I was a couple months into the second job I’d gotten serving tables at a local bar and grill and the ripe age of twenty when I met Brad*. I hadn’t been working the day he interviewed for the server position we were trying to fill, but couldn’t go thirty minutes the following day without hearing about how attractive he was from the other female servers. I’d be lying if I said their description of him wasn’t exactly that of a guy who was my type. Dark hair, bright blue eyes, tattoos on his muscular biceps. Hook, line, and sinker. I was a ‘goner.
I don’t remember how we became so close so fast (because it happened so. fast.), but it seemed like we were friendly coworkers one minute, hanging out with each other occasionally after work the next, and then very quickly, spending the night at each other’s places a few times a week.
Brad was my dream guy. He was outgoing, loved pop punk music, played guitar while singing my favorite songs, wasn’t afraid to push my buttons, laughed at my jokes, picked up my tab, didn’t pressure me into sex. In fact, the first few years of our friendship we were 100% platonic. Aside from a few stolen kisses every now and then, our weekly sleepovers consisted of cuddling, music, and movies. (I know what you’re thinking. But, nope.)
It wasn’t until I quit my job as a server that we began to drift apart. He started seeing other girls so I started seeing other guys. We focused on our separate relationships more and on our friendship less. We went almost an entire year without speaking.
And then we reconnected. I don’t remember who texted who first, but later that night we met up for drinks at a karaoke bar. I stayed the night like I used to, and something about us felt different this time around.
We picked up where we left off, both newly single and ready to have fun. Despite having been only platonic friends before, Brad and I tested the waters a bit. Could we be more? We went out on dates, became more intimate, tried to make it work. And it did, for a while. We never put a title on what we were, but my friends and my parents and pretty much everyone who knew us made it a point to ask. I teased Brad about it, telling him that I knew deep down he loved me, but he just laughed it off. And I was OK with that. We were content with how things were going.
But eventually, Brad met someone. Once again, we drifted apart. I wanted him in my life, with or without a girlfriend, so I made an effort to keep him there. I invited him and his new girlfriend to a Halloween party I hosted. He was, of course, the life of the party — the Brad I’d grown to know and love. But she was the one he loved, the girl I’d never be. And I couldn’t help but resent her for that.
I didn’t speak to him again until they’d broken up and he came over, drunk and sad, months later. He cried in my arms for hours. Hours. He’d gotten her pregnant. She lost the baby. They broke up. He wanted to kill himself. I spent the better part of that night talking him off the ledge. He fell asleep in my bed and I didn’t wake him. I think I realized in that moment that Brad and I could never be more than friends. Yeah, if there was ever a #friendzone moment for me, that was it.
But, because I’m an emotional masochist, I gave him another chance. Seriously, you guys. Those eyes.Those biceps.
I can distinctly recall the last time Brad and I were together. He asked me to meet him for dinner. I ordered his drink while he peed, he ate what was left of my burger after I was done, we joked and laughed like we always did. But then his phone rang and he answered it. After two minutes, he hung up. Since we weren’t “official”, I didn’t make a big deal about it. He voluntarily told me his bartender friend, Kristy* wanted him to come up to the bar and have a drink with her. He asked me if I wanted to come with him. I had to work early the next morning, so I told him I was just going to head home. He offered another suggestion and asked me if I wanted to come back to his place. I knew what he was really asking, so I shook my head. He joked, “Well if you’re not going to give me any, Kristy will!”
“Good luck with that!” I joked back, climbing into my car. I didn’t know that would be the last time I saw him.
Because he would soon start dating Kristy. And then they would get engaged. And then they would start a family.
A month ago, I went into the restaurant I knew he used to serve at. I hadn’t seen him in over a year and wasn’t even sure if he still worked there, let alone lived in the area. I’d tried reaching out to him a few times before this, with no response. Maybe he changed his number? Maybe he deleted mine? Only one way to find out, I kept telling myself.
There he was. His blue eyes locked with mine and he hurried out of sight. Ouch. Awkward.
And that’s what it feels like to lose your best guy friend. Because this story doesn’t have a happy ending. For you.
Or for me.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals