I had known him for a long time, which inevitably led to us gradually morphing into each other. In elementary school, he started playing baseball, so I started playing baseball. I took Spanish as my mandatory foreign language course, so he picked it up too. We both joined the boy scouts on a whim, finding we had the same amount of free time. That was just how life went for us; we were as close as close gets.
That’s why when Tyler arrived at my house on Friday afternoon, unannounced, I thought nothing of it. I opened the door for him and made my way over to my cell phone to order a pizza. This was the typical routine when we got together: we ordered pizza, maybe watched a few movies, and relished in mutual laziness.
That night, however, something was different. Something was off. He was standing in my doorway, looking like I had to invite him in. I couldn’t remember ever inviting him in. “Hey.” I greeted, pulling the door open wider as if to say “Dude, you just walk through it.” I was about to demonstrate for him, but eventually he figured it out on his own.
“Hey.” He echoed, playing with his hands uncomfortably. The thought of him being uncomfortable around me was making me uncomfortable.
“Is something wrong?” I asked. I figured being outright with him was the best method for handling the situation. I had been thinking about using that method for another situation too, actually…
“No.” He shifted, timid and unsure of any movement he made.
“Do you want to maybe sit down? I’ll order food.” I offered. On any other day, he would’ve taken the liberty of flopping onto my couch without an ounce of encouragement from my end. I felt like I was speaking with a distant relative, a second cousin who just showed up to the family Christmas party because it was an obligation. Part of me was waiting on the “You’ve gotten so tall!” comment.
“Don’t order anything.” He shook his head. “I’m only here for a bit.” He lowered himself down onto the couch slowly, deliberately.
I placed my phone on the coffee table, sitting beside him. “Okay.” I pursed my lips, my eyes darting around the room. We were both stiff and awkward and counting the seconds before the other hopefully broke the silence. Abnormal, very abnormal.
“Have you heard back from the college yet?” He asked idly, captivated by my TV, which wasn’t turned on.
I frowned. “No.” I told him. “The email said Early Decision applicants would find out before the holidays, though. It should be any day now.” He was just nodding, not making a move to say anything else. “Have you?” I asked. Way back in September, we had both agreed to apply Early Decision, which meant if our applications were accepted, we were required to commit. With our grades, it was a slam dunk for both of us. We were almost guaranteed to be going to college together. His current hesitance worried me, though, and I was praying he hadn’t been rejected.
My last question took a minute to reach his brain. “What?” He turned to look at me. “No, no. I didn’t hear anything from them.”
“Oh.” I tried not to sound relieved.
I should have taken advantage of the lull in the conversation to bring up what had been going on in my own mind recently, but I didn’t dare speak a word regarding that. If he had something that needed to be said, it was only right to let him go first. After all, he had dragged himself to my house to do so.
“I know you’re only here for a little while,” I started. “so is there any specific reason you came over?”
That’s when I noticed that he was holding something and passing it back and forth between his hands anxiously. From where I was, it looked like an envelope, but it had been rolled up and folded again and again and again. The whole situation was making me uneasy, and envelopes had never really had a good reputation in my life. My family was mailed an envelope when I was ten and our electric bill payments were late, forcing us to live in the dark for longer than I would have preferred. I received an envelope when I got that F in Algebra freshman year and the school thought they “needed to notify my parents of my predicament.” An envelope was sent to my house with the results of my x-rays two years ago. Confirmed spiral fracture. No more baseball.
Envelopes were a death sentence to a source of happiness in my life, always. They were nothing if not consistent.
At his lack of response, I sat up straighter, deciding to take another shot at this. “What’s that?” I queried.
Different approach. Different result. Those words provoked a reaction, let me tell ya. It was like I had held a live wire to his skin. He suddenly couldn’t find a position on my couch that worked for him, shifting every few seconds. “What? Oh… This?” He unfolded the envelope for the nth time. “This is what I came over to talk to you about.”
That was the most he had said all evening. I counted it as progress.
“Yeah, I figured.” I told him. “What is it?”
“It’s…” A sigh. He needed help continuing.
“‘It’s…?’” I prompted.
“Don’t freak out, okay?” He requested.
“When have I ever freaked out?!” I was standing now, frustrated.
“You mean besides right now?” He gestured to me, and I’ll admit, I did look like I was angry. I was frustrated, though! There’s a distinction.
I lowered my voice. “Sorry. Keep going.” I urged him onward.
He cleared his throat. “This…” He began. “This is a baseball scholarship.”
“But you said-”
“To the University of Miami.” He cut me off, scrutinizing me, sizing up my reaction. Miami? He couldn’t go there. He had applied Early Decision somewhere else. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while.” He confessed. “I wanted to make sure I got it before I said anything.”
I blinked. “So… You didn’t…?” There were several questions I wanted to ask. They were straight-forward, easy to pronounce for a native English speaker, so why were they only manifesting themselves in fragments?
“No, I didn’t apply Early Decision.” He clarified, saving me the trouble of piecing together a coherent thought. “A scout had been watching me last year, and we discussed commitment. I thought about it a lot. I really did.”
It was like watching a movie. This wasn’t Tyler. I mean, he looked like Tyler, and he sounded like Tyler, but it wasn’t actually Tyler. This wasn’t my friend since pre-k. This was a guy who was going to Miami on a baseball scholarship. I was happy for that guy. Good for that guy.
“I’m not going to freak out, you know.” My voice said calmly. The wallpaper behind him was peeling a bit. I had to fix that. I had never learned though, so I’d have to look into repairing wallpaper damage before I did anything.
“…You’re not?” He raised his eyebrows dubiously, his words tentative.
“Nope.” I shook my head.
“Are you okay?”
My eyes flashed back to glance at him. “You’re going to play baseball for a great school. Why would I be upset about that?”
He frowned. “Because-”
“You know what? Didn’t you say you had somewhere to be soon? You should probably get going.” I reminded him, now with my gaze locked on the clock.
“Yeah…” He stood.
“Okay, great.” I said, surprisingly cheerful, even to me.
He walked toward my door, opening it himself. I wished he had done that on the way in, not out. Then, once he was outside, he shut it. He shut the door with a thud, not with a goodbye.
“Tyler,” I said, although by then, he was all but running down my driveway, unable to hear from the other side of the already closed door. “I like you a lot. I have for a while now.” I muttered numbly. It was too late. I liked him, but he liked baseball. I wondered what kind of envelope my acceptance letter was going to come in.