Local: Best Friend (Part II)

Her best friend was there too, with the couple, at the bar on those long and rowdy Thursday nights. She’d be close to the girlfriend — who was always at the center of attention — trying to join in the fun. The best friend knew the girlfriend’s routine with the crowd of regulars and assorted others, and she could, at times, enjoy the occasional attention being the best friend might bring. She smiled and laughed with them all, beer near her constantly drumming, ticking fingers. Sometimes she was acknowledged — they all knew who she was — but it was most often as an aside, and she was left to her own shy devices. The best friend was pretty, even more so than the girlfriend, but she lacked the charm, the social ease the other woman possessed.

Every now and then, when the festivities amped up and the jukebox came on, one of the men would ask the best friend to dance, and maybe that was out of pity, convenience, or good-natured regard — she was never sure — and her suspicious nature made the exchange more awkward that it needed to be, so that the men always got the wrong idea and sauntered away, annoyed and pride injured. So she’d end up on the fringe of the crowd, where, admittedly, she was more comfortable anyways.

At the end of the night, the boyfriend would rise from his place nearby and steer the girlfriend towards the door, and the best friend would follow. She’d take the sloppy hug from the girlfriend and let the boyfriend take her bike out of the trunk of the car where it’d been held in with a few bungee cords. It was an unspoken agreement between the best friend and the boyfriend that she’d take herself home, cycle the mile back to campus on her own, find her way along the gravel-cluttered streets and over the bridge spanning the gorge before riding swiftly down the shallow crest to the little house on the edge of town, the few lights left on at that hour blurring and streaking in her periphery.

The best friend would quickly store her bike in the garage and enter the house, into the living room, where her stoned roommate was in a passed-out state on the couch, feet hanging over the arm, and the cherried pipe still warm and glowing on the coffee table. The best friend would take the last hit, dragging long and slow, nodding to herself. There were times when she’d even talk softly to herself too, scrolling through her memories of the entire evening at the bar, chiding her own actions or inaction. Her gaze would be somewhere far off, eyes pointed towards the window as she exhaled thinning smoke into the room. She’d cash the bowl and turn off the low-volume television. Sometimes the roommate would wake up and slump off to her room with a muttered greeting and other times when she’d sleep through all the proceedings.

Then the best friend would walk through the little house and turn off all the lights, making sure the doors and windows were locked, before going to her bedroom, where she’d unclothe and lay herself heavily on the mattress in the corner. In the warmer months, the window was open and the curtain swayed languidly near her head, as she let sleep pull on her consciousness, and the process could be swift. But there were also nights when unconsciousness was distant and slow to come, and the best friend would lie among the sheets and just wait, eyes on the dimpled white ceiling above her for a long while that seemed to last til dawn was sure to arrive.

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