It was 10 p.m. in the middle of January, and my very dear, wonderful, lovely friend had just told me she’d spilled the beans about a crush I had to said crush.

She only told me then, as I’d just gotten a text from that crush asking if we could talk. At 10 p.m. in the middle of January.

We’ll call him B. I hadn’t even left the building to go meet up with him and I was already mortified. But my friend had lent me her coat, so at least I wasn’t too cold.

We walked in silence for a few minutes. Him, pondering how best to let me down. Me, wishing I’d thought to grab some boots instead of flip flops to go with my friend’s too-small coat.

He got out about four words before I said, “I know what you’re going to say, it’s OK, I’d rather just be friends anyway, please, this is too awkward and I’d rather talk about anything else in the entire world.”

It all came out as one word, but he got the gist. He laughed, the tension eased, and it was a relief to know that friendship was the only expectation for both of us.


We spent the next couple of hours meandering, no destination in mind. As part of an arts program, the university had scattered creatively-painted old pianos across the campus. During the day, a crowd surrounded any of the dozen instruments, listening to someone play whichever half of the keys still worked. We walked from piano to piano, sometimes playing well and other times managing a rousing rendition of chopsticks.

One piano, an upright painted with pastels on dark brown wood, sat under a streetlight on a poorly paved brick walkway. B grinned, grandly gestured to the piano, and sat down on the bench — only for it to completely shatter beneath him. The wood had rotted while being outdoors, and the only piece remaining intact was the seat. He sat up and just looked at the piano, betrayed, and I had to sit down next to him because I was laughing so hard.

When I asked B if he would let me share this story, he didn’t even remember the first half. He remembered the fun we had, running around playing pianos (and breaking piano benches) in the dark. I was surprised he didn’t remember, but he just shrugged and said it wasn’t the most important part of that night to him.

B was delighted to hear that I’d kept a piece of that bench. It’s a curved decorative bit of wood with nails poking out the back that I keep as a reminder: Just because things don’t go how we expect doesn’t mean those things are bad. I’d anticipated an awkward evening followed by a fading friendship; instead, we were better friends than before, more at ease now that we knew what was expected from each other.

My conversation with him just added a little bit more to that reminder: It’s OK to remember the good things first.