He kept holding my hand. At the bar. He held my hand three, maybe four times. With laced fingers. But if a friend wants my attention at a loud bar, he can grab my hand. Or touch my knee under the table. Or share my armrest when speaking much too close.

Because we’re friends and bars are loud.

He called my hair sexy and distracting. I had straightened it, a rarity, and it looked good. He meant to tease me, a lighthearted jab, but the word sexy never fit well on me and felt foreign, a compliment meant for someone else.  I told myself I was uncomfortable only from the word.

But friends tease and notice change.

He insisted that I sleep in his bed and rolled his eyes when I called him presumptuous. I was just drunk enough that I couldn’t drive home. His roommates’ four friends had already called dibs on the pull-out sofa; the floor, although uninviting, was not even an option, as their video games would last for at least another two hours.

And I have had platonic sleepovers with friends since grade school.

If The Bestest Friend wasn’t there, the evening would have been dismissed and forgotten.

Because we’re friends and friends are comfortable with each other. Friends don’t analyze. Friends give the benefit of the doubt. Friends would never hit on their best friend’s ex-girlfriend.

The Bestest Friend, as my friend, not his, and therefore a witness not so easily swayed, was sitting on my left at the loud bar, observing and analyzing him much too closely. With each of her eyebrow-quirks and laughing imitations of the hand-holding or personal-bubble invasions, my paranoia intensified.

And, Goddammit, now I have to avoid him.