And at this moment in time the entire universe was at a standstill.
I dropped my gaze and picked up my pack of cigarettes from the table. “I need to tell you something.” “What is it Clara? Tell me. I thought there were no secrets between us.” That was like taking a bullet. Because it was true. The man sitting across from me had been my confidant, my ally, for the past two decades of my life. And now I was about to throw that away, just toss it aside like a ripped out chapter of a paperback novel. All because of a silly thing called love.
I gently tapped on the bottom of my cigarette box and watched the thin white tube shimmy its way out the other side. “Keith, I don’t really know how to say this…” I twirled the cigarette between my black-varnished fingers. “Clara, I thought you’d quit smoking.” I thought I had, too. I ignored his statement and forced myself to continue. “As childish as this sounds… I don’t think we can be friends anymore.”
Silence consumed us. Because in truth the idea was virtually impossible. I don’t think a day had gone by in which I hadn’t at least had a telephone conversation with Keith. Even when I was in Florence for two months studying art, we always worked out the time differences so we were able to speak on the phone. And now, the man who had somehow wound himself so tightly into my life that I couldn’t distinguish his from mine, sat across from me with a look worse than pain in his eyes. Betrayal, confusion, was that tenderness? More emotions than a human has words for were flashing across his face. I thought for a second about how the Inuit have an unusually large number of words for snow. How many do they have for love?
I placed the cigarette between my lips as he began to speak: “Clara, I don’t underst-“ I finally raised my glance, but I couldn’t look at him. The words came out just above a whisper. “I’m in love with you.” I caught my reflection in the mirror behind him and noted the tragically poetic way my cigarette bobbed between my red painted lips when I uttered the five words that would forever change our friendship: I’m. In. Love. With. You.
I forced myself to look him in the eyes. They were blank.
And then came the tears.