Monday, May 25, 2015

Inside / outside.

I wrote part of this as a writing class exercise. I decided to post it here, because it's true, and has some interesting bits to it. 

A. is very sweet. She’s good hearted and has a helpful nature. A. can also be a hot mess. She doesn't own the term. I've worn it for a while. My late teens and early 20’s were a cacophony of ugly-crying and deferred decision-making.

The worst of it came when my high school best friend decided to become a Jehovah's Witness in order to be with her boyfriend. I was a tattooed, pierced, vegan atheist. I attended Kingdom Hall with her to show my support. Eventually the only times I saw her were if I went to church with her. It became a battle to hang on to her, but it was a battle I engaged in willingly for longer than I should have. After losing my dad at 13, losing someone intentionally made no sense to me.

Post-high school friendships are odd. There’s just so much possibility in them. You could meet any other person and like them and spend time with them. We have cars now. We can set our own schedule. We can make our own dates and judge for ourselves what’s appropriate. No more friendships based on your neighbourhood or their geographical proximity. My high school time was spent with a few girls and a large group of guys. Good guys. Funny. Charismatic. The type of guys who could recite SNL dialogue on Monday and would stay up all night with you to study for an exam. I was a tomboy who loved our girl/boy sleepovers. A few parents understood platonic friendships were possible. We’d spend the night laughing and being ridiculous in a way hardly experienced in the self-censoring and sensitivity of girls. Boys’ll fart on your head without a care in the world.

Our movements forward lead us elsewhere. They were at bars and clubs, enjoying casual sex. I was in a basement bedroom, surviving my depression through a self-imposed hermitage. As my entrenched friendships from high-school began to decay I looked to school. I wasn't in a good place, struggling, I told myself if I went to school, at least I was doing something productive. I no longer recognized those who knew-me-when. They were filled with so much promise and excitement. I was not. I felt college was meant for me, for others. Here I could hear things I’d never heard. I could disappear into the walls and just absorb.

After university, I was navigating panic attacks on top of my chronic depression, so naturally I was loads of fun to be around. I figured the best way to avoid my life was to go back to school. A. and I met in technical college. We were both studying graphic design. She signed up for a service where a classmate acts like a sort of official nag, reminding you of homework and critical deadlines. I was that nag. We gradually spent more time together, bonding over the fact that we weren't born in the 90’s like most of our classmates.

As I got to know her, I learned her accent was from Nova Scotia and that she was new to Montreal. One afternoon after class I visited the condo she shared with her boyfriend. The condo was perched on top of a large, red-bricked building by a large public market. It was fancy. I was instantly impressed by the place. It was the nicest place I’d seen in the city for someone my age. There were no milk-crates anywhere, it had art on the walls. There was a guest room. When she lead me into the light-filled space we were greeted by two spastic jack russels. I love dogs, so though their energy was frenetic and overwhelming I was happy to pet them and babble encouragingly to them about their assumed goodness.

Over the span of the next two years we became increasingly close. Her boyfriend was rich. He had summer homes and a winter ski retreat in the mountains. We gladly trekked all over the province to babysit his family dogs in the lap of luxury while they were off, being rich internationally. We’d show up at his parent’s mansion with a menagerie of dogs and relax. It always took a few days for me to adjust to the level of comfort and grandeur that apparently had existed near me all this time. Was being rich common?

One summer we headed out to the coast to a sea-shore house that was over 100 years-old. We brought my brother’s discerning schnauzer Jack along for the trip. Every-time we sat quietly, appreciating the ocean air and breeze and A.’s frenzied dogs would run into the room Jack would look at me worriedly and sigh audibly. On the drive home the dogs were relegated to the back seat with A., Jack—over the span of 20 minutes or so—slowly squeezed himself between the driver-side door and driver’s seat in order to eject himself from the undesirable company. Jack was onto something.

