“I don’t have a lot of friends,” I reminded myself. The cold and warm fronts were colliding in the sky which was colored with moving clouds, yellows, grays, and shades of purple. Darkness was falling as I was driving.
“I’m confiding in you when I’m telling you this, so if you tell anyone. And I mean anyone. I can’t be friends with you anymore. Our friendship would end,” Jared said.
Exhaling stress, I inhaled some more and agreed to the terms.
“She just always tells me what to do and she thinks she’s entitled.”
“I … can see where you’re coming from.” I said. “She seems to expect you to do everything.”
“Exactly! Exactly. I knew you’d understand. But any time I try to tell her she never listens.”
“Have you tried talking to her?”
“I can’t. She never listens. I don’t know what to say. I keep most things in. I don’t like to confide in anyone.”
“That’s not healthy.” I thought.
“You guys need to start having more of an open dialogue,” I said.
“How am I supposed to talk to her. All she wants to do is go, go, go. I don’t even know if I love her anymore.”
I teared up after hearing this. “One sec, I have a call on the other line.”
“Is it her?’
“Yeah, man. She’s been looking for you.” Parking the car between the trees in the driveway I turned the engine off but left the key in for the blue tooth audio. Both trees were tilting and looked like they’d fall with each gust of wind. “You went off into the night without telling anyone where you were going.”
“This is what I’m talking about. Why the hell do I have to tell her where I’m going all the time?! I just wanted to be alone. I knew this would happen. Don’t tell her where I am,” Jared said.
“Just relax,” I said in an effort to also make myself calm. “I don’t even know where you are.”
“Alright, just god damn talk to her. Call me back when you’re done.”
Ending one conversation, I pressed a button to pick up the other.
“Where is he? Is he alright? I love him. Tell me he’s gonna be okay…” My friend Catrina was crying into the phone. “I just want things to go back to normal. I don’t think he loves me anymore. Tell me he loves me, Rob. Did he say if he loves me?”
“I don’t think he does either,” I thought to myself. “I definitely can’t say that though. The relationship can’t end on account of something I say. Then they’ll both hate me. How the hell did I get into this mess?”
“He definitely still loves you.” I said. “I don’t think he would be doing all this if he didn’t.”
“Is he cheating on me,” she cried in distress. “What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong? Just tell me so I can fix it. I can change, I can change.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Where is he?”
“I just spoke to him on the other line. He’s okay. He just wanted a night to relax and unwind.”
“Unwind from what? Aren’t I a good enough person to be around. I’m relaxed. Aren’t I relaxed?” she asked. “I need to know where he is. The cops are looking for him.”
“What?” I asked.
“The cops are going to send a search party out for him. Tell him he needs to come home.”
* * *
“So did he come home?” Jim asked. The next night I was at a local dive bar. It was brightly lit and the beer was cold but it only seemed to send chills and increase my nerves instead of calm them.
“Yeah, so I don’t know what the hell is gonna happen. They’re two of my best friends,” I said.
“So whose side are you going to take?” my friend Jim asked. Jim was like a grandfather. I’d only known him several years. He was a weathered soul who had worked in military intelligence. A world traveler. He still wore jeans with a jean shirt buttoned halfway at seventy-two years old.
“I’m kind of in the middle. If you want the truth I don’t know what to think. I don’t know who’s right. Not really certain whose wrong. I’m the best man in the wedding.”
“You should’ve just stayed out of the whole mess,” Jim replied.
“Thanks, shit head.” I thought to myself.
“I don’t think that’s an option at this point,” I said.
“Well, ya can’t take sides. You’ll lose a friend either way if you do.”
“I’m just trying to mediate this whole thing. I don’t wanna see my friends split apart.”
I placed down the beer heavily on the table hoping I could drop some stress along with it. A chill shot through my spine so I picked it back up and took another drink.
“You’re clearly in a bad spot,” Jim said. “But I would just be careful with what you say. I think the best thing you can do is to just remove yourself from the situation. Tell them that you’re friends with both of them.”
