Old Friend

Well, you’re in luck.  Yeah, that’s it, because I’m going to post the last few old stories or essays here soon, that I have lying around, so that I can force myself to write some new fiction of some kind, instead of just joke-y blogposts (not to worry, I couldn’t give those up completely).  There’s only a couple oldies lying around, I think.  I suppose this one is an essay more than a short story.  If there’s any merit to it at all, I would say it should be spoken aloud, like a speech, maybe, rather than just read.  But it may just be trite “teenage angst” in the hands of a 40-something year old guy (as written by me back in 2004).  And it simplifies its subject, claiming the subject to be caused by one thing only.  Enough badmouthing of my own stuff; warts and all:


                                            OLD FRIEND

Depression is like an old friend–hell, he is an old friend.  He’s a friend I wish I’d never met, but I did. And now I’m stuck with him.  I’m comfortable with him, but I don’t really want to acknowledge I know him.  He comes around, uninvited, all the time, and rudely overstays his welcome.  Instead of a woman in my arms, I wake up with my friend in my head.  And an empty cold bed that doesn’t smell of a woman’s musky smell, or perfume, or lotion, or hairspray, or anything but maybe dryer sheets about once a month.  Just me, the empty space on the other side, and my friend.  Every night, I try to ward him off by losing myself in a book, or a map of somewhere I want to travel to, or a nice little fantasy that has me meeting some specific or uncertain woman, and hitting it off with her, and asking her out, and me kissing her, but as I fall asleep the only one there is me–me and my friend.

I hate calling my friend him, mainly because I’m such a homophobe and my friend depression sleeps with me, but I can’t see calling my friend a her, because to me “her” involves at least some happiness.  At the very least a “her” keeps my friend from coming around quite so much.   “Her” can be a big giant pain in the ass sometimes, can actually make my old friend show up if she leaves me, or treats me crappy and makes me feel small, but, in the best of times, or just normal times with “her” there, then my damned old friend stays the hell away like he should.  He goes and visits other people, I guess; I really don’t give a fuck what the hell he does.  I feel bad for them that he goes and sees them, but there isn’t much I can do for them.  I’m just glad he’s gone sometimes.

Just between you and me, though, sometimes I look forward to his visits.  I don’t mean out of the blue, when I’m not blue, that I long for my friend to visit or anything stupid like that.  I just mean that, when I have a hint in my mind that he’s gonna show up anyway, then I want him to just go ahead and show up.  I think it’s the same kinda thinking that tells me, when I’m at a bar on Friday nights with co-workers or whoever, that if I’m gonna end up alone that night anyway, I might as well go do it now.  Because, hell, I won’t be alone.  My old friend will be there with me.  Anyway, those times when I know he’s gonna show up?–then I just want to be at my place, on my couch, sitting there with my old friend, with the TV on in the background, volume on low, and me and my old friend just sitting there and staring at the floor, just kinda feeling numb.  Because that’s what I feel I need to feel right then, is just numb.  Because if there is one good thing my old friend, the boring, socially-inept-old-fuck of a friend of mine, does for me, is keep other things at bay.  Things like the raw open wound of loneliness, the craving, like an addict who can’t find a fix, for the lips of a woman on mine, for the sound of a woman giving me shit about something, you know, not the naggy kind of shit, but the poke-you-in-the-ribs kind of shit, that says that no one’s as important to her as you are.

I know, I know, I’ve heard it a million times, that you don’t need someone else to “define” you, or “complete” you, that a lot of people live alone for a lot of years and like it, and on and on.  Or that there are worse things than living alone, like living with someone who makes you feel bad, or who lies to you, or cheats on you, or leaves you alone, or you leave them alone too much; hell, even the Bible says it is better to dwell in a corner of the house than to live with a fretful and contentious woman.  Or that you should be glad to be breathing and walking and talking and free.  But I say that we all need love, for me it’s the kind of love between a man and a woman, to make our lives worth living.  Otherwise it’s just an empty shell of a life–an existence.  Might as well be a sea slug.

