November 11, 2013

The Stroke of Douche O'Clock

Thankful November has me traveling back in time a bit.  It’s true, the saying that you remember events more than you do material things.  Generally, I think that statement is supposed to convince you to take that vacation over buying a new 3D tv.  You know, make good memories.  That’s not always the case though.  How often have we all done something, or had something happen that we’ve played back over and over in our heads?  This is one such memory.


I was a freshman in college at a school literally halfway across the country.  The love of my short life had just dumped me, fearing that the distance was going to be too great.  (I can’t blame him.  It was the right thing to do, even though I was devastated at the time.)  I was far from home, and lost in my new environment.  If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that I was also slipping into my first bout of real, clinical depression.  



My dorm room was in the basement of Morgan hall.  It was an all freshman residence, and the basement was co-ed.  You’d think my teenage self would have loved it.  Except, I didn’t.  I spent more time sulking and thinking of all the *things* I needed to make my life there “better”.  I was a sort of novelty.  I mean, who knew that they grew kids with brains as well as corn in the flyover states?  I didn’t have a niche, which was nothing new to me.  I grew up being a one-off for reasons I had no control over.  But, here it took me much longer than it usually did for me to shrug it off and go my own way.  Somewhere along the way, I remember having a conversation with someone who, in retrospect, I’ll loosely call a friend about how miserable I was.  


I confessed how much I missed my beloved artist, and wondered if he missed me at all.  I thought I took the breakup quite well.  He told me he thought we should call it off while we were sitting on the swings at the park down the way from his house.  I cried a little, and then we went back and read comic books for another hour.  It wasn’t till I was on my way home that I cried so hard I couldn’t see the road.  I had to pull off the road to cry till I burst blood vessels in my cheeks.  And months later, I still clung to the idea that there was a chance that he’d think he’d made a mistake and say we’d try and make it work.  Young love, right?  It never works that way.


I confided in him that I showered up to three times a day because the water cascading over me felt like an embrace.  I told him how I wasn’t ok.  I was sad all the time, and barely left my dorm for more than classes.  I dreamed of the ability to just pick up and go, without a care in the world.  As it was, I felt trapped in my windowless cell of a room.  Sitting on my elevated bunk, my feet turned in on themselves and I twisted the spiral phone cord in my fingers (a nervous habit I have to this day) I whispered that I’d even felt suicidal.  I threw my emotional wellbeing out like a lifeline, tethered to me with intestine and fear of rejection.


And rejection is exactly what I got.


What I heard over the muffled long distance line, through the crackles and pops of an analog connection was the kind of rebuff you’d save for the guy who gets a little too handsy on a first date.  According to him, he wasn’t talking to the same Ephemily he knew.  She was strong, knew how to take care of herself, and I just needed to put on my big girl panties, lace up my boots, and get over myself.  I was a disgrace, and he was ashamed to know me if that’s who I was going to turn in to.  While I’ll admit, sometimes tough love is the best way to learn a lesson, this was not the time for that.  I was fragile and grasping for help from someone familiar.  I was devastated.  


Truth be told, I don’t remember how I reacted.  I can’t say that I handled it with grace.  I was 17 years old, so the better bet would be there was an awful lot of screeching, crying, cussing, and name calling.  What came out of it was that his grandfather had recently had a stroke and wasn’t expected to live.  


I get the perspective check here.  I do.  It’s not all about me, not by a long shot.  However, a little compassion would have been all it took at the time.  Especially from a close friend.  Perhaps his sense of what it means to be that person to another wasn’t well enough developed to see what he had just done.  The amount of blame or fault here is irrelevant.  The result was that I placed that phone, sticky with ear sweat, back on its cradle at the end of that call feeling as if I had banished a part my ability to trust others down the Ma Bell abyss, never to return.  It’s been a difficult time really entrusting what can actually hurt me to anyone ever since.  I have learned to keep my own counsel, possibly to my own detriment.  As an adult, I’m trying to unlearn this, but it’s a long road, full of potholes.  And winter is coming.   

Author's note:  I have yet to find a silver lining or a lesson here.  I've tried.  All I've managed to come up with is acceptance that my pain is not everyone else's problem.  I didn't expect my needs to trump his situation.  But, a little empathy and friendship could have saved some cardiosclerosis, that's for sure.

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