I jump ahead of myself, too eager to get to the end. I ruin mystery books that way. I only have patience for things like crossword puzzles, and even then, the solutions are there only 24 hours later.


There weren’t too many in Dallas that were fond of crossword puzzles—in Detroit, I found a brethren.


Detroit was a godsend. Everything fell into place so perfectly—story book ending. That’s not to say it didn’t take a lot of work, but the season couldn’t have been more scripted. Oldest dude ever clocking an overtime winner, a captain parading around clasping his daughter’s hand, jokes about talking in the third person? Perfect.


Mike’s season wasn’t too great. I found myself cutting phone calls short. Nobody wants to talk to a downer. I mean, really. It’s also a little bit awkward to rave about all the fun things you’re doing, all the people you’re meeting, and how awesome everything is when his side of the conversation is practically the exact opposite. It got to be too much, because I had so much. I was bursting at the seams with stories—me and Cheli hanging out, Darren’s ridiculous band, educating Sean about the wonders of Carole King. And there were too many blanks on the other side, on his end.


And I was content to fill them in with pen, with the answers I wanted to hear, even if I had to squish a letter or two in the same box.


I barely spoke to Mike that summer after I won the cup with Detroit. My first cup—that was validation, that was legitimacy. That was Fuck you. And the second one was more fuck yeah, than anything. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything less to prove, because that chip on my shoulder might just be permanent, but there was probably less anger the second go around. More celebration and less baggage. I partied longer, but less intensely. I was savoring every moment; I wasn’t trying to party away memories of the past, opinions now rendered obsolete because of one goal.


Now, that’s not to say my summer was lame. I partied like a fucking rock star. With a fucking rock star!


I called Mike after my day with the cup, maybe we could catch up, go golfing, be like we were before the hit, before he started acting like a ghost of himself, all pauses and silences. It went straight to voicemail, and his voice was strong and warm and I could practically hear his tan and the sun. Experience told me Cabo; this kid loves Mexico. He’s down there all the time, pesos showing up in the cup holders of his cars. Not that he’d ever take one of his babies down there (even though he didn’t pay for most of them—just had to smile pretty, hold a Mercedes Benz parade in front of his old house), just emptying his pockets when he got back.


Odd, really, since he always paid for things with a credit card, never took a bus, and stuck American dollars in g-strings. Yet he had them, mixed in with those good old American pennies and nickels and dimes.


Though, not half as odd, as when I realized that he wasn’t in Cabo. On a plane, rather, hanging out with Cuban and flying all over the country. I thought at the time it was to spite me. Jealous of my second cup, and he was going to fly to New York to try not to think about me getting fitted for a second ring and dance in a club ‘til dawn, zip down to Florida and golf for a while, hang out with Lance Bass in a hot tub because Mike’s manager knew Lance’s manager and Mike always seemed to have a knack for hanging out with celebrity-has-beens. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to mind.)


Jealous, of course, and trying to make me jealous. Because he was still my best friend, but maybe I wasn’t his anymore, so he was going to hang out with some dumbass who lost a bet to a Dairy Queen manager, show me he’d rather hang out with a jackass than me.


This sounds very grade school. But I’d lost something with Mike. Really, Mike had lost something, but at the time I thought it was us. We were slipping, and maybe our friendship wasn’t what I thought it was. Friendships should outlast trades if they’re real.


And then there was that article. He named Mathieu fucking Schneider his best friend? What. the. fuck.


So I hung up the phone without leaving a message. No invitation to go golfing, no promises to play baseball with him at Dallas’ charity ball game.


Twenty four hours later I got a voicemail and a simple, “hey,” and it should have been a clue, I should have figured it out, that “hey” was just code. That everything was code, Mike speaking in a foreign language, and nothing as easy as “dos mojitos, por favor” rolling off his tongue anymore.


But I was too focused on my end of the puzzle to pay attention to 9 down.