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to have a friend

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Dear Evan Hansen:

It turns out, this wasn’t an amazing day after all. This isn’t going to be an amazing week or an amazing year. Because, why would it be?

Oh I know. Because there’s Zoe. And all my hope is pinned on Zoe. Who I don’t even know and who doesn’t know me. But maybe if I did, maybe if I could just talk to her, then maybe…maybe nothing would be different at all.

I wish that everything was different. I wish that I was a part of something . I wish that anything I said mattered, to anyone. I mean, face it: would anyone even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?

Sincerely, your best and most dearest friend

Evan squeezes his eyes shut tightly.

It’s true that at the end of the day, all you’ve got left is yourself, so you should…like yourself. Or something. But calling himself his “best and most dearest friend” is…

Pathetic. It’s pathetic. It’s really sad and even if it is true, the fact still remains that his best friend hates him.

Evan rubs his temples. Thinking about this is just going to send him into a spiral of anxiety that will help exactly no one. Having a breakdown in the computer lab sounds like a horrible, yet fitting, way to finish his first day of senior year.

He signs off the letter with ‘me’, even though it makes his stomach twist, and sends it to the printer.

He just wants to be home and under a blanket and also maybe not existing.

“So…”

Evan freezes, eyes glued to the screen of his laptop. His heart is in his throat and he figures that there’s about an eighty percent chance that he dies right now. He risks a glance over his shoulder at Connor.

“What happened to your arm?” Connor asks, vaguely motioning in Evan’s direction.

Evan swallows and looks down at his cast. “Oh, I-I um…fell out of a tree. Actually.”  

Connor scoffs. “You fell out of a tree ? That is just the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.” He snorts and shakes his head. “Oh my god.”

Evan forces a laugh as his stomach churn. It is sad. Really sad. Sadder than anyone will ever know. “I know,” he says weakly.

Connor clears his throat and motions to Evan’s cast again. “No one’s signed your cast yet.”

Evan takes a shallow breath. He hasn’t figured out what to tell his mom about that yet. Maybe he’ll lie and say he lost the Sharpie, even though then she’ll ask if no one else had one. Maybe he can say that they weren’t writing on the cast but then if she tests it— Evan shakes his head. “N-no, I know.”

“I’ll sign it.”

Evan looks up with a start. “Oh! Um…” His mouth goes dry and his hands are definitely getting sweaty and he has no idea what to do with this information. “Y-you don’t have to.”

Connor glares at him and Evan tries not to wilt too much under his gaze. “Do you have a Sharpie?”  

Evan stares at him for a second before he fumbles with his bag. It takes him a second to find it, and in that time, he’s pretty sure Connor has successfully taken a year off his life with that glare. He holds the Sharpie out.

Connor clenches his jaw before taking it. He grabs Evan’s arm and pulls it closer, making Evan wince in pain. “Ow,” he hisses. This is exactly what his mom meant when she said he should ask people to sign his cast.

“Oh. Sorry,” Connor mutters. He scrawls his name across Evan’s cast in large, capitalized letters and then lets go of Evan’s arm.

“Oh.” Evan tries not to sound as disappointed as he is about how it looks, but he’s pretty sure he fails miserably. “Great. Thanks.” There’s probably no way of hiding Connor’s name. Jared is going to have a field day.

Connor hands Evan the Sharpie back. Evan moves to put it back in his bag, but frowns when he feels something stuck under the clip the cap. He looks down to see a folded twenty dollar bill tucked under the clip. He frowns and glances over to at Connor. “W-what?”

“Pretend to be my friend.”

Evan blinks. “I— what ?”

“Pretend to be my friend,” Connor repeats, more forcefully this time.

Evan pulls the twenty out from under the clip. “Y-you’re—”

“Paying you to be my fucking friend?” Connor interrupts. “Yeah. I am.”

“But…why?”

Connor scowls. “It gets my mom off my back, now will you do it or are you giving my money back?”

“Twenty dollars to-to pretend to be your friend,” Evan says in disbelief, unfolding the bill. “That’s—”

“Per week.”

