Thursday, January 29, 2009

manning up II

Something strange happened the other night at Joe's and I'm not sure if I can explain it right, but I'm going to try. I showed up around half past midnight and he was playing cards with his neighbor and a guy I'll call Roger, who I've met several times but have never really had a real conversation with. He is a nice enough guy, but he is hard to connect with, and hard to understand because he tends to be a low talker and he is always drunk. He is so drunk all the time that he wears that expression of squinty eyes and stuporous grin and when he talks it's like a wad of gum is falling out of his mouth. But he is very genial and harmless in general, although he seems to have a serious drinking problem and a tendency to want to drive home, even when he is passing out at the same time.

I was trying to talk him out of driving home and a little frustrated with Joe and his neighbor for not being more forthright in just taking Roger's keys from him and putting him on the sofa, particularly given a history of certain episodes, but he was just mumbling something about me needing to go to sleep. Joe and his neighbor vacated the room for a moment, and then Roger suddenly said, "You should wait for Joe." It was an odd thing to say, and I didn't know what he meant, but when I asked him to explain it, he just repeated it, over and over, sometimes adding, "Joe's a good guy. You should wait for him."

This struck me as hard because just last week I got disgusted with the Joe situation and decided, in light of his leaving, that I wasn't going to see him anymore because it was going to make me sad. I informed a friend of this decision and she said something pretty elegant to me that put it all into perspective: Seriously, you're going to be sad anyway. You might as well spend time with him.

Then this past week Joe and I have taken our "relationship" to the next level. This means several things. It means that I am actually engaging with him, talking to him, telling him things. It's pretty amazing how long we've been faux-dating and how much I've managed to not tell him. It's also pretty humbling to see how transparent I see how much he's discerned just by osmosis. It also means that I am allowing myself to actually like him, something I haven't let myself fully do this whole time. It is scary and I am remembering what it is like, just trying to enjoy the moment. Hearing Roger, who is someone who is known to me, but really a stranger, just say to me point-blank that I should wait for him, was quite surreal.

I gave up trying to understand what he meant and tried to refocus the conversation on the merits of not driving drunk, when Roger asked me for a hug. I obliged. I sat back down across from him and watched him drink his water. He continued looking around us in a glazed fashion with that grin on his face, and then he mumbled some kind of question, something like, "What gives?" I didn't know how to respond to this, and told him so, and then he suddenly became very lucid and articulate and told me he was really attracted me.

I've noticed that since entering Soberland, there have been so many instances in which I've been rendered completely speechless. This was one of those times.

Then he returned to the "You should wait for Joe," mumbling, adding, "Joe is more of a man than me."

The mood in the living room, which had been all jolly and sleepy and drunk was suddenly so intense and dark. It was really fucking shocking. He began saying very intense things, punctuated with mumbling more "what gives," which confounded me. He finally said, "I don't know how to talk to you. I'm just attracted to you. How should I talk to you?" I completely ignored his remarks about being attracted to me and said he'd have to ask me a real question that required an answer that was more than "What gives," so he said, "What are you looking for?"

This was a question that really begged for a response, but the whole situation was confusing me. Not five minutes ago, this guy had been passing out upright. And not fifteen minutes ago, the card game had ended because he had lost his hand...literally; he misplaced his cards. And yet right then and there we began to talk to each other in a deeply personal way, leaning over the coffee table. I told him about how I always looked for things that I thought I wanted...only to find out that the things I thought I wanted...weren't really what I wanted. And he started to tell me about how everything he wanted always turned to shit.

He stopped talking the second Joe walked back into the living room. He sat down next to me and said something like, "What's up, guys?"

At that point, Roger leaned back into his chair very easily, and his dark expression disappeared, the drunk mask resumed, and he just shrugged and smiled at Joe and mumbled "Eh?"

I felt like I was fucking insane.

I couldn't tell Joe about it. Would you have? In our previous realm of keeping him at arm's length, this wouldn't have been an issue. But now that we are talking to each other, I feel like I have to tell him things. I tried to let it pass. Then the next day, Roger called Joe and asked him to apologize to me for him. He kind of wanted to know.

I don't know why this is bothering me so much. But really. That exchange made me feel like I was fucking insane.


Anonymous said...

this might be really obvious -- but even though your instinct was not to tell Joe about Roger's advances, it might be -- much like just sitting and being still with Joe -- that once you actually do it, not only will it not be totally freaky, but it might actually help you get clarity on what the fuck Roger was doing (since Joe probably has more info on what makes the guy tick) and thus you end up feeling less insane.

but it does sound harrowing!


Anonymous said...

my broader point was that by doing stuff that's scary or uncomfortable some surprisingly good spill-over effects might result.

on the other hand, while i agree in principal -- and often in practice -- with the elegant point ("you're going to be sad anyway, might as well spend time with him"), it's also worth noting that spending more time with Joe might lead you to be less open to other potential connections. I say this as someone who always sucks the marrow out of every relationship that is tottering on failure out of the belief that "well, i'd be sad anyway, might as well get all of it". It turns out that for me, doing so does give me some satisfaction that i "gave it my all" and "enjoyed the time with her as best i could" and thus removes future nagging "would've should've could've"s. But it also exacts an emotional price that only gets redeemed, i think, once i've met someone else. and then it starts all over! woohoo. hang in there.