She whispered, “I forgive you,” as her hand slipped out of mine.
It was a lie. We both knew that. She remembered everything I’d done. Whatever it was I’d done. It was funny how I never knew what I’d done. I always said something, did something, wrote something, that brought an end to a friendship, or job. Something that forced me to leave another club, another church, another gym, another whatever.
With me, everything ended.
I never knew why.
But I knew people. I knew what they were going to do. What they were thinking. What they were feeling. I had to. It was what kept me alive.
I looked squarely in her eyes and studied their color. I saw the bottled rage hidden behind the façade of tenderness and caring. I saw the tension at the back of her jaw line. Subtle, covered over, disguised, so most would never see it. The nearly invisible lines to the sides of her eyes, caused by stress.
She was putting on her best face. Acting polite, caring, and forgiving.
I replayed what happened in my memory. I heard every word I’d said. I watched her listen. I watched her stand once more. I watched her stomp her left foot, one time. I heard her say, “Really?” And I watched her walk out of the room.
I knew every word I’d said. “They’re all like. Inside. Beneath the surface. Like cars. Pull off the decorations, the bumpers, the paint, the fenders, the seats, and all the cars become an engine with a drivetrain. That’s how they’re all alike.”
“They think the same. They laugh at the same things. They eat at the same places, and they eat the same things. They vote the same every election.” I’d looked into her hazel eyes, “I can tell you who they voted for. Every last one of them. And none of them told me.”
“You don’t mean that.” Her words echoed in my memory. “You don’t mean that.”
“Yes. Yes, I do. Because it’s true. And you know it.”
That’s when she’d stood up, and left. “Really?” It had been an accusation. Not a threat, not a question. An accusation. I’d never seen it coming. Her reaction was a surprise. I’d stood, unmoving, like a statue, for ten minutes. I’m not sure I’d even breathed. I didn’t move, as I wrestled with myself, in my head, trying to grasp what had happened. What I’d done, what I’d said, how I’d said it, that elicited such an angry, harsh response from her.
I had no clue.
The only option I’d had was to apologize for the words I’d said, and bury what I felt, what I thought, what I believed, inside, where no one could see it again, and hope she accepted my apology.
She hadn’t. Everything I saw when I looked at her told me that.
Another friend. Slipping away again. Soon, she would be gone. And I would be like always.