“We’re always telling stories to ourselves, about the situation that we’re in, about other people, and that story becomes a reality for us, and that’s the problem.” -Invisibilia
Invisibilia is my favorite new podcast. It’s kind of … hopeful and reassuring in a world of unknowns. Which is quite fitting since that’s what the show is focusing on. But I’m also kind of shocked by the show because I realize that the thoughts I have about the world, about how the universe works, aren’t universal. That I am in fact, quite radical and alone in how I think about the world and how I view the world. In hindsight, this shouldn’t be shocking to me, and I don’t know what it says about my development that I expect the rest of the humans to work like I work, but it is a constant struggle, that I must remind myself every day in every situation, they don’t know like you know. they weren’t conditioned to think like you think. they don’t know what you know. you’re not on common ground. you are in fact an island. But I want to live in a world where more people are like me. Is that bratty? No, that is universal, but in the meantime, I resent myself. So if I just keep telling my stories in the way I understand them, then maybe those parts of me that I take for granted will actually make a little more sense, and then I can forgive them.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who called me Babooshka, and I called him Brain. He was angsty in the way I was angsty and acted on it in the way I preferred. He did mischievous things–he made jokes in class, he replied to people in unexpected ways, he broke small rules. We raced through the hallways at lunch; on senior day, we started rumors of a food fight in the cafeteria; we soaped the cars in the parking lot; we walked around the pond during gym; we wrote notes in class; we bragged about dominating the go-kart track on senior trip. We didn’t care together, and he was the first friend I had I could express that with in a way that wasn’t ultimately harmful to our bodies. We didn’t light up during lunch, we didn’t sneak beer on the weekends, we just were. We acted. We spent a lot of time together senior year, so much time that the summer after he started dating my best girl friend, because we were always together. And our friendship waned but carried on into community college where we had Biology together and could carry on some of our high school antics in lab or at the pizza buffet when we went to lunch.
Brain was/probably still is Mormon. His family was totally personable and happy and normal. But they didn’t watch TV on Sundays or drink caffeine. There was a lot of root beer and sprite. We all knew that once he turned 19, he would leave for his 2 year mission, somewhere in the world. In an effort of great support, I became very involved in Brain’s religion, trying to understand what was going to take him away. I started having dinner with his family on a regular basis. They often hosted the 2 Mormon missionaries who were in town for their few month rotation. And I was surprised by the personality, by the youthfulness, by the goofiness of these missionaries. They jumped off roofs and made jokes about the people they met and made eye contact with me when they asked me about my day. And they were tall 19 year old boys. So, maybe now, looking back, I was also indulging my hormones a bit. Boys.
Anyway, I read sections of the Book of Mormon and shook out my skirt from graduation and went to a couple services at The Church of LDS. I quietly sat through lessons and pictures that the missionaries drew for me, illustrating their view of heaven and hell and the umbrella of their faith. I got it. In the way that I get Christianity and Catholicism, in the way that all stories make sense to me on some level. It’s all relative. Ultimately, Mormonism was not the choice for me. But Brain continued on the path. He left for his Mission shortly after his 19th birthday that fell on leap year, eventually ending up in Southern California and later in my Arizona. We wrote letters haphazardly with brief thoughts and drawings and pictures of our lives. He sent me a ring that I don’t wear, but keep in the bottom of my jewelry box. I read his struggle and his loneliness and began to slightly edge away until one day, when I realized I would never mail the recent letter I had written and stuffed in an envelope. After I opened his letter in which he told me that all senior year, when I thought we were bonding in our sameness, in our frustration for the sameness of the world, that he was really just plotting and planning. Hoping I would break up with my boyfriend (which I did), hoping we would stay broken up for a period of time (which we didn’t), hoping I would bounce away from that relationship, happy and open to new experiences (didn’t happen for years), so that he could “move in.” I think the words he used…I wonder if I kept his letters…wow, I don’t think I did…were “snatch you up” or maybe it was “snatch you away.” Either way, I was suddenly disgusted with my best friend. I felt objectified, used, tricked, deceived. And then there was another strange layer of queasiness, when I considered the reality of my best friend, who Brain had started dating the summer after high school, who he eventually married, destroyed, and divorced. Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself, there are two sides to every story. It was hard losing my friend, and even harder, when I realized how many of my memories were tainted. This new dynamic he had added not only to our relationship, but to the already strained relationship with my girl friend.
At the time it was devastating. It was another story of someone I loved hurting me and losing them and losing a piece of myself that had grown and flourished in that relationship with him. And I…that was hard at the time. Being 19 and vulnerable.
Now, it’s just another of my tales, of my anecdotes. I regularly run into missionaries, who I greet, jovially. They are often surprised by my openness, my friendliness. They always give me their name, a card, ask me to call, or call me in hopes of a meeting. I always decline, don’t answer the phone, deny them their moment. I know they need to fill the quota. I have stopped flirting with Mormon missionaries. Brain and I would have gone our separate ways eventually, regardless. And that ending has prepared me for others…for other acts of misogyny…for other boys who think you will bring them to themselves…will close that loop in their lives… despite this, you know, being 17 was pretty fun with that kid, even if we didn’t make it much beyond that.