Evan almost drops the money. “What?!”

“Twenty bucks a week. Just as long as I need you to do this.” Connor crosses his arms. “I am literally offering you money you to pretend to be my friend now will you do it .”

Evan smiles weakly. “That’s…the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. Oh my god.”

Connor rolls his eyes. “You’re hilarious. What’s your answer.”

Evan swallows. This could go very badly. But money… He knows his mom keeps lying about how they’re doing financially. Medicine and therapy is expensive. College is worse. Evan doesn’t have a job. There isn’t too much of a choice here.

Twenty dollars is a dinner or two when his mom isn’t home.

Pretend to be friends with Connor Murphy, who yells at people and skips class to smoke and pushes people and threw a printer in the second grade, for twenty dollars a week.

Evan closes his hand around the bill and then stuffs it into his pocket.

“I-I’ll do it.”

Connor holds out his hand and for a second, Evan thinks he’s going to take back the money and yell at him for being so pathetic that he’ll fake friendship for a measly twenty dollars, but then Connor says, “Give me the Sharpie.”

Evan hands him the Sharpie and Connor grabs his good arm. As Connor writes on his skin, the first thing Evan thinks is ‘ink poisoning’. Which is really just ridiculous, but he’s on edge.

“There,” Connor says, letting go of Evan’s arm and capping the Sharpie. “You have my number. And if you give it to anyone else, I’ll kill you.” The way he says it is so casual that Evan feels like he should be more scared by the threat than he is.

“G-got it,” Evan stutters. He glances over the numbers, hoping Connor will leave now. He needs time to process.

“Also—”

Life is never what Evan wants it to be.

“—Is this yours? I found it on the printer.” Evan feels his entire body go cold. “‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ That’s your name, right?”

If Evan wasn’t absolutely panicking right now, there might’ve been something funny about the fact that Connor paid someone he didn’t even know the name of to be his friend.

But it’s not funny.

“Oh, t-that’s just a stupid— it’s a paper I had to write for a, um, assignment…” Evan tugs on his shirt, because if he doesn’t do something with his hands, he’s going to try and grab it from Connor and there’s no way that can end except bad.

“‘Because there’s Zoe’,” Connor reads. The world tilts drastically, and everything slides toward destruction. “Is this about my sister ?”

“No! Not at all!” Evan says quickly. It’s like he’s desperately trying to fix a fatal wound with Hello Kitty bandages. He’s drowning in his own worst fears and his mind is working against him and he can’t get any more words out to explain this situation because there’s no way to make this any better.

“You wrote this because you knew that I would find it.”

“What?”

“You saw that I was the only other person in the computer lab, so you wrote this and printed it out, so that I would find that.”

Evan almost starts laughing out of panic and a feeling of ‘oh god that sounds like something I would think’, but he’s so overwhelmed with everything that he can only get out a strangled, “Why—”

“So I would—”

“—would I do that?”

“—read some creepy shit you wrote about my sister, and freak out, right?” Connor snaps. “And then you can tell everyone that I’m crazy, right ?” he yells.

“No. Wait— I don’t even, what?”

Fuck you ,” Connor seethes. He stalks out of the room, the door to the computer lab slamming behind him.

He still has the letter.

“But I really, I need that back!” Evan shouts. “Please. Can you just— can you please give it back.” His voice goes quiet. There’s no way he’s getting that back.

He swallows hard as he turns back to his laptop. Looks like he’s printing out another copy, even though his mind is whirling all the ways this one could end in disaster too.

Evan makes his way over to the printer, legs shaking and knees wobbly as he waits for the page to print. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and locks his knees in an attempt to stop shaking and calm down even a fraction of a percent.

His fingers brush against the twenty dollar bill in his pocket.

It burns.

—«·»—

When Evan gets home, he scrubs his arm until his skin is red and irritated and Connor’s number has vanished.

Not that the numbers aren’t branded in his mind.

He writes them down on a sticky note and hides it deep within a book that he shoves to the back of his bookshelf. Doctor Sherman keeps telling him that if something is worrying him before bed, he should write it down so he doesn’t have to think about it as much. This is the first time Evan has tried.

