Being the ghost

It is not that love sometimes makes mistakes, but that it is, essentially, a mistake. We fall in love when our imagination projects nonexistent perfections on to another person. One day the phantasmagoria vanishes, and with it love dies.

Ortega y Gasset

I learned long ago that after about high school, no one really cares about your stories of bravado. Not even your friends. If you want to keep people entertained, tell them a story about you falling on your face and you will have an audience.

I don’t know if this is universal advice or just something that is true for me. People look at me and expect big things, not having any idea about the loser deep down inside, and so when I tell those stories about my failures it tickles there counter-expectational buttons. I took me many years to do, but I have come to really bank on that counterexpectational reaction for many of the things I do in my life. It can be useful, such as when someone tries to cold read me and gets it completely wrong-

(In my early twenties, during a pretty depressive period of my life that led to my first suicide attempt, I ended up being talked into going to see a fortune teller. That person did their level best, and still only managed to tell me things that were nowhere even approaching the realm of reality. That person took a look at me, guessed, and guessed completely wrong. Back then, I was sad about it, as I needed the help. Now? I wouldn’t take the help if it was available…, and I know that no help is coming)

-and it can be harmful, as when people look at me and assume that I will do things as per the societal expectations.

Society dictates that men ask women out. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that this goes deeper than societal expectations (as, no matter how feminist or against societal standards my female friends have been, all of them firmly refused to ever ask a man out), but that is a different conversation. My friends X had a long standing crush on me, which was something I would only ever piece together after the fact. Alas, I was both uninterested and oblivious. But moreover, they would never bother being direct about it.

Direct? They told me on more than one occasion that their own personal fortune teller had informed them that in the next place they would move to they would meet a person, matching more or less my exact description, who would end up being the love of their life. I didn’t take it for the hint that it was, and merely fixated on my own skepticism about fortune tellers more generally, and just how stupid I thought the idea was.

Six months later and we would frequent the same bars, often at the same time and with increasing frequency just the two of us, and I couldn’t quite grasp why they insisted of asking questions of increasing personal intimacy (questions which, when in company, and I had always evaded answering) and not sticking to the conversation that I actually excelled at – ‘big talk’ issues like politics.

But there was at least on truly admirable thing to this person’s persistence, it’s that she actually tried to take me out on a date on her terms. It didn’t go well for her at all, but points for trying. In my life, no woman has ever actually come up to me and tried to initiate things directly. That I can tell, she was the almost only one who ever tried indirectly (that ‘almost’ I threw in there? There was another one, but that’s a whole other story about my sense of morality, doing the right thing, and the rotten luck I have asa human being. It’s a story I will not go into today).

She insisted I go with her to an arcade.

For context, arcade’s were not a thing for me growing up. It was just one of the many parts of childhood I missed out on, and when people bring them up I can only stare in wonderment at whatever the fuck they are talking about.

But go to the arcade with her I did, for reasons I simply cannot figure out. I was about as confused as they come. I am not one of those weirdos who claims to be against video games – hell, I even play them on occasion. But I play that at-home-alone variety, and not the social variety. So when I get in front of a social game, I largely don’t know what to do.

That, more or less, was how this all played out, we drifted from machine to machine, with my never exactly figuring out what the fucking appeal was meant to be. I probably wasn’t having fun, because for me video games involve solving a puzzle of some kind while listening to a podcast. The culmination of the day happened when she suggested some game I had never heard of, one of those two player affairs, and I sat down and I played it. It ended pretty quickly, and I stood up once again confused as to what the hell the point was. But what I recall most vividly was the odd look of disappoint from X when I did.

It was probably a year later when I figured out that she was expecting to play the game with me. Likely, she was looking to do a fun activity with me. And it never dawned on me.

At heart of all this is the fact that I am a person who never socialized properly as a kid, and I am now a fucked up adult for it. It’s a crutch I will walk with for the rest of my life.

As you can imagine, that incident terminated this girl’s attempt at trying to start something with me. For the next few years, we remained friends.

At some point that person became important to me as a friend. Friendships too, are ghosts, and just like the ghosts of the opening epigram, they disappear when the person realizes the truth of the person in front of them. X has largely moved on with their life, and so our friendship has reduced to occasionally just sending me a meme. And with that, I have to watch the ghost of our friendship vanish into reality. Which is a shame really, as the friendship meant something to me.

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