It was all an accident.
We had been at a party, one of those college parties. Her friend Phill was turning twenty-one, and his girlfriend was throwing him a birthday party, now that he could drink. Legally.
She asked if we could give one of her friends from school a ride, and I said yes, happy to oblige. I would do anything for the woman; she was my best friend. And so I took the stairs two at a time up to her apartment. One of her roommates let me in. She was still getting ready. The guy she liked was going to be at this party, so she wanted to look her best. I thought she always looked beautiful, but I was biased (and still am) because she was my best friend.
I had encouraged her about this guy, telling her that I had heard stuff, that he liked her too. I was not actually sure this was the case, but if he did not like her, he very well should. She was beautiful and smart, and kind. What more could he want?
We left to pick up this guy. Steve. We immediately disliked each other and he argued with me all through dinner. I sighed and reminded myself that I was doing this for her, I was going to the party for her, I was giving her friend a ride for her, I was going to the party - where I did not know anyone - for her.
We got there. I hung around for a few minutes before going out into the freezing twenty-forth of January cold to make a phone call. I spent the better part of that hour talking on the phone to my friend who was at school back in my hometown, until she came out looking for me, to tell me that there was a band I liked on Saturday Night Live, and do I want to come see and am I having a truly terrible time?
I replied, no, of course not. I just do not know anyone and had not talked to my friend for a while, letís go back inside. She agreed and took my arm to steady her up the two, three flights of steps. Sheíd already had a little to drink.
When we arrived back in the apartment, most of the crowd was gone. She sat on a straight-backed chair and took the drink proffered to her. The guy was not really paying attention to her in a more than platonic way. I think she sensed that. I kneeled next to her on the floor and talked to her from there, as there was nowhere else near her to sit.
We discussed how cute this graduate student was, and how he looked like a guy on a television show we liked. Eventually, the couch emptied, and as I had been more or less holding her upright in the chair (subtly, so no one would notice her inebriation) we moved over there, where she continued to lean into my ear and whisper amusing things about our fellow partygoers to me. I finally told her that for every cup of punch she drank, sheíd have to drink a cup of water as well, and she acquiesced. We left around one, with Steve the Irritant in tow. She was good and well drunk by then, and he made much of preceding her down the stairs so she would not fall. I had her by the arm. She was fine.
In the back seat of my Mustang, she talked about feeling a little queasy. I forbad her to vomit in my car and rolled the windows halfway down so as to give her some air. We disposed of the Steve, and I went around the car to help her into the front seat. She smiled at me, that smile she always gave me. I smiled back.
At her place, I helped her up the stairs and into her apartment. She changed clothes and went to brush her teeth while I watched. She was just uncoordinated enough to miss with the toothbrush and get toothpaste on her chin. She laughed abashedly and muttered something through her toothpaste how embarrassing that was. I replied that I do that on occasion when Iím sober, so not to worry.
I picked up my keys. In a panicked voice she asked if I was leaving. I said no, Iím going to get my sweatpants out of my car, Iím staying with you, donít worry. And so I did.
By now she was a little feverish, and neither of us had any prior extensive experience with alcohol. I had not been there for the first hour and had no idea how much she had drank. I was honestly worried. This was my best friend, and what sort of friend would I be if she were to have alcohol poisoning.
We crawled onto her bed and I held her, sitting up, talking to her, asking her how she was. She replied by launching into some arcane bit of lore related to her major, which I took to mean she was fine. Eventually, she pleaded with me to let her sleep, and I acquiesced.
Beneath the covers, rather than lying on her right side and letting me put one arm under her pillow and the other over her waist, as she normally did, she faced toward me and wrapped one arm around my own waist as I held her. I reached across her to turn off the lamp and she kissed my arm as it passed over her face. I was surprised. Normally I was the more affectionate of the two of us and my kissed on the cheek and forehead and hand went unheeded.
We snuggled down together, and I stroked her hair and rubbed her back, soothing her into sleep. She squeezed me with her arm every now and then, and I assumed she dreamt of the guy at the party. I smiled and laid my cheek against her forehead, feeling it cool. After a while, I kissed her on the forehead and moved my head to a more comfortable position on the pillow. Ah, she was awake: she kissed me on the cheek as I went by. I went to kiss her back Ė on the cheek.
Except that I didnít. The corner of her mouth caught mine, and I suddenly discovered that kissing is not boring at all. We pressed our lips together, and there it was.
I wanted to say something, but I was afraid that if I did, it would end. So I did not. One of us, I think she, deepened the kiss, but it still was not all flailing tongues and teeth like it had been with every boy in the world. Lips, soft lips, lips without a hint of stubble, that did not chafe at my skin caressed me lovingly and tenderly Ė almost like she had thought of doing it before.
Like I had. It was only in theory, and I told myself that it was because she was my best friend and I loved her and I was just mad that none of those boys would treat her right. That explanation seemed perfectly reasonable to me right up to that moment.
Looking back, I wish I had not stopped it from going further. I didnít stop it Ė no way, I never wanted it to end. I could have kissed her forever, just like that. But when she left my lips and kissed her way down my neck and collarbone and my left breast, some part of me screamed no, sheís drunk, you love her, you canít take advantage of her like that, and I pulled her face back up to mine, even while our legs grappled with each other, melding ourselves together.
We should have made love, especially looking back now since that night and the next day were the only time anything would happen with us. My heater was out that month and the next night I showed up at her apartment ready to sleep on the floor until she told me that I was being stupid, that when two people have a connection it doesnít matter if itís two women or not, and that I had not taken advantage of her. I asked her if it would have happened if she werenít drunk, and she replied that it wasnít a no, that she didnít do things she hadnít thought about before when she was drunk.
Relieved, I snuggled down next to her, just happy that she didnít hate me. But then, wonder of wonders, she reached up to turn off the light and at the same time reached an arm around me. I stretched up to kiss her goodnight Ė aiming for a cheek, but she pulled my lips to hers. And so it went again. Now I was in relationship mode, not wanting to rush anything, so again, we did not make love.
Iíve been in love with her ever since, even though she told me (against everything she had ever said to me either of those two nights, or during the course of our friendship) that she felt nothing for me, that she didnít love me the way I professed to love her and she never would. We didnít speak for years, and every day of those years ate away at me.
And then we managed to move in across the street from each other, both of us with husband and kids. We began to speak; how could we not?
Now I sit here wondering if I have the courage to tell her itís all still there.
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