A Night in a Year: 43. Jeroen

“I do wonder, though,” Orhan continues, “if you are maybe taking a risk.”

He actually sounds concerned, properly worried for her safety. She isn’t sure whether she is touched or annoyed.

“There is risk in everything. And I can look after myself,” she says, flatly.

He nods, and she tries to detect a patronizing edge but can’t find it.

“No doubt. But we all need a little help sometimes.”

Warmth fills her, but before she can speak, Jeroen’s face pushes between them, and he claps Orhan on the shoulder.

“Say hi to—”

She doesn’t catch the name or names in the din. Orhan gives Jeroen a knowing glance – not irritation, but an acknowledgement of the game. He gets up though, and Jeroen takes his seat, swaying jocularly towards her and giving her a quick nudge with his elbow. He looks back though at the gathering, smiling with real joy.

“I have been lucky in Cambridge. I have made a lot of friends.”

“Real ones?”

He looks at her askance, a little put out. “As opposed to what? Mirages?”

She shrugs. “Some people disappear when you really need them. Like mirages. All fun, but no substance.”

He seems to understand, and says, “Well, I have both. There are always more superficial ones than real ones. Besides, it takes time for people to become real friends.”

Jeroen’s voice is so serious that there is a line of pain in it. She says to that, kindly, “You’ve worked on it.”

He nods, deeply. “Of course. You have to.”

She wonders about the people who have moved in and out of her life, the drift that is living. She wonders too for how many people she was a mirage.

She isn’t sure if she likes the idea of being so insubstantial.

Next: 44. To the Floor

Image found on flickr, by Leslie Kalohi, used under the Creative Commons License.