Thank you, he said. Maybe you don’t need me to say it, because I think you know, I think we’ve always understood each other, in that quiet and unacknowledged way, where you don’t say much but I know exactly what you’re saying, what you really mean—but I want to say thank you, he said, looking out into the distance for a second, beyond her, eyes unfocused, then back. Isn’t it funny that when you have something, you don’t realize what it is? That it’s something that won’t ever exist again, and you should thank God or nature or providence, or whatever it is—every second you have it, and every second afterward, too, because you had it, you were lucky enough to have that moment in time?
You infuriated me. You talked too much for too long. You made me listen, when I am the one who likes to talk. We infuriated each other. We argued about gun regulations, we argued about music, we argued about whether a restaurant was any good. You had to be right, and so did I, so everything was a potential debate just waiting for a spark. When you thought I was wrong, you said so. If you thought what I said was bullshit, he said, you said so. And when you thought what I was doing was right, you said so, too, because all you said is what you thought. Thank you.
You and I, he continued, were friends for eight years, through high school and college, and—the edges of his lips arced up slightly—wasn’t there a sort of strange symmetry there? You had such a difficult time in high school, you know, that stuff a lot of people go through then, not sure where your place was, who you were sort of, and we talked and talked, and I tried to listen and understand, but I probably wasn’t very good. And in the last year, I went through something where what I thought was my purpose dissolved and I wasn’t sure anymore—and you told me I needed to get stronger, what I was doing was right, and everything that happened would be for the better, that I’m capable of great things and I should achieve them—and I deserve someone great, too. You made me believe it. And you made me laugh—really laugh—when I hadn’t for weeks. Thank you, he said.
Between the tournaments, the classes and the lunch breaks, the movies, the breakfasts, the bon fires, the long conversations, the drives, the concerts, God—we had more good moments than any two friends could ask for. We did. A lot happened in that time, didn’t it? You and I graduated from high school, stopped speaking for a few years because of a disagreement (and doesn’t it seem so silly now?), you graduated from UCLA in three years, I started graduate school, we both had long relationships, we started speaking again the year before—calmer people, more willing to listen, less arguments, but that same understanding, that never goes away, I think—and you talked me through those few months where I didn’t know what was up and what was down, like we had never stopped talking.
Thank you, he said. A calmness rolled over him, like a slow tide inching along, because he had finally told her what he never had—the calmness that comes when a task of great importance is finished. But under this was a splinter, a small bit of pain almost unnoticed but unmistakably there, because he knew he would wake up soon. Thank you, he said one last time. Thank you for that time you were here, for that time we were friends, and I hope you knew what it meant to me.