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Thank You For Being a Friend

Richard Matthews

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“You’ve been sort of married once. What’s it like?”

“You, married? Why is it I’m only hearing about this now? Spill!”

Your friends had dragged you out with them to a local bar. It isn’t big or fancy; it isn’t a little dive either. But it never draws the attention of other cadets and it has yet to be graced by the presence of any teacher or Starfleet officer. So you all like it well enough, even on karaoke night, it’s your place to escape and unwind or just get [...] faced. The décor is ancient when compared to some of the newer bars and clubs in town and so much more human too. You're not against foreign cultures in the slightest, you welcome it in fact. But it’s nice to set back in a familiar place that screams home and human. Not alien and stranger.

One of your friends motions for the bartender to bring some more drinks. You are not getting out of this you decide. Keisha has brought it up. Most likely because her long term on again off again fling with the Vulcan cadet, who is a class ahead of the three of you, is getting just a tad more serious. Jesse is like a dog with a bone, and the gleam in his eye is enough of a tip off for you. He is not letting this one go no matter what you try and bribe him or blackmail him with.

But you try and deflect anyway. Even though you know it is as futile as trying to get a Ferengi to donate to charity. Plied with alcohol and good company you find yourself revisiting old haunts and poking at scabbed over wounds. You also realize that when you are buzzed you tend to try and wax poetically and fail at it.

You start off with a name. It’s a simple name that even now means something to you. You hate yourself for the fact that it still conjures up memories of late night walks, dinner and dancing, sneaking into each other’s rooms even later. Just plain fun old times together alone or with friends. You are happy though because enough time has passed that you are no longer bitter. That you can now tell these people who are setting there hanging on to your every word about the good times.

“We met in school and it wasn't love at first sight. It wasn't hate at first sight that turned into burning passion either. We were indifferent to each other; different social circles, classes and, goals. You see? We met in freshman year but didn't get to know each other until our senior year. We became friends hung out and partied together but didn't date.”

“How romantic,” Jesse looks like he is getting bored but Keisha is listening with rapt attention, you still are not getting out of this.

“No one ever accused Morgan of being a romantic.” You say and after tossing back your drink, after letting the alcohol burn its way down into the pit of your stomach, letting it warm you and give you a boost of that liquid courage you so desperately need. You continue. “We moved in together first as friends. Went to med school together and between all the studying and working together and just being in each other’s space all the time, will it wasn't too surprising when we woke up together one morning.”

Jesse whistles, “Nice.” And Keisha slaps him up the side of the head. You smile at their antics and wait a moment for them to simmer down before you continue. It is surprising that you don't actually mind continuing. But everyone has to move on at some point right? Maybe you finally have.

You tell them that it was good. For a while, a long while, it was really good, great even. You tell them about how two people can share their hopes and dreams together. You tell them how two people can work together to achieve almost anything, handle almost everything, together. You smile as you recount graduation day. You both worked so hard and it finally paid off. You laugh and your friends laugh at the after grad stories.

Then you get serious.

“It was a couple of weeks before the topic of residency came up. We knew there was a really good chance that we would not be matched to the same hospital. So we started discussing our options. The best idea seemed like trying a long distance relationship. Which never works out or so they say. We really started to think that was it. Good bye, good luck, so long, farewell, it’s been fun, be seeing you.”

“But then you got the idea to get married and then you would have to get the same residency.” Keisha says. She’s got a wistful smile on her face and you just know that she is imagining some romance novel-esque thing here. You hate to burst her bubble but it would really be crueler not to set her straight, as far as you are concerned anyway.

“No, marriage wasn't in the cards for us. My parents never did like Morgan. And Morgan’s parents, let’s just say they had denial down to an art form. Would only refer to me as the roommate and would always bring up the topic of dating one of their friend’s kids when they visited, even if I was standing right there!” You shake your head as if to dislodge those annoying memories. In your more bitter moments you like to blame yours and Morgan’s parents for your problems.

“So what did you do?”

“We talked it over and we decided that we wanted to stay together. So we made a plan, one of us would do our residency first and the other would wait until they were finished then do theirs. Morgan went first and I waited.”

