Unfinished business

I’m ingesting again, so it’s time for another post. This time it’s

  • One Slim-Fast diet milkshake, made with 8 ounces of skim milk

Yeah, we’ll see how long this diet lasts…

In my dreams last night there were a series of very odd occurrences that all seemed to reflect “unfinished business” in my memories. They all merged together to form one cohesive story. (I wonder sometimes if our idea of a good story isn’t drawn directly from how our dreams are constructed. Then again, maybe my dreams follow a short story pattern because I’ve done a lot of reading…)

Two important things happened in the dream. They were important not necessarily for their specific nature, but for the feeling I had throughout. I was completely comfortable and happy, which was nonstandard for me in those situations.

The first situation was me having a job. I am not entirely sure what exactly the job was; it seemed to be something involving troubleshooting or data entry or somesuch. The dream took place after hours or during a break or something, and now that I think about it, the setting was a hospital, right outside the cancer ward. I remember reading the name of the ward (it was named after someone): it was like the Vola or Zola or Zula Cancer Center, or something like that. In any case, I don’t know if my actual job was at the hospital or not, but for some reason I was hanging out there and meeting up with people. As this happened I spoke about my job and realized that I was happy with it, even though it didn’t really utilize either of my degrees. This gave me a profound feeling of comfort.

The second thing was the people I was meeting with. They were all figures from my past, people I don’t see anymore. They may have all been high school friends, but I’m not sure because I only remember two of them clearly: Audra J. and Isaac P. Audra was speaking to me in a friendly way about something silly, and while this was happening I did not feel awkward or as if I had nothing to say or as if I wanted to run and hide. I felt serene, at peace. I was having fun. This does not match up with my memories from high school, in which I never felt that I belonged. I still have trouble with this even now. A quick anecdote from a recent get-together can illustrate this.

Sean and I had had some people over to watch anime and eat Japanese food. It was really fun. Afterwards we all went to the local putt-putt golf place to play arcade games. At one point everyone was standing in a circle talking. I realized all of a sudden that the guys were shifting around to make sure I was part of the circle instead of standing in a flanking position to someone who was in the circle. So I tried standing in the circle, realizing that I don’t normally do that, and it felt infinitely weird. Sure, it felt like I was important and a part of the group, but it also felt like I should somehow prove my right to that position. I felt uncomfortable and just stood there not saying anything.

It was a lot worse than that in high school. That’s why not feeling awkward around Audra–a popular, bubbly, friendly girl of the “smart kids” group that I wanted so desperately to be considered a part of–is so odd. Essentially, I never feel that I am worth talking to or that I have anything interesting to say when I’m face-to-face with another person. Online, though, I feel clever and witty and fun…so in the dream, I was essentially experiencing how I usually feel online in a “real life” scenario. It was neat.

The other person I remember clearly speaking with is Isaac. This is a guy who I knew since sixth grade. He and his friend Ryan L. seemed to get no end of amusement out of tormenting me and my friend Noelle. I remember at least one instance of me running out of the English classroom and going to cry in the bathroom, despite my overwhelming goody-goody instincts that leaving the classroom during class was bad. My perception of whatever they had done to me must have been extreme.

Time sort of adds a buffer to memories like that, and so I can’t really remember what it was that they did that was so horrible. I can remember their mocking, laughing faces, and how wildly I hated them and just wished they would go away forever, but I have no idea why I felt those feelings.

In any case, Isaac and Ryan diminished in my life during the beginning of high school, and by the time I encountered them again they had somehow become charming, attractive, polite young men. The same thing happened to the guy who used to torment me and my friend Johnnie in fourth grade, Jared B. Suddenly, I no longer had a reason to hate any of them. In fact, all of them seemed like guys I would want to go out with. But the history between us made everything feel so weird. I never became friends with any of them, and instead sort of gazed on them from afar, wondering how it was that they had gotten “cool” while I was still the same person I’d been back in middle school. (Except fatter.)

