Dear Lovely and Discerning,
I think Megan already hit on the relevant and insightful advice, which means I'm free to write tangential and speculative things instead. The thing I agree with the most is that ambiguity signals unresolved conflict -- their vagueness or silence probably means they're conflicted about why they don't feel so great about you anymore. Maybe not -- a lot of folks avoid negative or difficult conversations, so silence could signal clarity but unwillingness to have a hard talk. I don't think so, though.
Your letter made me think about friendship and how mysterious it can be. It made me think about the people in my life who are or once were or rightfully should be "friends" but who actually make me uncomfortable. There are some myths about friendship, I think, that aren't matched by the reality that I live. The people who make me feel uneasy are the people where myth and reality stand in contrast. "Friends are forever," is the myth I think you're bumping into right now.
The biggest myth about friendship is that it goes in one direction. You start as strangers, you become acquaintances, you move into friendship, the friendship deepens, and that's friendship -- you stay close forever and ever. The myth suggests that once you are friends, at a particular level of intimacy, anything that diminishes that closeness is a failure -- you're not really "friends." Someone has done something wrong, there's something broken to fix. I don't think that's actually true, but it is those situations where I feel awkward or lousy. There are people in my life where the potential for friendship exists, and partial overtures have been made, we started down the path of friendship or we got all the way there, but present day life doesn't accommodate true closeness in the shape we both might have predicted at the beginning. Those are the people I'm afraid to call up, because I don't know what we are. I'd like to get coffee now and then, to hear how they're doing, and I wish them well, but I don't want to have them over for dinner or take trips with them or call them to borrow tools or go to their child's school play. You're not allowed to say this, because it contradicts the myth about what friendship is. You're not allowed to go from friends to graceful acquaintances. We do it all the time, but we don't talk about it or admit that it's okay. It's easier to sever ties completely, sometimes, or to say, we were never really "friends" than to say, we were friends once, but now there are other people I'd rather spend my time talking to. Or I've outgrown that stage of my life and the people who are still really into it make me feel conflicted and strange. Or, I've realized that you always want to talk about something that isn't interesting enough for me to want to talk about as often as you would like, but telling you would be awkward and I don't care about you enough to try to puzzle through an awkward conversation. Worse still: the more I got to know you I admired from afar, the more I realize we don't share the same values, and so I don't want to be around you as much as I thought I would from the outside.