Jesse is giving you a funny look. You tend to forget that this jock, who loves nothing more than to fly, can be frighteningly perceptive from time to time, when he wants to be anyway. You shake your head, ‘no’ this is not a story you want to tell right now. You have no problem talking about yours and Morgan’s time together. Not anymore anyway, when you’re plied with enough alcohol. But you haven't really talked about the break up with anybody. Why start now?

Keisha on the other hand is surprisingly stunned tonight. You blame the alcohol for your friend’s lack of common sense. Usually she is the smart one. She prods and needles away at you until you promise that later you will divulge the whole assorted affair. When you accidentally let slip that you’re and Morgan’s was a more open relationship, Jesse the horn dog, assures you that you will be keeping your promise.

While your friends order you all more to drink. The night is still young, and there are no classes the next day till after lunch after all. You think that you don’t really know what surprises you more. The fact that you only had eight beers before you started spilling your guts. Because usually it at least takes twelve and it also ends with crying. Not too much blubbering really, ok a pathetic amount of tears and snot and it just is not a pretty sight.

Or that you, like so many other ragging drunks before you, have made a startling discovery at the bottom of your glass of cheep watered down beer. Maybe it’s something you've really known all along. Maybe it’s not really some big realization of life altering proportions. Maybe it’s a simple truth that you've taken for granted.

Maybe it’s time to stop taking things for granted.

“I love you guys.”

Maybe you've had too much to drink.

But your friends laugh and from one moment to the next you find yourself grabbed in a big group hug. You're all laughing and waving around your glasses sloshing drink all over the place. You think that someone is going to come up to you three soon and tell you to cut it out. But no one does and maybe the bartender is just glad that you guys aren't starting a fight.

“Love you too man, in a totally non gay way.” Jesse is grinning. “We are so drunk.”

“We are not.” Keisha goes to sit back down and misses her seat. You grab her arm to keep her upright and when she thanks you. You tell her you did it to save the beer.

“You asshole,” She dissolves into a fit of giggles and this time you help her set back down, the lightweight.

And that’s it. You have moved on. Maybe not to some new bigger and better love, the kind they write about. But you're finally letting people in again, that is a big step in your book. You didn't just lose a lover after all. You lost your best friend and it’s kind of hard to get over that. If you're really honest with yourself, you really didn’t try. You took the easy way out and found your solace at the bottom of cheaper glasses of beer then the stuff you are drinking now.

Apparently you were looking in the wrong spot. You might have also been looking for the wrong things too. But thinking about that stuff requires higher cognitive function that you just can’t muster right now. So instead you set there and you smile. You knock back a drink or two or five more. You laugh you cry because darn it you are drunk and it is hard to keep your emotions straight right now.

You get dragged up onto the little stage up front and suddenly you really hate your friends. But you’re three sheets to the wind now so who cares how this happened. Though you suspect this is all Jesse’s doing after you swore up and down that you would never partake in karaoke night with him, ever! The display screen pops up in front of you and before your friends get a chance to do it. You are tapping out a selection. The screen starts off by giving you various eras to choose from, then decades, and when you've finally chosen the time frame you like best? You get to select the genera and then the song. In keeping with tonight’s theme you think you've made an excellent choice.

The music starts and the words pop up in front of you. Keisha wraps an arm around you and you know that was a sniffle you just heard from her. Jesse is calling you out on being such a chick but then he’s right there with the two of you belting the song out of tone.

“Into the night, the Milky Way.”

You're singing to each other just as much as you are singing to the drunken crowd, trying desperately to get this one message across because you've never been good at this. At expressing your feelings and maybe you can try to blame Morgan for that. But really you can't because you've always been a little more reserved than others.

The song comes to a close; there are drunken cheers all around, the only kind you'd ever get for performing like that. But hey you take what you can get.

“We are so awesome, I bet we win!” Jesse says.

“Free beer, woo!” Keisha laughs.

And just to be different you say. “I meant it guys.”

You’re grabbed up in another group hug and the drunk cheering gets even louder. And if you can’t remember this night when tomorrow morning comes? Well that will be ok because you are so freaking embarrassed right now it’s not even funny.

“Thank you for being my friends.” You say not sure if they can hear you over the racket. But if the tightening of their grip on you is any indication, the message is received loud and clear.

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