27 October 2008

Sorry To a Friend

Posted upon this 27 October 2008
Copyright K. S. Wood

This is the first half of a story that I wrote one lonely night while listening to Edwin McCain


He was sitting in the bar, drinking a bottle of cheap beer, and talking to the dude sitting next to him about the evening news. The conversation ceased as soon as it began. He chuckled and stared into space, rubbing his thumb over the lip of the bottle.

Something said reminded him of her, and he let his mind wander.

She was a girl he knew as a young man. She was the girl he could never forget. He let her into his heart, and she never left, though she was out of his life now for the past five years. It was a girl he loved completely.

But it wasn’t a love in the romantic sense of the word. His love for her was like that for a best friend or a favored sister. She was the one friend he could always count on, and he let her slip through his fingers in a single act of carelessness.

They tried dating, but there was no romance between them. They were best friends, and they spoke of their futures and their loves. They assessed each other’s new romances and spent hours debating over the tiniest things. No one would ever win these debates, but each would leave with a big grin thinking they had won.

They knew each other so well, and that scared him a bit. He never let anyone get that close before. She was the only one who knew almost as much about him as he knew himself. Sometimes he didn’t even have to say anything and she would understand him anyway.

No matter what he did, she would forgive him too. He was always doing silly things like forgetting to pick her up for work when he said he would, or calling her at four in the morning asking if he could crash at her place when he lost his keys. Sometimes he could be an insensitive jerk and do things she didn’t like. Yet she always welcomed him with a smile when she saw him, and then she would happily remind him she didn’t like the things he did. Even when she was annoyed with him she brought a smile to his face. She was the one person he felt truly cared about him, and he was fortunate he was able to call her his friend. He hoped they would always remain so.

But it wouldn’t work out that way. He did the unthinkable by leaving.

It all culminated the day he decided to go cross-country on a road trip with a friend of his. At one stop, he saw a girl and started to make conversation with her.

She fascinated him. He thought it was love at first sight, and when she offered to take him with her, he made the stupidest mistake of his life. He said good-bye to his buddy, pulled his luggage from the car and took off with the girl.

Not once did he look back, for he was having the time of his life. He called his uncle, with whom he had been living, and told them he wasn’t coming back home. He partied with his new found love and found work and lived wherever he could, enjoying the rush of living on the edge. He threw away his money in wild parties and big-ticket items, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Never once did he call his friend and let her know where he was.

The fun and games ended fast though. It was only a year before his new fling found a more exciting man and dumped him. He lost his place to live because he was living with her friend, who didn’t want anything to do with him after that. His friends dried up quick when he realized he lost his taste for partying. After all, he only did all the “fun” because his girl did them.

Within a year he had lost everything.

He managed to scrape by. He found a friend willing to let him rent a room, and worked three jobs just to get the money together to pay off his debts. He started to face life with a cold heart and a hardened attitude. He had to if he wanted to survive.

He gave up on life, so life gave up on him. He was just wandering through life aimlessly. He wore down to nothing.

It was three years before he started to realize the effect of his actions on others, particularly her. He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts and miseries that he couldn’t see what he had done to his true friends.

One day an old buddy ran into him, almost by surprise. This buddy was passing through town on his way east to visit family and stopped by the gas station he worked at. They chatted for a bit, and his buddy let him know how she was doing.

“She’s doing great. She’s just about to graduate from college and has a new boyfriend now. They may even get married one of these days,” his buddy said. “She was upset with you the last time we talked about you. I think she may even be mad still. You did leave without saying anything.”

The words stung, though outwardly he showed no emotion. He said good-bye to his old friend and went about his day.

He didn’t reflect about the words and why they stung until that night, when he was alone in his room. He lay on his bed, his hands tucked behind his head, and he stared up at the ceiling for a long time, thinking clearly for the first time in months about her.

“You were the only one to understand me,” he wrote in a letter he would never send. “You were the best friend I could ever have, but I couldn’t stay there. Even with you as a friend I didn’t have much left for me in our old neck of the woods. I had to go. I hope you understand that. I will always remember you. Don’t forget that, please.”

After he put the pen down, he crumpled the letter up and threw it across the room. He then curled up in his bed, pulled his pillow over his head and cried himself to sleep.

They were the tears of a broken man.

He continued to wander through life aimlessly, but now he was consumed by shame. There was a battle going on inside of him, there had been for years, only now he was able to realize that. He wrestled with the guilt of letting her go, the fear he had of commitment. He was frightened of even committing to be a friend to someone, and that is why he had left, or so he reasoned with himself. But at the same time, his shame at letting her go was a curse to him. It ate him inside to feel it.

He wished he could tell people what was going on inside of him. He was angry with himself for walking out on the best friend he had ever known. He was angry with her because it felt as though she never tried to find him. He felt so vulnerable and hurt and angry and depressed. He wished he had someone, anyone to talk to. If only he could find someone to help him sort out what he was feeling. If only he knew what he was feeling.

“It’s only in your head, dude,” his friends told him when he tried to talk to them about it. “You got to let her go.”

But he couldn’t. He loved her. She was the only one who would ever understand him. But it was too late to go back to the life he once knew, wasn’t it?

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