The problem started like this: "Hey man, could you maybe this once not be at my apartment tonight? I've got a date tonight and I don't want you to fuck it up. Please?"
"It's not like I do that all the time. But I'm hanging out with a friend tonight anyway," Amir said from under his desk, where he had been napping.
"I've told you, the homeless guy that lives in the alley outside of your apartment is not your friend. And he's robbed you twice."
Amir poked his head out. There was a dust bunny attached to his beard. "First off, Gary is a great guy. You're just racist. Third off, it's not him. It's Stuart.”
"There can't be a third off without a second off. And didn’t Gary stab you?" Jake said, rolling his eyes. Then, the last bit of Amir's sentence caught up with him and he looked up sharply from his computer. "Wait, you have a friend? That you hang out with?"
"Don't be jealous, Jakey. I only have eyes for you." Amir gave Jake a look that might have been intended to be reassuring, but might have also been constipation. Then he disappeared back under his desk.
Jake shot his computer a confused look. See, Amir didn’t have friends. Amir had one person who tolerated his antics (also known as Jake), but mostly he had people who, given the chance, would have killed him. Interesting.
Later that night, after two hours in the mirror spent perfecting elegantly disheveled hair and picking between button-ups had gone to waste over a disastrously dull dinner, Jake headed back to his apartment.
Despite Amir's earlier claim, Jake half-expected to see him sprawled out across the couch, asleep and covered with Cheez-It crumbs. He wasn't at all disappointed to find his door locked, lights off, and nobody else home. His apartment was quiet. It even smelled better.
Jake grabbed a beer from the fridge and pulled out his phone. It was still fairly early, maybe someone else wanted to hang out.
The problem was that, after five years of working together, Amir had sort of scared off everyone else. Jake scrolled through his contacts on his phone, but he couldn’t come up with a single person he wanted to hang out with. Finally, he tossed his phone away and threw himself down on the couch.
His therapist, Dr. Wells, had once asked if he’d ever considered that “maybe you need Amir as much as he needs you?” Jake reacted with offense, because despite his “anger issues stemming from feelings of inadequacy”, he wasn’t crazy enough to need Amir. He didn’t even like him most of the time. There was only a small percentage of the time where he did want to bash Amir’s head against a wall.
Except now, looking around his apartment and all of the remnants of Amir (a pair of abnormally small flip flops under the coffee table, his laptop on Jake’s desk), and trying to remind himself that it had only been one night, Jake could concede that maybe Dr. Wells had a point.
“So, what did you guys do this weekend?” Sarah asked over lunch on Monday.
Amir gave a detailed account of how he and Stuart hit up some clubs and “got their freak on” while Jake silently poked at his salad. His weekend consisted of sitting around and feeling frustrated, broken up by typing out occasional pathetic texts to Amir and then erasing them. He didn’t share this.
When Amir left to get a soda, Sarah shot Jake an incredulous look. “Amir has another friend?”
“That’s what I said!”
“Are you sure that guy’s not trying to, like, steal his identity or something? Or he’s getting hit on again? Does this one have a knife?”
“Whatever, I’m just glad that someone else has to put up with him now,” Jake said, rolling his eyes.
This was a lie. Sarah didn’t seem to suspect.
After a week of Amir talking about him, Stuart showed up at the College Humor offices on Friday after work to meet Amir.
Stuart, as it turned out, seemed like a pretty normal guy. He was of an average weight and height, had no unusual tattoos or piercings, spoke in complete, grammatically correct sentences, and didn’t display any violent behaviors. Within their minute-long introduction, Jake could tell that he was more sane than most of the people Amir claimed as friends and probably Amir himself.
“Me and Stuart are going to go play laser tag,” Amir said. He extended his fist and not only did Stuart meet it with a bump, but they performed an elaborate handshake. Jake’s eyes practically bulged out of his head.
“Yeah, we’re going to go hit up the ‘Dees first,” said Stuart. “We’d better get going.”
For no reason that he could possibly think of, Jake ended up blurting out, “I’ve got, like, a doctor’s appointment, but I can totally cancel it if you guys want some company.”
“It’s every man for himself, bro,” Amir said, dead serious. “I don’t know if we can spare another person on our team. You’ll just slow us down.”
Stuart gave him a sympathetic shrug. “Sorry, maybe next time. It was nice to meet you.”
“It was nice to meet you too,” Jake called over his shoulder, already sprinting away. He ended up arriving at his appointment twenty minutes early, but instead of taking a seat in the waiting room, he flew past the receptionist (“She’s not ready for you, Jake! Come back here!”) and burst into his therapist’s office.
“Dr. Wells, I think I have a problem.”
Without looking up from her computer screen, Dr. Wells gestured to the couch across from her. “Admitting it is the first step.”
Over the next week, Stuart continued to be a fixture in Amir’s conversations. Per Dr. Wells’ advice, Jake tuned him out. Fortunately, it was a strategy he’d cultivated over many years of working across from Amir. If ignoring someone were an Olympic sport, Jake would’ve won a goddamn medal.
The problem ended like this: On Thursday, Jake returned to his apartment to find the door unlocked. Inside was Amir, lying on Jake’s couch, making a tower of McNuggets on his chest, looking as though he’d never left the spot. “Sup, dawg?” he called out.
“Aren’t you supposed to be hanging out with Stuart?” Jake asked, feeling a bit cautious.
“Yeah, it turns out he was, like, trying to steal my identity or something. And I was all, ‘Look, dude, there can only be one Amir Blumenfeld, so you’d better back off.’”
“That’s not what- you know, nevermind. That sucks, I guess.”
Amir shrugged. “I mean, he was cool and all, but you’re still best best friend.”
“Bud,” Jake said, automatically.
“Best best buds?”
Jake grinned and settled down on the couch. Amir passed him a McNugget.
“But seriously though, best buds? Are we best buds? Jake, are you paying attention to me? Jake?”