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Lamentation For A Friend (I'm Sorry, Jim)

A novel excerpt by Greggory Moore

I'm the antagonist in this little story. I don't mean to be, but I am. My mere presence antagonizes him in a way. I'm the antagonist, but I'm not the villain. There is no villain here.

***

People mistake us for a couple all the time. We went to dinner the other night, and I ordered before he was ready. Do you need a couple of minutes, the waitress asked?

Yeah, he smiled. Sorry.

That's okay—it's your girlfriend's fault, not yours, she joked as she left.

We just smiled.

***

It's not like I'm looking to hook up with someone when we're out. But I notice guys looking at me. And I'm attracted to some of them. It's not like I stare, and I never flirt in that situation. But he can't not notice.

I think it's the worst when they're also looking at him.

***

He's heavy-set, and I just don't like that. I don't have any idea if things would be different otherwise. Maybe. But I just don't think of him in that way. I don't think that makes me superficial.

***

More than anyone I know, he deserves to be happy. He's not, and it's because of me. (Not just because of me, but mostly.) He's never said anything, but I know. He would be better off if we'd never met, although I doubt he ever thinks of it in these terms. But I do.

***

He knows I date, because we're close and he thinks he wants to know. Because he's my friend. So I tell him about it. I'm discreet, but he wants to know, and I'm not going to lie to him.

***

Do you love me, he asked once. I knew he wasn't asking about love in the romantic sense.

Jim, you know I do , I said (because he knew I did). What makes you ask that?

Oh, nothing, he said.

I couldn't read him just then.

***

He stepped out of the changing room so that I could see if this suit looked better on him than the last two. It did.

Yes, that's much better, the salesgirl concurred. That gray goes better with your boyfriend's complexion, don't you think?

I smiled. Yes, it looks really good, Jim.

He was turned towards the mirror, and he just stood there.

***

We love to watch movies together, and we spend hours talking about them afterward. We talk a lot about everything. I've gotten less sleep in the three years since I've known him, less sleep and a richer life.

***

I almost never see him in sweats or anything like that. One time when he had the flu I told him I was bringing him some orange juice and Advil. When I got there he was showered and dressed like we were going out for coffee, his hair neatly combed, even though he looked like he could barely stand.

***

He got a job he was really excited about, and so I went to visit him a couple of weeks after he'd started. As I was leaving I went down a hallway to get a drink of water instead of straight to the elevator.

Jim , I heard one of his co-workers say reverentially, your girlfriend is hot!

She's not my girlfriend, I heard him reply. I wish he hadn't felt the need to say that.

***

I remember we were sitting face-to-face on that beautiful rug he has in his living room. We were just talking, laughing hard, I don't remember what about. We looked at each other full-on in the eyes, smiling. I started to giggle again over whatever it was. His smile tightened a bit, and he looked to his left. Then he didn't move.

Jim, what's the matter, I asked?

He turned his head a little more away, his chin almost beyond his shoulder.

Jim, I said, but I saw then that he was crying, trying not to but failing. I wanted so desperately to hug him, to somehow console him. I'd never hurt for another person so much. I sat there quietly, trying not to sob, feeling that I didn't have the right.

 

Greggory Moore presently doesn't think enough of his life to write much of a bio.  He's a civil libertarian, Jerry Rice Jr. in his flag-football league, and ineffectual but well-intended.  Lamentation for a Friend (I'm Sorry, Jim) is an excerpt from his recently-completed first novel, Story Telling of Death and So Many Other Things.

Photo "Lookin' At Me 2" courtesy of Colt Shot.

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