In the years following the settlement, Mark doesn't hear from Eduardo. True, Eduardo still owns 5% shares in the company, but it's only on paper. The day he smashed Mark's laptop and walked out was the last time he ever set foot in the offices.
Mark quickly realizes two things.
One, he was wrong that day in California when Eduardo came to visit, dripping rain and disappointment: No, he does not in fact need Eduardo as his CFO. Eduardo never really understood the idea behind Facebook, and he couldn't have promoted it the way Mark wanted to.
Two, he misses his best friend.
Occasionally, something funny or bizarre happens in the office. Dustin says something ridiculous. A new application that's totally pointless is uncannily popular. Mark orders vegetarian pizza and gets one with chicken topping instead.
He'll get his cell phone out and start to write Eduardo a message or begin to type his number before he suddenly remembers – oh, right, they're not speaking. It's scarily easy to forget this.
There are other things, too. No one makes him eat when he forgets to and doesn't notice that that funny sound is his stomach growling. No one tells him to get some sleep when he's spent 48 hours working on code and it's all getting blurry in front of his eyes. No one calls him on it when he's being an asshole because they're all too afraid of him or simply don't care.
One time, when he was drunk and lonely and his latest girlfriend just left him because they 'weren't going anywhere' (he didn't know they were supposed to be moving ahead or transforming into something; he was fine with the way things were), he almost called Eduardo. But the battery of his phone was dead and he couldn't find the charger. By the time he woke up in the morning, headache buzzing behind his eyes and wearing his shirt the wrong way around, he'd returned to accepting that he'd lost Eduardo and that there was no way back.
It takes him five years to question that.
* * *
Someone writes a book about them. It's filled with half-truths and lies, and Mark doesn't even bother finishing it because it's fiction, pure and simple, and he has no time and patience for that sort of thing. He considers suing for damages, but he doesn't really have the time or patience for that either, and it's not like he needs the money.
They turn the book into a movie that's a little better, a little less blatantly untrue, even if it makes him uncomfortable watching someone try to act out his life. Worse yet, the movie makes it all – the ups and downs of Mark's friendship with Eduardo – sound like a tragic love story with an unhappy ending, which it wasn't.
It wasn't a love story.
* * *
Mark contemplates the issue for a while before he decides that he doesn't have all the necessary input to come to a conclusion.
Eduardo's personal Facebook page is pretty much inactive and doesn't tell Mark anything he didn't know before, and that's even after he hacked into the privacy settings to see all the non-public information. Still, getting hold of Eduardo's number is actually scarily easy. So easy, in fact, that he thinks maybe he should have tried to find it sooner.
By now, it's ten thirty in the morning. He's on his fourth beer. He hasn't slept in 28 hours, and even then it was just a brief four-hour nap in between programming and a Friday morning meeting. Somewhere, in the back of his mind where he stores observations about social conventions, he's aware that this is not a good idea, but like a particularly stubborn line of code he needs to perfect, he feels the need to get to the bottom of the issue before he can put it to rest.
He types: Were you in love with me? Is that why – There are a dozen ways to complete that question. Is that why you gave me the money? Is that why you said you were trying to get my attention? Is that why you didn't like it when I brought Sean in? Is that why you were so mad, at the end? He frowns and erases the second question, writes Back when we started, instead, as if that part needed clarification. He sends it. Waits.
There's no reply.
Mark wonders if he should have phrased it in a different way, if he should have been clearer, if he should have started with 'Hi, this is Mark, how are you?' even though he's sure that Eduardo knows perfectly well who the text came from.
Five minutes later, his phone is ringing.
"You can't just do that," Eduardo says, in lieu of a greeting. It's the first time Mark has heard his voice since the depositions ended, and he sounds about the same as he did then: tired and agitated all at once, frustrated instead of angry. "You can't text people you haven't spoken to in five years in the middle of the night and ask them if they used to be in love with you."
"It's Saturday morning," Mark points out, because out of everything Eduardo said, the 'middle of the night' part seems to be the safest thing to latch on, the part that stands out as wrong.
"Not here, it isn't. It's three am, and I'm going back to sleep now."
"So, were you? In love with me, that is," Mark quickly presses on before Eduardo can end the call. It feels much more awkward to say the words than it felt to type them into his phone.
"Goodnight, Mark," Eduardo says pointedly and cuts the connection, making Mark wonder whether he was being passive-aggressive or if it was just Eduardo's habitual politeness that he couldn't shake off even when he was angry or upset.
* * *
As a rule, he doesn't usually remember much about people. It always drives his girlfriends mad, how he forgets their birthday or that he comes up with nothing but a shrug when people ask him how he met them.