I also know that it doesn’t look good on me, or anyone for that matter–self-pity I mean.  And I don’t mean to ever bore anyone, even myself, with feeling bad about not having a girl, or woman, or wife, or sweetheart, or whatever you want to call her, in my arms, because it is just that–boring.  And it’s a destructive emotion.  Nor do I want anyone to ever feel sorry for me.  But the fact is, the fact is, that the absence of a woman in my house, in my arms, in my heart, in my smile (when it is there), well, it just adds up, you know, day after day.  The way years add up to turn us into old people, or the way days add up to heal wounds.  Every day that that certain special person doesn’t call you, or there’s no one for you to call, is a little bit of a weight on you, and the next day is a little more weight on you, till after a while, I don’t know when it happens, but after a while, all the days like that become a big….giant……crushing…….weight on you.  And that’s when my old friend shows up.

I hope he doesn’t show up at your house.


(Sit down, put your feet up, have a drink, my friend):

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10 Responses to Old Friend

    • Well, I tell people that I’m more “unhappy” now when I’m unhappy (about life, love, the economy, my dwindling original-nuclear-family, the aging process….) than full-out depressed, but I have definitely been there in my life, and it’s no frickin’ fun. Caffeine is my Prozac, for daily life.

  1. That’s a hell of an essay. But unhappiness with being alone is a hell of a subject. I recognize so much of what you said here as things I’ve felt and still feel. I know a significant other doesn’t make everything better, and it’s clear you know it, too, but absent the truly awful side (in my ex’s case, Aspergers — a very cruel interloper in a marriage) it just eases life to go through it “with” instead of alone.

    I miss caffeine. Coffee thrills me as well as wakes me, but my loneliness and uncertainty keep me sleepless a lot of the time, so I had to stop.

    Like Anna said. Shit. Ouch.

    • Asperger’s–ouch, that must have been tough. I feel for you.
      Loneliness and uncertainty suck; I hope things get better for you.
      I hesitated to print the story/essay, because it puts a simplistic light on a complex subject, but I sort of liked it, ever since I wrote it way back. In reading other blogs and other things, I’ve come to the conclusion that any depression (or maybe just depressed feelings rather than full-out depression) I’ve ever had has been fairly minor-league compared to the truly debilitating conditions some people have faced. I have called in sick with it before (well, not wanting to face the day was the real reason, but I just tell them I’m sick), but I don’t have days or weeks on end when I can’t face any aspect of the world. Some people do, and I hope they can get the help they need.

  2. Anne Schilde says:

    Haha, I’m afraid your friend is sleeping around on you!

    Well done! I really enjoyed this. I think the part in parentheses should be the last line. It’s perfect. As I was getting to the end I was thinking that you just needed to give in and make the best of the friendship. You know, like he’s the only friend you’ve got so make sure you don’t lose him kind of thing. Good stuff! I’ll be back for more.

    • Thanks so much for reading, Anne. I had a duh? moment when I read the part in your comment about “the part in parentheses” until I realized that you meant the line about sitting down and having a drink. Of course (and obviously you saw this) it was just meant as a further line to the end of the song (so wonderfully understated by Billie): “Good morning heartache, sit down.” But, yes, it would be great as the last line to the essay/story. I wonder–would you completely replace the “I hope he doesn’t show up at your house” with it? I can’t quite decide, but I know I wouldn’t really want 2–what would you call it/them?–“memorable tag lines”. Or would I?

  3. I think you are right about it being a perfect metaphor for acceptance Anne. Until the public comes clamoring for me to publish the story for money, though, I think I’ll just leave it the way it is or else all this comment talk becomes a mystery to anyone stumbling across it later. I appreciate the suggestion though.

  4. The Hook says:

    That which does not kill you serves to make you stronger, right?

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