Even when it was ugly, even when it hurt you, hurt me, I never lied to you. I know it felt cruel to you sometimes, jagged echoes of my honesty reflected in the hurt in your eyes, but you were my best friend, ARE my best friend, and I never wanted what was between us to be filled with falsehood.
In those days I lied to everyone but I loved to lie to myself most of all.
"I NEED these gorgeous boots," I'd crow as I threw a maxed out credit card on the counter at Nine West.
"I DESERVE this vacation," I'd yell, tossing a fuck-you glance at my harried boss and disappearing without word for a week.
"I DON'T drink too much," I scoffed at my roommate, waking up in a stranger's clothes, gravel in my throat and boulders in my brain after a blacked-out night of partying.
"I LOVE him. Everyone fights like we do" I whispered to my reflection, glancing away from the bruises on my arm and throwing on a cardigan so no one else would see.
A little irresponsible, a little irrational, a little self destructive. I must have hated myself a little back then, and in that, hated everyone who loved Hurricane Me a little too.
You didn't judge me though. You never let me push you away. That makes you braver than me, stronger than me. You had your own demons, your own screwed up history, but I knew when I was weak, when I was a mess, when I disappointed myself and everyone around me, you were the one person I could talk to, lay bare my imperfections, without fear that you would fear me or hate me or worse yet, pity me for my mistakes.
There was a time when you loved me, I know, really LOVED me with a capital L, but I never felt that way about you, and that was where the cruelty came in. You were brother and soulmate, not lover or bed warmer to me, I had too many of those back then, but just one of you. I would never have risked losing you by trying to love you the way you needed to be loved, knowing it was fleeting. That wasn't my role, wasn't our story.
There was that one Christmas Eve, a surprising December snow falling in whispers over our hometown. We hadn't seen each other in months and we sat in your old car bathed in the green glow of the dashboard lights in an empty movie theater parking lot talking about high school, our future, heads close together in the dark.
There was a moment, in the warm, muffled silence of the night, when we ran out of words, that my heart skipped a beat and we leaned in close, slowly, close enough that I could feel the electricity from your face, noses brushing...But no! We both think too damn much and we pulled away in unison, eyes shining, laughing, shaking our heads.
"Did we almost...?"
"Should we just...?"
"No! Definitely not! No."
Too much at risk, too much to lose. And then we just held hands, listening to the radio, content to have found one soul on this Earth who could sit with us in silence and not run away.
I thought of you today, as I stood in the midst of a thousand people at a Paul Simon concert in the heart of Atlanta.
"Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down..."
One night, back in those days when I hated myself just a little - twenty one years ago now, believe it or not - you and I sat in this very amphitheater, shining and beautiful in the way that only the very young and the very idealistic can be.
That summer, I'd been dumped by the boy that was meant to accompany me to this show and had just started dating another, that one with a British accent, how EXCITING, but I had offered the concert ticket to you.
In the purple dusk before the show began, I made snarky comments about my old love and chattered with enthusiasm about my new one and you watched me with a bemused smile on your face. Warm candlelight began to pop from the the picnic tables in the expensive seats like entranced fireflies and I commented whistfully about what a romantic place this was.
You turned to me then, guileless, and asked "Do you wish you were here with someone else?"
I took a moment to consider. DID I wish I was there with someone else? In the cinnamon-autumn breeze, in the candlelit dusk? I would never lie to you, even if it were cruel, so I wanted to carefully consider before I responded.
You searched my face, waiting for me to reply.
You were my best friend, my favorite person in the world. The one thing I could always be sure of.
"No," I said, absolutely. "I do not want to be here with anyone else but you."
And that was the truth.