"How can you be with me and not remember how we started dating? " Clara, a lawyer he was seeing for a while in 2007, asked him.
He told her it didn't seem important. Apparently that was the wrong answer, because she emptied a glass of wine over his head and walked out of the restaurant and out of his life in an unnecessarily dramatic gesture. He's still not really sure why she was so upset, but ever since then he just tells people, 'We were introduced by a mutual friend' whenever they ask how he met whoever he's dating at the time. It's almost always the truth, except for the minor detail that he doesn't really have friends. But the answer satisfies everyone and it saves him a lot of hassle.
The thing is: he forgets those kind of personal details about other people because it's really not that important; most of the time it's not even particularly interesting. But he still remembers all sorts of weird details about Eduardo.
Not just the big ones, like Eduardo's birthday, which is still etched in his mind even though the date should be meaningless now that they've stopped talking to each other; or how they met for the first time: the formal way Eduardo extended his hand and introduced himself, the small smile. Mark also remembers odd little bits and pieces that hold no significance whatsoever. The ridiculous hat Eduardo wore at Caribbean night. The way he sometimes muttered about numbers in his sleep. His rain-soaked hair when he came to visit Mark in California for the first time. The expression of anger and betrayal and hurt on Eduardo's face when he smashed Mark's laptop.
Yeah, he really wishes he could forget that one.
* * *
Mark tries calling Eduardo back six hours later. He doesn't know where Eduardo is, exactly, but if it was the middle of the night before, it should be morning by now.
The call goes straight to voicemail, no tell-tale delay that means Eduardo is screening his calls and is ignoring Mark specifically. More likely, he decided the best way to ignore Mark was to switch off his phone altogether so he wouldn't even have to see the failed call. It's ineffective, because Eduardo should know that Mark wouldn't take the hint and would just keep calling.
So he tries again at 8pm, and midnight, and at a couple (or possibly more than a couple) of times around 3am on Sunday morning. He never leaves a message. He'd call again after that, but he falls asleep on his keyboard in the middle of working on a script for the new messaging system, and he doesn't wake up until late Sunday afternoon.
There's a message sent from Eduardo's mostly inactive Facebook account waiting in his inbox.
I have 13 missed calls from you on my phone. Was there something you wanted? Other than to ask me if I was in love with you half a decade ago. E.
It's a valid question: What, exactly, is he trying to achieve? Truth is, Mark isn't really sure. He does still want an answer to his question, but if Eduardo didn't answer yesterday, it's unlikely that he'll answer now.
He sullenly stares at the screen as if he's waiting for a reply to materialize by itself. Programming is easy; he never stalls when he's writing code. Talking to people makes him feel out of his depth because he never knows what they expect, what they want and don't want to hear. Most of the time, he doesn't care enough to figure it out, but Eduardo is different, and he hates that.
He's actually feeling more tired now than he did yesterday before he slept. Maybe that's why he doesn't stop himself before he types: I miss you.
He hits send before he has the chance to really think about it, then stares at the three words on his screen. They look wrong. He wonders if he should bother hacking into the Facebook code to delete the message, which would be easy enough. But then he'd also have to hack into Eduardo's e-mail account to delete the notification. That might be a little harder, if still doable, but probably not in time before Eduardo sees it, so he gives up on the idea.
He goes back to the reply form and writes I'm sorry. His finger hovers over the send button for a moment before he deletes the words.
* * *
Apologies are something he doesn't understand. As a social convention, they make no sense whatsoever.
Saying you're sorry doesn't change anything. It doesn't even have to mean anything. It doesn't necessarily mean that you wouldn't do it again or even that you regret what you've done, only that you regret the consequences.
Beyond that, it's just another form of emotional blackmail. You tell someone 'I'm sorry' and expect to hear that it's okay, that you're forgiven, that they're not mad at you. Either they mean it – then they were probably going to forgive you anyway – or they don't and only say it because it's the socially acceptable response, in which case the entire exercise will only be a mutual exchange of lies to conform to the social norms.
* * *
Eduardo doesn't reply until Wednesday evening. By then, Mark has mostly given up thinking that he'll ever reply. He has stopped refreshing his messages every five seconds, anyway. He hasn't tried to call Eduardo again either, mainly because he doesn't really feel like he has anything else left to say.
He's in the office having a late meeting with the PR people when the 'new message' window pops up on his screen.
It's been five years. What brought this on? the message reads.
The words make it sound as if Eduardo's barely mildly curious, but the fact that it took him three days to type those nine words belie the nonchalance. There's an underlying tension to the question that even Mark, who's really bad at reading between the lines, can't miss.
