I felt like I’d run for miles and miles: A thousand foot-blistering, draining, limping miles to drag myself, heaving and gasping, to this moment. To the moment when I looked at him, and saw that all his lies were gone.
“That day,” I said, and all I could see were his eyes. “Tell me again.”
“He was your friend, wasn’t he?” he said quietly. His cuffs scraped on the table-top as he fidgeted anxiously, but his gaze didn’t drop. “Your friend. I don’t blame you.”
“It’s for the best Lenny.”
“For the best,” he echoed, squeezed out, sagging like a rag-doll.
“Tell me the story. Tell me all of it.”
“It was quite late, maybe ten...”
“Right, Eleven. They threw us out didn’t they? Wouldn’t serve us. So we left, and walked.”
“Down to the shore, because you said...”
“I know what I said. What did you say Lenny? What did you do?” I asked gently. Incredible how my voice sounded low and soft when inside I felt wound up so tight I wanted to scream, wanted to smash his face, tear it up. I was trembling with the effort of sitting so still and calm.
“I said,” he breathed out a harsh, trembling breath and rubbed his cheek hard. It made a scratchy sound, tiny flakes of skin drifting away. “I said; let’s go for a swim.”
“And then what?” Squeezing, grinding it out. Pick up a slug and squeeze. That was Lenny. Jesus, I could feel his neck in my hands.
“The water was cold,” he shivered, remembering.
“And you said? What did you say Lenny?”
“Last time,” he whispered. “I said: Remember last time?”
“So it was your fault Lenny. What did I say then?” Come on, come on!
“You said something like: What last time?” his eyes were wet. “ I forgot you weren’t there.”
“And neither of you would say, would you? Why was that a mistake Lenny?”
“I got it out eventually though. What he did, it was unforgivable. And you Lenny, you could have gone off couldn’t you? You could have got help. You could have stopped me. But you didn’t did you? So who’s fault is it?”
“Mine,” he was crying and it came out halting. “Mine.”
“So what are you going to tell them?” Hours and hours for this. Christ!
“That I did it. I killed him.”
“Yeah, because it was your fault Lenny. Your fault. And what will happen if you don't?"
“I don’t know,” he moaned, his face pathetic, wet and pale. “Don’t Chris. I’ll tell them. I swear it. It was my fault. It was, it was.”
I left him to his sobbing, repentant cowardice, and went to make the call. On the way back I checked my face in the mirror, the demeanor of an anxious friend was called for. And I’d walk beside him all the way, supportive and disbelieving. The tightness inside wound out, unfurled. I let out a breath and smiled.