'He still misses you, you know?' These words caused her to stiffen slightly, as I expected they would. It was barely noticeable unless you are paid to notice the small things in life. I am paid to notice the small things, plus I already knew the effect my words would have on her. It was subtle, but a practiced eye such as mine noticed the stiffening of the spine, and the tightening of the grip on the knife she was employing to cut up the tomatoes for the salad she was preparing. A brief thought that perhaps bringing this subject up to her while she was holding a sharp object made for stabbing people was not such a good idea, did wander through my head, but by that time it was too late. The subject was up, and logic would dictate that it would have to be bedded down again probably before the salad would be served.
The intensity of the cutting also changed ever so slightly, and I let out a small sigh of relief that it was the tomato, not my kidneys, or spine, that were going to pay the knife tax as it were. I figured she wasn't really receptive to what I had to say, but I felt duty bound to say it anyway. After all, the 'he' in question was what some people would call my best friend. Part of the problem with best friends is they make you feel that way, duty bound. Also, I wasn't entirely certain that he returned the feeling, i.e I think he was my best friend, but I wasn't sure that I was his best friend. Hell, on certain days I wasn't even sure we were friends at all, or that he had a best (or any) friend(s).
However, being a loyal bastard, I still felt the need to 'help.' After all, helping people with their problems help the rest of us forget our own problems for a while. I can fix your life easy as pie, my own life, well that is another story entirely. Why not try to fix the problems I can see, and ignore the problems I have? That way I get to feel like I've accomplished something, and maybe even feel slightly superior, and feeling superior around him took a lot of effort. He made people feel 'like a frog being boiled alive' a point of pride. Making other people feel inferior was both a science and an art form with him, and I was never really sure whether he did it on purpose or not. I like to think that he did it mostly by accident, but every now and then when you saw him in 'full voice' with the ever so hard to distinguish sneer in his voice, I became fairly certain he could 'boil a frog' whenever he felt like it.
'He would probably shank me if he knew I was saying anything at all, but I know he misses you horribly.' She hadn't bothered to turn around, and truth be told, I found it a lot easier to give my little prepared speech to her back. Sometimes looking people in the eye is a lot tougher in real life that it seems on TV. Besides, I am not the wordsmith of the group, that was him, the guy with a clever (or so he liked to think) saying for almost any situation. I was the plodder, the one you came to when you wanted something explained in easy to understand terms, and did not want to be made to feel an idiot for asking a simple question. I also knew that since we were not alone, I had a limited time to say my piece. Her patience with this subject, I knew very well, was going to be very limited, and there are only so many tomatoes that can die a valiant death to spruce up a salad.
'He thinks he's being clever, when he mentions something about you on a daily basis, but he's not' 'He thinks I am not hearing the shake in his voice, the subtle change in timbre that clues me into the emotion lying underneath.' Once again no response, though I didn't really expect one, she was good at not responding until it was time, he had told me that about her, telling me that it was one of the more remarkable things about her. A trait that he thought was 'better than a painting by Van Gogh.' I am not much of an art admirer, but I took him at his word. And, as she stood there in the kitchen either waiting for me to finish, or plotting where to stab me, I realized he was right. The ability to wait until the other person has finished talking is an ability that we all (him especially) need to learn.
'I know he treated you like rubbish, mainly because he told me all about it on a daily basis.' 'It made me want to stab him myself.' 'Watching his arrogance, and his idiocy.' 'It was painful to watch, almost as painful as his remorse, and his self-loathing.' Truth be told I have never seen a man so self-centered that has such a complete lack of self awareness. I knew she was listening because the tomato supply had been exhausted, and the salad was ready, but she hadn't moved an inch from the spot where she was when I came into the kitchen. It was an odd feeling, like we were drag racing time, and winning. That we had somehow made ourselves a 'time bubble' that the other guests at this little party were not allowed to penetrate. I also knew that it couldn't last that she would have to turn around eventually, and my temporary eloquence would fade immediately. I knew that she probably wasn't going to change her mind, and to be honest I didn't blame her. I just felt the need to express my opinion for what it was worth.
It was just my opinion, but one that was based on a considerable amount of time listening to his lies. The lies he told himself daily in our office, the lies he told himself to convince himself that he had moved on with his life (such as it was). On occasion, after we had left the office, and he was in his cups a bit, he would admit to these lies. With an overdone flourish of his hands (he liked to talk with his hands), he would proclaim 'at least I am being honest with you about my lies.' Then he would wink at me like I was depriving a village of a perfectly good idiot, and order us another round. 'Look we both know he is an idiot walking some sort of tightrope between despondency, and euphoria.' 'But he is my best friend, and I don't think I want to see him fall off of that tightrope on the side of despondency.' 'You, for whatever reason seemed to make him happy, or at least happy for him, which I know isn't exactly happy, but beggars can't be choosers.' 'I also understand if, after this, you don't really want to talk to me either, but I just wanted you to know that he misses you like a clown misses the circus.' 'And yes before you ask I stole that line from him.'
Still not getting a response, and realizing that I probably wasn't going to get one, and that my 'time bubble' was close to bursting, I turned towards the door. I knew that the over tomatoed salad was just the first course in the meal we were about to share, and that people other than myself were probably getting hungry. 'I just wanted you to know what I think, and what I see, I understand if you don't have anything to say.' As I turned to go back to the party, she finally managed to turn around, and with a world weary sigh that could have meant anything said 'Tell him this . . . .'