He smiled, then said, "I need to get home."
After his vacation time, he volunteered news of the diagnosis. "We're waiting for the final test results," he said. "We'll know for sure in a few days."
It's been a few days. He has said nothing. You are trying to decipher cracks in his voice, looking for clues in his mood. He's a guy's guy, the type who shows nothing. You're a girl's girl, the type who longs to slap him and say, "Sit down here, sweetie, let's put back some bourbons and have us a good cry."
Tentative. This tentative version of your old stomping self is making you nuts. Treading carefully. Tiptoeing. It's not you! But you don't want to be intrusive. And you don't want him to think you don't care. You're waiting for his cue. You're waiting for him to tell you how to be. This is so often what we do when something terrible is happening in a friend's life. We wait for them to tell us how to be.
As if they don't have quite enough on their plates? Why do we hand that horrible job over to the friend? Stop it. Decide. Step up. Trust history and just go ahead and be the person he knows.
So in one swift move you pull him aside and say, "Look. I'm worried about you. If you don't start talking to me about this, I'm going to have to hug you."
He recoils in pretend horror. It's beautiful. You see in his face the friend you almost lost. The boy who needs permission to vent sometimes, if only for a moment here and there.
"I'm scared," he says, finally. "I'm just so scared."
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.