Friendship By D.I. Jolly

“You know, it never occurred to me that… that this would happen like this.”

Johnny’s throat was tight and he felt his jaw clench, and unclench before he could continue.

“I mean, of course this is how life plays out, but… I just don’t know. I never imagined that I’d have to live in a world… a world like this.”

Josh and Johnny had met in their early 20s, when Johnny moved into Josh’s flat and, since they were only slightly different flavours of man-baby, they became fast friends. When they looked back on their lives, they’d say that they grew up together. Because, for all practical purposes, they had. They were together when Josh met Janet. They were together when Johnny found out his ex was pregnant, and they had danced together at their children’s wedding.

And they were together now.

Johnny looked at his friend and watched the rise and fall of his chest. Watched him breathing in time with the beeping of the heart monitor.

“I can’t believe I’m going to have to live here without you. I… can’t even imagine it now. How, how does a world without you even look? How does it sound? I know the sun will still rise, but, I just, I just don’t believe it.”

He dug his fingers into his eyes to try and dam them up, to try and stop the tears. Then finally, the words he’d been hiding from, the words he was so desperate not to say, came tumbling out of his mouth.

“Don’t leave me, please… don’t leave me.”

And with that the dam broke, and all the tears he’d been fighting off came out. He buried his face into his friend’s arm, and an old man cried. Helpless and hopeless and confused.

When the beeping stopped, Johnny was left to face a new world, a colder and lonelier world. Music still played, and the sun still rose, but it all felt wrong somehow. Like an overheard insult to someone else. Not your place to get offended or upset, but you were anyway.

It had been quick, but not sudden. Josh had been on a slow decline in his later years, but only lasted a week after the doctors gave him his final prognosis, and Johnny had spent every moment of that week with him.

They had laughed, he had cried, and in the end Josh had died.

The funeral was arranged by their children, and it wasn’t until the last minute that Johnny had decided he would say something. It wasn’t until the last minute that he was even sure he’d be able to say something, let alone think of anything to actually say. But he did, and in front of a room full of people who now felt like strangers he said.

“You are gone, and my world has lost its north star, my guiding light. Even though we had long periods where we didn’t see each other, I always knew that you were out there, somewhere. I know that there are people in my life who love me, and who I love. But in this new world, this world without you, I will always be alone.”

He stood for a moment and let his own words hang in the air around him, but he held it together. Then, for just a moment, he thought that maybe he had simply run out of tears. Then he felt his throat tighten as he thought about what Josh would say to that idea.

“Is it possible for someone to run out of tears? Like, forever? If you cry too much, will you eventually just, like, run out?”

He thought about the face Josh would make at such a ridiculous question. The long hard look he’d give his coffee, or cereal or whatever was on their kitchen table, and he let out a small sad little laugh and felt the warmth of the love he had for his friend wash over him. Then he went back to his seat to think about how their conversation would have gone.

“And if you can’t cry anymore, because you’ve run out of tears. Does that mean you don’t get sad anymore? Like does everyone have a finite amount of sadness they can experience in life?”

He thought about how impressed Josh would be at the use of the word ‘finite’, and how much he longed for it to be true. Longed to have that conversation.

And whether it was true or not, Johnny realised that he still had some tears left, when he sat down at the reception dinner, and the waitress served him a bowl of pumpkin soup.

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