1. “There was always something lacking in him. Even among us, he was an outsider. There were two sides to his character, which isn’t to say he was duplicitous, although maybe he was. There was the side of him that he allowed us to see, the amalgamation of popular characters. We understood this to be an act, although we did not let on. At that age everyone is acting to some extent. Then there was his inner self, the self most of us never got to see. I was his best friend, and I only saw that self in specific moments: when he said his confessions laying on my couch in the dark, or when he said something sharply about some petty ignorance I exhibited. In those latter moments he spoke so poisonously, like a snapping dog, that I understood he had for some time begrudged me that ignorance.
“Every winter he would contract a cold that spread to his mind. His days withered and, you could tell, it was work for him to even look at us. Cloudy darkness enveloped him. His voice dropped into a nearly-inaudible whisper. ‘You get this strange cold every year,’ I once told him. He seemed surprised, and spoke a few words to himself as if testing his voice.
“[…] Of the two of us, I was the leader. And then I led us into a direction he didn’t want to go. But to tell you the truth, I hadn’t invited him into this new direction, and I didn’t want him to come. He, for his part, emboldened by his resistance, thought he should be allowed to direct the action. But I wouldn’t let him. And besides, by that time we were both too different. And so our friendship dissipated.
“The last time I spoke to him was over two years ago. He told me he was getting married. I expressed my surprise. We talked in this vein for some time. I told him about all of the projects I was working on. For a moment it was like nothing had ever happened between us. And then we made a feeble promise to see each other again, and it was as if only through the lens of that promise could we see the reality of the situation. We both understood we weren’t going to see each other again, at least not for a long time. Neither had we any desire to.”