Story, Writing


Shawn was my first, and only real boyfriend. We were six, and Jenny also wanted him, but she was boring and didn’t properly appreciate his Star Wars sheets or like to play war on his parents’ farm. We were together for two years. I’d lie on his floor at night, in my sleeping bag, and stare up at the edge of his Star Wars sheets. I’d hope that we could go find eggs in the chicken coop in the morning, and we always did. His mother was always around, and she always made breakfast.

My family left, of course. The mill closed, and my parents scrambled for a couple of years, moving us around. I never saw or spoke to Shawn again. What I remember about him, and about his family, was a sense of belonging. I felt connected to him.

I am tormented by a deep and unrelenting desire to feel connected to people. More often than not, I fail. As a child, I was often friendless, and never had more than one friend at a time. But our neighborhoods were always transient, and I’d leave, or they’d leave, and I’d be alone again.

As an adult, it’s become easier and easier for me to make friends. As a strategist, and a student of human interaction, I understand the patterned ways in which people communicate, and I know what I’m supposed to say to them. Sometimes I even say it. I know how to make other people feel connected.

I have some wonderful people in my life, yet my alienation is closing in on me again. My friends, my chosen family, the people whom I love, haven’t abandoned me, but I can no longer relate to them. When I talk about my alienation, people usually try to reassure me that other people like me, and listen to me, and care about me. I both know and believe those things. Other people aren’t the problem.

I suspect that many of us most desire that thing which seems just out of reach. I soothe myself by immersing myself in fictional friendships: Sherlock and John, Troy and Abed, House and Wilson, Evan and Seth. I’ve had these sorts of friendships, but my friends inevitably grow up. I’m happy for them, and I hope that they’re happy. I’m good at letting them go gracefully, and tending to my wounds alone.

I was a teenager before I saw Star Wars, and aside from some fantasies about Princess Leia, I wasn’t impressed. But I think of Shawn fondly, and I know that time scars over the pain of loss. So I’m waiting, somewhat impatiently. In the meantime, I live in my imagination, and in my memory. Neither are particularly pleasant places, but I get to keep them. And if you’re in them, I get to keep you.

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