A few years ago, I made a new friend. For about a month, or maybe less, we did everything together. We explored. We stayed up all night watching movies. We went out to eat at places I’d never heard of. We met each other’s friends.
(We didn’t like each other like that, but people asked if we were together anyway. I was married at the time, but even people who knew this asked me.)
One night, we shot hoops at a basketball court far from where we both lived. It was a whole ordeal to get there. They had a basketball, but it was flat, so we had to go buy a pump. When we tried filling the ball with air, we realized there was a tear elsewhere — it was a goner. So we bought a new basketball. And we shot hoops. They let off some half-court bombs, and I showed them how to get away with a foul under the basket. We both walked away with bruises amid our laughter.
We called it “our communal basketball.” It would live in their trunk, so it would be ready and waiting next time.
Next time didn’t come, though, because sometimes you put all your energy into a friendship for a few weeks, or less, and you realize you miss your life before. That this isn’t working. That you yearn for the pre-friendship, the pre-knowing you. Or at least one of you does.
On one of our last nights, we went to an all-night diner at 4 a.m., where I filed a piece about women’s basketball just in time for an abusive editor so they wouldn’t be mad at me. They were already mad at me, you understand, for having this friend, because it took me away from my severely underpaid writing gig, the place where they could control me anyway because “severely underpaid” was still “paid.” I filed the piece, and I looked across the table at my friend, who was falling asleep.
“Should I drive us home?” I asked. We’d taken their car.
I pulled into their driveway and wasn’t sure what was next. Something was different. I didn’t want things to be different.
“We should shoot hoops tomorrow,” they said as I turned off the car, the keys jingling between my fingers.
“Definitely,” I replied. But I knew we wouldn’t.