I never could relate to any of them. My distancing myself from everyone in middle school due to beliefs that I was somehow better, and then my distancing from everyone due to beliefs that I was no more than dust at their feet, had conspired to give me zero real friends. I was the wannabe outsider, in class with all of them but never feeling that I belonged. I wanted to feel that I belonged, but I didn’t know how. By the time I started trying to just be friendly and sociable, it was my senior year, and everyone had already forged friendships. No one was interested in new ones because we were all graduating. I asked Jared to go to the prom with me and he said, “Umm, well, I wasn’t actually going to go.” I ended up going with a freshman who was a friend of AJ’s girlfriend at the time. It sucked.

It’s interesting to me, then, that Isaac appeared in this dream. I sat down at a table with a bunch of those kids from school, all grown up, and he happened to be next to me. (In other words, I didn’t sit down obsessing over the fact that I was sitting down next to Isaac P., which is yet another difference.) I just sat there and enjoyed the company and talked and laughed. It was amazing.

At one point Isaac wrapped his arm around my shoulders. For awhile I didn’t say anything, and finally I looked over at him and said “Did you put your arm around me?”

He grinned with embarrassment. “Uh, yeah,” he said, pulling his arm away. “You smell good.”

I blushed, wrapped my arm around his shoulders, and said, “Oh. Thank you.” Then he put his arm back around me and we continued to sit like that. It occurred to me later to wonder if he’d seen my wedding rings.

So yeah…weird, huh?

I don’t know if this means I have unresolved issues with my high school experience (probably) or if my subconscious is just telling me to lighten up (another good possibility).

"The Plan"; plus, what is friendship?

There are two problems in my life that I think about often. The first is that I overeat. The second is that I don’t write enough. Not anything serious, anyway–the AMRN isn’t going to bring me revenue anytime soon. As I was in the shower just now, thinking about these problems, an idea occurred to me that is uniquely suited to my particular situation.

I have decided that from now on, whenever I eat anything, I will post to this blog. I will include in my post what I ate, and I will also write some anecdote or train of thought. I figure this is as brilliant a solution as I have ever come up with. I imagine that most days I will be too embarrassed to admit eating four scoops of ice cream and a Klondike bar and two hotdogs…knowing that I will have to post what I’m eating for all the world to see will be a great deterrent. Plus, since I’m weak and will probably end up eating regularly–and three times a day at least anyway–this ensures that I will post more frequently to my blog, which will help me get the creative juices flowing. God, what a horrible, cliched metaphor. If I wrote more often, maybe I wouldn’t keep using them :>

So, that’s the plan. We’ll see how it holds up!


Today, I got up at around 2 pm. So far I have consumed:

  • One glass of sugarless raspberry juice (from a mix)
  • One bowl (probably a cup and a half) of Crunch Berries cereal with probably a cup and a half of whole milk

Not too bad a start for the day, but we’ll see how things go. With the way I snack, I may be posting here a zillion times a day…


And now, for the required writing.

I was thinking in the shower about the phrase “squeaky clean”. I learned that being squeaky clean is actually bad from a water tester who went over to J and R’s old house while I was visiting them. He claimed that if you or your dishes or whatever else squeaked after being cleaned, then the soap wasn’t all gone, and that the water therefore needed treatment. This was interesting to hear, but as I’ve never had the experience of not getting all the soap off, it wasn’t vitally necessary to my life.

What did interest me at the time, and still does to this day, was the fact that J invited me over knowing that a guy was coming to do a sales pitch. This seems extraordinarily odd to me. When J invited me over she said something like “We have a guy coming over to talk about our water, but it shouldn’t take long,” or something to that effect. I shrugged and went over there, thinking it wasn’t a big deal. But during the presentation I really felt like I didn’t belong; it was something more for the household, not me. It made me wonder why J  would even think to have someone over during that time…I can’t imagine inviting someone over to watch me talk with the insurance agent, for example.

But J has always been a little strange. I don’t know if she still is, because she lives in Boston and she and I have only communicated through email a handful of times in the last two years or so. But back when we were younger and hanging out together, things were really bizarre…only I was so insecure with my own personality that I didn’t recognize her behavior as odd.

It started the day she asked me to be her best friend. Before that time I simply considered her a good friend; she and K were best friends and had been for years. But apparently she and K had had a falling out, and now J was looking for a replacement. I was ecstatic to be chosen and said yes, thus beginning a friendship that has seen more ups and downs than an elevator. Or something.

