Friday, March 28, 2008
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.
Posted by Damian at 3:55 PM