I hope my absence has been felt. Maybe it hasn’t, but I hope it has. We like to think that when we’re not around, people miss us. But in a case like this, where the medium is one way, there’s really no way to know.
I’ve been out of commission because I’ve been contemplating the nature of attachments—specifically, emotional attachments to other living things. For example, in previous entries I mentioned that I have this dog, Gretl, and when I’m away from her too long I miss her; I just have this need to be in the same room with her.
I want to see her look up at me when I ask her questions about life and watch as she tilts her head with that puzzled look in her eyes as though she’s trying to figure out a difficult trig problem. You know, something like “calculate the height of a telephone pole with a 30 foot shadow that forms a 53½ degree hypotenuse from the end of the shadow to the top of the pole.”
I’m also reasonably certain that when I’m not around she also misses me. When I come home she greets me at the door, makes whiney noises, insists that I pet her, and then celebrates by running up and down the main hallway of our (not so) palatial home. I believe this is irrefutable evidence that she misses me when I’m not around because she’s obviously happy when she first sees me whether I’ve been gone 10 minutes or 10 days.
Humans are different, though; they’re unpredictable. Regardless of the nature of your relationship to someone, sometimes they miss you and sometimes they make it clear when they see you that they want to kill you. This is especially true if the someone in the relationship happens to be a she.
Sidebar: I hope this doesn’t bum you out, but I have three friends who collectively lost a cat and two dogs recently. God that’s a pisser, and it’s a pisser because these little guys are attached to you with an unconditional love.
Humans on the other hand tend to place conditions on love, and I think we do that because we think about things that, perhaps, we shouldn’t. We see someone do something and we often judge both the action and whatever we think is motivating it. We’ve all done it and we’ve all been on the receiving end of it. And you know what both of those experiences have in common? It sucks when you do it and it sucks when someone does it to you. I mean it obviously feels ugly when it happens to you, but I also feel a little dirty when I do it to someone else, like I need to shower or something.
I was having drinks with the guys Wednesday night, celebrating the middle of the week. Hey you have to have a reason right? I apparently slipped into a trance because my friend Derek looked at me and said “Hey. What’s going on?” “Nothing.” I said as I snapped to attention.
“What’s wrong?” he demanded.
“Nothing!” I shot back.
The three of them mockingly laughed and Jeff offered ”Yeah. That’s what my ex said every time something was bothering her and I asked her that question. Then a week later she would spring it on me when I wasn’t expecting it.”
Obligated, I responded: “OK; how about this? Nothing that will come back to bite you in the ass in two weeks.”
What I refused to tell them was that I was momentarily caught up in a sense of loss that was initially brought on by the news of my friends’ former domestic companions that were no longer with them. You know: the cat and the two dogs. My friend Tom, who was one of those individuals, was sitting right there at the table with us, and it’s really bad form to bring up things like that once initial condolences have been offered.
The other thing that’s really bad form when you’re with the guys is to talk about feeling sad. God I hate how weak and pathetic that sounds. Everybody wants to avoid sadness but some people are comfortable talking about it. Not me. When I’m sad I prefer to be in my office with the door closed and locked, preferably with a glass of scotch. My dad once told me that it was OK to be sad and everyone grieves about sad things, but it’s best to do that when no one is around. I told my son the same thing.
So I’m not going to be the buzz-kill when I’m out with three other guys who are celebrating minor victories like getting your first paycheck from a side business or making it through one more midweek of work. No; I’m going to dutifully drink my beer and my scotch and entertain them with my quick wit and rapier sarcasm.
The truth is, though, I was really unhappy in that moment. On the heels of hearing the news about Embers, Duncan, and Kitten (yes; Kitten was the cat’s actual name), a close friend of mine unceremoniously walked out of my life. All I can really say about that is WTF? Where do you get the idea that it’s OK to walk into someone’s life, make them care about you, and then just check out for no apparent reason?
I have some experience with this, though, and I know that the emotional roller coaster I’m on, as humiliating and painful as it is, is a temporary ride. I have experience with this sort of crap because I’m old. I’ve been divorced, between marriages I had a string of girlfriends most of whom broke it off with me, and I’ve had a half dozen or so friends who just sort of faded away into the ether of human nonexistence. In unrelated instances, I was even estranged from my youngest daughter and my sister for a while.
Here’s what I don’t get: in most of those cases it was a woman who walked away, including the latest culprit. In my experience guys don’t just walk away because you say the wrong thing, or because you forgot an important date, or because [insert your lame excuse here].
Instead, we fight or drink, or both—but we intuitively understand that there’s nothing to be gained by cutting someone out of your life. Especially someone who’s been there for you and who you’ve helped out of a dozen tight spots and, worst of all, to do it without an explanation or a goodbye. Can someone please explain this one to me? No wait; don’t do that. It’s a rhetorical question. Sorry; I’m on beer number four, which is why I’m writing this pathetic rant in the first damned place.
OK; so I am perilously close to suggesting that only women are guilty of such behavior. Apologies again; that’s not true. Men are often typically less discriminating about who they will spend time with and will often easily walk away from an acquaintance without a second thought. But once we decide you’re in the pack, it’s a permanent arrangement, and it takes an act of heinous treachery to get you kicked out. Something on the order of kicking my dog or asking my daughter out on a date. How is it that you can so easily walk away once you’ve crossed the threshold of what we call friendship? Is it because someone surgically removed your heart or did that damned thing you call a brain suddenly stop working?
Look; I’m just venting but if my former friend happens to stumble across this blog entry in the next week or so (and you know who you are), please know that I don’t hate you. However, I am really pissed at you.
Here’s a tip: do us all a favor and try donning the mantle of humanity every once in a while.