For some, going at it alone is easy. They are trained to do it. They love to do it. They didn’t need anyone else to make them who they are. They are good. They’re perfect. Fully formed and ready to go, it always came off like that. They don’t need the cards, the roses, the moments, the walks, the late night talks, the sunsets. They need none of it.
That must be nice, Julian thought to himself. That could never be him. He cut a little deeper than most. He went into every relationship hoping it would work out, wishing for those special moments. Maybe this time the guy would show up the restaurant. Maybe this time he would hold his hand in front of other people. He would meet Julian’s mom. And he’d watch football with Julian’s dad. And they would share a night filled with wonder and laughter. And Julian would know that he was there. That he would always be there. But we don’t always get the things we want. No. Not often.
Julian made it to his Candy’s house by midnight. Her name was actually Diane, but everyone called her “Candy.” She knew it sounded like a stripper’s name, but she didn’t care. Her mother gave that her that name. Named her after her grandmother, who was a candy striper during the war. And when you have memories of your mother, you keep those alive however you can. And besides, it was a conversation piece anyway, and she was fine with that. She waited for him with her bathrobe on and cup of coffee in her hand. Candy had one of those great homes with the wrap-around porch, the big windows. A house that looked like it was meant to be a B&B. Candy considered this business venture, but she didn’t care much for strangers coming in and out of her house. She only allowed close family and friends in. So, for tonight, or however long it took, Candy would be Julian’s inn keeper.
They knew each other from high school. They dated for about a month until Candy knew good and well that Julian was gay. This was even before he admitted it to himself. They both headed off to small colleges after that. They came back home for awhile. It wasn’t long before Candy decided to leave town and start over somewhere new. Julian decided to stick around. He didn’t have her finances and he didn’t know how to leave. She begged him to leave with her. Who cares if they didn’t have money. They could hop trains, sleep on floors, hitchhike and figure out the rest later. But he stayed put. She knew he was making the worst decision of his life, but her mother always taught her not to meddle in other people’s business. People had to find their way on their own.
Candy only got little bits and pieces of Julian’s ordeal when he called her in distress. Something about a man. Something about things gone wrong. She figured as much. It always was a man that made you walk across a highway, traipse the length of a state. It was always a man that shakes up your life. That’s what men do. They wreck your heart and ruin your life.
When they hung up the phone, Candy thought back to the man she followed to Brussels that one summer. She skipped town one night, grabbed a train, booked a plane, and showed up the next day at his doorstep. She sent her parents a letter and that was it. She had no money to make it there, but who cares? A man was there. Turns out, that man didn’t last long. It took her another six months just to make back the money and fly home. Love gets you to make some terrible, terrible choices. That much is true. And Julian was no different. She was also well aware of his history with men. How he sometimes let men get the best of him. But then again, there are people who roll the dice, head straight into the fire. And then there are people who hold back, ease up, play it safe. People who don’t let their emotions take over. She and Julian were the ones who barreled into love. And that’s why they were friends. Sure, it brought with it a few scares, but who cares? No reason to live life half-assed.