At the time I was half expecting her to confess the truth, half wishing that she would not. When she stayed silent, I wasn’t disappointed or angry, all I felt was a slight surprise: I hadn’t known her to be a liar. It was not like I needed her to lie: her confession would not have had consequences for me. But somehow her confessing what she did, thus forcing me to admit that she had done wrong, would kill my idea of her, and that was simply something I could not have. And thus started the lie. Even now, when I think about the whole affair, she is not the real culprit. The image I have of her tying the knot, and of me falling, are disconnected events. And don’t intentions mean anything? Who knows what her intentions were, can we not imagine a scenario in which she had good intentions? Oh, let’s.
We were on vacation, two close friends, in a foreign place. It was a warm, tropical sort of place, with different kinds of people wandering the streets. All in all, very unlike the cold, grey surroundings with the cold, grey people we were so used to. I believe it is important to tell you that we were very young at the time: we’d just finished our first year of college. Why it is important that we were young, I’m not sure, but people seem to forgive the young easier than the elderly, and I want to create the most favorable setting, so you may give my friend the benefit of the doubt. Another matter of significance is that what she did, changed my life. I don’t think people can really say that something changed their life for the better or worse: you don’t have a “control” you that can prove that it was indeed better. Yet, I definitely believe you can say something changed your life, as I never was after, who I was before. (What you are also wondering, I guess, is whether I’m a man or a woman. If I’m a man, perhaps you’ll think I’m in love with my friend, if I’m a woman, perhaps you will think I envied her. But neither is the case, and therefore, I don’t see the point of telling you at all. In this story, this recollection, I only want to tell you that what matters.)
And what matters is the evening before it happened. We were enjoying a famous local drink, that you never saw served to locals, when she mentioned it for the first time. “You know that man, the one we met last night?” She spoke hesitantly, fingering her straw with an air of nonchalance, that she always oozed, like her favorite perfume. “He wants to see us tonight. Nothing major, just, for fun.” She looked at me with raised what-do-you-say eyebrows, and sucked the last drops of bright green liquid from the bottom of her glass.
It was cute she said us when clearly he had said you. “I dont know … should we?” I looked at her jokingly-serious from the rhim of my glass. She amused me, always had. Her impulsiveness, her radiance, it was all so contagious. “I mean, the guy is fucking crazy.” He really gave me the chills. We met him at a party, him eyeing her intensely, then finally going over, being pushy. I wondered how they’d had contact about meeting up tonight, and it dawned on me that this must not have been casual at all.
What I remember most of all is his nasty face. I don’t usually want to judge people on their appearance, but I almost always do, and with this one I got it just right. Ha. That is something I proudly told the police afterwards, too. His skin was smooth and pale, his jaw sharp, his nose straight, his eyes too round and a fake blue color - it was as if he was drawn with an overly sharp pencil, only the outline of a face. Of course, she found him extremely attractive. But I knew his nasty face for what it was: the face of a twisted man. I did not join her to meet him that night, which she found very tedious, and accusations were made. “You’re just scared to be left out, you cooooward,” she stuck out her red tongue. It was like arguing with a teenager. “I, myself, I looove danger.” As she wandered down the cobblestone street away from the hostel, in her bright yellow sundress, I felt something twitch in my stomach. I shrugged and closed the door.
Later that evening, the twitch in my stomach got heavier, and I was restless. Here, I would like to point out my own involvement, and I would like my readers to know that I am not an innocent victim either. Well, innocent yes, but not a perfect victim. Because of my restlessness - and not because she asked for it - I decided to go look for them. When I reached the bar of the night before, I was disappointed and slightly relieved: no yellow sundress, no nasty face. Pointless, I wandered around the alleys of the town I had so far found to be very safe. The sounds reached me before I could locate them in the dark: there was moaning, and laughter. The first thought that crossed my mind was: they’re doing it (yes, at that age, I still referred to sex as “it”). Shyly, I looked away. But the moaning did not sound as if coming from pleasure, but it sounded more like a kind of pleading. I screwed my eyes and made out not two, but three silhouets.
“Who is there?” Snarled my friend, a cigarette in her mouth, her face glowing with fervor.
I took one more step towards them. Then, the spectacle became clear to me. As if I had been trying to decifer a painting in the dark, and suddenly a spotlight sprang on, illuminating it all at once. My friend and her companion were crouched over a bearded man, with a bloody and puffy face. He was stripped naked, and his body was mangled. Small, round blisters like cigarette burns, scratches, something that I know realise were bitemarks. “What the — ”
A blow on my head, coolness of my cheek on the stones, the smell of blood. Mine and/or his.
A nasty voice. “Did you tell your fucking friend where we were?” A burning sensation on my arm.
I could smell the rasping breath of the naked man beside me, a mixture of alcohol, blood and old sweat.
Even just writing this down, my hands are trembling. It feels like I am the one telling the lie now. This is not what happened. No, as we later agreed, it’s very simple: We had both gone out for a drink, after which we felt like a midnight stroll. Suddenly, we heard a man moaning, and crying for help. We stumbled upon a man, a man with a nasty face, which we recognized from the night before! We tried to make him stop hurting the other man, but it was in vain. He struck me on the back of my head, and I fell to the ground. He put a cigarette on my arm. My friend pleaded with the culprit. He decided that we were making too much racket, and made a run for it. Finally, my friend went into a bar to use the telephone and called an ambulance. But alas, it was too late.
When we got the news that the homeless man had died from his wounds, I wondered whether she would come clean. Whether the shock of his death, the ultimate result of their vicious affair, would cause her to break out into a desperate confession. It didn’t. What surprised me most was that she never seemed to fear I might confess. Did she have that low of an opinion about my sincerity, or was she convinced I wouldn’t tell on her?
In any case, we sometimes talked about it, as something exciting from our past. Something that really brought us together. How close we both came to “meeting our maker”. What if that strange man had decided not to run, but to kill us instead? I hate to admit it, but it generated quite a reaction at parties, or with new friends. I always savoured the story, until I found the precise, right moment to share it. I’d even show people the scar of the cigarette burn on my arm. My friend always had a proud look on her face when I did that.
Never in all those years had I even thought about the alternative ending (as I named the “true” course of events in my head) until a few days ago, when we buried her. Suddenly, and only for a brief moment, the loving speeches and salty tears, the bowed heads and the shaking shoulders, angered me. “Hypocrits!” I wanted to yell. I would have, if only I had not been one myself. Instead, I let my finger run over the cigarette burn, shivered, and decided that just because my friend was dead, it did not mean I had to betray our silent pact.