So my friend J. is deserting me for the summer. Since he lives in Manhattan and I live in the middle of Ohio, one might think that he has already deserted me by refusing to live anywhere that I might possibly ever think of visiting for longer than a week. One would be right about that, but in this case I mean that he's spending his summer out of cell phone reach.
This makes me frantic.
I have known J. since I was 20, which means, frighteningly, that I have essentially known him for half my life. Ever since the first night we bonded he has been one of my top five people on the planet. Others may rotate in and out of the Top Five, but he always manages to hang on to one of the spots. Aside from having all three of the Most Important Qualities in a Man [Funny. Smart. Gay.], he also understands me in a way that almost no one else does, and yet STILL LIKES ME. Plus, he shares most of my deepest, most crippling insecurities, and yet makes me feel like I shouldn't have those insecurities even while still maintaining them himself. That, grasshoppers, is the kind of friend you don't find every day.
J. is one of the only people I will talk to about my weight, because even though he is very tall and lanky, I know that he is at least as insecure about his own appearance as I am about mine. For instance, I admitted to him a few years ago that I was really sick of hearing about people who've had gastric bypasses, because they've become so common that I really believe that people are looking at me and whispering to each other "Why doesn't she just get The Operation and be done with it?"
He laughed insanely for about an hour, and then said "Yeah. Why don't you just get The Operation? What's WRONG with you?" and then went off in another fit of laughter. If anyone else said that to me I would secretly think "See, he HAS been thinking that, and even though he SOUNDS like he's joking, he REALLY MEANS IT". With J., I know that he's laughing because he's impressed that just for a second, I've managed to sound even crazier than usual and he's laughing at my ridiculousness.
A few years ago, he was working for a large company that produces a product that most Americans carry with them at all times. He was doing very well, outselling everyone in his office, and making lots of money. He transferred to another office and suddenly found out why the Gays mostly stay above the Manson-Nixon line. Within a year he was forced out of his job and found himself living in a strange city with no job and a massive case of depression. He pulled himself out of it, though, and turned his life completely around. Now he has a job with summers off and lives in New York. So, after the year I've had, he's pretty much the only person I've been able to talk to who understands what I've been through and who I can trust not to judge me when I whine about how bad daytime TV has become and why going to the bank and the grocery store can fill up an entire day. Even when I've had times when I couldn't bear to speak to anyone, he would always call me and force me to talk, and then make me promise to call him even if I felt so bad that I couldn't speak, because then we could at least watch TV together over the phone.
And now, when i'm just starting to feel like a human again, he has the gall to take off into the wilderness for the summer, to some retreat in upstate New York where they force you to eat vegan food and learn self actualization through silence, meditation, and the gas brought on by raw diets. He will be living in a TENT for two months. Not one of those nice tents like they have at summer camp, which are up on wood floors and have canvas sides that you can roll up. No. A tent, on the ground, big enough for a sleeping bag and a pee bottle. It goes without saying that there aren't phones. No e-mail. And NO CELL PHONE RECEPTION. So I can't even TEXT him obsessively.
I asked him, what the fuck is the point of living in Manhattan if he has to leave it to sleep on the ground and pee into a bottle for two months of the year?? After all, he cannot understand why I persist in living in flyover country, and yet I have NEVER peed into a bottle outside of a doctor's office. And the last time I went camping, which was in 1993, I forced my girlfriend to drive me home during the day so I could take a shower, and then made her drive me back home the next day so I could attend a Mary Kay party*.
He went on about how he would be able to center himself, and reach self actualization or some such nonsense; I wasn't really listening because I was also watching the Denise Richards reality show and besides, as soon as he brings up his new agey spiritual stuff I generally tend to become deaf in that ear. I realize that I am spiritually crippled, as I will never achieve self actualization because it requires introspection and honesty and why bother with that when you can watch reality TV instead? I also don't think that I have an inner child because that would imply that I have an outer adult.
I guess I can't look down on J. for wanting to become a better person, although I admit I don't want him to become too much better, because then he might not need me as much. I just don't understand why people can't find their inner children at home, in central air conditioning, with cable and internet access. My inner child becomes an inner demon if I am forced to come in contact with nature for more than ten minutes at a time. I once made my doll club give up a perfectly lovely meeting space because in order to get to it I had to drive far enough outside of the city that I passed a barbed wire fence. Barbed wire is a reminder that you've left civilization and are now relying on rusty sharp things to demarcate the boundaries that we leave up to socialization in the city.
So, as only a truly co-dependent friend can do, I started listing all of the problems with this scenario. I asked him about the food. Would he be forced to partake in the raw diet cleanse that overflowed the lavatories one year? J. hates anything and everything to do with The Brown Word, so I thought this might work. No, he reminded me, he has a digestive system of cast iron. Nothing sticks to it, but nothing slides through too fast either. Next, I ruminated on the weather. What about the heavy rains the rest of the country has been having? Won't his tent float away? Annoyingly, this didn't work either.
What about the constant insistence on being green and recycling?? Even though we went to a fancy eastern school and both vote Democrat, neither one of us really recycles. It's just too much trouble, and besides, we don't have children. What do we care as long as the earth lasts through our lifetimes? He claimed that he could stand it for the summer, because really, it was easy to do there since everyone was used to it.
Aha. I pounced. "But what about TOILET PAPER?? Aren't you afraid that they'll pull a Sheryl Crow and tell you to use only one square at a time, or worse, make you use rags so you can RECYCLE it???"
There was silence for a moment. Then he replied, "No. There's only so much of the earth that I'm willing to save".
Yes!!! They'll definitely kick him out after a week or two!!!
*Yes. That was my lipstick lesbian phase, as a matter of fact.