Friends’ Own Lives (Adolescence/cringe)
‘Oh my gaaaawd’, Stracy trills at the top of her lungs, ‘It’s so beauutifuul! I don’t believe eeeet. I hate you so much for giving this to me! You’re the worst! I love you. It’s gonna look so good on meeee!’
The viral clip, whose purpose or appeal has not yet become visible to the naked eye, might have been allowed to play on for another two and a half minutes, but initial interest quickly fades. The attention of the video’s observer, having long since forgotten whether what he watches is a parody or not, zooms out from the screen. Its pocket universe sinks mutely away into dark matter, bound for obscurity as he halts its bitter comfort with a click.
Panning across to the other, larger screen, one of three in this artificially darkened room, his focus turns to an open text document splayed across the fifty-two-and-three-quarter-inch monitor. It lacks all but a title and a mocking black line popping in and out of existence where the first words ought to be. Leaning back and adjusting the positioning of his middling quality office style computer chair, he begins feverishly hacking at the keyboard on his lap, weaving parody from the dark matter himself. He writes as follows:
* * *
Chliarissa tripped and stumbled over her intentionally misspelled words and half-baked memes, as did the boy across the wires with whom she squabbled nightly. So many knotted intentions crammed into every line, needle-prick twinges of angst swarming around harmless misunderstandings like wasps invading a sweet, sun-soaked picnic. Cry-bully, humble-brag, shit-test – compounded egospeak, affection and fear aimed in all directions. The goalposts always shifting, they wore their personas loose like accessories so easily renounced, re-branded, and replaced.
Brockly convinced his heart it wasn’t racing as he feigned a confidence he had often seen in others but could never fully replicate, like a classic song whose words he had rehearsed but hadn’t the voice to sing. The girl’s incredulity rendered his attempts transparent at every turn, and the elephant in the room trumpeted monstrously in the aftermath of each evasively corny text cast across its heaving rear-end.
Even as she bravely hit return on a message innocently intended to amuse, Chliarissa knew that in the end all it would achieve was a forced happy face or two in response. Direct interaction seemed so far out of reach through the obscurant, mercurial film of pretence they erected with every broken sentence typed. Sarcasm, subtlety, allure, and excitement, cues for when and where to step in this ancient coupling dance; all lost in the compressed distance between their black magic mirrors.
In July, November, and again in August, Brockly turned green with envy when Chliarissa verbally flitted in the direction of that month’s incumbent boyfriend, with the last so easily forgotten. He knew what it all meant. Oh, deep down how he knew. Yet in the conscious fraction of his mind those boys simply didn’t exist. His fashionable and spontaneous nemeses, he despised them in all their myriad incarnations. Every male of equal or greater social standing shared the ire of his jealousy – exigent, egotistical, full of unearned self-importance, unprincipled, undeserving of respect, and unappreciative of the gifts that were theirs. And while they weren’t quite literally gorging themselves on the potential banquet, set out in the grand hall of his potential castle, high on the sunny side of potential mountain, they certainly had fingers in his pies.
If only he had been the first on the scene, three times. If only she could recognise the majesty of the future he envisioned for them. If only the others hadn’t darted in, within only six weeks each time, like a ravenous cheetah on the hunt. If only he had not been hexed with such perspicacity for her lustre and radiance that he found himself powerless to look her above the neckline, ultimately unable to offer any real companionship or comfort because such things were naturally secondary to the idea of their love. He was all but aware of his own flaws, but God, if only she had waited just one more moment for him to raise the fire high enough inside himself to activate a metamorphosis to make him a man worthy of loving her before settling once again. All he needed was her love. It was clear to Brockly that Chliarissa had no idea what she desired, and needed him whether she was aware of it or not.
Chliarissa, or Chli to her friends, when she wasn’t disenchantedly engaging in the social activities expected of a girl her age, spent the majority of her waxing teenage hours attempting to define love. Love was excitement not pre-planned, a hunger not felt until the morsel had been seen, smelt, missed. It was that which could never be optional. Like the magnetised forces of attraction holding the Earth in its eternal spin, it was the seamless coming together of countless jigsaw pieces hurled into the air at random to form a whole which in hindsight seemed preordained in its completeness. In other words, love was entirely out of her control.
