You see, Simon - names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me, from physical retribution - hadn't known about me and my love getting together. And he found out third-hand from someone at a party. I had meant to tell him, but it had been a tricky situation. She'd been involved with someone else and so I hadn't mentioned my growing crush on her to him because, well, you don't, do you? And I think he'd had his suspicions, but he'd never mentioned them to me because, well, you don't do you? Well, men don't, anyway.
I hadn't realised how hurt he was about it all happening behind his back until a few weeks later. Some of us were out having beers and I noticed he was a bit cold with me. The next day, I spoke to a mutual friend and told him my worries. "Don't be stupid," he said, "Simon wouldn't be bothered by that. He's a bloke, not a girl!" Assuring me it was all in my head, he suggested Simon and I go out for a night on our own, "just to straighten things up".
And what a long, dark night that turned out to be. He agreed to meet, with the same sheen of frost as before, and we conversed on many topics, none of them at length, and none of them of any import. Finally, alcohol allowed me to air what was on my mind and, at first, he denied any understanding.
I spelled it out to him. "I think you're upset because I didn't tell you about me and Chloe."
"No I'm not."
"I just think a real friend would have told me, that's all," he said, with apparent calm, and the die was cast.
Even though I tried to explain that night, and have felt bad about it ever since, the damage was done. Because blokes are like that. They reckon to have no feelings, yet they are the most sensitive little souls really, they just dare not show it. It's almost the unwritten cardinal rule of bloke-on-bloke interaction: never show emotion, happy or sad.
Of course, it would be impossible to go through life not showing any emotion, so public shows of emotion for men are modified. The last time I went to see my parents, my father gave me a lift to the station. The following transcribes our fond farewell.
"Well, Dad, it's been lovely seeing you."
"Thanks for the lift."
"You take care of yourself."
To be fair, not all men are this way. My girlfriend's father, for example, is happy to display his affections for his wife and daughters, but even he retains the accepted formalities down at the cricket club.
But I am determined to try to break the mould. And to this end, I recently called Simon and arranged to go out for a beer. He was a bit surprised, but came along. We were formal; we tried to talk of sport and cars even though we are both fairly sickly individuals, neither of whom can drive.
Later in the evening, when I adjudged the time was right, I told him I was sorry for what had happened before, sorry because he was my friend and sorry because it hurt me that he had been hurt, however stubborn he'd been.
He began with the usual embarrassed objections, but I cut him off. "I just wanted you to be the first to know," I said. "Me and Chloe; we're getting married."
He sat there in shocked silence, but in the moment our eyes were locked. Just for a second, but long enough to transmit and receive.
With a shy flinch and a flushed cheek he look away and back and said, "Well, I knew that was coming."
He smiled, I smiled.
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