I was speechless. I didn’t know what to do. And I certainly didn’t know what to say. He was standing there, right next to me, waiting for an answer that wasn’t coming. I could see in his eyes that he was hiding behind the happy façade that he was putting up for me. Yes, of course I could see it. He was my best friend, and I could decipher every emotion that was surfacing through his eyes, which made me feel all the more worse for him. I knew it had taken every ounce of courage he had, to say what he had just said to me, and he knew from my reaction that he didn’t need a verbal answer. It was obvious. As I stood there, blank and silent, and still trying my best to make sense of what had happened in the last few minutes, he finally broke the silence.
“So I guess this is it then?” he said in a rather soft monotone.
“Umm…yeah…i think so…” was all I could mutter for the moment. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I couldn’t help it either, because I was unable to give him the answer he wanted to hear.
I had kinda known that this was coming, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t, because it was something that was gonna change our lives forever, something that would shake the very foundation of our friendship! And it would hurt us both, though not in the same way.
“Okay,” he said under his breath, “then can you at least see me off?” he asked reluctantly, refusing to make eye contact. I thought saw a sparkle of a tear in his eyes…was he crying?? I couldn’t tell for sure, as he was quick to turn away.
“Yeah, sure” I said awkwardly as I followed him out the door. He slowed down to match my pace as we went down the stairs. I could sense his hand trying to catch mine, but he thought otherwise and retracted his. My heart skipped a little, mainly because I foresaw the awkwardness that would result from that specific action. He was my friend and I couldn’t see him any other way. I felt the load of guilt that pressed down on me at having hurt someone I loved. Yes, I loved him because he was my friend, but the problem was that I wasn’t in love with him! All I could see in him was a caring, older brother I never had.
The awkward silence that persisted was no doubt uncomfortable but neither of us had anything to break the ice with. I guessed we were both contemplating the situation, but definitely not on the same frequency and wavelength. On my part, I was trying my best to come in terms with the facts of the reality, analyzing everything that had happened, and I questioned my own sanity. But of course, I was sure I made the right decision. Although I had no right to break my best friend’s heart I had no right to deceive him either, to lead him on and make him believe what he wanted to. I just couldn’t lie to myself. And I knew he was gonna be okay. He was a strong person, and this little crack in his wall wouldn’t deter him in any major way.
Finally, after what seemed like forever (though it was really only a minute or two) he finally looked up and said, ‘I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other again anytime soon. I won’t be coming back home till I graduate. So….’ His voice trailed off. I managed to catch his eyes to my own; before he stared away at nothing in particular…the pain in his eyes told me it was deeper than I would ever be able to comprehend. “So this would be like a major goodbye then, for now at least??” I asked, unsure of myself. He just nodded slightly. And then, before I could make sense of anything, I suddenly found his arm wrapped around my shoulders. I was caught off guard, and tried to break free from his arms. But he tightened his grip, and gave a weak smile, that was deceived by his eyes. “Hey, this may be the last time well be seeing each other. Just say still!” he said in a tone that was too firm to sound friendly. He was determined to make me stay that way. And as uncomfortable as I was, I obliged. 'It’s nothing, just a friendly hug', I tried to convince myself, but failed miserably.
Nothing else was said until he hailed a taxi and before he got in, he carefully took my hand in his, looked deep into my eyes with a silent and pleading gaze that I would never forget. “Hope you don’t forget me” he said with a nervous smile, yet the urgency in his voice was more demanding than his expression. I mumbled something about a yes, and then something along the lines of a wish for a safe journey, and made my way back home with a pace that was more like flying than walking.
Everything had happened in a blur, nothing solid and fathomable. All I knew was that whatever it was, it was enough to alter the course of our friendship forever. And despite the effort that would be taken to conceal the damage that had been done to the pillars of our friendship, the cracks would still be there, that run deeper than the denial we both had to adhere to. Time would never be a healing factor, and nothing would ever be the same again!