I’m at college now. It’s very nice. A community college, just nearby – I drive there every day, now that I have a license. I have four classes, one of which is independent study, meaning I just do problems on the computer the whole time, at my own pace.
I’m not making friends. On the third or fourth day, I just realized it was too much effort, and I couldn’t be bothered. I kind of expected to, but thinking about it, I don’t know why I would. I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be here – in California – at a normal school. I’ve forgotten what normal people are like. I’ve forgotten what my place is among them.
I don’t belong. I’d forgotten that. It used to be so normal, being on the outside. Not being alone – not exactly. I did that in sixth grade, and my mom says I was unhappy. I don’t remember, myself – I just remember when I finally got friends a year after, and how much fun it was. But even with them, I was always a little apart.
The first time my mom took me to a playground here – I was four, and I suppose we’d just moved here – I sat and watched the other kids play the entire time. She was quite bewildered. “Do you want to go play with them?” she asked me, and I shook my head. “Do you want to come back tomorrow?” she asked at the end, and I said yes. It was three days before I finally went to play with the other kids.
I’ve always liked that story. It fits me. I watch people, get their measure, before I join them. Throughout middle school, when I was officially uncool, I defined myself through my otherness. By the time I was fourteen I’d gotten past that and just didn’t care any more whether people liked me. I liked me, and that was enough.
Then came Denmark. Danish kids were so much nicer. The girls didn’t give me those quick up-and-down looks of disgust, or laugh behind my back, or snarl at me, or pretend to be nice to me like something from a bad teen movie. The boys didn’t egg each other on to see who could get me to lose my temper, or ask me to the dance as if it were a joke they couldn’t wait to start laughing at, or badger me five times a week about how I could possibly enjoy reading. My classmates didn’t seem to mind including me in their conversations or after-school parties. Once we’d gotten over meeting each other they didn’t exactly welcome me unless they were drunk, but they never looked at me as if they wished I’d go away. I was always welcome to join in the gossip or the jokes, if I wanted. I thought they were so sweet – I still remember them fondly.
But my friends – my mao friends…
I’ve always had a place where I belong – my family. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that was going to be it, with the possible exception of a future husband and kids of my own. I would read about the kind of friends you could do anything with, share anything with, spend all your time with and still want more, and I thought they were about as real as dragons. I still sort of believed in dragons, and maybe even in friends like this, but the older I got the more I recognized that neither was ever going to be part of my life.
The only friend I have here is Larissa, who is somehow as wonderful as them, but is still only one person. Besides, she can’t replace any of them, no more than they replace her. I’m not used to missing specific, individual people – I keep thinking I just need the company of a really good friend, but that’s not it. I need them. And now even Larissa’s gone back to her college, and I’m alone again.
In middle school there was always someone to poke fun at me. Even in sixth grade, when I had so few friends, there was always someone talking to me, even if they were unwelcome. Now there’s no one. I wander through school in silence, just watching, often too bored or preoccupied even to do that. I don’t care about making new friends, though I know I should. The kind of friendship I used to have isn’t good enough any more. I want good friends, true friends, but without all the hassle of finding these impossibly rare people and convincing them I’m worth keeping around.
This past week, I’ve been desperate to see them again. No one was ever available to skype, though, including myself. I’ve been wandering around for days in a cloud of grey, trying to convince myself that a few brief written chats were enough to keep me happy, but I’ve been reduced to simple pleasures like the feel of grass under my shoes. Nothing that lasts. I needed to see their faces.
Today I skyped with Malthe, very briefly, but he had a guest over and had to go. Then I talked to Tobias and Mikkel for a while, and it was lovely. It felt so good to see them, to hear them laugh. They’re hilarious together – they goof off and act silly, and it cracks me up more than it should, just because I’m so happy to see them.
I don’t mind talking about all the problems my friends have. I’d rather have their problems than their silence, and it’s not like I ever have any problems of my own. I can take theirs. But just for a little while, I needed a few minutes of happiness. I still do, maybe just for a few more days. Just a few more conversations where I can see them, and I’ll be fine again.