But love was many things; simultaneously the highest possible ideal to which one could hope to aspire and the unshakable foundation on which her future rested. She knew in one breath that without love she could achieve nothing, in the next that love was hard to come by – a rarefied reward for grim determination and a whole lot of luck. In the breath after that she knew that she need never worry because love was her birthright. Love was that to which she was entitled.
Chli twisted together a muddy rainbow of threads from the thousands of memories contained in hackneyed diaries and clogged picture galleries showcasing her arcadian life, and she transformed them over time into a fraying cincture of precepts dictating the pillars of her very own cult of love. Forever facing backwards on the journey toward tomorrow, the future rolled seamlessly back into the past, and love’s innumerable definitions projected themselves like an infinite galaxy of stars in all directions, encompassing all times and places, making navigation impossible.
She waited patiently for many years, believing the movies and cultural myths enveloping her all the time, knowing beyond doubt that destiny would not leave her behind, that it could not ignore the faith with which she waited; so many promises heaped around her that soon she couldn’t see over them, couldn’t escape. She sat still and demanded the landscape move around her to deliver the perfection she knew she was owed. But the seasons change for no one, and the world that existed inside the promises barely sustained her on a gradual decline through adolescence.
The airy sanctum she had built of hope and joyful expectation solidified and turned to rock when one by one those expectations started to expire. Friends, enemies, nobodies, laughing and smiling, grinning and howling, beaming to themselves while secretly aiming their unjust joy at Chli, all alone with the certainty that love was on its way to her. She lived reluctantly knowing that the world had ruthlessly betrayed her honest heart, tinting it forever with the shadows of disappointment.
By the time they met, these two piteous creatures had already compromised their forlorn ideals, yet still they clung to them desperately like life-giving vines over deadly rapids. Chli’s half-willing procession of careless, fumbling puppets these days served the sole purpose of confirming everything she had learned from peering over the parapet of her girlhood promise-prison. They proved to her on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis that eternal loneliness was and would be her only reward. She spited herself with repeated missteps, mutinies, and mockeries of love. A petty revenge against the world that had abandoned her. Eventually she immersed herself with despair in the anaesthetic serum of material distraction, determined to forget, to deny, and to ignore. Addictive habits and habitual addictions formed a toxic cocoon blocking out all but a little light and the ringing harmonies of hope and faith which so long ago had resonated within her.
Brockly’s noose, however, was slung just as tight. Toes dipping tortuously in the radiant waters of life, he cowered in constant fear. Edging around the almighty human ice-rink while others skated freely, he lowered his head and averted his gaze from that which he could never possess, which taunted him with every tentative inch he stepped but remained always a word or two out of reach. Potential was everything to Brockly. Being told all the while by those un-elected few who loved him that he could soar as brightly and as brilliantly as he pleased, he could not bare to spend such priceless currency in a world as uncertain as this one, a capricious world so full of wasteful suffering.
Potential was an unresolved quantum wave-pattern, unobserved and therefore existing as both victory and destitution, joy and pain. The future was a losing game, and he refused to play. He stacked his chips and folded each round before calculating any odds because, once observed, all wave-forms must collapse to forever become a zero or a one, a yes or a no. It was in this abstract state of un-death that Brockly lived his life, the unwillingness to cash in his potential allowing him to maintain his jealousy of others while prohibiting the admittance of his own cowardice. Every moment gambled was a moment maybe lost, but the blinding truth was that not all currencies can be saved, that some tokens have value only when spent, and that all promise-notes come with an expiration date, even if it isn’t stamped in bold on their ticket-front.
Friday 30/11 – 22:21 – Me, Myself & Chli:
‘Hey, you awake?’
(I know he’s awake.)
Friday 30/11 – 22:22 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Heeey, sure am, wassup?’
(Hmm… Don’t start thinking things. Could be anything.)
Friday 30/11 – 22:25 – Me, Myself & Chli:
‘Im sad :(‘
(Please. It’s hopeless. Take this feeling away from me.)
Friday 30/11 – 22:27 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Oh no! w@’s the matter? :(‘
(Shit, is this something legit? Make a joke to cheer her up? Or show concern to comfort her? Don’t make a twat of yourself.)
Friday 30/11 – 22:33 – Me, Myself & Chli:
‘Sorry to message you so late. Youre the only person online. Me and ——– broke up’
(I know you think you like me. It’s super obvious. Maybe you really do. You’re the only one I can talk to right now. Help.)