He keeps thinking about Connor.


Connor isn’t in school the next day and Evan feels a strange sort of relief.


He isn’t in school the next day either. Evan tells himself that it’s probably a good thing. Maybe he can reach a point where this is all just a bad memory that he only remembers the vague feeling of.

He can’t convince himself.

Connor’s name is bold on his arm like a brand.


 

Evan tries to convince himself that it’s nothing when he gets called down to the principal’s office. No emergency of any kind. Maybe it’s something to do with paperwork. Maybe it’s actually a good thing, which seems a little far fetched, but it gets him through the hallways.

When he opens the door, the principal isn’t there. Just two people he doesn’t know, a man who turns to look at him with blank eyes and a woman who looks like she’s about to have a breakdown.

He swallows. “Good morning. Is Mr. Howard…?” he trails off as they give him confused looks. “I-I just— sorry, they said on the loudspeaker for me to go to the principal’s office…”

“Mr. Howard is, uh, he stepped outside,” the man explains.

“Oh.” Well that’s fine, Evan can just go find him then. Leave these two to the breakdown that he can see coming from the woman in almost slow motion because he’s been there before and he doesn’t want to be present—

“We wanted to speak with you in private,” the man says. Evan stares at him. “If you’d like to maybe…” He gestures to a chair.

Evan hesitates before he sits down. He frantically searches his mind, desperate to find some sort of memory of these two, to know if they have any connection to him at all whatsoever, if they’re supposed to be people he knows and remembers.

“We’re, uh…we’re Connor’s parents.”

“Oh.” Evan is back in the computer lab as Connor reads the letter, anxiety building and crushing him into pieces. This can’t be about that, Connor wouldn’t have told his parents about it, his parents wouldn’t come to school and call him out of class because of it, it doesn’t make sense it doesn’t make sense it doesn’t make—

The woman pulls a folded piece of paper out of her purse, holding it carefully.

Evan stares at it. There’s no way…

“Why don’t you go ahead, honey, and…?”

“I’m going as fast as I can,” the woman says, her voice trembling. It sounds like she’s about to burst into tears.  

Evan grips the arms of the chair.

“That’s not what I said, is it?” the man asks sharply.

The silence weighs down on Evan like an anchor. Or like his anxiety. Everything feels like anxiety, the air, the silence, the room…

Connor’s mother holds the paper out to Evan. “This is… Connor…he wants you to have this.” Her voice is shaking more now and Evan wants to be anywhere else.

Evan takes the paper. He wants to rip it up into shreds, set it on fire, and flush the ashes down the toilet.

“We didn’t,” the man starts, “we’d never heard your name before, Connor never…but then we saw… ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.”

Evan resists the urge to crumple the letter up in his hands. “He, um, he gave this to you?” he asks carefully. He still doesn’t understand. How could one pathetic letter bring the Murphys here?

“We didn’t know that you two were friends.”

Evan inhales sharply. “F-friends?”

“We didn’t think that Connor had any friends,” the man continues. “And then we see this note and it’s— this seems to suggest pretty clearly that you and Connor are, or at least for Connor, he thinks of you as…” He points to the letter, struggling through his words. “I mean, it’s right there. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. It’s addressed to you. He wrote it to you.”

Oh. Oh no. Oh no . “You think this is— you think that Connor wrote this to me.”

The woman nods. “These are the words he wanted to share with you.”

“He wanted them to be his last words,” the man adds.

Whatever Evan wanted to say vanishes from his mind. “I-I’m sorry. What do you mean, last words?”

Connor’s parents exchange a glance.

Evan doesn’t need them to say it outloud. He already knows.

“Connor, uh, Connor tried to take his own life,” the man says slowly. “He’s in the hospital right now.”

“He…what?” Evan knows. He knows he knows he knows he knows but the words aren’t processing and everything is turning to static.

“This is all we found with him. He had it folded up in his pocket.” Evan scrambles for words, for anything that will stop this. “You can see that he’s… He probably wanted to explain it, why he tried to…” Evan shakes his head, but Connor’s father keeps going and Evan feels sick. “‘I wish that everything was different. I wish that I were part of something. I wish that what I said mattered to anyone.’”

