I’m having lunch at a 1950s-themed diner with my friends Lula and John.* We order our food and Lula looks around. “This is so much like Ghost World,” she says.
“What?” says John, looking confused.
“You’ve never seen Ghost World?” I ask him, but it turns out to be more of a yell.
“No, I’m not weird like you two,” he says, smirking. He pours a dollop of ketchup into the palm of his hand, dips a finger into it, and draws a line of ketchup under each of his eyes.
Lula rolls her eyes. “You’re so lame,” she says. They just met, but they are already used to each other.
A new song comes on the jukebox and John extends his hand to me. “Care to dance?”
I laugh and take his hand and we get up and start slow-dancing to a fast-paced song. “I’m glad to be here,” he whispers, putting his head on my shoulder. We haven’t seen each other in two years, though we have been emailing each other as much as possible. He is in New York for a bit before he goes back home.
The song ends, and we sit back down just as our food arrives. “Did you have fun?” Lula says, staring pointedly at John.
“Shut up,” he mumbles. He grabs a fry, shoves it into his mouth, and chews furiously, his eyes focused on the condiments in the middle of the table.
Lula snorts, tapping the edge of her plate. “You’re so obvious, John.”
“I said shut up, Lula.”
“You guys, stop.” I hate when there is conflict between any of my friends.
They stop arguing, and we finish our meals mostly in silence. Later on, John walks me home.
“Well, bye, I guess,” I say, pulling my keys out of my bag.
“Wait,” he says. He grabs my hand. “Um…you know, what Lula was talking about earlier…she wasn’t wrong.”
“Yeah. I know. You don’t have to say anything, because this is probably really awkward for you, but I thought it made sense to tell you since I’m leaving in a week anyway. I’ve wanted to tell you for a while, but I thought it would be better in real life. It would mean more. So, yeah. Now you know. I hope you don’t hate me.”
I don’t know what to do. The thing is, I did like John for a few months, but I thought it was hopeless—because of the distance, but also because any time I’m infatuated with someone they don’t tend to like me back—so I gave up, and my feelings faded. Anyway, I need some time to mull this over. I wasted an entire year on a complete jerk in eighth grade and even if John is the opposite of that, I have to sort out my thoughts.
I tell him all this. I don’t want to, because I know how it feels when you pour your heart out to someone and they don’t feel the same way about you, but I let him know that I am not rejecting him, not crushing his feelings; I tell him that I care about him too much to lead him on, and that I really, truly still want to be friends with him.
He takes it well. “Well, thanks,” he says, grinning. “For, you know, everything. You’re a great person.” He kisses me on the cheek quickly and says, “I’ll email you later, OK?”
It’s funny how things can be so weird yet so great at the same time. ♦
* John’s name has been changed.