After not-killing the man from Edgar Street and being knocked out by balaclava-clad thugs in his own kitchen, Ed makes his way to Audrey’s house at dawn for help. Pathetic and shaken, with dried beer and blood covering him, he shows up on her doorstep only to find that a...
man is already at Audrey’s house. The man, someone who Ed knows a bit from work, asks Audrey who is at the door:
“Oh.” Audrey shuffles.
“Oh, it’s just Ed.”
To Ed—who refers to himself in the third person as “Just Ed” for a few sentences following this—this symbolizes the hopelessness of his love for Audrey. His love for Audrey is one of the strongest driving factors in his life; he says in the beginning that:
I never left this suburban town. I didn’t go to university. I went to Audrey.
But in this scene it is very clear to him that he is “just.” He is not a threat to this man who has spent the night with Audrey; he is a friend and nothing more. His unrequited love leads him to anguish. Later that night, when Audrey comes over and he’s telling her what he has had to do, he lets his longing spill out:
“And I wish it was me with you and not that other guy. I wish it was my own skin touching with yours. . . .”
Ed himself calls it “stupidity in its finest form,” immediately realizing the mistake that he has made. Audrey, for her part, only tells him that he’s her best friend. Having grown up in a bad family, she is afraid to let herself love anyone, much less her best friend. Ed is sympathetic to this, but he can’t help but think:
You can kill a man with those words.
Just words and a girl.
Later in the story, when Audrey comes over and tells him that he’s become different, better, he realizes:
She liked me being just Ed. It was safer that way. Stable. Now I’ve changed things. I’ve left my own fingerprints on the world, no matter how small, and it’s upset the equilibrium of us—Audrey and me. Maybe she’s afraid that if I can’t have her, I won’t want her.
Like we used to be.
She doesn’t want to love me, but she doesn’t want to lose me either.
At this point, Ed realizes that it was less an unintentional insult than a quality about him that Audrey found comforting. But at this point, he cannot go back to being just Ed, and Audrey must reckon with the possibility of losing him regardless.