I watched the movie. They made it seem like some tragic love story. I didn't think of it like that before. I mean, it was tragic. Obviously. But I didn't think of it as a love story. Except now I think it may have been.
He's rambling. He cuts himself off by hitting send, then belatedly adds, I missed you before that, though. Before the movie. Hits the send button again. Waits.
"Mark? Have you listened to a word I said in the last five minutes?" Linda the publicist asks.
Mark likes Linda because she's not afraid of him and does a good job of making him look like a decent person in public even when he can't be bothered to act like one, so instead of snapping at her that he's perfectly capable of multitasking, he just waves her concerns off and says, "Yes, we need to make our users see that the new message system will improve their accessibility instead of threatening the privacy of their conversations blah blah blah. I heard you. Should be easy enough."
He doesn't take his eyes off the screen even when he's talking to her and keeps hitting refresh. He catches Eduardo's reply even before the e-mail notification arrives.
It's just a movie, Mark. Does it really matter now if it was a love story or not? Give it a rest.
Something about the message annoys Mark. It's as if Eduardo is telling him to leave him alone, dismissing him without actually saying so. He frowns at the screen, and he's still deciding on whether or not to ignore it until Eduardo actually says the words when there's another message.
For what it's worth, I've missed you too. That doesn't change anything, though, does it?
Anyway, I'm late for a meeting. I've gotta run. Goodnight. E.
It's not quite 'goodbye', but it sounds like it's meant to be. Mark logs off and shuts the laptop. Linda is looking at him like she's expecting an answer to something she asked.
"What was that?" he asks, his mind still occupied with Eduardo's words, and he doesn't even bother to glare at Linda when she gives him a smug look. So much for multitasking, then.
* * *
He resists contacting Eduardo all through the night and the entire next day, but by Friday, his fingers are positively itching to write a reply, so he does.
This is stupid. If you miss me and I miss you then it makes no sense not to be in touch.
He makes himself log off right after he sends the message and doesn't check his e-mails for the rest of the day, putting off the disappointment he'll inevitably feel if Eduardo doesn't respond.
* * *
On Sunday morning, Mark wakes up when his phone starts ringing. He sleepily fumbles for it, his fingers growing weirdly numb on the touchscreen when he sees Eduardo's name on the display.
"Are you back?" is the first thing that comes out when he answers the call.
There's a brief pause on the other end of the line. "Back where?" Eduardo asks. He still sounds tired, but mildly confused rather than aggravated now.
"Back on the continent. When I called you, you said it was 3am where you were. It's about the same time now."
"It's still 3am here. I'm in Singapore. Why are we talking about time zones, Mark?"
"Why are you calling me at 3am instead of sleeping?"
"I couldn't sleep. I—" Eduardo makes a frustrated noise. "Stop doing that. You're driving me insane, you know that? You make no effort to contact me for five years – five years, Mark! – then you send me a text and ask if I was in love with you, and you don't let up no matter how many hints I drop. And then you tell me you miss me and that you want us to be in touch, but when I finally work up the nerve to call you, you tell me to go to sleep."
Mark frowns, at a loss for words in the face of Eduardo's rant. "I— I didn't mean that, sorry. I'm glad you called."
For a moment, there's no reply, and if it wasn't for the sounds of Eduardo's breathing, Mark would think he had ended the call.
Suddenly, Eduardo is laughing. "So you're saying sorry for making me feel defensive about my sleep patterns, but you're not apologizing for screwing me over and ruining our friendship over a website?"
Mark wants to object that Facebook is hardly just any website, but he knows that's not what this is about. "I don't really see the point. It wouldn't change anything."
He could have written the words the other day or he could say them now, if Eduardo really needed to hear them, but he hopes that Eduardo will understand.
He hears Eduardo sigh, and he can perfectly envision the unhappy little frown on his face.
"No, I suppose it wouldn't," Eduardo says, finally. "I make you a deal: I'll stop waiting for an apology if you stop asking me about whether I was in love with you."
"Fair enough," Mark says. He thinks he knows the answer to that question anyway.
* * *
After that, they develop a routine.
They exchange messages fairly regularly and speak on the phone when they can, given their busy schedule and the time difference. Fortunately, unlike Eduardo, Mark has no social life to speak of, so making room for weekly long-distance calls in his schedule doesn't exactly take a lot of shuffling around.