“Who’s going to help then? I don’t want to see their marriage fail.”
“You’re not a god damn child whose parents are getting divorced, Alright. Stay the hell out of it for your own damn good.”
“Who am I supposed to hang out with if they split?”
“Both of them.”
“How would that work?”
“It’s simple, if they split up you have twice as many friends.”
My beer slipped from my hand and dropped to the floor. Glass crashed in all directions.
“I have no god damn clue,” I said. “Just not a clue.”
“Well, you’re right about one thing,” Jim laughed.
I looked for the closet to get the dust pan but a server was already walking over with one.
“I’m gonna hit the road,” I said.
“Let me know if ya need anything.”
* * *
Four days later I was at Catrina and Jared’s house. The white xmas lights lined the ceilings but the holly decorating them was well out of season. Once again, Jared was gone for the night.
“So do you think he loves me?” Catrina asked.
“I think he does. I don’t think he would be doing all this if he didn’t.”
“He never talks to me anymore. I don’t know what time he’s coming home.” She was dressed in her pajamas and her makeup was smeared. Streaks of mascara ran from her eyes.
“I just think you guys need to have more of an open dialogue.”
“I ask him, Rob. I ask him what he’s thinking and he doesn’t tell me. How am I supposed to know what he’s thinking if he doesn’t say anything?” She began crying again and my heart dropped with hers. “Don’t tell him any of this, okay. I don’t want him to think he’s weak or that he doesn’t love me or that I don’t love him or that anything is wrong on my side.
I nodded my head as if this made sense and I swore to secrecy once more.
“Did he tell you anything? Did he?” Catrina asked.
“I can’t repeat what he said.”
“Whyyyy,” she said. “Just God damn tell me. Please, I need to know. I love him.”
“I can’t,” I said.
Grabbing my shirt, she cried on my shoulder. “Just tell me. Please. Just tell me.” The crying grew louder.
“I think you need to slow things down a bit. You’re too fast paced for him.”
“I am? I guess I am. I can do that. Is that all he said?”
Trying to compose a lie I hesitated. My chest was tight.
“What else did he say? Does he not love me anymore?” she asked.
“I, what kind of a question is that?” My blue button down shirt was now covered in tears. They were hers but I cried mine on the inside. She was really hurt.
“What aren’t you telling me? What aren’t you telling me?” Please just let me know if he doesn’t love me so I can move on.”
The back door swung open. “I told you not to God damn say anything. I’m done with you!” Jared stormed in shirtless with jeans on and bare feet.
“I thought you went out?” Catrina asked in confusion. She spoke for us both.
“Well, ya thought wrong. Get the hell out of my house. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Tell me if you love me?” Catrina pleaded.
“I can’t answer that,” he replied. “All I know is that I need a different best man.”
“Who the hell are you?” I asked. “And what are you doing in the God damn closet? What happened to my friend?”
“I’m not your friend anymore.”
“Why aren’t you his friend?” Catrina cried.
“He knows why.”
* * *
“I don’t have a clue what’s wrong with him.”
“You didn’t wanna listen to me. You’re a stubborn kid with a good heart,” Jim said.
“What’s it matter?”
“You’re a damn good kid for trying to help,” Jim replied. “Sometimes things like this happen.”
“I lost my two best friends.”
“You’re not friends with her either?”
“She blamed me too.” Completely sapped of energy I put most of my weight on the table. It wavered startling me awake from my depression.
“This may be difficult to see but, they’re not worth your while. If they can’t see the value in you then screw ‘em.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re confused but you’ll figure it out. There’s a lot to process.”
2 thoughts on “The Middle by Steven Colori”
You can’t help some people but you can write a very good “short and sour” story about them! Send more. June
I reckon you have made us all remember about being in the middle of a no-win situation.
This will hit a nerve with most of us who have had no choice in becoming involved.
A well written story with good characters in a real life situation.
All the very best.