Friday, March 28, 2008

Lonliness is next to Sadliness

I wrote this ramble somewhere else, and thought about how I neglected this poor blog, only stopping by to give it a T-shirt. So is my post wherein I talk about the lonely one.

The lonely one.

I have always felt bad for the lonely one. Elgin was in my fifth grade class, and Ben S. wrote a story called "the Smellgin" that everyone thought was funny (because he smelled) and I just felt awful for Elgin (but the fact taht he smelled made it hard for me to be friends with him). There was Steven C. 9who made me feel uncomfortable when he talked about kissing his mom "hello" when he got home from school, Alan with heart problems and long white fingernails, and the guy with a tumor on his leg in third grade (whose name I don't have the charity to remember).

All through life I felt sad for the lonely one and I wished I could do something, but I never had enough confidence in myself to feel like I was good for much. So I'd talk to them, move my desk to their island, but I still wanted the cool friends, the interesting and attractive people that avoided ridicule. One time we were playing soccer at recess and I tripped Justin I. (chubby plus freckles) and he fell in a puddle of mud. Everyone laughed and I got all sorts of back slaps, but I felt awful. Yet I drank up the backslaps like some sort of luxury chocolate shake.

So life went on, and there was always that kid. The one with the smelly jacket, or the deaf girl that you could throw stuff in her hair and she didn't know, there was also that guy that read "the Sword of Shanara" and used the bathroom to go number two with the door open. and I couldn't do a darn thing to be on their side, because then they'd throw stuff in MY hair or pull down my pants when I was talking to the pretty girl. This is the dilemma of a Junior High Student. I still regret to this day ditching one of my best friends because I was convinced that he would be an impediment and all the things that made him decent and good were the things that would not stand up at BJH. You cannot make friends with Gomez or you too will get heaved into the bushes at lunch. If you talk to J.Wakefield, your pants are in danger of getting ceremoniously dumped.

In High School I got some confidence and found that people would be around me if I did funny things. So I did funny things and sometimes on television or for assemblies, but I didn't think of myself as cool or popular or any of that. I still sweated when asking a girl out (and avoided them until the day of the date, lest they should change their mind). But there were still the lonely ones skulking down the halls and you knew them and everyone knew their name, but know I think I started to settle into a groove and realized that I loved art and wasn't awful at soccer and being good at school wasn't something to hide. I ran for a class office and then for a Student Body Office (for in the mind of my Junior-year-self there was no arrival greater, nor pronouncement of completion more final). I wrote the scripts myself and made the posters in the wee hours of my house. I walked around the lunch room shaking hands and making ridiculous promises because any promise was ridiculous. Miracle of miracles, I get elected to a Student Body Office, and feel like I have arrived.

So my job is to make announcements, but I also think that from now on, things are going to be different. I will sit with Elgin and Justin and James and Steven and everyone else will realize that we are all okay, and it would be just like a seminary videos. And the kid with ketchup on his shirt will be the prom queen and I will dance with the heavy-set gal at Jr. Prom.

So on the first day of School, I notice this kid with extra-thick glasses that involve some tape (I think they were the type that are supposed to turn dark in sunlight, but instead are always just kind of dark). I watch him as he eats by himself slowly and deliberately. His eyes are on the table and he finishes efficiently then exits quickly. This pattern would continue every day for a week.

I point this out to my friend and lay out my plan. He is in on it with me. We go and sit with this guy with the biggest dopiest grins on our faces. We introduce ourselves and the guy looks up, hurt and says, "oh, I see what you are doing." and gets up and walks away. So all of the sudden I am Ben eFFing Scribner writing a story about Smellgin and there is nothing I can do to make this guy think different.

Fast forward a few years. I am in college (freshman year) and I jump into an advanced Physics class. It is the first class I have taken in an auditorium with stadium seating. The students buzz about the professor, "He was on the Manhattan project, some sort of genius." " Did you hear that he never married?" And I take a test or two, and on the second test in class on Friday I miss one of the important problems that is like half of the grade. So disgusted and intimidated by the process I throw the paper away. One week passes, then this professor announces that one of the problems was scored incorrectly and if you bring the test in they will regrade it.

What does a guy do?

Nothing, I sit on it for a week. But I know it will hurt my grade, so I go up to him and explain my situation. I am not asking for anything at this point, I just tell him what happens. He tells me to come back to his office to discuss it. When we get to his office he tells me he is going to retest me right there. He asks me to sit down and he makes up a problem and I am supposed to solve it in front of him. I totally freeze up and stare at the paper for like five minutes. Then he says, "here, you will probably need these formulas" and he writes out a bunch of formulas for me. I do the problem, he slowly takes out a red pen and corrects the problem and I get 8 out of 10 points (a full letter grade difference). He explains what I did wrong and encourages me on the next test. I pulled an A minus in the class (I think, actually I don't know, but I want you to think his encouragment worked, and that I am smart, but not remarkaeble [which I spelled wrong and am leaving as such for my punishment for saying that I am smart]).