By unspoken mutual agreement, they don't ever talk about about certain things, like the fact that Mark tried to cheat Eduardo out of his shares and Eduardo sued him for a few billion dollars. Neither of them ever says, 'Oh, remember that time when the lawyer said…' even though Mark sometimes wants to, because not talking about it turns it into the elephant in the room, and maybe sharing anecdotes from the depositions would help. But perhaps it's too soon for that.
They also don't talk about the chicken. Or about the fact that Eduardo was in love with Mark. Or what it means that Mark hasn't had one single significant, lasting relationship in his life since Eduardo walked out of it.
Doesn't mean he doesn't think about it.
* * *
Eduardo is in the middle of a lengthy monologue about Singaporean cuisine, which Mark has been listening to for seven minutes even though he has precious little interest in food in general and will eat just about anything with any nutritional value whatsoever, when Mark interrupts him to ask, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"About… the noodles?" Eduardo sounds confused.
"In Harvard. When we started working on Facebook. Or even before that. Why didn't you tell me that you were in love with me?"
"I thought we had agreed to let this go," Eduardo says. All at once, he sounds a lot less happy and relaxed than he did when he was talking about curry chicken noodles (Mark did not make a chicken joke, even though he wanted to) and barbecued stingray. Mark almost feels sorry for asking, except not really.
"I agreed not to ask you if it was true. I'm not asking."
"I thought you knew. Everyone knew. Chris and Dustin knew. Erica knew. Christy knew. Sean knew. That lawyer who sat in on the depositions - the pretty dark-haired one? - she knew. I mean, really, what were the chances that you didn't know? I thought you were… aware of it and refusing to acknowledge it."
Mark frowns. "Why would I do that?"
"I don't know, Mark. Because you're an asshole?" Eduardo makes it sound like it's not an insult but just a statement of fact. The sky is blue, grass is green, Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.
"You knew that and you were still—"
"Mark, I swear to God, if you tell me I was in love with you one more time, I will switch off the phone, delete your number, and never talk to you again."
It's kind of obvious that Eduardo is exaggerating – well, Mark thinks he is, anyway – but there's enough intensity in his tone that Mark refrains from finishing his sentence anyway.
* * *
"The movie was wrong."
"I thought we established that it wasn't." Eduardo sounds amused.
It's still Friday, just past midnight, in California; Saturday evening in Singapore. Eduardo just got back from a business dinner. Mark is still on his computer, not because Eduardo doesn't deserve his undivided attention but because he needs something to do to distract him or else he'll not say what he wants to say.
"What? Oh. No. Not that. The ending. I never tried to get in touch with Erica."
"Okay." Mark can practically hear Eduardo's frown through the line, and the unspoken, Why are you telling me this? "Are you… tempted to get in touch with her?" he wants to know.
"No. She wasn't that important. I mean, yes, I was upset when she broke up with me, but I got over it. I don't remember her birthday. Or how I met her. We wouldn't even have anything to talk about now. Well, I guess we never really did. I don't miss her in my life."
He thinks he's being fairly obvious, but maybe not, because Eduardo still seems fairly bemused.
"That's… a good thing, right?" Eduardo says, tentatively. He must hear the frustrated sound Mark is making because he adds, "Look, I know you're trying to make a point, but I'm not sure I understand what the point is, so why don't you just say it? The whole honesty thing seems to be working fairly well for us lately, so how about we stick with it?"
"Fine. I want you to come home. I miss you. I mean, it's great that we're talking again, but I still miss you here."
On the other end of the phone, Eduardo sharply draws in breath. His voice has a weird edge when he speaks. "Let me get this straight: you want me to give up everything here and travel halfway around the world because you miss me there."
"Yes. And also because I don't want that stupid movie to be right. If this has to be a love story, I don't think it should be a tragic one." Mark frowns and stops working on his code for a second, pushing the laptop away. That last part sounded a lot better in his mind. "That sounded stupid. Forget I said it."
"Did you mean that?" Eduardo asks, after a long pause.
He sounds anxious, which in turn makes Mark anxious, so he goes back to typing. "Sure. That's why I told you about Erica."
"Which didn't make much sense at that time and still only partially does when I try to unravel the discussion backwards," Eduardo says, but there's a smile in his voice, so Mark figures that they're okay and Eduardo is not going to stop talking to him and move to the other end of the world to avoid him. Again.
"So?" Mark asks.
"Are you coming back?"
Maybe he's pushing his luck, but he must be doing something right because Eduardo sighs and says, "Fine. Okay. I can't believe I'm doing this, but yes, I'm coming back. But Mark? You'd better be waiting for me at the airport this time or I swear I will get on the next plane back and that'll be the last you ever see of me."
Mark smiles and shuts down his laptop.
"I'll be there."
* * *