Garrett (garote) wrote,

A pattern emerges. This has shaped my adult life.

Friend Doug: We got along well, both had a subversive energy. We would run around and make jokes and wrestle. One day along at my house we wrestled on the tile floor and I knocked his head hard on the tile by accident. "Oh I'm gonna kill you for that!" he shouted. I got up and ran from him and hid. He went looking for me, saying he was going to get me. I was afraid of what he would do, so I got a huge knife from the kitchen and sat with it on my lap. He found me and asked about the knife. I said I was protecting myself. We sat in a stalemate for half an hour or so before his parents arrived. I never saw him again - which was okay with me because I was suddenly afraid of him. In retrospect it was probably ended by his parents. If he told them the story I can fully understand that being our last play date.

I had a goofy friend named Isaiah. We got along well - loved to build lego spaceships and fly them around, make stupid poop and dick jokes, yell stuff into a tape recorder, and so on. One day his dad decided to rent a movie and order pizza, and we would all watch it together in the living room. The movie was a horror film called The Re-Animator, and though Isaiah laughed at the cheezy effects, I was terrified by them, so much so that I cried and said I wanted to go home. My bewildered parents picked me up, and they talked with his parents, and everyone agreed it was just an unfortunate mis-judgement. I had nightmares and didn't sleep well for quite a while after that. I was so embarrassed by my reaction to something Isaiah thought was harmless, that I couldn't bear to see him again. Isaiah never judged me, of course - the embarrassment was in my own head - but it was too much for me to get over.

At a birthday party for my friend David, with a group of kids including my friend Todd. David and I got along fabulously when we hung out alone, but when others were around he was careful to maintain a "cool" persona because he was very aware of the pecking order. Todd had a mean streak; sometimes he made nasty jokes about his friends just to set them against each other. That was his response to the pecking order. Maybe it was learned from his parents: His mother was meek and gentle, his father was a seven-foot-tall ogre of a man with a loud voice, who demanded that Todd call him "sir" and would dress him down in front of his friends. Anyway, at the birthday party Todd said something nasty to me, and my friend David laughed, and I cried and said it wasn't funny and punched David, then ran into the house. That incident ended our friendship. I was angry at David for what I saw as a betrayal. We hung out a few times after that but all the enthusiasm was gone. He acted "cool" out of self-defense, and I couldn't relax around him any more either.

When I hung out with Todd one-on-one, he forgot about the pecking order and was a good friend. We had fun playing video games, tromping around in the forest playing army games, catching lizards and bugs, making jokes, and so on. But one day he threw a birthday sleepover party. We all had fun running around late into the night, but after I fell asleep in my sleeping bag I woke up, in a daze, to find someone holding my arm out and dipping my hand in a bowl of water. The theory was that if you put a sleeping person's fingers in water they would pee in their bed. Just another of those dumb kid pranks. But I was livid. I knocked the water over, got upright in my sleeping bag, and shoved Todd away. He laughed at me, and kept laughing at me as I chased him around the darkened living room calling him an asshole. Eventually we all settled back down to sleep again, but the next day as I was being picked up, I decided that I would never hang out with Todd again. Another friendship, with its good and bad parts, ended because of a traumatic incident I couldn't get past.

As much as I might claim to be interested in getting people to play nice, I must still admit that when it comes to dealing with huge mistakes that can derail a relationship, I'm a lightweight. I can talk the talk of forgiveness and understanding, but in a community of imperfect people, I am far too absolute with my own trust. My whole conversation style is about moving people towards my inner circle by sharing feelings and finding common ground - but if you hurt me, it takes delicate work, and authentic contriteness, to avoid being shoved permanently back out to arm's length. And, to people who don't need precise communication, or don't revisit past events, that makes me "high maintenance", and a pain in the ass. I can truly see their point. It's a good one.

This is a formula for many things, but mostly, it is a formula for loneliness.

My only long-lasting relationships have been with people who almost never - or just plain never - make those mistakes. And there have been plenty of times, with every friend I had growing up, where I made stupid mistakes - insults, aggressions, snap judgements - and was forgiven for them without deserving it. For all of my high school years I was an unpredictable, domineering jackass. Now as an adult, I've moved away from the jackass behavior, but that same absolutist sense of judgement still haunts me. Plus, a major thing working against this is my genuine enjoyment of quiet time alone.

I am the architect of my fate. Thank goodness I can still learn to be a better architect.
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