Jump forward again, back from my mission, owning campus and living a pretty good life. It's like nine at night. I am studying in the Wilkensen center and I catch a tall tweeded figure out of the corner of my eye. It's this professor and he has a tray with some sandwich on it and he sits down and eats it slowly and deliberately. He looks at the ceiling tiles in the way that makes you think he is pondering physics but I assume he is avoiding eye contact. I remember how he was never married, and now after class he must eat this gummy bread and slow gape on it. I sit and watch him eat and my leg muscles start twitching because I have been on the verge of moving over and sitting with him for a half an hour. All I wanted to say was "I was in your class years ago, and thanks for your help." but I cant' get that other kid out of my mind, and as much as we hate loneliness we also hate pity.

So I don't know what is sadder, lonely guy or cowardice.

There are still lonely ones in my life and this one guy (Brett, who has a clammy handshake and who starts twitching when I talk to him) and sometimes I try to sit with him, but it never feels right, but maybe it's better than nothing. So maybe I am not as much a coward anymore, but you can't ever sit with everyone, and also sometimes you are the lonely guy and you just want someone interesting and confident to come sit by you, but not because you are the lonely one.

So maybe I will just have to treat this blog like the lonely one and start being nice to it. Sometimes the world is just a lonely place and all you can do is sit next to it, and hope it doesn't get the wrong idea.


bjean said...

Oh I see what you're doing. But I don't mind. I'll take the pity. ;)

SummerChild said...

Once, I was the kid who went to church and sat alone and never spoke with anyone. I stared at the walls, lingered in the restroom so I wouldn't be sitting around in the classroom without having anyone to talk to, and ate my cookie at the linger longer in the corner, wondering if it was because I had a moustache of crumbs that no one spoke to me. I wasn't the fat kid, I wore contacts instead of glasses, I smelled decent and wore clothing that fit, I was smart, and could function socially (or so I thought). There was no reason to pity me, and therefore, no one did, and no one realized how lonely I was. It was a rough spell, and luckily it is over (though I do still find myself with that same anxiety more often then I let on). One thing that it taught me, and something I've seen you recognize, is to just be more aware of the people you interact with, because there is always someone's loneliness you can alleviate.

And maybe it is your own loneliness you are alleviating.

Damian said...

I think we have all been the lonely one at one time or another. Unless your name is Zach. Guys named Zach (or Zack) always have plenty of friends.

I hate them.

wild murdocks said...

I'm excited to see how your blog reacts to your extra attention!

As for my lonely/underdog highschool confessional--in my art class there was such a girl. She hid behind greasy hair, had glasses, the whole bit. One day some boys saw her drawing a picture of a puppy and asked if it was a self-portrait. She ran crying from the room. My blood boiled over and from out of no where I cursed at them and went out to comfort her. As I put my hand on her back I felt a brace she was wearing under her clothing. I can't remember why she wore it, but I went back and told the boys. They were sufficiently shamed and apologized. The news spread through the school, and soon this girl had a group of friends. Unfortunately, after that I couldn't stand to be around her, the new found friends and popularity had turned her into some kind of obnoxious, loud, crazy person. I'd like to think that it was just her swinging from one side of the pendelum to the other. And that today she is only moderately obnoxious, free of the back brace, and living under a rainbow of happiness somewhere.

Grundlebug said...

Damian, stumbled on this blog of your somehow. Really enjoyed this post.

Damian said...

thanks guy.

Ninny Beth said...

thanks damian. I've been contemplating the fine line between befriending people out of pity and true charity. This made me think (but just a little bit lest you think me overly thoughtful).

plainoldsarah said...

i've always believed that i'm the lonely one (maybe from years of moving to new places) so i learned to befriend ANYone and count them a friend. once secure i looked around and realized i wasn't neither the most popular nor the least. i also noticed there were plenty of people i avoided - out of pity lest i make them more uncomfortable by my lame attempts at friendship, or just because in my mind i didn't "need" them. i think we all need people. isn't that what barbra sings?

awesome post - thank you!

Spencer and Kari said...

you are a geek.

Rachel said...


I relate. I know. I've been both.

...and thank you for being so "smart". I love the way you write and I love your honesty.

most times my loneliness craves people like you.


f*bomb. said...

Just because I sat next to you, doesn't mean I was pitying you.
My friend really DID think you were hot...

k8 said...

oh my heart. because i know you i remember a lot of those names. i spent a lot of lonely days myself but i never befriended those kids either. i do sometimes hope that somewhere they made lots of money and got hot wives or something. i was nerdy and my life turned ok so i hope there's did too.

SJ said...

Everyone thinks their problem is someone else's problem. I learned early that to have lots of friends you have to be a friend. So I learned to be friendly. At first I didn't WANT to be friendly with the weird or lonely kid. Then I started to feel bad. So I was at least nice to them.

Later I realized I had a hard time relating to older people in the workplace. They saw me as a kid and I didn't really know what I was doing at first and without a real mentor I became the lonely one. So I read a book called "How to Win Friends and Influence People". I came off as a little too cheery. Then I moved back to Utah where everyone is my age. That worked pretty well.

T.R. said...

I've missed you gladhanded. It's good to be reading again.

Hobo said...

The last person I thought was a lonely boy with no friends turned out to have a double black belt in a martial art and managed some sort of art cooperative. Maybe Elgins aren't as lonely as they are just different from most people. They are fine sitting independently, dressing as is, being as is and take the beatings in stride. Maybe that level of existence is easy to misunderstand. And I think it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

saucy said...

i always tried to escape like a ninja but you caught me and now were friends and i thank you for that.

j...d double E d s