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I sat there in the booth, staring at her from across the table, etching every minute detail into my mind. Her face was pale, her eyes dead, and her hair, parted on the left, was falling in a mess of black tangles to the right. I don’t remember how we got there. I always seem to lose the beginning of the sentence by the time I get to the end. My thoughts fragmented but simultaneously fluid, as if I’m just starting to see the whole picture only to lose it again with a new piece. I liked being there, I felt comfortable. I was being asked for advice.
When I was a sophomore in high school I read Pride and Prejudice. I loved the way Elizabeth and Darcy interacted, always discerning, stimulating one another. It resonated. I’ve never been able to make good first impressions, walking around with a fake smile, saying hello to everyone I know. It doesn’t matter, though, because I can read them. Lost inside my mind I learned I could understand, empathize, predict, and give admirable advice. I wanted to do this as a profession, I wanted to be loved, I wanted to help and be helped by others.
I was idealistic, I still am, but I walk around with a scowl on my face or a dead look in my eye because I know people. I’m skeptical of them. When you have something good they want to take it away. So I walk, pretending to hate the world, and that seven-second impression you’re allowed when meeting someone for the first time isn’t ever going to be enough for someone to understand everything I’m thinking. But for all the negative aspects, there is significant value in it. It helps to find the people worth your time.
That’s why I bide mine.
One of the main rules I try to live by my close friends is to never lie to them.
It’s a difficult task to yell at a friend, saying the person they’re infatuated with will never love them; to see the light go out in their eye and the daggers they shoot at you as their illusion is shattered in a kaleidoscope of welling tears.
It’s burdensome to live with the incessant yammering of a girl who uses self-loathing as an excuse to avoid her responsibilities and having to hold your tongue so as not to dredge up the past which gave her the excuse in the first place.
It’s tiresome to have a roommate who constantly thinks you’re a cold-hearted jackass because he believes the judgments you pass are out of place and always wrong.
It’s sad when you have to stare into the eyes of your best friend in a diner on a nice spring day and hear them bitch about how victimized they feel and how it’s your fault for having the better life.
It’s even worse when you tell them your relationship is toxic.
Because this means they will never truly understand you’d been trying to help them, even if they didn’t want to hear it. Then I ask myself the question, why do I feel this is my responsibility? Do I have a complex? Do I feel I am superior? That I have the right to tell them who they are? And I think maybe that’s it, or maybe telling them will weed out the people I don’t want, and in doing so, by becoming “mean,” by becoming their “enemy,” I no longer have to waste my time.
And so I sat there in that booth, staring at her from across the table, her face pale, her eyes dead, and her hair, parted on the left, falling in a mess of black tangles to the right. Al this time I’ve been thinking of a response to what she’s just said about her ex. But I know she’s here because she needs validation, she needs reassurance, and so I tell her the honest truth, “You know you deserve to be loved, right?” She scoffs. Her eyes, a gorgeous jade, light up for just a second as she drolly rolls them across her past. “Yeah…” And I stare at her for a moment, looking into those seemingly dead and defeated emerald orbs, and I gamble once again, “I don’t think you do.”
There was no screaming. No stomping away. No anger or hate. No laughing in my face. We sat there quietly for a few moments, the obnoxious buzz of fluorescent lights and the echo of orders being called framing the background. Then, in knowing silence, we simultaneously moved to leave.
I know how all my friends will react, even if I know they’ll be hurt, so to previously say it was a gamble wasn’t 100 percent true. When I had said those words though, I realized they weren’t just for her. I needed to hear them too.