I met this guy Mitch at a party the other night and he reminded me of you. I told him that. I said, “Mitch! You remind me of my friend, Chris!” And it was kind of sad because you’re not my friend anymore, not really. I don’t even know if you were ever my friend. You had this way about you, of making people feel like they were close to you, but when I’d look over at you when you thought no one was looking, I could see that pain. The moment someone wasn’t looking your way, the charm and the sheen of your smile would drop and I could see you retreat into your mind. It was even more prevalent when we’d drink together. Do you remember how one time we didn’t have a condom and you were like, “We could have a kid together!” And, I laughed, but I was sort of wondering if you were serious, like maybe you wanted me to save you in a way. I think you did want me to save you. I feel like maybe you wanted anyone to save you, but you kept finding that your charm worked only so long on women. You had to get close eventually and that’s the moment you’d pull away.
We’d have these intense conversations about everything and sometimes I think you’d cry, but it’s hard to tell because we were just so drunk by the time we were spilling out our confessions. You must have realized that you could easily get women to sleep with you, but what you really wanted was for someone to really see you. I think when I look back at you in retrospect through the lens of many years passed that what you would have wanted from me was for me to stop reaching for you on lonely nights and find my way to you in the daylight, sober, to ask how you are or what you’re doing or what you want out of your life. I don’t know if that would have changed anything and maybe I’m just romanticizing the past as I am wont to do, but I feel like maybe it would have been nice to just know you. To know you outside of intoxicated confessions spilled. To see if I could connect with you when you thought no one was looking because I was looking. I saw you. I think I really saw you and yet I never told you that.
It’s weird because some of my most romantic memories are with you, yet over the span of five years, we didn’t see each other that much. It’s not like we dated or anything. You were that person in my life who’d come barreling back into it right when we needed each other. We’d always say that to each other when we’d hang out. We’d be like, “I really needed this,” and I think we both just really understood what that meant.
There was this one night back in 2003 that we would always reminisce about when we saw each other. I was sad and lonely and I don’t know how, but I found myself at your apartment. We were talking about whatever inconsequential crisis I was having at that moment and you told me to lay down on your bed on my back and I sort of laughed as I did so. You turned off the lights and you put on a song that I didn’t recognize and you laid down right next to me and you held my hand and just told me to listen to the song. We listened in the darkness and the lyrics for Coldplay’s Everything’s Not Lost echoed in our ears and I almost cried, but instead I just squeezed your hand a bit tighter and listened to the song harder and thought, this might be the tenderest moment I’ve ever experienced. (I still think of you when I hear that song. Sometimes I play it just to remember you and that moment.)
One time, we stayed up late talking and drinking and we went outside to see the stars. I don’t know why we did that or what we were talking about. We laid down on the concrete in the cold and looked up at the stars in silence and held hands. Then, you got up and you pulled me up into you and we danced to the music in our heads. You kissed me then, just a small one. I don’t think we were ever about that. We were never going to date or fall in love or anything. We were friends as needed and I don’t know, twelve years later, I just see how special you were to me and I hate that I didn’t know it in the moment. Who else will dance with you under the stars and kiss you tenderly and still be your friend the next day and not make it weird? I never worried if you were going to call me. I was always just aware that you’d call me or I’d call you or we’d randomly run into each other when we were meant to. That was how it was with us. We were never going to fall in love or anything and I think that’s why our weird version of romance worked for us. It’s hard to explain what we were to each other, even now, even twelve years or so later with the benefit of hindsight.
One time it was really weird, because I was living with this girl I worked with who you didn’t know or hadn’t met. It was midnight or maybe it was even later. I was sleeping and, all of a sudden, I heard your voice. Actually, now I can’t remember if you called me from the bar and told me you had met my roommate. Either way, I came out of my room and you were so happy to see me and I was so happy to see you and my roommate was not at all happy that we were happy to see each other. She went into her room and sort of waited there for you, but instead of hooking up with her in her room, you came and cuddled with me in my bed and we sort of hooked up with each other in the weird half-hookup way we used to do. We thought you coming home to hook up with my roommate was hilarious. She did not. I think that was probably the moment that begun a pretty terrible dissolution of the friendship and living situation I had with my roommate. You coming into my bed to sleep over after she brought you home to hook up with her seemed like a good idea at the time. Seems ridiculous now. But, we were young and maybe, I don’t know, looking back it seems like we were a little bit in love with each other. Who knows.
I’m talking about you like you’re dead now. I don’t think you’re dead. Are you dead? You’re like the only person I haven’t been able to find on Facebook and it’s probably weird that this makes me think you’re not okay, as if having a Facebook indicates some sort of okayness. I hope you’re good, though. I hope you found someone who looks into you and cares about your words and wants you after the alcohol wears off. I had some idea back when we were hanging out that you were the kind of guy who liked sleeping around, who liked to keep everyone at a distance. I kind of thought it was your thing, kind of like how it was your thing to get people to love Dane Cook before anyone even knew who Dane Cook was or like it was your thing to give women choice romantic memories to reminisce about twelve years later on a cold Saturday night in New York.
But, I see now who you were. Seeing that random guy at a party the other day reminded me of you and, as I sat there taking sips of my drink, I saw you again in my mind and it made me realize you were protecting yourself all along. It wasn’t your thing. It was just you trying too hard to keep yourself from being exposed. And, I get that. I do. But, now I wish I had seen it then. I wish I had brought you breakfast and been like, how’s your life, let’s have a chat.