Good friend to bad friend. Present to absent. Involved to disinterested.

I’ve done this backlash before. Last time, I survived with only one friendship intact.

This time, it might be less.

ï ï ï

The big honkin’ Casio DataBank 150 with the address book and calculator and eighteen other functions has disappeared. I took it off one day and haven’t put it back on, have successfully lost it completely. Suspecting it is somewhere downstairs, as I hear its plaintive hour-beep on occasion, near the TV.

Off with digital, on with analog: my delicate little Timex Indiglo bracelet-watch, battered and familiar. Chad bought it for me on Sweetest Day, 1995 … the day I found out that no one else in the multiverse celebrates Sweetest Day except Mister Hallmark and me.

“Aren’t you going to say something … ?” I mumble into the receiver, twisting slowly in my office chair with one foot propped up on the windowsill. The autumn is warm, still, but I hate my ankles so I’m in leggings and not shorts.

“I’m going to say … what?” Chad replies, the chuckle edging his voice, a bit of tension behind there, too. He has no idea, I realize. He really doesn’t. O well, might as well have fun with it.

“It’s Sweetest Day.”

“What the hell is Sweetest Day?”

“The day you get your sweeties presents,” I proclaim, forcing my syllables into a mock-quiver.

I hear Chad lean away from the phone and ask the roomful of guys, “Hey, anyone ever hear of ‘Sweetest Day’?” His answer is a low rumble of snickering and ‘you’re in trouuuubles.’

“It’s okay,” I sigh. “You bought me a watch.”

Pause. “I … did?”

“Yes. You did.”

And he really did, retroactively: about a week later, he sent me a check for the cost of the watch. Every year since, we mark the day with me “forgetting” and Chad “reminding” me of what day it is.

I don’t really think it’s all that silly a holiday, to be honest. Now, Valentine’s Day – there’s a silly holiday. Celebrating the death of a saint who had some funky platonic relationship with a nun. Symbolism: arrows in hearts. I mean, OW.

ï ï ï

Pleas, in email, in voicemail, in person, pleas to please let them in. Talk to me, listen to me, just be around … you aren’t around anymore. I’m around, I insist, just not as immediately. I’m around, but I don’t want to be.

There should be a pause button somewhere, so I can put this on hold and figure it out without anyone missing me, without anyone reading anything into my silence. If I wanted to talk, I would. A middle-point occurred about a week ago; I wanted to talk again. Coincidentally, I was asked, begged to talk by several people that day, and the middle-point sped away, leaving this backlash in its wake.

You want me to say I am okay, and I will say it, because I am. But no, I won’t say it, because I don’t want to say anything right now.

ï ï ï

Escaping into online trivia games is apt. Trivial things to distract me from what I don’t want to face right now. It’s only postponing the inevitable, the eventual confrontations by innumerable friends, telling me how awful I’ve been, how long they’ve missed me, how scared they become when I withdraw from them.

I am angry at myself for avoiding people, angry at them for needing so much when I can’t give anything. And then the flipside of that is their offerings of help, for me to lean on them, open up to them, trust them again. Talk, just talk. You can say anything as long as you talk to me.

But I don’t want to be that person; I can’t be her. Even though the easiest solution seems to be the one I’m taking – avoiding, escaping – it isn’t. The easiest solution would be for me to go on as I did before and continue to put other people before myself, in some idiotic, misplaced martyr-instinct that could only stem from my own inability to deal with any-damn-thing on my own.

ï ï ï

I would stay up three or four extra hours at a time, despite exhaustion, to listen to friends’ myriad difficulties. I had no advice to give, nothing but support, and even then I always felt as if my support was somehow lacking, because no matter how much I would give, it was never enough.

You’ve done this to yourself, I keep repeating. You surround yourself with people, tell them you can always be sweetness and light, convince them somehow that you deserve their trust and confidence, and then … ?

I am sated with people. Desperate for some days off, or just one day off, in which I am not reminded of letting someone down.

You can’t fix people, I keep repeating. You can only love them and support them and hope they fix themselves; that’s all anyone can ever do for you, in return.

And when I am tired of this routine, what then? When I need to be by myself?

Then you have to accept that some will go away.

ï ï ï

For my twenty-third birthday, my mom came to Birmingham. She bought me a small leather pouch on a cord, and two stones to go inside: one for my birthstone, an asymmetrical, polished amethyst, and the other for my golden birthday, a piece of golden spinel, which looks like molten glass with spikes of golden tinsel trapped inside. I wore that pouch for over three years, every day, and it bulged with tiny stones and charms from people adding to my collection. Two weeks ago, I took it off, and I haven’t put it back on.

I can’t decide if these outward changes are healthy or not – no matter how small they might seem, they are monumental for a habit-creature such as myself. There are inward changes to go along with them, and I’m undecided about those, too. I certainly don’t feel good about shutting people out, but it feels markedly better than letting them in without caring about my particular needs.

Do you know what a good friend is? No, I always reply. I don’t even know what a friend is. In fact, I wish I could start all over in order to see step-by-step what makes a friend and what doesn’t. Now that I have these people in my life, I’ve forgotten what keeps them here other than my overwhelming sense of obligation.

It’s true most of that “obligation” crap has to do with my own anger. At least eighty percent of these days I spend angry. There is no way to convince the people in my life that it doesn’t have to do with them; I’m quite sure that no one compartmentalizes their feelings quite as much as I do, when I’m angry. I can store things in the deep freeze better than anyone I know.

But the rest of the world keeps on growing, melting, changing, and there really isn’t a pause button, and at some future date I will claw my way out and defrost and expect everyone else to want me again.

And what if they won’t? I keep repeating.

Then you have to accept that some will go away.

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