I am back in touch with an old friend I did not speak to for a year. The separation was deliberate and unspoken; there was too much anger between us at the time for us to continue in the friendship as it was. It was the existence of facebook that allowed us to start making a few comments here, a random message there, until finally we told each other we missed hanging out. I guess seven years of close friendship overrules one year of silence.
Exactly one day before we met up for coffee, he went on a date with another woman. He recounted it to me the next day, telling me it was I who inspired him to just go for it. He had not done much in the past year, he told me, and he wanted to do something about it, hence the decision to ask out the woman he knew had a crush on him.
It surprised me that we could fall back into this rhythm so quickly, this sharing of thoughts, though much of what he shared was left unspoken. The uncertainty in his voice as he explained how she requested to be his girlfriend on facebook after their one date. Explaining how he needs to get on with his life, so surely this must be the right thing to do. Saying that she is a nice girl.
One week later, she came out with us. She had bought him a white and bright blue checkered shirt for his birthday. It was in a gift bag with tissue paper sitting in the middle of the table, which I noticed immediately when I arrived at the pub with another couple and we found them already at a booth. It was something he would never normally wear. "I've given her permission to re-do my wardrobe," he explained.
(He would later tell me it didn't fit when he brought it home, so she exchanged it for the only other colour they had in his size - pink - which he refused to wear, thus causing a fight.)
So there we were, examining menus under the dim lighting, a waitress bringing us drinks. My other friend and his fiance told the story of their engagement. I drank a Singapore Sling with my arms on the table and head craned sideways to listen. They took turns telling the story, him smiling, her blushing, their hands held together absent-mindedly.
Across from us, my friend's new girlfriend sat close to him with both arms wrapped around him. His hands were on the table. Our newly engaged friend, enthusiastic yet somewhat clueless fellow that he is, told them how happy he was for them.
"Oh yes I know. I know that I am so lucky." She replied. She said it the same way a bride on her wedding day might say she has found the one.
"Yeah," said her boyfriend, suddenly remembering to put his arm around her and give her a squeeze.
That was enough to cause a tightness across my stomach for the rest of the night. How many times have I been her before and not known it? I could hardly look at her, which was easy since she didn't talk much, and she didn't answer any of the questions I asked her anyway. Her boyfriend had to jump in and save her by answering for her, making me wonder if I had said something wrong. Each time he mentioned something he had done with me, my stomach felt even tighter. When he complimented my cooking, the words oh shit crossed my mind.
(The next time I saw him, I asked him if she was ignoring me or was offended somehow, and he explained she had been extremely nervous. He didn't see why she would have had a problem with me. About ten minutes later, he complained about how jealous she gets about women talking to him at work, or anywhere really.)
For the most part, it was a fun night. We all agreed we should get together again, yet I cringed at the idea of her showing up again. The other couple left first. I left right after, citing tiredness as an excuse. He looked unhappy, but what was I supposed to do? She kept whispering in his ear. She obviously wanted me to leave so she could be alone with him.
It has been a month since I met her and they're still together. I almost called my friend just to talk the other day, but decided not to. Things aren't the same as they used to be.