One time J came over to my house for a swimming party and immediately asked if she could shave her legs, since she hadn’t done so at home. We let her, but my mother still mentions that and how weird it was. I told J about it some years later and she said she had never done it.

Another time we were having some guys install a new sliding glass door on our deck, and J immediately began talking to them and buddying up with them instead of doing what she was there to do, which was hang out with me. This made me feel weird for two reasons. First, I felt that I was being ignored. Second, I had this impression that you aren’t supposed to engage workers in conversation while they’re on the job. They weren’t there as guests…they were there to install a door. We didn’t know them; there was no reason to form a friendship. I wonder sometimes if this impression is classist or rude, but really, if you’re paying someone by the hour, it’s against your best interest to waste their work time with chatter. I believe J later denied having done this as well.

Then there was the time we took J to the Bluegrass Fair. This was something fun that we did every year as kids; it was a way for us to get out of the house and enjoy something special. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but Mom made sure to see to it that our lives were enriched in as many ways as she could. This was simply one of the fun things she did with us. I was old enough to realize that going to the fair was a special family experience, and I was excited to share that experience with my “best friend”. But once we were inside, J wanted to ride a big roller coaster-type thing that spun in a big circle, and I was too afraid to go on it. She went alone, and befriended the girl she ended up sitting next to. When the two of them got off the ride, J told me that she and the girl were going to go ride some more rides together. So in essence, she dumped me, the person who had brought her, in favor of someone who was more fun.

I guess in some ways I am a stick in the mud, but I don’t know…if you truly consider someone your best friend, do you treat them like that?

Weird stuff like that continued through high school. After we graduated, I went to the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and J went to the University of Louisville. There, she met R, an electrical engineering masters candidate from Pakistan. The two of them were married in January of 1997, mere months after they met.

J did not tell me she was getting married nor ask me to come to her wedding. She explained later that she was afraid all her friends would try to talk her out of it, so she didn’t tell anyone but her immediate family. I told her I understood, but I really didn’t. A true friend would be supportive…and if she really believed she was doing the right thing, no one should be able to just talk her out of it, anyway. This perturbed me, but I tried to get my head around it.

After my first year at UAH, I dropped out. Mechanical engineering was simply not for me. I piddled about at a sucky job for awhile, and then I got cancer. While I was in the hospital, J and R drove down from Louisville to visit me.

I had met R previously. Chris, my boyfriend at the time, and I had gone back to Kentucky during one of the school breaks, and one day we drove up to Louisville to see J and R. I had decided that while R was awkward in some ways, I liked him. J really liked Chris–the guy was into drama and performed loudly in the middle of the park, much to her delight. I, on the other hand, was horribly embarrassed. I wasn’t impressed by his acting and I wanted him to stop making a scene. This should have been a clue to me, I think…but oh well.

In any case, their visit to me in the hospital was short, but much appreciated. It was a wonderful thing for them to do. It was the middle of the school year, after all, and they had to work hard. R was about to get his masters, and J was still working on her degree as well. This is a good memory that I have of J.

After I got well, I enrolled at the University of Kentucky. R had his degree and had gotten a job in Harrodsburg; they bought a house in Nicholasville and J enrolled at UK too. I thought this was great because we were finally close to each other again. I spent a lot of time at their place, studying or watching Indian movies with them or eating dinner or whatever.

J always seemed to make friends with people easily. Looking back on it, though, I’m not sure that “friends” is the proper word. I’m not sure what is though. Her next door neighbor at the house in Nicholasville was a young lesbian who had a troublesome home life. She came over and hung out with us a fair amount, and she and J got along great, but I just felt weird around her. Part of it, I’m sure, was my own fledgling feelings of same-sex attraction…I had actually been attracted to J herself since our sophomore year of high school. But I don’t think that was all. I think the girl just struck me as off, as someone I did not want to be around. My mom has that sort of intuition too, and it has served her well, so I don’t try to ignore those feelings. The main point of all this is that J had no problems befriending practically anyone; she would go into their houses immediately, invite them over to mingle with other friends, and basically let people into her life indiscriminately. Sometimes she would complain to me about people she was friends with who were doing mean things or things she didn’t approve of. This caused me to wonder why exactly she remained friends with them.

