|Instead of the party on the other side of town, their voices were going hoarse from all the shouting. His hands were aching from clenching his fists. Her eyes hurt from crying for almost an hour. The neighbours had turned on some country music to drown them out, but it had been going on too long to just let it go now. Maybe it had been days, but they both were sure that it was weeks. The center of the bed was always too cold, the days were always too long, they always had to wake too early. There was never time to talk when the apartment was never clean, when work always made them too tired, when their phones were always ringing. Now there was time and fingers were being pointed and irrational questions were being asked.
"It isn't supposed to be like this. You promised it would never be like this," she sobbed when he pushed all the magazines off the kitchen table. He had never meant it to be like that. This woman was not who he fell in love with. This stranger wore her hair up every day. She turned off the stereo when she came home, rubbed her temples and said that it was giving her a headache. It wasn't the same girl he met in the center of the dance floor, screaming all the words to his favourite songs.
"Tell me what to do," he shouted at her when she collapsed onto the couch burying her face into her hands. They had once slow danced their living room to a song just because he said it was his favourite. She remembered the way he came home with a smile on his face, rambling on about all the things he heard that day, about all the things he wished he could have showed her, things he wished he could have shared with her. She missed when he put all of his songs on a tape for her or made her watch old movies, certain she would love them just because he did.
"Maybe they were right," he said, slamming a balled fist on the counter, "Maybe we were too young."
She curled up in one corner of the couch with her knees pulled up to her chest. He stood with his back to her, waiting for the moment when she wrapped her arms around his waist, the moment when she kissed his neck and told him it all meant nothing. She didn't move. Her sobs only became heavier. He grabbed his car keys from the dining room table and marched out the door. She didn't bother to call out to him, didn't bother to ask him to come back.
He drove around the streets for over an hour, certain that he was lost, sure that he wouldn't be able to find his way home. He listened to a CD he'd made for her only the week before. On their way to get groceries she had taken it out, tossed it into the glove box and asked if he had anything she might actually like. He never told her that he made it for her. He let her turn the music up too loud.
It took him a moment to realize that he was driving past the party they had both been invited to. Cars lined the street. There were people on front porch. The tips of their fingers seemed to glow in the dark. Clouds of gray smoke hung around the light bulb above their heads. He parked the car and got out. He thought about texting her, thought about telling her where he was, but he was certain she wouldn't care. He tossed his phone back into the car and headed toward the house, toward the music, toward his friends.
He made it as far as the porch before he realized how silly he felt coming there alone. It was the first time he'd been to a party without her in three years. It was the first time he'd gone alone in his life. There was no one there to make the introductions, to catch people up on their life, to smile for him and tell their friends that everything was completely fine.
It was too late to turn back around. He was spotted. They called out his name. They pulled him into hugs. They never asked how she was or where she was. He sighed with relief and followed them toward the keg at the back of the house. All his friends were there. They told him how great it was to see him, how they had missed having him around. They told him it wasn't the same without him. His life wasn't the same without them either. He wished he could have told her this. He wished her had told her this.
He did shots with old friends. New friends were made as they closed themselves in the basement bathroom with two joints and steam from the shower. They played beer pong out back and he lost so bad that he wasn't sure that he would be able to walk if he had even one more drink. He kept laughing and smiled. He sang all the lyrics to songs he knew in the living room with the arms of his best friends hanging over his shoulders.
In drunken moment, he pulled his oldest friend a side. He wrapped his arms around his friend's shoulders and said that he messed up, that they were so worn out, that they had run each other into the ground. He put his head against his oldest friend's and said, "You were right, man. We were too young."
His friend said something he wasn't expecting. After a long sigh his friend told him, "I was an asshole back then and I was wrong. She loves you. You love her."
He thought about this. He knew it was true. There was no one he loved more than her.
"And I love you, dude," his oldest friend said, patting him on the chest, "You just need to remember who you were, who you wanted to be and maybe it will remind her of who she was. Now, go into the kitchen and get yourself another drink."
He did as he was told, feeling a little more hopefully. He thought about calling her. He wanted to tell her he missed her. He wondered if she missed him too.
Then he saw her in the kitchen with her friends. They were giggling behind their hands. They were high and drunk and happy. She was drunk and high and happy. When she noticed him standing there, she gave a wave and an all telling smile. She turned away from him, telling her friends about their trip to Cuba over Christmas. He listened, trying to force back a grin when she told them of how he was pinched by a crab, how she had to beat it away with her high heel.
He headed out onto the back porch to watch the sun rising just above the trees. He couldn't remember the last time he had stayed up to watch the sunrise. He couldn't remember the last time he'd started a new day with his friends. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he listened to the sound of the laughing and singing inside. His cheeks hurt from all the smiling, all the laughter, of all the singing. It felt like it used to, like it was supposed to.
Without warning, her arms slipped around his waist. Her face pressed against the back of his neck. He could feel her breath warm on his skin. He ran his fingers over hers and let out a long, content sigh. If he had the choice they would stand there, frozen in that moment for just a while longer.
"Let's go home," she whispered into his ear. She kissed his neck, kissed his mouth. He couldn't find a reason not to. They hugged their friends goodbye and made promises that they would be back the next weekend and the weekend after. They called a cab and she sat in his lap for the entire ride home.
He put on the playlist that he'd made for her and they made love in their living room and made love on the bedroom floor. She told him about all the gossip her friends told her, all of the fun she had. He told her how much he loved her and they wrapped themselves up in the blankets as his soundtrack played on.
"A day's worth of bitching does down the drain when you lay in my bed and pick my brain," he sang along with the last track on his mix CD as they began drifting off to sleep, the sun high in the sky. When she kissed him he could feel her smile.
Love Your Friends, Die Laughing by Man Overboard
lyrics in italics