Saturday, August 14, 2010

the dialectics of home-wrecking

I sabotaged a friendship once, trying to save it.

One balmy summer night when I was in University I caught a ride over to a girl named Annie's* house with my friend Chris the Rock Star, and partway there he turned to me and said, "Josh, I have something to tell you before..." but before he could finish I cut in,

"Oh, that you have a mad crush on Annie and are thinking of hooking up with her when y'all are over in Lithuania?"

To which he, of course, said... "What the f...?!?"

because nobody really expects you to be able to read their mind. The fact is, though, that human minds always bend in a few very common directions, and if you pay attention and get to know a person, you can generally tell in which direction they seem to be leaning.  I consider myself to be something of a student of human behavior and Chris was one of my very bestest human friends, so reading his intonation and body language wasn't all that hard.

"Yeah. I'm just super smart." I said.

"So... what do you think?"

And that's where I got stupid. Because even though I said I was smart and made a pretty concerted effort to convince people that I had it all together, the truth was that Chris was one of my only friends, and I was dead-scared to lose him. Annie had been a mutual acquaintance and fun enough to hang out with. I liked her, even; but her dukes-up attitude intimidated me and she wasn't at all the sort of person I would have designed for Chris to be with. The Josh-Barkey-Designed-For-Chris-Type-Girl was sort of a hippie: quiet and ethereally beautiful, with wavy, wispy blonde hair. She wrote poetry while sitting in meadows, valued her alone time, and went dumpster-diving just for kicks and giggles. Annie was not that girl. In fact, she was sort of the opposite of that girl and if you really got down to brass tacks, the truth is that I was a lot more like that girl than Annie.

It made sense to me, though, because Chris was my friend. I had him first and I was not about to just let him go for some girl. So I pretended to know better. I told Chris that Annie really did not seem like his type, and when they came back from their semester of study in Lithuania as a newly minted couple, I conveyed my displeasure in a thousand subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Chris's heart, of course, did not care about my bizarre sense of friend-entitlement, so all I ended up doing was edging Chris a little further away and Annie a lot further away: it really hurts when one of the best friends of the man you love tries to convince him that you're bad news.

As it turned out, however, it was I who was bad news. In some strange way I could not understand, Annie was  great for Chris. She was very different than him, but those differences forced him to change in what I can now see were positive ways. Because of her influence, for example, irresponsible, undependable Chris started to pause before making promises he was unlikely to keep. I began to be able to count on him for the follow-through, and it strengthened our own relationship. The path to healing was long and hard, though, and the stitching barely complete by the day, two years ago, that I emigrated from Canada for the last time. There were tears in Chris' eyes as he slipped me a CD of his un-released music (a serious demonstration of trust and love for a professional musician) and Annie's hug, too, bore an unmistakable and genuine sadness.

Now, I know that although there is little in my actions that is particularly surprising or altogether uncommon, I never cease to be amazed at the capability I have for not only making irrational life choices, but for repeating them ad nauseum.

Last night Austin the Actor/Director (one of my closest, dearest friends in this area) began a relationship with a girl named Timbits** - whom I, also, have been thinking is pretty incredible. She wears clothes she finds in trash cans, cuts her own hair, doesn't wear make-up, thinks holistic food is important, owns no car, draws better than I do, is smart and funny, and (as a bonus) is good-looking enough to turn a lot of guys into gibbering... well, gibbons.

Now, this is not exactly a problem. I am after all still legally married for, say, another month, and Austin (who also plays the role of my mom) has informed me that I have to wait a minimum of a year before I can even think about a relationship with a woman, so "kings to him" and no hard feelings. Except...

...except when Austin and I first started hanging out about a year ago when my marriage was going down the pooper fast, we discovered that despite our very different life paths we were sort of kindred spirits, and were consequently bound to be attracted to the exact same sort of girl - a very, very rare sort of girl who was pretty much exactly like, say, this girl Timbits. We concluded that we would tear each other to pieces over this sort of girl and it would inevitably be the end of our friendship.  The best thing to do if we met such a girl, we figured, was to sit her down, tell her we were going to be competing for her affections, and ask her to outline a series of labors we'd have to complete - with spoils going to the victor.

It was a joke, of course, and doesn't really much matter because I'm still married and Austin is a glamorous actor/director with a rapier wit and a winning smile made of better teeth than mine. Nonetheless, it did make me pause. And by pause, I mean, "get sort of depressed." I mean, what the farfignoogan is so wrong with me, right!?! How come the ladies... and I'm not exactly the Hunchback of... and, well, you get the picture.

So tonight, Austin came over for my birthday gathering and as we hung out I got more and more depressed as he and Timbits texted each other back and forth every fifteen seconds and then it hit me... I thought:

"DANGit! I'm doing it all over again! The situation is different, but once again I am figuring I am going to lose a good friend to a girl. Instead of facing that fear, I am allowing my emotions to pile up, deflecting them into a bucket of sour-grapesology and creating the very sort of negative vibe that always leads prophecies to fulfill themselves."

So what do I do now? If I am going to continue to be friends with Austin, I am going to have to be friends with Timbits as well, and as much as I believe I need to learn to be friends with women, a big part of me is really used to thinking it isn't possible - not when they are the sort of women that Austin and I have agreed we would one day kill each other over.

I am, as they say, at a loss; so I do what I always do these days and try to regain my composure by sitting down and banging out a few thousand regenerative words. I take what's inside and vomit it out onto the internet (along with the personal lives of my friends and family) in the hopes that this indecent exposure will somehow set me free.

The truth is, I feel better. I do. Knowing that Austin's going to be pissed at me if/when he reads this and that Timbits - who barely knows me - is going to be massively awkward the next time we hang out, I do feel much, much better. There is nothing more effective for dissipating bad vibrations than to spin them off onto other people. Color me amused.

Besides, Austin and Timbits will make a marvelous couple. They will. I mean, just watch them texting... it's beautiful.***

.
---

*Yeah, I made that name up. I'm just like that.
**That one, too. Like, no duh.

***I know that was low. I'm venting. I love you both, Austimbits.

4 comments:

  1. You COULD have written this and then deleted it, and you still would have FELT better. It is the act of selecting words and correct usage to express just that exact and perfect feeling that soothes the soul. Good writing is like that. Well, you have soothed my soul too, but maybe you could have waited until after the austimbits are seriously headed for permanent hookup, for example. Aw, shucks.

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  2. Ha, ha. Aunt Aureol (thisbrit), you're right... I COULD have.

    Except, Austin and I have a relationship based almost entirely on his mockery of my foibles. So although I SAY he'll be mad, the truth is, he'll just pretend to be mad as he plans his next bit of sarcasm. The same with Timbits - she's pretty much the Mastress of Snark. The day I actually annoy them with something like this is the day I become certain that they've been replaced by malevolent alien beings intent on sucking my organs out through my nose with their vile proboscii.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Of course, in retrospect, I remember that I am terrible at remembering, and that Saturday night - when Austin came over - was my anniversary. Like, the first anniversary since she left.

    It seems fairly likely that while I may have forgotten, my subconscious sure didn't. Nice to know WHY I was feeling so terrible.

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