My best friend, Lucy, used to fuck her boyfriend, Stephan, in my walk-in closet during house parties. It was never just a one-time thing. It happened and then everyone would leave, which only left me, sitting on my balcony, smoking cigarettes, imagining what was going on in the closet. What he was doing to her. What position he was fucking in. And then it would all happen the same way again the next time.
Sometimes, in my mind, I would tell myself, “It’s only college. Things like this happen.” And then I’d remember how much Lucy truly meant to me, the things we had been through together. How I gave her so much love and was so there for her when Stephan cheated—when he showed up at her apartment offering her the earrings she left.
The earrings that were not hers.
At the time, I figured it was at least better than her showing up at his place only to find a box of Ridex strewn across the floor. That probably would have been worse. That probably would have sucked a little more.
Regardless, the night she found out about Stephan and the other girl, we mourned together, and I continued to be that person that seemed so optimistic that things would change between us. I always figured that if I bent over backwards, acting as a shoulder to cry on when her boyfriend cheated, allowing her to do things like fuck in my walk-in closet, I’d prove my worth as a friend, as a brother of sorts.
Nothing changed. We always ended up hating each other just as much as we loved each other. We got in fights. One time, she punched me in the stomach and then talked about it as if it was a joke for weeks to come.
Last month, I bought a book about co-dependency. I think it pretty much sums up what has happened between us. Or at least it makes me feel better when I read it.
Truth is, I need Lucy. I need her more than anything else in my life, but she’s always been the one to cut it off. And it’s only broken my heart, time and time and time again. It was just a few weeks ago when, once again, she said she was done with me, that she didn’t need me to take care of her anymore. She said her best friend was Stephan and that statement alone made me cry for an entire week. Occasionally, I’ll see her between classes. We’ll smile, or I’ll ignore her. And I’ll know deep in my heart that she feels awful, but we both know nothing will ever change this toxic friendship. That we both have to move on. I’ve even made the decision to start learning how to play the guitar.
Even after all the bullshit, though, what still helps is knowing that I can continue to depend on Stephan as a friend. Being so close with a female always meant I could formulate a close relationship with the man she was dating. And so Stephan and I did bond. We’d discuss things. We’d get drunk together. We’d get stoned. Yesterday, he texted me and asked if I had any beer. If he could come over for a while and just chat.
He showed up wearing a polyester running shirt, a pair of soccer shorts, and some white flip flops. He asked how I had been. I told him that I’ve been better.
Stephan said, “Just give her some time, Rudy. She’ll come around. You guys have been through a hell of a lot together this last year. That’s all there is to it.”
I handed Stephan a beer and told him, “I really don’t give a shit anymore. I’m moving on with my life. There was a time that I thought I’d graduate with you guys and, after that, we could go see the world together. Even live together. It’s not that way anymore. It sucks.”
I put in a movie starring Hilary Swank, and we began watching, drinking plenty of beer, talking about how everything was changing. The movie was sad and it was a real-life story. And I felt like I might cry when it finished.
As the credits rolled, Stephan turned to me. He said, “I’m still here for you, you know?”
“I know,” I said. “It’s just Lucy’s been my friend for six years. She’s been my life for six years. It’s...it’s like that song ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac, you know? ‘I’ve been afraid of changing, because I’ve built my life around you.’ I’m starting to learn it on guitar. It’s hard to let go of those good times.”
“I know,” he replied.
I stood up from the couch to get us another beer. I grabbed the blue cans from the fridge and handed him his. Stephan said, “I should probably get going soon, though. I’m staying at Lucy’s tonight.”
“Okay,” I replied, looking down at my bare feet.
He opened his beer and began to gulp. Then he turned to me and said, “Everything will be okay.” Stephan gave me a hug. He looked up at me and he looked into my eyes. “It’ll be okay,” he said. And then Stephan inched his olive-tinted face to mine and kissed me.
Yesterday night, I learned that Stephan was a talker.
Yesterday night, I learned what happened in my walk-in closet.
Alan Semrow lives in Wisconsin and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His poetry and fiction have been featured in multiple publications, including The Bicycle Review, Earl of Plaid Lit Journal, Blotterature Lit Mag, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Wordplay, and more, and he won the Essayist Award from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point English Department for his nonfiction work. Semrow spends the majority of his free time with his boyfriend, friends, family, and Shih Tzu, Remy.