It’d been a long while since I’d spoken to Judas. The dry spell in our friendship hadn’t been precipitated by an argument or anything per se, but simply, time had gotten the best of us. I had my things to do and he had his own things going for him, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. I called him up and we decided on a date to go out to brunch.
He arrived at the diner before me, picking a booth by the window so that we could overlook the coast at Santa Monica. He waved and beckoned me over, and upon my arrival he stood and shook my hand. The days, although plentiful and busied since we’d last spoken, didn’t wear much on his face. He was as spritely as ever, and he remarked that I as well was looking surprisingly youthful, despite my recent weight gain.
“So tell me, how are things?” I asked him as the waitress, a wisp of a woman in a tacky, pin-striped dress, poured us coffee.
He dumped a few individual creamers into his mug and stirred vigorously. “I can’t complain, friend. Things are going great, you know, as I told you over the phone.”
“And the book?” I inquired. Judas was a writer, more of a contributor, of essays for pop culture magazines on the East Coast, but he’d invested in a novel, some intricate exposition about an American family. Or something like that. He’d explained the plot to me before, but the characters were too abundant for me to keep track of. I’d cut him off and had told him that I preferred to just read it when it was done.
“Great, great,” he said. “I’m almost done the first draft. You know, I’ve clocked in at 843 pages so far.”
“That’s wonderful news.”
“Yeah…after I edit it with my friend, Stinson, I think I’ll break 900. You know, I’ve got down some great stuff, but there’s a rough patch here and there. Stinson’s got my back, though. He’ll help me smooth it all out.”
The waitress interrupted Judas and we ordered our omelets and choice of toast. Judas, of course, ordered multi-grain, no butter.
“Enough about me,” Judas said, sipping his coffee. “What the hell have you been up to?”
“The usual,” I said. “Day in and day out, the same old sad life I’ve been living since Melissa left me…”
“So morose,” he laughed, shoving my shoulder from across the linoleum table that divided us. “There’s gotta be something worthwhile going on in your life. Are you seeing anyone to get your mind off Melissa?”
“Eh, not anymore. There was Rachel, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
“You have to get out more, friend,” Judas exclaimed. “You’re a good-looking, young man. There’s sure as shit a nice young lady out there for you.”
“We’ll see,” I laughed.
After we ate and the waitress dropped off our check, creased down the middle vertically and left face down on the table, I felt that it was acceptable to ask Judas about Melissa.
He laughed. “You need to stop thinking about her”
“I know,” I said. “It’s just—have you talked to her or heard anything?”
“I can’t say I have,” Judas said and he fetched the check from the edge of the table.
“Oh, let me get it,” I said, but he’d pulled out his wallet and dismissed off my offer.
“It’s my pleasure.”
He left a five on the table and we got up. On our way out, he paid for our brunch at the register.
We strolled outside and he’d been fortunate enough to find a spot in the strip of spaces outside the diner. We said our goodbyes and he was off in his Lambo.
I walked to my car a few blocks away, pleased with the warm October weather, and I thought I deserved an ice cream cone. There was a trendy ice cream joint on the block where I parked. A small line, nothing to complain about, paralleled the counter.
I sat in the front seat of my car, windows down, the radio on, slurping the frosty mountain of plum twirl ice cream atop the cone. It’d been alright to see Judas again, and I was happy for him. His book was no longer just big talk, but it had come together. Good for him.
I was upset he hadn’t spoken about Melissa. Rumor had it, they’d been seeing one another, or at least, that’s what Brendan had told me, and I’d hoped Judas would’ve said she was well.
My ex-wife deserved happiness, even if it was with my best friend.
If the universe is fair, his book won’t get published.
Sean Skulski is chopping away at that MA in English he's been saying he'll get for four years now. He's been told he's eccentric and goofy, but he's too busy laughing at his own puns to even notice what's going on around him. A big traveler, he's planning to make it to Iceland to see the Northern Lights (it's numero uno on his bucket list if you were wondering). Currently, he lives in West Chester, PA.