Late in the night the phone rang and eventually John sat up and politely answered.
“John? It’s Meagan. I hope it’s not too late.”
He sat up in bed and stared at the wall for a moment until his sleepless eyes adjusted to the light of the streetlights coming through the window.
“No. It’s fine. Are you alright?”
There was a long pause.
“I don’t know.”
John didn’t know what to say. He was never any good at handling sympathetic problems, much like Alan, and often blamed him for it. After all, Alan was the most human interaction he had growing up well into his mid 20’s and God forbid Alan ever learn how to deal with matters so delicate.
“I can’t stop thinking about it. About Alan. The way he did it…the note…”
Finally he found a foothold. “I know. I can hardly believe it myself.” The ridiculous action of his best friend was still an act of lunacy in his mind. What honestly sane person would consider such drastic means?
“Do you think…that he…that he blamed me?”
Shit, John thought. What have you done, Alan?
“Of course not. Alan loved you. He made that very clear.”
There was a soft sound of sobbing. “And then he killed himself over it.”
“No no. Alan wanted you to be happy. He had his own share of demons and experiences that he just…couldn’t handle anymore.” Said John with his fingers pressed hard on the bridge of his nose.
“I just…I didn’t know how to handle it. He came to me so suddenly. I—, “she started, but was interrupted.
“It’s understandable. He had just come out of a relationship. He was still working on changing himself, though a lot of his old habits prevailed. You did nothing wrong.”
“I thought he was rushing. And I was afraid. The old relationship…it had its moments, but looking back I was so different. I didn’t want to go back to that.”
“I know he didn’t either. He really was looking to change.”
“He told me about when I was sick.”
“When he came to me and admitted everything. He said that when it happened all he could think about…was me. Said he was with her, but his first thought was that he couldn’t bear the thought of losing me.”
“I feel so awful, John. He poured himself in front of me. I’ve never seen him so transparent; so vulnerable. And I let the past dictate the future.” There were several loud sobs of pain and a shuffling on the other end of the phone.
He took a deep breath and waited for her to settle before he said anything else.
“I knew the moment you met that the two of you were perfect. That’s also how I knew that Alan would never have it. He had a real penchant for throwing away perfect opportunities. I suppose that was part of what made him infinitely interesting.”
Meagan laughed painfully, “Yeah, he did”.
“But he loved you more than anyone he’s ever loved. I know that from all the years we’ve shared. You were more than a romance or an ideal. You were real. But I don’t think for a second that he blames you for any of it.”
“No. In fact, I think for the first time in Alan’s life he finally realized what was his fault and responsibility. And instead of facing that and trying to move forward, he just ran away. Just like he ran from you the moment it became real to him.” Said John. He waited for a response, but another long pause set in.
Finally Meagan spoke up, “Thank you, John. I just…I just needed to hear that.”
“I completely understand. In fact, one of Alan’s finest pieces of wisdom was that ‘every degree of praise or criticism you keep in your head should be stated, because often we just need to hear it spoken aloud in order to believe it as truth’.”
She laughed hard and then replied, “Damn him! He was so smart. So smart and so stupid at the same time!”
John chuckled, “I could not agree with you more.”
“Do you think that…maybe we could get some coffee or something? I just would like someone to talk to about all this. You know—make sure I’m alright?”
She was nervous, but the pain in her voice was real. He couldn’t turn her down.
“Sure. In fact, let’s do Thursdays. Alan and I used to get coffee those afternoons and chat about the mundane things in our lives. I’m sure he’d be quite proud to have you in his stead.”
“Thank you again, John. I know you miss him too.”
He almost laughed, but continued the charade. He hadn’t even considered the notion of Alan actually being dead. The past few weeks of him being fake dead was more of a nuisance than when he was alive. And yet for some reason still when she said it, he immediately felt the sadness that had befallen him that night—watching his best friend dangle from a rope.
“Get some rest, Meagan. I’ll see you in two days. Around noon.”
“I’ll be there. Goodnight.”
He hung up the phone and stared at it for a longer time than he realized. The sad thought of Alan’s death was lingering in his throat as he reached for the glass of water on his nightstand. The cold liquid gave him slight chills.
Alan had faked his death, but for what seemed like a brief moment John had truly lost his best friend to a bout of ridiculous bad luck and failed relationships. Now, Alan was alive and working hard on his life and himself for the first time. And though Meagan and others were heartbroken over their loss (leaving John on damage control) he honestly felt that his friend was worth something more. A strange, vulgar, and deluded narcissist–yes, but Alan Venar made the worst parts of life look like a breeze.
John lay back down in his bed and gazed at the ceiling with a smile on his face. He had a good friend. One of a kind and truly an inspiration on levels that no one as ordinary as himself could ever dream to reach. And for the first time since Alan’s supposed death, John believed that this crazed plan could actually work out in the end.