“Please stop it, Larry,” Connor’s mother interrupts.

Evan wipes his palms on his pants. This is bad this is so bad. “But, that’s, this isn’t—” Those are his words. His. Connor never would’ve wanted— ”I’m sorry. Connor, um, Connor d-didn’t write this.”

“What does that mean?” Cynthia asks, voice on the edge of hysterical.

“Connor didn’t— he didn’t write this,” Evan stutters. He doesn’t know how much clearer he can get, but Connor — their son — tried to commit suicide and here he is telling them that what they think isn’t true because really, it would be just like Evan to become the villain in a story he didn’t even realize he was a part of.

“What does he mean?” Cynthia repeats, louder as she grabs her husband’s hand.

“He’s obviously in shock,” Larry says in such a matter-of-fact way that part of Evan almost believes him.

“N-no,” Evan protests. “I just, he didn’t—”

“It’s right here!” Cynthia points at the letter aggressively.

Evan can’t do this. He can’t breathe. “I-I’m sorry, but I should probably just— can I please go now?”

“If this isn’t— if Connor didn’t write this, then—”

“Cynthia,” Larry says sharply. “Please. Calm down.”

Evan grabs for his backpack. “I should go now.”

“But did he say anything to you?” Cynthia asks desperately. “Did you see anything—?”

“I really should go,” Evan interrupts. Because she’s grasping at straws and trying to understand and she can’t and won’t and he doesn’t want to be here for that.

“Cynthia, honey this is not the time.”

“This is all we have!” she wails. “Conor won’t tell us, he’ll never tell us!”

“Honey. Listen to me. Please.” Larry puts a hand over Cynthia’s. She pulls away and buries her face in her hands, sobbing.

Evan needs to leave.

“Cynthia.”

Evan holds out the letter, hand shaking. “You should just— you should take it. Please.” He doesn’t know what he’ll do if he keeps it. He doesn’t want to be near it anymore.

Cynthia looks up at him, cheeks tearstained and eyes overflowing, and gasps. “Larry, look!” She points to Evan’s arm. “His cast.”

Connor’s name.

Evan glances down at his cast. He’d forgotten, somehow, amidst all of this, he had forgotten — 

Twenty dollars.

For as long as Connor needed him to be his friend.

“His best and most dearest friend,” Cynthia recites.

The ground opens up and swallows Evan whole.

—«·»—

They try to get him to go to the hospital. Try to get him to visit Connor. He keeps shaking his head and tripping over his words.

He can’t.

He can’t be there and see Connor in a hospital bed and pretend . He can’t keep that up. He can’t keep this up.

He feels like he’s going to be sick.

Eventually Larry got it. “He’s processing,” he had said to Cynthia.

Cynthia grabbed Evan’s hand and said, “He should be out in a day or two. But you can visit him whenever you’re ready.” And she’d smiled.

And Evan had smiled back.

Because he’s a liar.

—«·»—

When Evan gets home, he tears apart his bookshelf until he finds the book he hid the sticky note in. He pulls it out of the book and stares at it, the numbers swimming before his eyes. He’s managed not to have a panic attack yet but— 

He puts the sticky note on the his laptop and finds the twenty he had stuffed in a drawer.

It’s just a bill. There are millions like it. It’s just a twenty dollar bill.

Evan swallows back bile.

He feels gross. Bad. Anxious (that’s not new). Uncomfortable.

He scratches his cast. If only this were off his arm. If only he hadn’t let Connor sign it. If only he hadn’t fallen out of that tree. If only he had.

If only he’d been higher.

His phone rings loudly from where it’s sitting on his bed and snaps him out of his trance. He doesn’t know how long he just stood there, staring at a bill, but he feels weirdly out of place now that he realizes he hasn’t moved for what was probably a strangely long period of time. Now he’s too aware of himself and his body.

It’s just a text from Jared, asking about something for class. Jared doesn’t text unless it’s related to schoolwork.

