I’ve stopped counting the years since I first fell in love with you, stopped counting the years since I considered myself over you, and stopped even worrying about the way I want you in my life. You’re my best friend, I say. Everyone suspects we’re more than friends, but no one knows, maybe not even you and I.
A friendship built on things unsaid. On loud laughter and uncomfortable pauses. We could not talk for ten years, but if I ever saw you from the window of a passing car, or heard your voice on the other end of the phone, it would all come back in the thick syrup of memory, slow me down for a second and force my mind to stop thinking so I could feel. When you text me and you haven’t seen me since last summer, I hit reply before I even read what you’ve said.
You pull me off the couch-that’s-become-my-life, and drive me up the familiar streets to the most familiar place of all. And we order frozen yogurt like we did years ago and follow old paths through the Cal campus. Your arm finds it’s way around my shoulder and I’m warm and dizzy and not-at-all-guilty, like I should be, maybe, with a boyfriend in another state and you with a recent ex-girlfriend and two other girls (not me) in love with you and I’m not in love with you, no, not anymore…I just love you. My fingers find my way up to my shoulder to lace with yours and to everyone we pass we’re just another UC Berkeley couple, out late on a rainy Saturday night in December. Only we know that’s not true.
Or maybe we don’t. Because we’re sitting on the steps in the square and I consider, for a moment, how close your face is to mine. And while I’m listening to you talk about your girl problems, and telling you, automatically, about my boyfriend, because he’s wonderful and I am, actually, deeply, madly in love with him, I’m thinking about how it would feel to kiss you.
What’s wrong with me? Absolutely nothing. I hold my breath at the stop sign. Right means home. Left means up the hill and yes, you do turn left, and even though the gears are grinding and the streets are twisted and wet, I trust you. The lights come up behind us suddenly, and the wind is blowing cold air down from Tilden, and the clouds are high enough that the city is visible, all the east bay spread before us in twinkling orange and yellow and red. I watch stoplights change, watch cars on the bridge glide back and forth across the bay, watch planes slip in and out of my field of vision. You’re still talking.
They’re all in love with you. It’s a truth you’re only beginning to realize. You tell me about your ex-girlfriend, about your best friend, about the hook-up from freshman year that always leaned towards something more. We stop talking about your girl problems for a few minutes and talk about love in general, about life, and learning and listening to yourself. You tell me how easy it is to be honest with me. I laugh. I’m shivering with cold and I wish, again, that you’d kiss me.
I’m so close to telling you how I used to feel about you. All night I know it doesn’t matter anymore, because the boyfriend is shoving shadows of doubt in my mind, and I can’t wait to get home and call him. I know I fell out of love with you a long time ago, but when we sit in my driveway and the rain is falling down and the car is warm and our seat belts are off and I feel so close to you, physically and otherwise, it’s hard to be sure. Then you say, ironically, how once we love someone we love them forever and I think, yes, I know. Maybe I even say it; maybe I say more than I should. I think, finally, that I’ve told you, but I didn’t. I can’t and I won’t. Not ever. You’re my best friend and I love you.