I’ve had a hard time sleeping the last handful of nights. It’s stupid. Back when I worked on day shift I’d usually stay awake until two o’clock or three in the morning, wake up at 9:00, and be out the door by 9:30. Now that I’m on swing shift (7 pm to 3 am), my body is conditioned to sleep closer to 6:00 am, or 7:00. It can be a mindfuck when the prime hours of your day are between the sun going down and coming back up… but what am I saying? It’s summertime. Never mind.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I was brought up, trying to reconnect how I got to the point I’m currently at. I take for granted, at times, the image I kept when I was in high school. There — in class especially, but around the campus, too — I always felt like Mr. Slick, like I was constantly pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. But away from school, I was mostly ambiguous. I don’t want to say I was a loner by any means, because people knew me and I knew plenty of people, but I wasn’t nearly as “cool” or smart as I thought I was at the time.
From when I was probably 8 to about 17, I had one best friend. He was the first and only real friend I had during my childhood. After awhile, I sort of arrived at the conclusion that the only reason we remained friends for so long was because we had been friends for so long. When I was 17 — it was during Winter Break of my senior year — I had my first girlfriend for, like, a month, and she broke up with me on Myspace. It sounds immature as fuck in retrospect, but at the time I must’ve thought it was a totally normal thing to do. After all, I didn’t know how any of that shit worked.
Anyway, like a kid who’d never been rejected before like that, I was crushed, and I went to hang out with my friend at his parent’s house. He lived about 15 minutes away. I was all shook up, crying like a little punk, and all I wanted to do was talk about the girl who broke up with me. My friend gave me typical bro responses, like “Get over it, man,” or “She’s just another bitch,” and that probably broke me as much as the girl who actually broke up with me. After a decade of childhood memories — some really good ones — I was stranded that night in the body of an emotional teenager, and nothing was ever really the same between him and I. He was incapable of engaging with me in-depth.
Life is a game of pushing and pulling, and knowing when to push and when to pull. Timing is everything. As a junior in high school, I started hanging out more with Trey; it wasn’t until I met him that I understood what a best friend was. The truth is, we didn’t even hang out that much until we were seniors in high school, but it seemed like every time we were in the same area we each innately gravitated towards each other. My conversations with him were always forward, advanced, things you just don’t talk about at that age, or any age. I’ll probably never know how much he and I have truly figured out in this place, but there’s a timeless quality about the philosophy we share… like we could have existed at any point throughout history and had a mutual understanding of one another.
A year after Trey and I graduated, he and I got into a huge fucking holy war in the middle of a bowling alley parking lot. Coincidentally, my second girlfriend broke up with me about a month before that, so my cycle repeated itself, I guess you could say. I don’t even remember what we were arguing about, but we had already come so far as friends that there was really no room for hanging out less or simply not speaking to each other for awhile; we both had too much pride to have handled it any differently than we did.
So we didn’t communicate for a year and a half.
Aside the fact that I’d never been so goddamn unhappy in my entire life — losing my first love and my best friend in a month, on top of dropping out of Virginia Tech — those are the definitive days I can say I “grew up,” or what have you. I mean, yeah, I was on one most of the time to cope with my mind’s affliction, but my eyes were never so wide open. I had to figure out a way to atone for all my fuckups (which I’ve still yet to do), and in the process try to shore up everything I sucked at as a member of humanity, so I’d never put myself in the same desperate, pathetic position I found myself in. I tend to enjoy the time I have to myself; I’m not someone who gets bored too easily, and never have been. At that point, though, for the first time in my life I felt alone.
So I did what most cliché people in my position do when they have nothing but time to their self: A shitload of reflecting, looking to escape reality by any means necessary. I also ate a lot of ice cream and Cheese Nips.
In my travels from kickback to kickback, party to random party, I befriended a guy named John, who was a year younger than me. He and I became good friends; we drank together and hit on girls and generally always had a solid time. There were limits to our friendship, because it seemed like the only thing we ever had in common was the fact that we were both unhappy with our lives. I think if we didn’t have anything to bitch about, we didn’t have anything at all. The difference between us was that, while I was going through my own shit, I still had a plan. His plan was slower to develop; by the time I was ready to go half’s on an apartment with him, he wasn’t, and Trey and I were back to being on good terms. It didn’t take very long before John and I stopped hanging out altogether after that; like with Trey, it was either hang out everyday or not talk at all. That’s my personality I suppose, and those are the personalities I attract: All-in or don’t even bother to show up.
There’s still a massive amount of resentment from John’s perspective, half of which I can understand. Ostensibly it’s like I dropped him when Trey and I became friends again, and I can see that. But Trey capitalized on something John and I never shared: A foundation.
Whereas Trey and I basically picked up where we left off, John and I never really had anything to go back to. He couldn’t live in a world where I was friends with he and Trey separately; it had to be one or the other. For me, that wasn’t even a decision.
Trey and I don’t talk about the time where we were on hiatus, and I’m fine with that. We both understand how stupid it was, inevitably reconciling that it was never worth our friendship. As for the other two, I’m still conflicted a bit. Do I feel bad for basically orchestrating the severing of both relationships? I don’t. But do I wish they had gone down differently? Probably.
What it comes down to, I think, is aside from my immediate family, there are only two people in the world I would sacrifice my well-being for; if a person doesn’t fall into either of those two categories, I just don’t feel anything for them. Good or bad. Their absences from my life don’t affect me, the same way it doesn’t affect me when I’m out of sugar to put on my Cheerios. I’m numb like that.
I randomly think back to when I was 16, turning my test in during U.S. History. I was the first in my class to finish, because everything has to be a fucking race with me. My teacher asked, “How’s it look?”
“They’re all right, you don’t even have to check it,” I said, probably giving some smarmy ass grin.
Then he pwned my life: “You know, Eric, maybe one day… if you go to college and get your degree… maybe then you’ll be as smart as you think you are.”
He started laughing, I started laughing. A few others in class probably chuckled, too; I don’t remember and it really doesn’t matter.
For the occasional self-loathing, I actually do like the way I am, if for nothing else that I feel mentally capable of anything. It sucks having to be trapped in one mind each day until you die, but if it must be — if it must be like this — I’m glad it’s this one.
Also I would hate to be someone else because I don’t think they would have a better jump shot than me.