Evan puts the money down on his desk.

How the hell does he do this?


Evan doesn’t know what standard protocol for these types of things is, but he doesn’t really know what to do with himself when he sees Connor in the halls eight days later.

His first thought is ‘he’s back?’

His second thought is ‘oh no he’s back.’

Evan has been avoiding Zoe for eight days. He takes alternate routes when he sees her in the hallways, he doesn’t pass her locker if he can help it. They made eye contact once and he felt his insides shrivel up. He doesn’t know if her parents told her about the letter, he doesn’t know if they questioned Connor about it, he doesn’t know anything . He just doesn’t want to be a piece in some game that they’re playing.  

It’s a bad day.

He gets through a class and a half before he stumbles into the bathroom, hands shaking and breaths shallow.

Evan doesn’t like confrontation. It makes him feel nauseous and dizzy and there’s no way this can end without confrontation.

He doesn’t know if he’s going to make it through the rest of the day.

—«·»—

Evan makes it through the rest of the day. Barely. The ‘barely’ is important. He didn’t pay much attention and when he did, he didn’t retain much of the information, but he didn’t have a meltdown in class and for now that has to be good enough.

He goes to the computer lab to print his letter for the day because it’s normal and part of his schedule. And because he’s still pretending he can do this assignment. That he can pretend that everything is okay when nothing is okay at all. That he can find some optimism in a world that’s permanently gray.

Connor Murphy is sitting at one of the computers.

He has his feet kicked up on the table and his hood pulled down over his eyes.

Evan decides the best thing to do is leave. He can print the letter tomorrow. Change his schedule to do it before school. Be anywhere other than here .

Connor sits up as soon as he turns to leave.

“Evan, right?” Connor asks, tugging on his hoody.

“Y-yeah.” Evan grips the straps of his backpack. He needs to ground himself. Somehow.

Connor sighs. “Sorry about…” He gestures vaguely with a hand. “My parents. I heard they jumped you.”

“Not ex-exactly,” Evan mumbles. He’s trying to form an exit strategy but his mind isn’t working right.

“Yeah well Larry is a piece of shit and my mom hasn’t really stopped crying in days.” Connor pulls his legs down and stands up from the chair and oh god Evan forgot how tall he was. “Good job getting out of visiting. It was the fucking worst.”

Evan glances at the ground. He sees Connor’s name on his cast out of the corner of his eye. He tightens his grip on his backpack. “W-was it planned?”

Connor shrugs. “This is like the fourth time I’ve tried, why does it fucking matter anymore?”

Evan grits his teeth. “Was it planned?”

Connor scoffs. “Why do you care ?”

Evan looks up at him. “B-because you paid me!” He lifts his cast toward Connor. “You signed this cast and made it look like we were—”

“Oh my god,” Connor murmurs.

“What was I supposed to do?!” Because that’s the question. What did Connor want from him ?! Why him?

Connor tore at his hair. “Are you fucking serious —”

“What was I supposed to do if you died ?” Evan interrupts. “What then? Y-your family already thinks we’re best friends—”

“I can’t believe I tried to kill myself and you—”

“— Was I just supposed to lie?! Lie about being best friends with the dead kid? Was that your plan, Connor?!”

“Oh fuck off! ” Connor shouts.

Evan shakes his head. His mind is spinning and there are all these possibilities and he feels like he’s going to fall over. “Because it sure feels like you were using me and I know what it’s like to— I know what it feels like and I’ve been there but I never thought ‘oh man I should drag this other person down with me’, I just jumped out of a fucking tree!”

Evan breathes heavily as Connor stares at him, eyes wide.

“…you what?” Connor asks. There’s no anger in his voice, just—

Evan reruns his last words in his mind.

Oh no .

“N-no no I-I just meant—” Evan holds his hands out in front of him and shakes his head. “I di-didn’t—” He steps backward and stumbles over himself. “I-I need— I have to go.”

He twists around, tripping as he runs out of the computer lab, slamming his shoulder against the door to open it as he flees.

He thinks Connor might call after him.

He doesn’t care.