The Epitome of Generic
There were so many things that I wanted to tell you today. Or, at least text to you, as that is how we had been communicating for almost two years about our ridiculous days in opposite sides of the city.
I checked out a Philip Glass documentary at the library while wearing my Philip Glass shirt (OMG!), a perfectly ordinary middle-aged man farted behind me in the audiovisual center and walked away like nothing happened (LMAO!), did you know that they make “chicken rings???”, like onion rings but made out of chicken! (WTF!), and while walking out of Blockbuster I almost choked on an ancient hot pink gumball that I was expecting to be fresh (FAIL!).
I knew you would have laughed. In fact, you would have probably guffawed from your end of the phone. Even though I wouldn’t have called you (I know you dread talking on the phone more than anything), I could hear your incontrollable, spastic laughter that never failed to make me think you just might be choking on something as well. Even though we were not in the same room, I would have felt your presence immediately as my fingers started rapidly punctuating the tiny buttons on my keypad with the adrenaline of a high school gossip queen about to spill locker room secrets.
Except that we were not gossip queens or kings. If we had met in high school, we would have been the quieter nerds who made fun of those girls and their subjects, but only between each other. But today was different. This sudden lack of interest on his behalf became the repetition of a cycle of ignorance and avoidance that I had naively assumed would stop. A bitter cycle that I could see repeating.
We were in college now and life was more open-ended and difficult to navigate. We had the freedom to pull away and explore other options. That hokey AIDS movie I watched in middle school with people dressed up in puffy red and white blood cell costumes trying to metaphorically invade the immune system through wooden picket fences should have told me that my twenties would be even more depressing than my teenage years. (But at least I didn’t have AIDS.)
Someone obscure, obtuse, and overtly mulleted in class pronounced something as “the epitome of generic” to his equally outlandish friend. I wondered who or what he was talking about and thought you would too. It was your word after all, “generic.” What a perfect way to describe half of the population (and probably even more), I thought to my sarcastic and jaded self, impressed that someone so light-hearted and easy-going could also air on the side of discreet pretense and witty jest.
Most of the people we worked with, especially those young new hires wearing blue jeans a size too big and slightly sagging (is it possible for someone to be even more dull than their clothing?) or a size too small and clinging onto their behind like some sort of woven and flashy peel (this isn’t MTV Video Honeys and nobody thinks that your ass is as hot as you do). But it’s a good thing we were different. Because two of the most un-generic people have to stick together, right?
Well, as it turns out, it was possible for these extremely complex and dynamic individuals to out un-genericize themselves and fizzle into nothing but somber masses of confused silence and painful hesitation in which all of the infinite power of two merging water signs couldn’t prevent. Water can flow one way, but it depends on a cycle of downward condensation and upward evaporation to keep the element alive. And after a while, I began to notice that we had one without the other. Attempts at jokes were made, gestures of intimacy arose, and I asked you about how you were feeling, but nothing drizzled down. We had entered a drought and I silently pledged to never go out with a Cancer again.
Staring at a phone is never the way to make someone call. If you’re ever sitting around waiting for someone to call you, it probably means that they aren’t going to, and in this case there are two options to partake in. One, you can either say “forget it” and get on with your normal life. But, if you are prone to obsess and compulse and don’t really have a “normal” life in the first place, this is probably not the best method of taking initiative. In this case, it is imperative to take control of the situation and contact that person yourself. Unfortunately, when you do this, that person will probably give you an answer you don’t want to hear and by this time it will be too late to concede to the first option and you will be depressed, isolated, alone and on the verge of becoming totally insane.
Four days of my most unimaginable sorrow, however, led to the most incredible diet. Forever grateful that I had inherited my mother’s side of high-stress, low-caloric intake coping mechanisms, along with my blonde and bronzed, lively French grandmother’s wardrobe hand-me-downs in a size too small, at least all the crying, gasping, and wheezing would not be in vain. Because if I were going to be dumped tonight, sitting on the bed in my messy apartment, facing the wall in frustration at precisely 11:47pm, at least I would be fitting in and wearing Chanel, damn it.
But back in the good days, the days before I began to consider myself worthy of being institutionalized, during a prior fall, it was around 5:30pm on a busy afternoon of retail. You were wearing something distinct yet subtle. The afternoon was shifting into early evening as the wave of customers began to trickle down and a sense of calm could enter our realm. Just like a clearing storm, shoppers left my vicinity and I could finally see more than five feet ahead. Straight ahead by the cash register, but far enough away to escape the lurking presence of my stare, you were wearing a shade of ugly olive green and droopy slender blue jeans that gathered around your ankles and looked as if they were clinging onto your hips by a thread. You had shoes like leprechaun boots, black with a blunt heel and little gold buckle, and I admired the way the corners of your top front teeth didn’t quite meet, as if some mischievous tooth fairy had taken a little microscopic saw and chopped off the pointed corners, leaving a mystifying triangle of space where there should have been white. Slouching like I did and walking slowly as if in a world of your own, your leprechaun shoes flopped off the back of your feet because they were a size too large, like a child clonking around in her mother’s high heels. I admired that sense of sacrifice, even though your were probably unaware.
