Her name is Jo, and we have been best friends since high school – or, we used to be. She has a boyfriend. They met during our second year of college, started dating, and have now been together for almost five years. His name is Dan.
Jo and Dan are getting married, they told me last week. I answered with a “That’s great!”, and can only hope I was convincing. Either way, they probably wouldn’t have noticed, since their eyes were clearly on each other.
It’s not that I don’t like Dan; in college, we were best friends. The three of us were always together. It was even me who introduced them. However, I hadn’t anticipated it would go this way.
One day, I asked the nice guy from my Introduction to Shakespeare class to come have a cup of coffee with my friend Jo and I. I thought the two of them would really hit it off, and apparently, I was right – too right. He said okay right away, because that’s how he is: act first, think second.
For a while, we were three inseparable buddies. We started hanging out every day, we met during class breaks, we went out together, we rotated having dinner at each other’s houses – or, at least, we said we did. In fact, because neither Dan nor I could boil an egg without burning down the house, we mostly ate at her place.
I loved watching her cook. As a flustered Jo moved around the kitchen, I was reminded of high school, when she was this naive nerdy girl. Back then she was that girl in class who always paid attention, had good grades, and was, basically, striving for perfection. Even though she has grown out of the pressure she would put herself under, I could still see the girl I had first fallen in love with as she tried to make us a flawless dinner. I called her, I had to do it twice because she was too absorbed in what she was doing, and she turned her head back to look at me. Her hair dancing in the air, and her smile. In high school, I sat right behind her, and whenever I called her, she would look back at me, her head slightly facing the other way, and a big smile. As opposed to myself, Jo was one of those people who always smiled at you, even if she didn’t know you she would make you feel like an old friend.
To be honest, I also loved watching her serious face. She was incredible at just tuning the world out and paying complete attention to what you were saying, just like when she was in class, or studying, or cooking. She made you feel like, at that moment, nothing else mattered except you.
Dan was the other way around; always the goofball, with the attention span of a baby bird, Jo would say. But he could make her laugh like no one else.
I, however, I was somewhere in between; close to not being anything at all.
I called her, and as she looked expectantly at me, Dan stole her glance away from me to say something. It was probably something funny, because I remember her laughing, and how I hated not being able to make her laugh like that.
It was after one of these dinners that it all started, as far as I knew. Apparently, they had been flirting with each other for a while, only I was too infatuated myself to notice it. I had a big exam the next day, so I had to leave early. The next morning, I wake up to a puzzling text from Jo “Hey! I have to tell you something!!”. For a moment there, I thought she would say she liked me, let’s run away together, spend the rest of our lives looking into each other eyes, except she doesn’t like girls, and I knew that. Instead, she told me they f… She told me they had sex!
Later, when I saw Dan in class, I just looked at him – probably the way a deranged murderess looks at one of her victims -, and he said “She told you”. At first, he was embarrassed, which was unlike him, but it quickly turned into pride, followed by locker room type conversation, which still haunts me today.
For the next two years, I endured watching them together as if nothing had changed. We still did everything together, she still made dinner for us, I still liked Dan, and I still loved Jo. Until I couldn’t take it anymore, and realized I had to go away and let her live her life. Because, it was exhausting to watch them, to hope they would break up, or to think of ways to sabotage them.
From then, we started drifting apart. Whenever she called I made up an excuse, until one day she stopped calling me.
I never saw her again before last week, when I saw her from the back on a coffee shop, she was still with him. As I tried to leave, Dan called out for me.
I thought that if I never saw her again I could forget her, or so I told myself. In truth, it wasn’t any easier for me, because I did it for her. Because, I could never live with myself if I hurt her. I went away so she could be happy, even if that meant it was with Dan instead of me.