When I was in the seventh grade, I had no friends. I’d stand in the cafeteria with my tray, all awkwardness and spare elbows, and try to find the least conspicuous place to slide myself. Today, I can always spot the kids I teach who are going through this no-friends phase; when I ask what superpower they would want, they always pick invisibility, or flight. Don’t see me, or let me get the fuck up out of here. (For the record, the superpower I would pick is shape-shifting: psychic residue from that part of my personality that never could get over being twelve and not looking like Alyssa Milano from Who’s the Boss.)
Friends are the softer-core version of my inner sex addict’s need for constant attention and validation. During my four-month period of abstinence (stop scoffing, back row, four months is forever when you don’t really feel like anyone really sees you unless they are balls-deep in you), I transferred all my neediness over to my girlfriends. Once I walked into a 12-step meeting and no one had saved me a seat on my preferred side of the room, and I was fighting back tears for the entire hour. It’s just not that serious, but it is. It is.
I had friends when I was using, too, but those are friends on a completely different order. Cocaine makes scenery-chewing extroverts out of everyone. Of course, things got worse, because that is the invariable narrative arc when you are getting high, and gradually, I had just one friend left: Monique, a stalwart who came and found me when I was sitting in a skanky Wendy’s across from some drug dealer with sores on his face who was plying me with Vicodin and working his hand up the tight leg-hole of my jeans with a zen sort of patience while I sat there stultified in front of a cold hamburger. She walked me to a meeting and I fell down on the sidewalk.
So, recovery. I made a few more friends. I learned a little about being truthful and accountable and semi-responsible; not 100% of the time, your birthday card will still be a month late and have peanut butter on it. But at the very least, I can today be relied on not to steal your wallet and then help you look for it, or to try to sit in your boyfriend’s lap when you disappear into the kitchen.
Boyfriend’s friends, however, have always been a source of sexual fascination, and that hasn’t totally gone away yet. I don’t know why.
Sketch’s friends were no exception, and for a time, if we were going out with his friends, I always put on extra mascara and something where you could see my belly-button.
One of the things I love about Sketch: he never hit on my friends in return. Never. When I was younger and more accepting of bullshit, I had boyfriends who were obsessed with my friends; in college, my boyfriend Bummer was mad-dog obsessed with my friend Karly. Karly was this hot hippie chick with dirty-blond hair and a languorous manner of rolling joints that drove him crazy. She was one of the best people I have ever known; when I was heartbroken over a girl in my program whom I was madly in love with, Karly came over and had sex with me. It was basically the only thing that got me through finals.
Bummer was pissed that he had missed out on the girl-action, and he kept needling me for details. He stole a photo of her from me and kept it in his desk. Eventually, Bummer conned her into some crummy aconsentual sex, while she was really freaking high on Qualudes. I was passed out snoring on the carpet a few feet away while the cats walked daintily around me.
What the two-legged in the house were mostly about that summer was drugs. We had a friend who was studying veterinarian medicine, and somehow this qualified him to fill up a nitrous tank the whole gang of us would sit around, assassinating brain cells, our lips and fingernails turning blue. (I believe this is the reason why I can not figure out how to resize the header on my blog correctly. My beautiful wizard of a roommate finally did it for me.) Bummer and I were living in a basement apartment on Easton Avenue, behind the frat houses, and sometimes a drunk frat boy would stand pissing against the side of the building in the parking lot and urine would arc into my livingroom through the open street-level window. I was nineteen, the perfect age for accepting the unacceptable with a jaded, drug-wearied shrug.
I just accepted that Karly was hotter than me, but then, all my friends were hotter than me. I picked hot friends. I walked around reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, aping its romantic cynicism. So when I went by Karly’s boyfriend’s dorm, and he wanted to fuck me, I swore I was just showing off my refusal to take anything too seriously. I loved Karly, and she was one of the most caring and compassionate friends I have ever had, but I needed the hit of validation from her skinny boyfriend more than I needed to honor our friendship, and so I did.
Plus, I figured she would never actually find out. But right after it was over, the guy had an attack of conscience and he was all “you need to leave so I can go tell Karly what happened.” Unwilling to relinquish narrative control, I ran along behind his car, but he put on speed and lost me. I caught up an hour later, his car parked on Karly’s lawn with the fervor of confession. I rang and rang the bell and yelled, but nobody answered.
I came back the next day with homemade rice krispy treats, which I had decided was the dessert that took a properly contrite tone, and she opened her door to me standing there weeping and bearing the tray. “You don’t even know what you’re doing, do you?” she sighed, with more compassion and empathy at twenty than I can muster at twice that age. She hugged me and let me cry it out, eating her rice krispy treats through my tears and making the whole thing about me. Of course, after that, she gradually put some distance between us, and I was to some extent relieved, for it meant I didn’t have to deal with Bummer’s obsession with her, nor my own guilt.
Her boyfriend called me up, once, maybe a year later. He and Karly had broken up, and he asked if I wanted to go over his friend’s house and get high. His friend turned out to be Domenick, who I would be instantly and completely addicted to, and who would introduce me to the wonderful world of heroin.
It’s funny how unbroken the chain of bad decisions is, and how much of it was started by the need for someone to think I was as desirable as my cute friend. It’s a butterfly effect of petty need toppling an entire life.
I also still kind of blame Milan Kundera, too. Books can be really bad influences on me, like when I was ten and I wrote my name on my bedroom wall because Anastasia did it in that book where Anastasia is moving to a new house.
Today, I legitimately have a lot of friends. Most of them know who I really am, even the super sweet ones from school or yoga who have probably never in their lives done a big pile of coke while watching interracial gang-bang porn as the sun comes depressingly up. I send them links to this TMI-y blog anyway.
I haven’t made any blogging friends yet. I keep hearing about a “blogging-community,” and I read other people’s stuff (to have a friend you have to be a friend, my mother would say) and leave comments I hope are endearing, but so far, I am still shifting around hopefully with my metaphorical lunch tray, a tray loaded with drug and dildo references, looking for people to get me.