“So, I guess this is it then,” said Bruce.
We were standing opposite each other, rather awkwardly, on his porch as the sun slowly sank below the horizon. The symbolism of the whole situation wasn’t lost on either of us and I looked shyly at my feet, unsure where the conversation would go.
“Yup, I guess it is,” I replied.
Gathering my courage, I looked him in the eye. Bruce Paden. He was my absolute everything. The only person on the earth that I could say I loved with all my being. I hoped that I hadn’t been too obvious but I think he knew anyway.
“Wow. This is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” I said.
He reached out to me and held both my hands in his reassuringly. I honestly wish he hadn’t. There were many things that I wish Bruce hadn’t done, but of course he neither could nor would ever know about them. So I just stood there and tried my best to smile even though it was the last thing I wanted to do.
“You’re going to be fine,” he said earnestly. “You worry way too much about things you have no control over. Just let everything happen on its own. You are amazing and all of those people are going to see it and love you for it.”
Bruce always did know what to say. Even when he knew full well that I didn’t believe a word that came from his mouth. I sighed and squeezed his hands back.
“Thanks Bruce. But I feel like I’m more scared than excited now. Starting over seemed like such a good thing last year but now I’m not so sure. It’s a completely different place.”
“Sid, I’ve known you my whole life and if you won’t take it from anybody else, take it from me. It’ll be good for you. I can feel it. You need to start again somewhere else. I don’t think Orton has anything left to offer you. Or any of us, really.”
I knew exactly what he meant. Orton was just a big, dark whirlpool of unpleasant memories and difficult times that none of us wanted to remember. Nonetheless, I was still reluctant to leave. I didn’t feel like uprooting my life, changing my routine, making new friends but most of all, I didn’t want to say goodbye to Bruce. It was strange. I’d spent so many of the past years wishing I could leave the wretched town behind me but on that summer afternoon everything seemed so perfect that it was making me second-guess my decision.
“I know. You’re right. I just don’t feel like starting over on the other side of the country without you. I’m going to miss you like hell.”
“I’m going to miss you too Sid.”
He said it, but I wondered how much he meant it. I always wondered if he meant everything he said to me. The important things anyway. It wasn’t always like that and I guess it really was just all my fault. I wasn’t going to let those ugly memories mar our last goodbye. Bruce gave me a long, lingering hug.
“You know what?” he mumbled into the top of my head.
I shook my head, not trusting my voice to stay steady.
“This is probably the worst timing ever but you know how you always say there’s a song for everything in life? I think The Scientist is our song right now.”
I laughed in spite of myself.
“Really Bruce? That’s so cheesy. Even for you. I hope you don’t try to pick up girls at Claremont like that otherwise you’ll never get laid.”
“Hey! The ladies are going to love my taste in music! You’ve had all these years to groom me.”
We laughed together and stood in each other’s arms for a moment.
“I really am going to miss you Sid,” he whispered.
Before I knew it, my face was wet with tears. I wanted to say it, I really did but instead, I kissed him on the cheek and made my way back home. The time to start over had finally arrived.
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