“Hi, I’m Greg.”
You introduced yourself and it blew my mind.
“Oh, hi. Um, I’m Scarlett,”
It was during this moment that all of the aforementioned details came into focus. You said that you were from a place with “a lot of corn” and I laughed. You were as charming and quirky as hell and I knew we were meant to be friends. Weeks passed, and after talking and joking while pretending to work, me anxiously recounting how I thought I was being followed by the devil one summer at art camp, you making way too many hilarious puns, and one ridiculous cat Halloween card I nervously and impulsively purchased for you at Borders on my lunch, we became inseparable.
Thanksgiving meant video of your beloved younger brother doing gravy shots.
For Christmas I spent hours Prismacolor-ing your grocery bag wrapping paper out of my favorite musky pencils in an array of pastel shades.
For New Years Eve, you drove two hours in your tiny blue CRX to see me (and meet my mom). My dog tried to attack you and we spent the night in the state capitol and got immensely distracted at every street light.
Valentine’s Day followed, as did my mono-infested birthday (you waited for me for two terrorizing hours at the doctor and I had never been so grateful), our trip to the aquarium, and the Fourth of July.
Halloween arrived and we were like two partners in crime. Then followed another Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Valentine’s day and birthday all over again.
Yet, despite all of our chemistry, something in our atmosphere seemed to be changing and I don’t think either of us could quite put our finger on it.
Now, walking next to you had become a complicated puzzle that treaded on my brain until I could muster up the courage to say something. Tonight was no different, but this last walk together would be the most significant, it would be the memory to linger in my mind until someone better came along. It may even stay longer after that, like the residue of a gloppy egg that clings to the sidewalk on a hot, dreary summer day long after you’ve attempted, and failed, to fry it.
Heading up the street in the gnawing cold, you buried your hands in your hoodie pockets as if they were pulsating Japanese cartoon shows about to blast my body into seizures at the touch. That probably would have been healthier and less coma-inducing that the manipulation you were presently masking. You wore your dad’s old, but now vintage, silver camera strapped around your neck, like a giant gleaming locket of hipsterdom I may have once admired. But now it was taunting me and beckoning thoughts of inadequacy.
Powell, Mason, Taylor. The wind was picking up and the heavy mist of fog was breezing past my thinly veiled arms of cheap, striped cotton. Multiple shivers crept up my spine and burst out with a spastic shake of my torso and I prayed you would pay attention. Emphatically massaging my arms, wouldn’t you notice and want to comfort me? I mean, we were still technically and officially romantically involved. It was only 11:22, after all.
Jones. One more rapidly approaching street to climb until we would reach my apartment, the motherland for confronting the inevitable. So many times had we gone through this sequence of passive-aggressive, over-analytical failure in communication, that by the time one of us got the nerve to speak up, we had eroded away any desire of self-expression. So we, or maybe it was just me, would lie limply and sourly defeated by our own frantic minds on a bed that once felt so comfortable and right.
I inhaled a deep, vicious breath with a tremble of frustration and adrenaline that couldn’t be contained. My steps had become longer than yours, first by the centimeter, then by the inches. You always did seem to lag behind, as if where we were going together was weighing you down, even in the most acutely noticeable way. That silent, unspoken sense of competition was something we clenched deep down in our stomachs so it would stay there and hide until we allowed it to slyly creep up again. Suddenly angrier, I began to increase my speed exponentially. You weren’t going to budge that hand out of your pocket, even when I dropped mine next to it out of desperation. Our hands had been so close that I could feel an electrical current, like magnets leaping together after slipping off the refrigerator.
But we weren’t magnets, just like we weren’t high schoolers, generic, or very communicative. But in our perception of our commonalities, we had lost focus of what made us so different. That night I had to pry out of Greg what caused the end of his love for our relationship. He gave me some half-hearted reasons about what he perceived to be a lack of long-term success and common interests, but they still didn’t really make much sense to me. I saw eternity in his eyes, but I guess he saw nothing in mine.
It was now 2:51am and he wanted to get home. We parted ways, much to my demise and disappointment, and he never made any attempts to contact me afterward.
I thought we were different than other young couples. I basked in what I believed we were: star-crossed lovers led to each other by fate and the presence of first, true love.
But in hindsight, we weren’t that special.
We were actually pretty generic.