12/06/2012 01:47 pm ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

The Padlock That Broke the Camel's Back

I met "Jane" day one, freshmen year of college. All blonde and bows, she bounded down the hall like a Labrador puppy. At first, I didn't know what to do with her endless energy, but she caught my attention and made me laugh. Once we figured out how to negotiate our differences, our friendship quickly grew and, soon, we were inseparable. We shared everything: clothes, late night eats, tears, hopes and dreams, spent time at each other's homes, wrote letters when we weren't together and supported each other through everything. I was certain it was a friendship for the ages.

Then Jane met "Eric." A sweet, humble and all-around good guy, Eric was the quintessential boy next door. And, quite literally, he was. He lived down the hall and, almost immediately, Jane and Eric coupled up. They fell hard, fast. I was thrilled for my sweet friend. I wanted to hear every detail, was their date night photographer and became their consummate third wheel.

But when we returned sophomore year, the brisk fall air swept in another, different girl. Somewhere, somehow Jane became, well, Jane; the bubbly, free-spirited girl I met a year earlier, replaced by a formal, controlled and uptight woman. Her studies and Eric became her only focus and I, along with her other friends, faded into the background.

It's hurtful to watch your best friend slip away with no control over the situation. After plenty of tears, some sleepless nights and constant over-analyzing about the loss of our once-tight bond, I focused on others and myself, figuring that part of our friendship was over for good.

Then Eric went abroad -- and Jane resurfaced. Ecstatic to have my girl back, I didn't hesitate, question, judge or address the previous year of abandonment. My sunny, silly sidekick was back, we were having a ball and I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that. The rest of our junior year was bliss. I was convinced whatever it was that happened -- a phase, a funk -- was behind us. For good.

But senior year when Eric returned, so did the other Jane. The one who shut everyone else out. The one who forgot to be real. Her hardened, formal edges were back and there was no softening them, no matter how hard I tried.

Once again, my girl was gone. Despite the fact that we lived together, I never saw her. My other roommate and I were cut off. She slept at Eric's every night and when she returned to get clothes, she was icy and distant -- and that was when she actually spoke to us.

And, just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I awoke one night to a loud beeping. Once I realized it was coming from Jane's room, I went to investigate. She was, of course, not there but when I went to open her door, I couldn't. Confused and groggy, I tried to force it open to no avail. I cleared the sleep from my eyes, looked closer and discovered an industrial-sized padlock, the kind that truckers use, on my roommate and best friend's door.

We went to school in a sleepy town. We lived in a very safe, charming little brownstone with several secured doors between us and the street and an 80-year-old woman at our feet. Our entire student body was under 2,000. Our neighbors were Amish! It was hardly padlock territory. But it was clear that the new accessory was not to keep criminals out, it was to keep us, her two best friends, from coming in.

With the discovery of her hardware purchase that early morning twelve years ago went my faith in our friendship. It was the last straw. We would never recover from this. It sounds so silly but that lock spoke more than she ever could.

I was devastated. I tried to speak to her about it, to ask her what I had ever done that would elicit such an irrational act, what had gone so wrong, hell, what she had in that room... it didn't work. She was defensive, aloof, uninterested. And that was it.

Over the years, I performed the obligatory friend rituals: traveled to and attended her engagement party, shower, bachelorette and wedding with a smile on my face and genuine happiness for my long-lost friend who found her happiness.

Since then, we've drifted. To her credit, she's made more of an effort than I have; my will died the day her trust did.

There have been other Jane's along the way and it never gets easier or less painful. But not every friendship is meant to run the course of time. I've learned that lesson the hard way over the years. Jane and her padlock were a large part of that.

I have nothing but well wishes for her and her family. I truly hope she's found what she's looking for and that, somewhere in there, a bit of the old Jane has shone through. I miss her. And I know, deep down, she does too.

Was there a life-changing, can't go back moment for any of you and your friends? Have you struggled with the loss of a friendship? I want to hear about it and any advice or thoughts you have about repairing friendships.