I hung out with my friend again last night. We were at his other friend’s house smoking some weed and her son was home. At first we were having an interesting conversation. I may have gone off on a tangent about why it’s too late for these 2A’ers1 to stop the government from bringing their boot down. And why does our little pissant town need a fucking tank? My friend was nodding a long and suddenly the young guy decides to change the subject. By the way, I’m pretty sure he’s younger than Sam, but I didn’t ask. He’s technically an adult, I know, but pffft. Anyway, this guy goes in the other room and comes out with two totes full of Jordans.
Two. Totes. Full. Of. Jordans.
The guys are suddenly in this animated conversation about these freaking shoes and my eyes couldn’t possibly roll harder without becoming dislodged. I left the conversation pretty much immediately. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around a table full of men talking about some shoes and I did not miss that crap at all. I started scrolling through Twitter to keep my traitorous mind off of bad subjects.
“Jen! Jen!” I’m off in my own little world – completely blocking out this boring ass conversation. I mean, I wasn’t even trying to pretend to be interested. Honestly, I was waiting to chill out a few minutes then off to home I was going. I look at him. He’s grinning. I don’t know why. He’s always grinning. “Get off your phone and scratch my back, homie.” Argh. I could feel my face turn. I hate this.
So he stands close to me with his back facing me. I start scratching all over, as hard as I can. I’ve done this little dance before and I wasn’t in the mood last night. “Scratch my back” = “I have a reason for you to touch me” and I don’t want to touch anyone else. So, I scratch hard. He starts to wiggle. Over here, no there, right there, OK, NEVERMIND. I sat back down. Sorry, dude, I’m not here for that. I was tired. I just wanted to be entertained – distracted. I have a lot on my mind and none of it includes getting naked with this guy.
So, they went back to their conversation and I went back to scrolling. My brain went back to whatever dark place it likes to live and all was right with the world. After a while it was time to go and off we went. I was so glad to be done with that fucking shoe nonsense. I mean, I had no idea how serious that shit is. I was much happier not knowing.
On our way he and I started talking about other things. He’s got stuff on his mind, but he didn’t want to talk about it in front of people. I don’t make a good confidant. Not because I can’t listen. And not because I don’t have the ability to make someone very comfortable. I listen very, very well. I’m very empathetic. I am capable of being the perfect secret keeper2. I don’t mean to give off that vibe, but I do. I’m too good at collecting secrets. And so my arsenal grows.
He’s a clown. Everyone’s favorite funny man. People assume he’s always happy and he’s always sleeping around and he’s always having a good time. We talked about that. We talked about booze and weed and hiding from ourselves. He told me he was just going to go home and pass out, get up for work in the morning, come home from work, smoke some weed, drink some beer and pass out again. Rinse and repeat. He says he has no real social life as he doesn’t even want to be around people. Except he always is and so he’s always got to be the happy guy. Except he’s not. I can totally relate. I tell him I’m the same way – minus the beer. I get up in the morning, go to work, come home, find my bed, smoke some weed, watch tv until I fall asleep. That’s it for me right now.
We’ve had similar conversations before. They’re always very short – secrets whispered when no one else is around. He tells me of his girlfriend who is getting completely nuts and clingy. He tells me he might have loved her if he could. He tells me she has his things and is going to burn them. I laugh. Yes, I know how that is. I tell him maybe she’s bluffing. Just go see her. He doesn’t answer that.
We talk about our public faces – how people see us. I’m tough – a survivor who doesn’t take shit from anyone. I too easily joke. I have people come into my job just to see me, because I listen to their stories and they think I like them. Generally, I don’t. I just play the part, because if they weren’t lonely they wouldn’t seek me out at work. I can empathize and that makes them feel better. They never see me sigh heavily or roll my eyes. He tells me about his perma-smile. How he can’t look serious or act serious without someone taking offense. He’s got to put on an act to be accepted. Always had to. But he hates people too. He hates how they expect him to be. He hates that he needs to be the life of the party. He enjoys our chats because I get that.
We talk about putting the mask on and suddenly I have an idea for a story. I have one almost every time I’m with him. But this is another good one. I mention that people have been wearing those same masks since time immemorial. Sometimes they actually did wear masks to hide themselves from the world. I tell him about the one time Lucifer was watching me put on makeup. He’d said “it’s like watching you paint” and my replied had been “I’m putting on my war paint”. Because, to me, dealing with strangers all day is like going to war. I have to pretend and it’s exhausting. By the time I’m done for the day I just want to hide in my room.
That’s the end of the conversation. It was another short one. Just a burst of “this is who I am, see me” conversation. Both of us testing the other to see if we can even go there. He’s firmly in my “friend zone” and I think he understands that – even if he wants to try more. Both of us are tired of pretending to be happy when we’re clearly miserable. The mask gets so heavy and all you want to do is take it off for a little while.
Not long after Sam and I broke up we had one of those conversations. It was so short, but full of a lot of information. I told him how terrible I’d been and how I aimed to completely obliterate whatever could be mended in my relationship with Sam. I told him that I’m good at the evil when I get out of control. He remembered the fights Bobby and I used to have. He told me he gets the same way. It doesn’t matter how he feels, when he’s hurt he comes out full demon and doesn’t let up until everything is blown to bits. “They’re leaving anyway, right?” Right. If it’s over then make it be over. Give yourself no way to try to get back in. Close off all access to yourself so you’re never able to go back and fix it.
I think that was one of the deepest conversations I’ve had with a non-therapist in years. We were raw with each other just then. It was another short conversation whispered in the car on the way home. Because we both needed to confess the pain we’d inflicted and admit the shame we felt over it. Yes, I do that here often enough. I’ve never met another person that so readily admitted to doing the same thing3. Bits and pieces here and there. It’s something new every time we hang out.
You can be surrounded by people and still be incredibly lonely.
I’m not ready for more than pure, raw sex or just someone to hang with. I don’t want that in-between. That bridge. Not right now. I prefer the safety of either/or. I’m not attracted to my friend like that4, but I know eventually I’m going to have to deal with that. I know his mind is moving in a whole other direction – evidence of which is in the way he describes his girl5. I’m not looking forward to that at all. I just want to be around someone who doesn’t expect me to be anything other than what I am right now. No lectures, no admonitions to be stronger, no reminders that I’m probably better off. Right now I’m perfectly fine with the way things are.
Of course, now that I think on it I had a similar thing going with Sam for months. Until we went over that cliff. Now I’m out one of the best friends I had.
I like geeky stuff, politics, squirrels and monkeys.
- Second Amendment freaks – most of whom are unaware there is a lot more to the Constitution than their militia talk. [↩]
- And, boy, do I have some secrets that I will never tell. Not my secrets, mind you. Other secrets. A lot of them. [↩]
- No, he wasn’t mirroring me. I don’t think. I’m never sure anymore. [↩]
- No matter what Sam or his troll doll friend might think or say. [↩]
- They’re not “in a relationship” he tells me. Bullshit, I tell him back. [↩]