How did it start? I couldn't say. Do these things ever have a clear way of starting? The first time I laid my eyes on him I didn't think much of it and that kept happening for quite a number of times, until... until... When did it start? During this week where we spent a lot of time just the two of us together, I suppose, although of course we'd set the ground before—how else would we have gotten to spend a lot of time just the two of us together?
I can't even say exactly what started. Something dancing on the edge of a friendship meant to last. Paying attention when his eyes are twinkling. My heart sometimes beating a bit faster when I see him. Being able to draw comfort from his presence only.
Small things, anyway. It's always small things. Nothing much, really, and so much at the same time.
The emails he writes when he doesn't really have anything to say.
The glances we exchange.
The things he sometimes says when I'm on my way out, as if looking for something, anything to keep me here a bit longer.
The long conversations we have, about politics, about science, about sociology, about music, about art, getting excited about the same things, without noticing how the hours go by. The banter, too, that's already led some people to wonder exactly how close we are.
How we're always up for some minor mischief together—exploring the roofs of a building; getting that extra beer when we should really be heading home; sneaking into places where we don't belong; playing pranks on each other.
The advice he asks for. The trust we've built. The way he picked up my wet umbrella once, casually, as if we'd spend half a lifetime carrying each other's stuff to the point where it had just become our stuff—that's reading quite a lot in a wet umbrella dripping on the floor of a dimly lit bar.
The words he picks. "Thanks" when saying goodbye, when there's nothing particular to thank me for. "I think of you a lot" for condolences. "Hey, you're here!" when, well, hey, I'm here, but most people didn't really care one way or the other.
How I almost call him by a nickname when I shouldn't.
The way he kisses my cheeks hello and bye—only if there's no one else around.
He's a great friend, and I'll never say enough how amazing this is already. Some people think I praise friendships because it's sadly all I have, being by now a stubbornly single lady. All I can say to that is, you haven't got the friends I have. So I'm grateful for that and I'm happy with him. The smiles he brings to my face are genuine and not based on the illusion of the possibility of something more to come, on a misguided hope that there is more to this than that; they're here because of what he brings me right now.
Hence I usually keep my mind on the now I already draw so much from, and my attitude casual. Nevertheless my feelings sometimes attempt incursions in that blurry fog that separate friendship from, dare I say it, love. Maybe he'll say something a bit controversial that I happen to agree with, and something inside me will do a little backflip. Or he'll exclaim "Yes! Totally! You get it!", and smile his warm smile, and there'll be a shine to his eyes that I may just be imagining to be a bit more. Or I'll catch myself noticing how beautiful his hands are, how I'd like to see them playing music, how delicately they move, the things they could...
I may start wondering.
Is this... does this mean... could it be....?
And while half my brain is letting that idea sink in and running wild with it, toying with the thought of moving one oh so small step closer to lean against his solid frame, wondering how his arms would feel closing around me, imagining what those hands could do in combination with this smile and those twinkly eyes... the other half keeps me anchored in a world where I've always been terrible at reading others and where there's little place for maybes and what ifs.
So I stop the Kopfkino, put on my sweetest smile, look him straight in the eyes, and ask, with just enough concern in my voice to convince myself I care: "And your wife? How is she?"