Late one night, or early one morning, I told you I loved you.
This was the first time that I remember saying those words of my own choice and not just parroting them back after someone said that they loved me.
You had invited me to spend the night, which was rare for me. Not the spending the night where you lived, but that was usually a group thing; everyone was invited and everyone stayed over. Often I was only invited after people were already there -- an afterthought. This night, though, you had specifically invited me and that was different. That was special.
You had recently moved out of your old room and into a new room to get farther away from your problems. The new room not only had your bed, but a decent couch for someone to sleep on. Even though other people, other friends, were over we barricaded ourselves in your room after eating. I remember being surprised, the next morning, that no one came upstairs, no one disturbed us.
Talking is what we did that night. We talked about books we had both read and went over the things we liked and disliked. We talked about books the other hadn't read and made enthusiastic, but hollow, promises to read them for ourselves. We talked about spirituality and at that time you still sort of believed in a spiritual world; not necessarily God, but something unexplainable. We ranked our teachers and rated most of them as placeholders who just didn't care. We discussed various Dungeons and Dragons campaigns we'd played and decided that what we really needed was to play more D&D. We mocked our friends and verbally ripped apart people whom we didn't care for.
Eventually, as we both knew would happen, we worked our way to your recent split with your girlfriend of almost, I think, two years. I was curious about what had happened from your point of view because I'd heard the other side and didn't completely believe it. You seemed almost relieved to be able to talk about it with someone who thought the whole thing was fucked up and genuinely hadn't picked a side in the matter, but was leaning your direction. At that time it didn't occur to me that you may not have been allowed to talk out the things you needed to talk about because the whole mess with your girlfriend also involved your best friend and sort of, in a sideways way, involved another of your closest friends. You really had no one to talk to at that time, did you?
I'm forever thankful that you weren't looking for answers because I wouldn't have had any. (I probably wouldn't have any answers now.) You just needed to talk, to know that someone understood your side. Any question I asked, you answered. And I tried to be thoughtful; to not just go for the juicy stuff that would have made for horrible, but addictive, television. I also tried to make you laugh because laughter always seems to make horrible things easier.
When you finished, you seemed more relaxed than you had in a while. It must have been a great weight off of your shoulders. You also asked me not to tell anyone the things you said and in nearly 20 years, this is the closest that I've come to saying anything. I still remember some of the stories you told.
Then you asked me about my potential love life. I talked about some of the girls who I had crushed on for a while because they were intelligent and cute but ultimately talked too much and I learned that they were kind of horrible people when I got to know them. From there we talked about the girls at our school and who were, or at least seemed to be, decent people. You asked about my best friend and what was up with that and I told you the truth, that nothing was up with that, but I'm not sure you really believed me. Finally you straight out asked me if I ever loved anybody, that's when I said that I loved you.
And I did love you. I loved you like I loved all my friends. I loved you like I loved my brothers. You were one of the best people I had ever met up to that point in my life, how could I not love you? You thanked me, even though it wasn't exactly what you meant when you asked the question. You said that you loved your friends, too, and it was hard when that love was betrayed. I agreed, but told you that there were still people who cared for you.
Fortunately, we were both non-weepy guys because, looking back, this would have been the point for tears. Instead I moved on the couch and in the process let one rip. Windows were open, only partially as a joke, and the subject was changed. I don't know if you remember any of this and if you do how much, but it was a good and important night for me.