At around this time, my relationship with Sean was developing. Sean was–and still is–a very opinionated man, and he sees no reason for people to waste their time on those who are hurtful or uninteresting or anything else that precludes a good time. He actually told me that J was no good for me, that she was using me as an emotional crutch and that I meant nothing to her. I refused to believe him, but the core of his philosophy began to take a deep root in me. Why, after all, should a person feel they have to befriend everyone? You can love everyone in the world without having to put up with their shit every day. I think this branching of opinions was what heralded the beginning of the end of my friendship with J.

One day while she was rushing down the hallway in her home, J brushed up against the corner of her hallway wall and fell, twisting her foot and then sitting on it. This broke her leg down near the ankle and she was bedridden for a week or two, then on crutches. She did her classes correspondence then, I believe, and was essentially unable to go around and enjoy herself. During that time, I only visited her once. While I was there, her mother was also there, and something happened that made me feel really weird. J was whining about how much pain she was in and how horrible her situation was, and she told her mother something like “Well, I wish someone would clean that bathroom.” That wasn’t exactly what she said, but whatever it was, it was an obvious guilt trip. “I’m bedridden and I can’t do anything…why won’t people help me?”

Her mother went and immediately started cleaning. I was thoroughly disgusted by the entire affair. Yes, people can do nice things for people who are sick or injured…but being sick or injured doesn’t give a person the right to make demands like that. I thought back to how I was in the hospital: I tried not to make my visitors feel unwelcome or like they had to do anything for me. It wasn’t their fault I had cancer, and it was good of them to visit at all. I felt that treating them with respect was only polite. Because of the obvious clash in our outlooks on how sick or injured people are to comport themselves, I never went back.

Weeks, maybe months later, J and I got into an argument. I could check my AIM logs to see what it was about–yes, it occurred on AIM; isn’t that ridiculous?–but I don’t really want to. Suffice it to say that she brought up the bit about my not visiting her more than once when her leg was broken. I told her how disagreeable she was being and why that made me not want to come, and she said that that shouldn’t matter, that a true friend would have come anyway, and that she, after all, had visited me all the way from Louisville when I was in the hospital. I replied that a broken leg was hardly the same thing as cancer…to which she spat at me that I was always bringing that up and making myself out to be a victim, and that I had no right to do so.

Our conversation ended with J telling me she hoped I rotted in hell because I was a horrible sinner and a horrible person, and then she told me that it was probably good that this happened because she and R were moving to Boston the following week. She was moving, and she hadn’t even said a word of it to me until that very minute.

I haven’t seen her since, and as I mentioned above, we have only emailed one another a few times. Once she wrote to me to say she hoped I had given up my sinful ways, and that she was sorry for wishing those horrible things on me. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so I wrote back to congratulate her on her new baby, M, who I had learned of through J’s sister L. J replied with questions about my own life, questions that I didn’t want to answer because I had not given up my “sinful ways”, the things she had listed in the first email, and I didn’t want to be lectured about it.

I didn’t answer her message for an entire year.

Then one day I noticed it still sitting in my Inbox, where I leave messages that I’ve yet to reply to, and I decided what the hell. I told her how I was engaged to Sean and how we would be married after I graduated, and I told her how AJ and Faye and Ben and my parents were doing, and I talked about some mutual friends of ours. She wrote back later and was friendly, so I wrote back in a friendly way too. Our correspondence has not been deep or meaningful, but at least it has been…amicable.

Since then J has had another baby. She and R are still living in Boston, as far as I know. J stated in her last message that she has carpal tunnel syndrome, so she can’t write any more letters. I have no idea if this is true or not. Maybe she just wanted to escape the distant familiarity of our exchange. I can’t blame her if that’s the case.

I wish we really had been best friends, but I don’t think we ever were. It’s a relationship I look back on with a great deal of regret. I wish I could think of something I could have done differently, but in the end I believe that we simply weren’t suited to have that level of a relationship. If we’d realized it sooner, we might have saved ourselves years of feelings of betrayal. But I guess people get comfortable and don’t want to change the status quo, even if they’re unhappy with it.

I hope J has a happy life, and that she finds herself a true friend.