Friday 30/11 – 22:43 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Oh shit. Are you OK? :/’
(Good! He was a cock. But she’s come to me. She has other friends. Does this mean she’s finally realised? She wants to try it, try us? Or is she just using me for an emotion sponge again? I’ve dropped so many hints. She might be giving me a chance to show her what I can do. Think about what you’re gonna say. Oh shit! It’s been ten minutes.)
Friday 30/11 – 22:45 – Me, Myself & Chli:
‘No. Ive been crying for hours. I should just give up on people and love and relationships. All they do is break my heart 😥 I’m gonna become a nun…’
(I knew I could call on you. Now tell me I’m wrong. You always seem so happy, so unaffected. Just tell me how to be happy, please. Give me the answer. Every time I try to trust someone to give me what I need they just take what they want and run away. I’m so sick of wanting. What am I missing?)
Friday 30/11 – 23:00 – Me, Myself & Chli:
(What’s taking so long? You’re probably sitting there agonising over what to say, aren’t you? Why is it so hard for you? Just make me feel better. Why do you have to be so awkward all the time? If you would just say something real then maybe we could leave this hell together, and I could teach you how to be a man, but you won’t.)
Friday 30/11 – 23:02 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Come on, nun of that 😉 Remember what the asiatic clam harvester said? Nevaar give upu! 😀
(Please don’t cry, laugh with me. I’ll make you smile, but do give up though. Give up on what you’re doing, give up on all the others, give it all up and follow. I know a way to never get hurt. Let me show you.)
Friday 30/11 – 23:04 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Youre such an amazing person Chli. Screw ———. He didnt deserve you anyway. Any guy should feel lucky. Youre gonna find the one. Real soon I bet. Theyre probably out there waiting for you right now with snacks ready :’)’
(You really are an amazing creature. If only you knew how your beauty heals this ugly world. But you don’t know that it’s me you need. How am I supposed to tell you I love you when you’re always distracted like this? If you just gave me a chance… But you won’t.)
Friday 30/11 – 23:06 – Me, Myself & Chli:
‘Haha yea I guess I should just be positive huh?…’
(Thanks… I guess… Should’ve known you’d just feed me the same gruel as anyone else. Why should I go out on a limb for you, when all your words are empty? You’re so scared. Are you the one waiting for me, to save me? Ha! I need more than fucking snacks, thanks mate. You’re all words and excuses.)
Friday 30/11 – 23:10 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Its the only way, trust me. I know it’s hard but what good is the alternative? It’ll make you stronger, you’ll be able to recognise the douchebags at first sight, and then better dudes will come along and you’ll find one that makes you as happy as you deserve to be. But until then you just have to try and be happy for yourself. And anyway, you’ve always got me ;p’
(Oh god, why did I say that last part? Am I a total pussy? It’s like I’m wingmanning it for every guy out there but myself. No, there’s no such thing as betas, there are just macho pricks and the rest of us, and she chooses them every time. How can someone be so miserable and not realise that they’re causing it themselves? You think you deserve happiness on a plate when the rest of us have to work for it. You’ve got a lot of nerve, sweetheart.)
Friday 30/11 – 23:12 – Me, Myself & Chli:
‘Ha yeah I guess you’re right. Thanks for cheering me up :)’
(Why do I bother? I think I need to be on my own for a while…)
Friday 30/11 – 23:13 – Sex, Pugs & Brock’n’Roll:
‘Any time yo. Keep your head up :)’
(Weightless… Everything I try is weightless. Maybe I should bite the bullet and just learn a sport already, get a haircut and stop moping…)
* * *
And so the conversation died. Chliarissa never responded to this last predictable scrap of dialogue, and Brockly never felt sufficiently inclined to push beyond the margins of the script. Soon such interactions dried up altogether, and they were left dangling in their respective bubbles high above the raging waters of self-awareness far below, occasionally reminiscing alone on what might have been.
The author of their imprisonment, warden to their wretched adolescence, continued to write for many days. His skin grew pale and his fingernails long and grimy. Distraction cracked its silken whip, and he knew before his task was finished, having long since forgotten whether what he worked on was a parody or not, that it no longer mattered to him. Keyslapping down the final line, his attention at last zooms out from the screen, allowing its pocket universe to sink mutely away into dark matter, bound for obscurity as he halts its bitter comfort with a click.
Written – January – June 2018
Published – June 2018
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash