"You're honest," Sam said to me in our first year at Duke, his con law
textbook lying next to him on the couch to make room for the plate of
boiled spaghetti on his lap. He meant it as a compliment, and maybe as a
warning. He thought honest law students were a noble, dying breed, as rare
as honest attorneys. He thought it was something we had in common.
"You're amazing; you know that?" he says now, one foot already out the door, and I know he means the same thing he meant then. He thinks my mouth opens and the truth pours out, like I'm playing a witness in a bad courtroom drama. I tell him I'm not surprised, that I understand, that I still love him, that we'll talk on the phone. That he has my fucking blessing. I didn't tell him the whole truth back at Duke, and I don't tell it to him now.
He doesn't need to know about the layers of anger that have calcified around my heart from lying next to him in bed while his thoughts drifted 200-odd miles southward. He doesn't need to know there was a little part of me that disappeared that night long ago when he sobbed in my lap and I carved out my role in our relationship. He doesn't need to know he's the not the only one who's been unhappy.
I want to kiss him as he leaves, but I squeeze his hand instead, knowing my demotion to best friend leaves a conspicuous open slot in his life. When the door closes between us, I stumble blindly to the phone on the table, reaching for it with a leaden hand, my finger already dialing my brother's number. I haven't spoken to him in months, but his is the only voice I want to hear.
I'd like to think it's because Ron is the man I love most in the world apart from Sam, and it's the truth, but it's a half-truth that wouldn't stand up in court. I also need to delude myself that this ending wasn't inevitable from the first moment Sam and I found ourselves giggling and gasping on his living room floor.
"Hello?" Ron says, picking up on the second ring, and I steady myself against the back of the couch. I'm glad it's not Becky, glad I won't have to be the one to explain this to my brother's wife.
"It's me," I begin, my voice cracking like wind-chapped skin. And because my honesty is the thing Sam still loves most about me, even now, I spit it out. "Sam left," I say. "He's gone."
I don't really hear what he says in response, but the warmth in his voice triggers my tears, and then the knot in the back of my throat inhibits any further speech. I don't even try to talk; I just listen. Sometimes you can be most honest when you say nothing at all.