He told me to tell him my secret.
‘How do you have so many friends?’ He searched my hands with his fingers, hoping to grasp some truth from me. ‘Tell me! Why is it so many people like you?’
He didn’t finish with “And not me?” But that’s what he meant. Really.
Thomas and I sat in the same café every Saturday afternoon, just after I’d had brunch with the girls, and just before I have a nap before getting my glad rags on for another night on the tiles. I always have a carrier bag containing a new dress or scarf on the table next to me, and Thomas always has a satchel full of new library books by his feet. We’d been friends for two years – well, we’d hung out like this for two years, after Thomas had briefly dated my doormat of a cousin Kathy.
Two years ago, I’d gone to Kathy’s flat to take her some of my old clothes. Thomas had been dating Kathy for six months, but he took one look at me, looked back at Kathy, and ended it with her. Of course, Thomas had been polite to Kathy and ended it with her several weeks after, when he had finally dredged up the confidence, but he knew then, when he first saw me. He developed a crush on me that had never subsided. I squeezed his fingers.
‘You want to know how I am so popular?’ I reflected back to him. I waited for his response.
Of course he said yes.
‘I – I… I wish I knew your secret.’ He blushed.
‘My secret,’ I breathed, pulling closer to him, ‘is to always tell the truth. People like that. Always be truthful and always be open about yourself.’
He believed me.
This is a twisted view of a friendship I had several years ago, exaggerating the issues of the friend and exaggerating my role.