Creature of bad habit that I am, I text Jake : “What are you doing?” “Sitting at home, watching the news,” he writes. “Depressed.” Thinking it’s the normal bout of self-consuming sad-story narcissism, I tell him I won’t open the blinds or try to cheer him up. That’s our deal: Just be there. Until he finds something or someone worth occupying his time – a blockbuster movie or a drug-addled B-rate model who barely got her GED – everything and everyone serves as knowing placeholders for the Bigger Better Deal, myself included.
“I’ve got time to kill,” I write, also a prerequisite for our hanging out – me having to be somewhere else. The expectation of having to entertain me for an undefined period of time would be unfathomable to suggest, although I did just the other week, stupidly, when I said maybe, if we weren’t doing anything else, we could go on some tropical vacation. Traveling with the devil you know instead of the devil you don’t (I’ve done that before, trust me). This suggestion was not enthusiastically embraced. More often than not I feel like one of those emotionally challenged kids wearing a helmet and banging my head against a wall like a metronome.
Back to depressed TV sesh.
“Haven’t you been watching the news?” he asks, and then he tells me that some whackjob just shot up an elementary school in Connecticut. Twenty some-odd kids, most of them around six years old.
“No, I’m working. We don’t have TVs.”
“Okay, come over.”
It takes me an hour to get there. When he opens the door he is out of breath, a jump rope in his hands. “I didn’t have time to go the gym,” he says. I still have a vision of him doing handstand pushups in the corner of his hotel room last December, back when I thought he was something else.
“I haven’t done coke since New York!” he says, expecting my praise, which he both respects and resents.
“Ah, I don’t give a shit what you do,” I say, waving my hands and looking away. “Everyone gets fucked up. Who cares?”
Who cares? I care. I care and he knows it. Immediately after it comes out of my mouth, and then more later on, I regret it – the trying to be the cool girl who doesn’t give a shit if he dies or not. But I do care. I do care if he dies.
I sit on the sofa, knees tucked into my chest. We watch the news until it becomes too depressing and repetitive. Too many speculations and images of young children standing outside of the school, hands pressed to their eyes. Aerial shots from helicopters hovering over police cars, SWAT teams, single story buildings, cracks in cement. Jake changes the channel. Puts on a comedy. Some movie I haven’t seen in awhile.
He talks about God knows what for awhile, his voice booming around the room at a volume more appropriate for a cocktail party. He blames this habit on being alone all the time, as though coming out from a coma and no longer being aware of social cues.
Pat shows up. He pulls out a box of Margiela sneakers and says “Look what I got.” Jake’s wearing the same ones. Now they’ve got matching shoes. We talk about holidays and what everyone is doing. Jake’s leaving Tuesday, which is good because whenever we’re in the same city I end up getting depressed in the way that made me pack up my things three years ago and move 3,000 miles away from Poinsettia Street and my ex-boyfriend.
“I’m going to head out,” I say, already feeling as though I’ve overspent my welcome by five minutes. “Wait for Adam to get here,” he says. “I want you to meet Adam.” The only reason I can think he wants me to stay is so that Adam can see me, so he can put a face to a story. Jenny, that decent-looking girl I’ve kept in my back pocket for a whole year. There’s a difference between approval and bragging, and the difference is that it doesn’t matter if Adam likes me as a person or not; Jake already made that clear last January. Jake and I are on different pages, but too often in the same room.
(Photo: Courtesy of Image Spark)