Having enjoyed this mystery boyfriends many vacation homes, I was glad to finally get the chance to meet him. A. and I walked into a small café near her condo. It was small and familiar, seemingly filled with regulars. We were the only women, and I read the space as being a popular hangout amongst gay men. I made my way to the counter and was met by a smiling barista. He was slender and blonde, well coiffed and at ease, flicking a towel onto his shoulder as he pushed a coffee over to A. We all exchanged pleasantries until I received my order, at which point he pointed out how happy he was to finally meet me.

I was faced with an interesting dilemma. How to discuss with a friend, the seeming gayness of her partner. As we walked I made it clear that relationships take all forms. Sexuality is a spectrum, as is gender. People want and need different things. Monogamy isn't for everyone. When I broached the subject of her partner, she confirmed he was gay and that his family disapproved so she felt he asked her to move in as a beard. She casually talked about how she slept with whoever she wanted, and how she was seeing some of his married friends I felt for both of them, he for needing to lie to his family, she for being away from hers, desperate for a tribe of her own. I was uncomfortable with all the lying though. Seeing married guys, knowing their wives, not caring about outcome or after-math. She was so nonchalant about all of it.

A few weeks later we went for drinks. A. got very drunk very fast and left with a stranger. On Monday she asked what happened, casually referring to her propensity towards getting black-out drunk. I filled her in the best I could, and worriedly asked her if this happened a lot. She laughed it off and told me not to worry. I did anyway.

She eventually left the red-brick condo with good light, and I helped her find a place and get situated. The following few months involved a lot of sex with guys, while dating other guys. I was constantly worried and dreading her phone calls. She eventually got pregnant and it was unclear who the father was. Her drinking started and ended that problem.

It was at a friends wedding where her drinking lead to an early night in for her, and an enjoyable, joy-filled night for me. I reflected on that afterwards, friends pointing out they would rather I be present for various social events since she couldn't be trusted alone. She wasn't my drunken baby. I began resenting her. I had a lot of guilt about this. She was kind and very sweet, but she was so comfortable lying and putting herself in harms way, I was perpetually worried for her in ways she would never worry about herself.

One day I received a call from A. while driving. I let it go to voice-mail. Safety first. I listened to it once arrived at my destination. It was an easy going message about this one dirt bag and then there was this other dirt bag. I rolled my eyes. I didn't return her call. I texted her and told her I needed some space. That summer, I pulled away from A. Shortly afterwards she moved back to Nova Scotia.

I don’t like the way things ended between she and I. I guess I also don’t like that it had to end at all. I don’t regret the split - but I regret the indirect route it took. Sending a text message was lame. I don’t really see what I could have said that would have suitably answered any question she might have had whilst making it clear she’s free to her life and the way she wants to live it. It just became very hard to watch. She is everything I am not, and it’s always very hard to let go.

I often dream about her. They’re always nightmares. When I heard she had a baby I dreamt she showed up at my house with it in hysterics. I still have good memories about her, but usually, when I think about her, it’s with anxiety in my chest.

Lately I've chastised myself for the way I've thought about her. Sure, she’s a hot mess, but so am I. With her, it’s all on the outside. It’s evident. Externalized. She lets it out, and lives her life. With me, it’s all internalized. It’s all still there, it’s just recycled within me. I'm constantly in pain, I just don’t know how to let it out. I look at her with a hint of envy because at least she has that release. I long to cry. To sob. To completely spend myself through tears and gasps. To yell and scream. To slur curses. I don’t do that. I sit. I dwell. I remember. I fret. I long. I romanticize. I hate myself. It hurts. Nearly all the time.

I don’t know if it ever really gets better. I'm in my early 30’s now, and it just seems like I'm getting a knack for the language of it all, but that’s about it. Nothing is getting better. The struggle continues. I'm constantly disappointed by life's refusal to get any easier. What’s the old cliché, life, nobody gets out of it alive. I don't want to get out of it alive, but I'd like to live it as something more than as the walking cursed. 

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