Silence. The dark roof gleamed over their heads as the slight drizzle of rain began to pick up where it had left off barely an hour earlier. Only the sound of the air conditioning murmuring was there to keep them company as one opened their heart to the other. People could walk by and not suspect a thing, which is exactly why she had wanted to do this in person and in private, two things that would make him hate her in the future.
“I love you,” she said. “And I’m sorry that it took me three months to figure out, but that’s exactly why I had to break it off. If I couldn’t tell how I felt about you, what was the point? I thought we could stay best friends, but the harder it became the more I realized why. You are the most important person in my life, and I’m just so tired of holding everything at a distance from you. That’s why I want you to know that I do. I love you.”
As the unwelcoming silence stretched out she tried to fidget with every little thing she could find; the phone charger, coins, anything that made noise. All he could do was stare at the window, as if in a music video for the world’s most depressing song. Every time he’d try to turn back to her, words couldn’t form. She knew his mind was racing miles per minute, as her own words were spitting out just as fast, but they still weren’t able to communicate.
When he finally looked at her, fixed his gaze upon her eyes, and set his mouth into that small and devastating smile, she knew what came next, even if he didn’t.
“Josh,” she whispered. “We can be friends. It’s okay. I promise, we can.” At this he looked away again and stared into his lap, crushing his hands until they morphed into one, looking like he wanted to punch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
She had to repeat herself to the total of four times before he could turn back to her. “We can be friends.” His puppy eyes turned up to meet her’s of reluctant hope and asked “Can we?”Everything within her deflated. All of the hope and conviction she’d had that he felt the same. All of the plans for the future ripped away from the very same person they considered. Everything would change. She would lose her best friend, and it was her own fault.
He tried to explain himself, saying things such as “I just don’t know what I want in a relationship” and “I don’t know what kind of person I want to be with.” His hands moved through the air trying to form a path for the words to spill onto.
This last chord struck her hard. What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she be the one who he envisioned his life with? Who else did he see taking that place?
She watched the immediate regret form on his face as he realized the impact of his words, but there was nothing he could do. After all, he was only being honest.
She fought back tears as he grabbed her hand and fiercely said “You are probably one of- no. You are, my closest friend. I don’t want to lose what we have right now. I just don’t know.” He turned back to the window, looking anywhere but at her.
Those same words, “I don’t know,” he repeated over and over and over again, each time in different tones, as if he were praying that with each repeated phrase the answer would spell out right in front of him.
He slowly rolled back around and asked “Can we? No,” he then stopped himself from speaking. She had always despised when he did this and said “Josh, just say it. It’s okay.”
“It sounds so stupid.”
“You know I won’t think that.”
“Okay, well then, can we stay friends, keep our close relationship, but maybe in the future revisit this conversation?”
The future? How far into the future? A week? A month? A year? What if it took him all of that time to decide he didn’t want to be with her? Would she have wasted a year waiting for him? Or what if she moved on, and he came back and decided he was ready? They couldn’t keep going back and forth with each other, it wasn’t fair. But she would do anything to keep him close, even if it meant hurting herself in the process.
She traced circles on his palms, trying to soothe both of them, and said the words “Of course. Of course we can. You’ll never lose me, ever.”
His face became clouded with both relief and even more confusion, like her response was one he wanted but hadn’t been expecting.
“But I’m about to cry, and I don’t want you to see that. So I need you to leave, okay?”
He gripped her hand, wanting to spare her some of his strength, but he didn’t have any left to give. They were both too shocked to do anything except leave. He hesitantly climbed out of her Jeep and said the words to which he knew the answer but felt obligated to ask anyway, “Are you okay?”
She couldn’t lie to him anymore. Tonight started a chapter of honesty, even if it hurt.
“No,” she told him. “But don’t worry about me, I will be. As long as nothing changes, I’ll be good.”
“Of course. Goodbye, Kaeli.” With his last words echoing into the unbreakable silence, he slammed the door, rocking the Jeep in the process, and tore away as fast as he could, trying to escape the conversation that had just broken both of them.
As tears started gently streaming down her cheek, she watched him leave and whispered “Goodbye, Josh.”