“Okay, June 2nd. Sounds good.”
For one month, this date was all you had to look forward to. Your days had bled together, each week a dark, formless blob, until one morning you received a call from your college roommate: he wanted to bring the friend group back together. You’d get to see Alex and Kaitlyn and Lucas and Beanie again. After the date was confirmed, you hung up and sat down, rested your face in your hands. Remember how happy you were back then? You try to muster up a smile.
You’re meeting with them tonight. You won’t let them know that this’ll be your first time showering in a week. You won’t let them know that there’s a gun in the drawer of your nightstand. You won’t let them know about your nightmares and how sometimes you can’t move when you wake up. You will tell them that you’re fine, life is good, everything is swell. You will laugh, you will smile. You’re looking forward to it.
And then you’re walking through the restaurant door and it’s dark, but a romantic dark, and you see them all together, laughing, and you realize just how hard it’ll be.
They talk about their lives. Alex has kids. Kaitlyn just applied for a fellowship. Beanie is about to publish her first graphic novel. And Lucas is planning on moving to start a new job. That’s why he brought you all together. One last goodbye.
And how are you, Peter?
“Oh, you know. I’m fine.”
“We heard about Andrew.”
You grow cold. You hate him for bringing it up but you knew he would. You turn your gaze away from him, to anything; the floor, the table, the centerpiece. You can’t look at him when he talks about Andrew. You sip your drink and take a bite of the bread.
“Yeah,” you mumble.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Well, you know. It’s been really hard.”
“We’re here for you, okay?”
They all nod. They give their sympathetic smiles. It’s all bullshit. You know it is. You hate them but you know you love them. They mean well. But you just want them to shut the fuck up because you can’t bear when anyone talks about Andrew. They didn’t know him, they didn’t feel him, and they’ll never get it. People like Andrew aren’t supposed to die. Young people, college graduates, with lean bodies and nice dicks and endless libido and contagious laughs. People with futures and purposes.
No, he wasn’t supposed to die.
“How are you, really?” It’s Kaitlyn. She’s whispering to you. You feel sorry because you know Kaitlyn actually wants to know. You know she means the most well of them all. You want to give her a genuine answer but you know it’ll just burden her.
You reach out your hand and take hers. “I think I’ll be okay,” you assure her. “It’ll just take some time.”
The night goes on. You get a bit drunk and Lucas invites everyone back to his place. You oblige. It’s getting late and you don’t know if you’ll be able to drive but you don’t care. You just don’t care. You pile into Lucas’ car with the others and watch out the window as the city lights pass by. You think of him.
At Lucas’ place you drink more and play Cards Against Humanity. Beanie always has the funniest answers. Back in school, their humor always made your day brighter. God, you miss it. That era of your life; before you met Andrew. You were sad but it wasn’t like your sadness now. It was a temporary sadness; easier to bottle. You were sad but you could still be happy.
Soon you’re all drunk and your facades are down; they’re talking about the real things and you’re listening in silence. Beanie’s scared they’ll have to move back in with their parents. Lucas doesn’t know how he’ll meet people in his new city. Kaitlyn just got out of a relationship. Alex lost his uncle and he’s scared of getting older. Lucas is crying. Beanie makes a joke: “You always cry Lucas.”
“I’m just gonna miss it. It’s like I’m moving on, but I don’t want to.”
“Always so sentimental,” they smile.
Lucas turns to you.
“You never cried,” he says. “I remember back in school, you’d fail a test but you wouldn’t care. You had a different mindset I guess.” He looks around. “I’ve seen everyone here cry but you,” he laughs. He wipes his tears away with a fist. “What’s your secret?”
“I dunno…” you fake a chuckle. “I’m just not really a cryer.”
Kaitlyn looks at you then, and she says in a low, uncertain voice: “Did you cry when you heard about Andrew?”
And you think back to it. To the cop and the medical examiner ringing your doorbell. You listened to them speak of the broken boy on the highway and then you showed them out. You waved as they left. You went back inside and made pasta for dinner.
“No,” you say. “Not at first.”
They all laugh, uneasily.
It had hit you when you were trying to fall asleep, that night. When you were alone in the bed and it was dark and you were left all by yourself in the late night’s heavy silence. You longed for his breath on your neck; you realized you’d never feel it again. You sobbed until it didn’t hurt anymore.
“Always that mindset,” Lucas smiles, “that things’ll get better.”
You take a swig of your drink. Then you look up.
“No,” you say. “I don’t think things’ll get better.”
The room grows heavy. The lights are brighter than you remember. You can feel your face heating up but you don’t really care. “I don’t know how to keep living,” you hear yourself say. “without him.”
Kaitlyn reaches out and rubs your thigh. “It’s okay,” she says. “It’s gonna be okay. I’m sure you’ll meet someone else. Fall in love again.”
You stand, quick enough to make Alex jolt. “No,” you say. “Don’t fucking say that. Don’t ever say that. Please.”
“I just meant--”
“I don’t give a shit about what you meant, Kaitlyn. I don’t. You don’t get it. None of you fucking get it. Okay? None of you. This is just like back in college, when I talked about how lonely I was. And I never fucking said anything. But I’m drunk now and I’m older and I’ve lost my husband of ten fucking years so I’ll be blunt because what I feel is fucking real and I never got to express it. I’m gay. Okay? I’m fucking gay. And you know that, you all know that. But I know you don’t really think of me as gay. Sometimes I don’t really think of me as gay. But I fucking am and do you know what that means? It means that there aren’t that many people out there for me. It means that I had my first kiss at 23. That I lost my virginity at 24. And, you see, I did the math. There are about 19,000 people in this entire fucking state that I could possibly date. And that’s not including people that already have significant others. Beanie has more followers than that on Instagram. Okay? People love to sit there and talk about how easy it is to find someone but it’s not. It’s fucking not. I’ve got a smaller pool and I’ve got preferences and it’s so fucking hard, it’s so fucking hard, and I’m just, I’m so, so scared that I’ll never find someone else like him, that I got this one shot at real love and then it was taken away from me, the one man I’ve ever trusted, the one man I’ve ever fucked, the one man I’ve ever kissed, he was taken away from me and I don’t know how I can ever find anyone like him again. I don’t think I will.”
The room is silent. You don’t wait for a response. You call an Uber to the shop down the block and leave.
While you wait, you stare at the sidewalk. Your mind is blank.
In the car, you watch the city lights pass by.
You remember how he used to fall asleep in the passenger’s seat, how it was different to watch him sleeping in a car than it was in a bed, how illuminated squares of city lights would roll over his face as you drove home at night. How sometimes you’d look at him asleep and your music would be playing and you’d silently cry because you knew that being there, in that moment, with him, was everything. You knew that you were the happiest you ever were and you knew that you’d be even happier the next time you saw his peaceful face.
So you watch the lights, and you cry. It’s all you can do. You cry.