You! You’re running late! You meant to leave a few minutes sooner, but you didn’t think mid-afternoon traffic would be this bad! Stupid art fair is ruining everything. The summer heat isn’t helping either. Ugh, starting to get gross and sticky… It’s fine. Today is a great day. Finally get to see Sam after… oh, found the restaurant.
You walk up to the glass door, and glance through it casually while trying to catch a glimpse of your own reflection. You still look good. No signs of sweat at all. Awesome! Your heart starts to flutter a bit as your fingers reach for the door handle. Just a bit anxious are we? It has been a while. But there’s no backing down now. You’ve been wanting to see Sam forever. It’s just that Sam was the first person you… that was a long time ago. Not teenagers anymore. Deep breath. Opening the door.
You walk in, and feel the wonderful wafting breeze of the air conditioner hit you as you get through the door. A small refreshing sigh escapes. The sizzling grill in the kitchen reminds you of how hungry you are as you smell a variety of seasonings you’ll never be able to name. But they do smell good. Looking around, you feel a little awkward as judgmental eyes size you up, wondering why you’re standing there like a complete idiot scanning the crowd. Try to ignore them.
You catch sight of Sam – it doesn’t take long. Jackpot! Looking adorable as ever. Nervous as you are, this was totally a good idea. Time to try and push back those butterflies in your stomach. It’s just Sam. Your old surprisingly sexy best friend Sam. You shuffle between cramped chairs and crowded tables to get to the open seat across from Sam. Still has that same wry smile. Still smells intoxicating. You never forgot that scent.
Your eyes meet, and you begin to find yourself lost in them before you remember you were always the one that had so much to say. Sam always just kind of nodded along and listened. You were never quite sure if Sam was even interested in whatever you were talking about, but honestly it didn’t matter. Sam always listened, and Sam always cared.
You ask Sam what’s good here; this place wasn’t around when you left town. Sam tells you not to worry about it. Ordered your favorite. As you two get back into your routine of pointedly pointless conversations, the familiarity of having your best friend back brings a wave of comfort that washes away any butterflies still fluttering around in your stomach. All’s right with the world. It’s good to see Sam again.
As you two speak, you cover an assortment of topics: how old friends are doing, what’s changed around town, what each of you have been up to. Sam’s going back to school now, working on a veterinary degree. Imagine that! You never figured Sam for the type. You two always used to talk about how that’s something you wanted to do. Maybe that’s why Sam’s doing it now. Because you never did. You could never really be sure if Sam was doing something because that’s what Sam wanted to do, or if it was really another way of trying to look out for you somehow. Sam always tried to be the people’s hero. Just makes it more embarrassing to admit you really haven’t accomplished anything since you left. Better lie and make up something cool. Not like it matters anyway. Either way Sam will know.
You two continue talking like the closest of geriatrics sitting by their favorite window at the nursing home, discussing every single detail about your lives except the one moment either of you refuse to share. There’s no point in mentioning the elephant in the room if it doesn’t make a fuss. Sam laughs at one of your dumb jokes, and you realize that even though you’ve been gone for so long, you two were never really apart.
The food arrives, and of course, it’s perfect. You try to control your now starving stomach, not wanting to look like a warhorse invading the general’s personal food trough in front of Sam (because general’s eat out of troughs), but this food really is pretty good. You look up, and it’s ok. You see the same look in Sam’s eyes. You both chow down.
Sam lets out a loud belch at the end of the meal, and you rate it about a four out of ten, because you know Sam can do much better. You accidentally let out a five, and try to hide the incident all together by mentioning the first thing that comes to mind.
Unfortunately, you mention Alex. You wish with everything sacred that you hadn’t, but now it’s out there. Mouth and brain don’t always work together, do they? Sam broaches the subject gracefully, in that classic Sam manner, and you can’t help but ask what it would’ve been like if you two had kissed that night.
Sam looks at you, probably more longing than intended, and tells you things happened as they were supposed to. How can anything happen any other way? You two had been getting too close, and Sam couldn’t betray Alex like that. In all honesty, you never felt the same about yourself after you realized you could. Alex was your friend too. But not like Sam. Instead, somehow you managed to do the decent thing and leave town, because running away is somehow less cowardly than betrayal. All these years later though, here you are once again, only feet away from Sam and the awkward tension you barely escaped the first time.
You cover the bill, and you both look around the restaurant as the afternoon passes on. The two of you struggle to avoid eye-contact as much as possible, hoping the situation will magically remedy itself. Before long, you hear that old song you two used to crack up to every time it came on the radio. It was so silly! And now, apparently, it’s Sam’s ringtone. You feel a little better since you know secretly Sam picked it because of you. Sam wouldn’t ever admit it, but deep down you know each other too well for that. Sam briefly takes the call, and you can tell the “Let’s catch up” not-date date is over. You get everything together and stand up; waiting to hear what Sam has to say, if anything, before you go.
Standing for a moment in silence, you tell Sam that it’s been wonderful to catch up, and it’s clear that despite the awkwardness you two are both a little more than eager to do it again. That magical warm feeling starts creeping up inside, but you force it back down, not wanting to lose your composure and look like a total nerd in front of Sam (and knowing Sam is probably doing the same). The restaurant is fairly empty now, and you pull out your phone to check the time. The screen is black, and won’t change itself to any assortment of other pretty colors. You forgot to charge it last night, didn’t you? Ugh, lame. It’s cool, you can borrow Sam’s.
You ask to borrow Sam’s phone (because you’re totally not nosy) and notice a picture of Sam and Alex with a small child on the screen. You instantly remark on what a funny looking kid it is (in a nice way), but when you look up to ask Sam who the kid’s parents are, the look of remorse on Sam’s face is unmistakable. Suddenly that phone call and Sam’s need to leave quickly make sense.
You know what Sam’s going to say, how Alex would’ve came up sooner or later, and that they probably weren’t together. It’s probably all a misunderstanding that could be cleared up so easily. But this isn’t the first time you’ve gone through something like this, and even though it’s Sam, your mind goes through the hundreds of other excuses and justifications you just know Sam is preparing. You loved Sam. You love Sam. And you know that truthfully, Sam probably loves you too. But your heart is broken. By Sam. Once again, your heart is broken – by Sam.
You fake an excuse to leave, trying to get out of there so you can get some space to clear your head, and casually make your way through the door. Sam follows after and tries to explain, but a quick glance back, painfully looking over the innocent face you loved, tells Sam that going after you might not be the best idea right now.
You leave Sam behind and do your best to disappear into the thick art fair crowd. You wish you had an answer, or some kind of solution, but there simply isn’t one in sight. For now, all you can do is make the best out of your short trip home, and that’s what you intend to do. You vanish back into the sea of people as quickly as you came, leaving only faint thoughts behind. Thoughts of euphoric beauty, thoughts of tragic farce, thoughts of every day of your life that mattered. All of them – thoughts of Sam.