"I prefer cynical people. Nice guys grow on trees."
- J Mascis
The friendship that Anita and I had was one you would expect to last forever. It was pillow forts and sleepovers, secrets whispered in the middle of the night, holding hands, and skipping to the playground. It was all the good things about middle school, discussing her crushes in excruciating detail, playing truth or dare, going to the movies without our parents. It was even high school, helping her train for the tennis team, cheering for her on first dates, nursing her through breakup after breakup.
Somewhere along the line, we had gone from being best friends to me being her best friend. Even so, I never expected our friendship to devolve into awkward glances down supermarket aisles.
I thought about running. I could pretend I hadn’t seen her and just slip away, but in the brief second we made eye contact, that plan was out. While I was considering whether I should abandon my basket and make a break for it, Anita wandered over, the fake smile that I had learned to identify years ago plastered on her face.
“Hey, Hana.” Her voice was too bright. Mine was too dull.
“Hi,” I replied, more out of reflex than anything.
We stood there for a minute. I studied the labels on the tomato sauce, she studied my face.
“You look awful,” Anita commented. Her bluntness was normally one of the reasons I liked her, but not today. Today, it felt like she was saying, I leave you for a few months and you fall apart. Which wasn’t strictly untrue, but it hurt nonetheless.
“So do you,” I snapped without thinking. Anita looked surprised, and with reason. After all, she looked anything but awful, standing there caramel-skinned and gorgeous in a tight tank top and short shorts. I, on the other hand, seemed to be going for the just-rolled-out-of-bed look. I thought that I had pulled it off well, seeing as I literally just rolled out of bed before coming out to get milk, ice cream, and brownie mix. It had been a long night, and those three items couldn’t wait.
I had the irrational urge to hurt her, to cut her with my words the way her very presence still cut me. It didn’t work.
Anita eyed my sweatpants with a frown. “Okay, well… nice seeing you.”
Fake, I wanted to scream. Years ago, she would’ve joined me, laughing at the perfectly groomed girls with their tight clothes, thinking that they were the shit just because they plastered on four layers of makeup every morning and spent hours on their hair. I wondered when she had changed, and how I hadn’t noticed.
With a curt nod, I steered my cart around hers, then abandoned it in the next aisle over. I carried my items to the checkout, made my purchases quickly and with zero chit chat with the cashier, and escaped. Every step I took away from Anita seemed to make her grow larger in my mind. I kept thinking about the things we’d done together - all the happy memories, and the good times before things had just gone downhill. And then I thought about that too, and that was even worse.
I had walked to the store, and so I walked home. It was only a few blocks, but my arm was getting tired from holding the milk, and I could feel the frost on the outside of the ice cream carton melting and dripping through the seams of my bag. Nonetheless, when I went to pass Sebastian’s house, I stopped. It was irrational, spontaneous, and stupid, but I walked up his path and rang the doorbell.
Thankfully, Sebastian was the one who answered it, not one of the other members of his family - a possibility I hadn’t considered until then.
“Hi,” Sebastian said, looking a little tired and a lot surprised. His hair was disheveled, and his t-shirt wrinkled. “Um, what’s up?”
I opened my mouth to reply when I realized that I didn’t know why I was there in the first place. I was almost like I’d lived the last few minutes in a dream, and now I was being forced to explain something that kept slipping from my mind.
“You wear glasses?” was the first thing that popped into my mind to say.
“Uh, yeah,” Sebastian replied, his cheeks coloring as he ducked his head to adjust them. “I mean, I usually wear contacts, but they dry my eyes out, and I wasn’t really expecting company.”
“Oh,” I replied, embarrassed. “Sorry.”
“I’m just, uh…” I glanced over to my house. “Gonna go now.”
I turned to walk away. “What’s in the bag?” Sebastian asked, a casual hand against the doorframe as he leaned out.
As if I had to check, I looked down at it. “Brownie mix and ice cream.”
Sebastian gave a half grin, not quite showing his teeth. “One of those days, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Want some company?” he offered.