Friends

By Evan Farbstein

 

The eggs are on the balcony because my fridge is filled with beer and because it’s October and it’s cold enough. She’s on the balcony because she’s getting some eggs to make us breakfast.

Down below the balcony the courtyard is wet because of the rain last night, and the trees are missing most of their leaves because it’s late October, almost November. She’s wearing my old T-shirt because she said it’s more comfortable than the clothes she came over in last night, because they were her going-out clothes, because she went out. When she leaves, I’ll put the shirt on because it will smell like her.

She was out last night and I was at work, because I work until close on Fridays. And when I got home I messaged her to ask her over for tea because I was thinking of her all shift. And because I knew she wouldn’t message me unless I messaged her first. We call it coming over for tea even though it’s always too late for tea, because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t know what else to call it.

She’s been on the balcony a long time now, looking out into the courtyard, but in a way that I can tell, even with her facing away from me, that she’s not really seeing it. She’s been out there so long I start to think that maybe she wants me to go out there with her, so I go to her and I circle my arms around her waist from behind because she’s told me she likes to be held like that. Sometimes when I hold her this way she turns in my arms and kisses my cheekbut this time she doesn’t. This time she doesn’t react at all. 

I wonder whether to try to talk to her about it again, but I decide not to because when I tried last night it went the same way it always does:

"Why are we doing this?" I asked her.

"Because we’re friends," she said. 

We were in my room and I was sitting on my chair and she was sitting on me, facing toward me, and I was rubbing my fingers along her back under her shirt because she’s told me she likes that. One of her hands was on my chest. 

"But this is not how friends touch each other," I said.

She didn’t say anything, but she also didn’t move her hand away, and I didn’t stop rubbing her back.

On the balcony I’m still holding her.

"I’m cold," she says.

I hold my arms tighter around her because I think that’s maybe what she wants me to do, but still she doesn’t react. I wish she would do something – either put her hands over mine or else move away – so I would know whether she wanted me to be holding her or not. But she does nothing, and I take my hands away because I feel intrusive and creepy with them on her while she’s acting like she doesn’t notice them at all.

"If you’re cold, then why are you out here where it’s cold?" I ask her.

"I don’t know," she says. "I don’t know why I’m here." She doesn’t say anything else, and I can’t think of anything to say either, so I say nothing. 

Earlier this morning she had said this would be the last time – had to be the last time. It’s what she says every time this happens now.

"Because you’re my friend," is what she always says. "I don’t want to lose that."

So, for a few days I’ll try to just be her friend, because that’s what she says she wants, and because she is my friend, too. Then one night after work I’ll get home and my apartment will feel too empty and quiet and I’ll invite her over, because I won’t be able to stop myself. And she’ll come over. She’ll say it’s just to watch an episode or two and she’s not staying because she has class in the morning. And because we’re friends and she shouldn’t. She'll put my pajamas on because they’re comfortable, and we'll start watching something, because if we didn’t we wouldn’t know what else to do.

And then we’re kissing, and she’s taking my pajamas off her, and there’s no "because." 

This is what happens every time.