“I’m really glad you came, Jess.”
“I had to,” she stated plainly. “Imagine what you’re apartment would look like without me. Your interior decorating skills suck!”
I almost smiled. “You know what? I did the most important room by myself.”
“Oh please. Only in your apartment is that the most important room.”
“Whatever. I would have been okay.”
“Who found the painting?”
She was referring to a ridiculous collection of abstract splotches on canvas she’d found at the um…at a discount furniture store. At least it was affordable. I hated it until we hung it up. To her credit, it did match my living room and it was titled “Flower” and she did pick it out for me. Okay, so it was perfect.
“It did kind of pull the place together, didn’t it?” I laughed in resignation.
“Damn right it did!”
I didn’t really know what else to add, one of those awkward moments when you want to say something but you’ve just got nothing.
It was 2002, the summer before my first year in college. My best friend, no the best friend ever in the whole wide world, had driven 700 miles to help me set up my new home away from home. We were exhausted, it was the middle of the muggiest summer ever, and so we’d driven up to the lake and been swimming until it started getting late. My whole chest was buzzing with the utter satisfaction of our day, the sense of accomplishment you get when you work hard and something is done mixed with that incredibly special feeling only the bond of friendship can bring.
It’s funny how easy it is to look back on it now and the words just pop right out. I love you. It’s so easy, and yet it was impossible then to even form the words in my head, let alone say them. Perhaps other times I might have, but never during an awkward pause.
“I’m just glad you came,” I said.
It was obvious I was making her feel awkward too. Jessi had one of those hand-held movie camera’s she’d brought along and she pulled it up and turned it on. It was only a matter of time before it was aimed at my head.
“It’s a good thing it’s getting dark, or you’d be eating that thing,” I threatened.
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s one of those Dyna-LUX 2000s, or something,” she said. “I forget what my dad said. It can totally take movies in the dark. It’s the height of technology!”
“You know you’re erasing that when we get home if I don’t like it!”
“Relax, you paranoid freak. I can hardly even see you. I’m just trying to get that awesome sunset.”
“I’m warning you…”
She ignored me.
We rode most of the rest of the way back without talking. She filmed stuff for awhile and put the camera away when it got too dark, and then we rode along, thinking our separate thoughts. I wonder if she had a chance to look back on it now, if she’d have found those same three unspoken words, and if she’d said them then, you know, during an awkward pause, what terrible things might have befallen us. Or if I had. But we didn’t.
When we arrived back at my apartment, I parked in the lot in back. I immediately reached to snatch the camera. Jessi was my best friend. She pulled it out of my reach before I even tried.
“Give me that thing!” I demanded.
“You better erase it!”
“You said if you didn’t like it I had to. That’s not the same thing.”
We had a brief stand-off.
“Can I just show you?” Jessi asked.
She turned on the camera and rolled it back to where she had filmed my face and then paused it. She showed me the frame.
“Oh, that’s perfect,” I said. “A perfect picture of my perfect life.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at it, Jess. It’s just like my life. It’s perfect. I have the perfect school, the perfect new apartment…a bazillion perfect miles away from Daddy…I’ve got the most perfect friend ever…I’ve got everything. The only thing missing is me.”
© 2014 Anne Schilde