I had barely settled onto my bar stool before Danny began filling my ear with salacious tidbits about our waitress. “I just told her I hadn’t slept since yesterday and she told me she used to stay up all night when she was a cokehead.”
“Oh.” I glanced across the room at our waitress. She didn’t look like a cokehead or someone who would confess to being a cokehead upon first meeting. “What- did she seat you and say, ‘Hi, I’m Candice and I used to be a cokehead. Would you like to hear today’s specials?’”
“Oh, you’re so funny, Tyler,” Danny said, swatting me with his menu, joking away the responsibility of answering my question.
Meanwhile, in my mind, more questions were piling up. Did the waitress really tell Danny that she used to be a cokehead? Did The Man really tell Danny that he was HIV positive? So many of Danny’s stories were outlandish and he had no qualms revealing the intimate details of his own life- I never knew what to believe anymore.
“Here, look at these,” said Danny, shoving his iPhone into my face. “It’s photos of me and my hot friend, Ricardo.” Danny swiped his finger across the screen, revealing a series of pictures of their drunken duck faces that eventually led to kissing and a blurry dick in a mouth. “We’re just good friends but we fool around a lot- kind of like you and your friend-“
“No,” I interrupted. I knew he was about to bring up the crush I had on one of my best friends. “Don’t go there. We are nothing like that.” I was not in the mood.
“Oh,” joked Danny, covering his mouth. “I guess we can’t joke about that anymore, seeing how it might make The Man jealous. How is he, anyway?”
“Who? The Man?” I asked, confused.
“Yes, silly, your boyfriend.” I raised my eyebrows. I was stunned. Danny didn’t know that The Man and I had split up.
“Um, we broke up. Like, a month ago.”
Danny gasped and gripped my arm in shock. “Girl! I didn’t know! Why didn’t you tell me!”
I shrugged. “It’s not news that I want to particularly announce to the masses.” I made a bull horn with my hands. “Hey, y’all! My relationship failed! I suck at love!”
“Well, honey, what happened?” Danny squeezed my arm and tilted his head, giving me his puppy-dog eyes. I sighed and gave him an abridged version of the incidents that led to the break-up. My trust issues. The Man’s twelve hour long photo session with a tantric massage therapist. The Man’s disdain for the attention I was receiving for my book. Danny listened intently and when I wrapped up the story, he offered what seemed to be genuine, empathetic condolences but I couldn’t help but wonder how much of what I had said would be spewed to others in a gleeful gossip spree.
“Did he ever tell you that he was HIV positive?” asked Danny.
I smacked my hand on the table. “No! And when I told him that you told me, he adamantly denied it. He said you were a liar.” I watched Danny’s reaction closely.
“Oh, he did?” Danny was angered. His face wrinkled with frustration and his voice bellowed, but then, almost immediately, he fell silent and solemn. He looked out the window for a moment and when his eyes circled back around to me, his face softened. “Tyler, I swear to you, he really told me that. I’m not lying.”
I looked down and gently touched my fork and sighed. In the quietness of the moment, Danny seemed sober and sincere. I wanted to believe him, but when dealing with hearsay and gossip and liars, the truth may never see the light of day. I nodded. “I know, Danny. I know.”
And in that moment, I knew our friendship had expired. It had to, eventually. It felt like watching a candle’s flame smolder and die. Or finally throwing away that favorite sweater riddled with moth holes. I could tell that Danny felt it, too. The rest of our brunch was filled with polite pleasantries and small talk. Afterwards, we hugged goodbye and never saw or spoke to one another again, but oddly, and perhaps very telling, The Man and Danny still remain friends to this day.