“You know what I loved most about my time there?”
“The absence,” she said. “The total absence of all the usual crap.”
“They didn’t have the internet?”
“It wasn’t boring?”
“It was a relief. My mind was quiet, free. There was nothing pressing. No advertisements for perfect beaches in the Caribbean. No guilt or desire that stretched my reach. No sense that life was elsewhere. It was here. I was here.” She placed her palm over her diaphragm. “I’ve never experienced a greater solitude. Or been less lonely.”
“But what did you do?”
“I cried at first.”
“Yeah. Like a baby.”
“Why was that?”
“I’m not sure.”
“And then I walked. I walked for miles. I walked until I could feel my unhappiness . . . detach. Until I felt all those snarled chains float free.”
Her friend dropped his gaze to her tennis shoes. Some of the seams gaped. A big toenail peeked through.
He cleared his throat.
“So why did you come back to us? To all the craziness?” His voice wavered. “To . . . me?”
She touched his shoulder, but he pulled away. Reaching for a drink on the coffee table.
“You were never a chain,” she said, eyes seeking his. “Never. You were just one of the roots to lead me back home.”
He coughed himself into a blush. Definitely needing a couple sips from that drink.
“If we were in a TV movie, they’d cut to commercial break now,” he finally said.
“True. Women would be crying. Men would be all stoic and strong-eyed.”
“Thank God I’m a man.”
“I embarrassed you,” she said.
“No! I mean . . . no.” He scratched his nose and leaned back into the cushion. “You were just getting all Dalai Lama on my ass there for a minute. That's all.”
She laughed and put a finger over her lips.
“Okay. We never had this conversation.”
“Or if we did, we were stoned.”
“Completely gored out of our heads.”
“High on shrooms.”
“High on love and truth. Truth in love.”
They were silent for a moment. Him sloshing ice cubes in that drink. Palms protecting a chill.
“Why is it so hard to say these things?” he asked quietly.
“It wasn’t," she said. "I wanted to say them.”
He set down the drink and hooked a foot on the opposite knee. Fingers peeling at the tread of his boot.
“Then why is it so hard for me to accept them?” he said.
“I don’t know.”
She smiled at him. He saw it light her eyes.
“But I’m telling you, anyway.”