• “Nikos stared out across the bleached sand, the scattered cacti and rock. “Walk with me a while, Bartolomeo.” We walked together across the hot sand, an arm’s length apart. I’d already lost my orientation, and when I looked around, I found I could not locate the entrance I’d used; I was struck by the irrational fear that I might never be able to find my way out of there. Or that Nikos would murder me. My body could remain undiscovered for decades. “We’ve been friends a lot of years, Bartolomeo.” “Were friends,” I corrected him. “No more?” “I don’t think so, Nikos.” He stopped, turned, and looked at me, his expression steady. If he’d been drinking recently, I couldn’t tell. Everything about him seemed sober and firm. “We’ve both made mistakes. Out of fear, or mistrust. Or perhaps even simple misunderstanding. Whatever the reasons. But is the damage to our friendship irreparable?” I’d thought so, but suddenly I was unsure. Watching him, listening to him, I was unable to detect any dissembling. He seemed sincere. Nikos could be deceptive and manipulative, but I always thought I could see through him. I’d missed it before, although looking back on it, I realized the signs had been there—I just hadn’t recognized them; maybe because I hadn’t wanted to. Now, though, I saw nothing but a sincere effort at reconciliation. “I don’t know,” I finally said. “Honest”

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