tell that she didn't believe me, and I understood that Penny was quite unbelievable, but I felt like I just couldn't stop it. Most of the time I didn't understand anything like that, though. About a year earlier, my father worked a lot in San Francisco and once said we might have to move there. There were probably no serious plans to do so, and by this time it was definitely not going to happen since my dad and his then-girlfriend (now-wife) were planning to get married and have more (better) kids together, but that didn't matter. I sat down with E to have a serious talk, told her that I was going to move to America and that I wanted her to have my dolls and my photo album because I would surely die in an earthquake.
One of the things E and I used to do was to dig holes in slopes we found around our school - I wanted to make a hobbit house where we could live together, away from our parents. And this was where our friendship ended, in the mud next to one of the little holes that I still seriously believed we would manage to make big enough to live in. We started arguing about something, and all of a sudden I came to think of a scene from one of the Neverending Story films, where one of the heroes falls and rolls down a hill, and pushed her. She slid a couple of feet down the hill but got up again and managed to escape when I tried to push her a second time. I didn't really mean to do what I did, but I was too absorbed in my little world of fantasy fiction to see what happened. It was not until I saw the mud-stained knees of her white tights run past me that I understood what I had done. Two teachers, one of whom had always openly detested me, helped her and heard what had happened. By then it was too late, I tried to run after her and apologize but the teachers stopped me. The one who hated me told me that I was the devil or something like that.
From that moment on, I was no longer allowed to talk to E, try to approach her or even look at her in class. In fact, I wasn't even allowed to mention her (even a couple of months later, my dad's wife once started yelling at me because she thought she had heard me say E's name while talking to one of my dolls). It was a bit difficult to grasp at first - I thought we had just had a fight. People have fights, then they apologize and everything is fine again, I thought. I wanted to, but couldn't. However, it turned out that it wasn't because I pushed her that afternoon. When my parents interrogated me that evening, I told them what had happened and it turned out that they hadn't even heard about the pushing incident. Of course, they asked me why I had done it, but I insisted that I didn't know. At least I understood that the truth - that I just wanted to see if she would roll like the boy in the movie - was too ugly to tell. What really frightened and confused me was hearing what it was all really about. Everyone - our teachers, our parents - except me had always seen that E tried to say no. She didn't want to dig holes or live alone with me in a house. She never wanted to play along when I tried to make her believe in my imaginary friends, she never wanted to sneak around with me in the bushes outside the schoolyard, she probably didn't even want to play with me at all. I just didn't understand it. She never told me, so I thought we were doing all of those things together. Apparently, in everybody else's opinion, I had forced her to do things she didn't want to do for several months.
Although these events were extreme and nothing like it would happen today, sometimes my strong friendship feelings have resembled an obsessive kind of love even after that. I just don't trust myself. What if I go too far without seeing it myself? I know I have those problems. I know that I sometimes can't see my own behavior and understand the consequences of it. I also know that I can't always see the more subtle emotional signals, such as E's silent way of trying to show that she was uncomfortable with me and the games we played. There are various different reasons for my periods of isolation, but I believe that this is the main reason why I tend to shut myself out of conversations and keep good new friends at a distance, unless there is no doubt that they like me just as much as I like them. I'm unconsciously staying on the safe side.