Coversations with Joey

106. about birds and feathers

18 alone together

„Gosh, Joey, I’m such a stereotype, it’s embarrassing.“

„Huh. Which stereotype is that?“

Just that morning, I’d woken up with the worst hang over headache I’d had in a year or so. Perhaps the celebration of a close friend’s engagement warranted the kind of debauchery that followed the few shots drowned in beer that made me as clear on what my life had turned into lately, but I still had the uncomfortable feeling of shame in my stomach. That’s the real reason I’d called Joey after getting out of the shower, it certainly wasn’t that he needed to taste my abysmal culinary skills. After overcooking the rice two times in a row, I gave up and ordered Chinese.

That’s what I’m struggling to keep down at the moment while Joey is gingerly nibbling on his spring rolls.

„The fucked-up twenty-something with no direction. Generation Y, or whatever it is we’re called these days. The Millennials? That’s me. A humanities student with a penchant for socialism and breaking the rules, while at the same time needing the security of what my parents have. The eccentric whose only unusual part is their clothes, and not even that anymore.“

To be truthful, I don’t really believe all of this about myself, but the post-alcoholic hazy mood is overwhelming. Mister Y had called just that evening and made me think back to who I’d been half a year ago, how I thought I’d had everything figured out and that being ordinary, wanting ordinary things, isn’t all that horrible. Fast forward to this summer and this day, and everything’s gone cockeyed again. I’m reckless, with myself for the most part, I certainly don’t have anything figured out, and it shows. All my friends can see it. Hell, I’m sure even strangers can guess at it. In a train of sarcastic put-downs yesterday, one of the people who have done oh-so-well-for-themselves-and-know-it, told me something I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

Nothing’s simple with you, Missus, not even fucking.

At first I thought it was a joke, and the throw back to Joey was humorous. Even though I suppose it really was meant as such, it’s not nearly as funny today. The truth rarely is.

Joey’s rolling his eyes at me, so hard I think they might end up popping out of his head via his nose.

„Don’t tell me, you’re thinking about Mister Y again and how maybe it wasn’t all that bad and you should’ve gone for it because, hey, an instant family – what’s not to love about that? Is this where the conversation is going?“

I try to put my most innocent face on. It doesn’t work.

„It’s not him. It’s the idea of what we had. I thought I wanted that at one point, you know? And then I was so sure I didn’t, it was ridiculous, I should’ve known I’d be spitting back into my mouth over a period of a couple of months from when I said – I don’t want anyone to rely on me, I don’t want to rely on anyone except for myself. Also, that whole talk about revelations and not promising anything to people in order not to get hurt? Utter crap. I’m starting to think I’m mentally challenged.“

„Told you so.“

It’s my turn to roll my eyes. Yes, Joey did tell me my new way of thinking was flawed at the time, and even though I’d have liked nothing more than to prove him wrong, he wasn’t. Perhaps he wasn’t as right as he thought, because nothing much happened with Jim and me when the summer was over, but like my friend had said last night, it was far from simple.

„Fine, so you know me better than I’ll ever know myself. Can you tell me then, what is it I really want?“

„No. Because you don’t know what you want. And that’s exactly what you want. Wait, let me do this again. I do know what you want! You want to not know what you want.“

„Wow, that’s deep, man.“

We laugh for a while at his armchair psychology analysis of my innermost motives, and yes, perhaps some truths can be funny.

„Do you know what Paige said to me? She said not even fucking me is simple.“

„Of course it’s not, you’re a woman after all. No, let me correct that. You’re a human being. Our one distinctive quality is our stubborn reluctance to be anything but needlessly complex.“

„I like that. Needless complexity. It’s like something I coined when I was writing about Jim, I said it was an improbable possibility.“

„Which one did it turn out to be, do you think?“

„Improbable, and complex. To use both our terms. A little needless too.“

„Why was it needless? Didn’t you have fun?“

„I guess so. And I have bruises to show for it.“

„You minx.“

“That’s the one stereotype I’m proud of being!”

The conversation trails off for a while. It’s only when he gets up to leave that Joey’s face morphs into its usual Yoda-like expression, as it always does when he’s preparing to share some of the Universe’s wisdom with me. He sits back down and rearranges the empty cardboard boxes on the table.

„I know you feel like you’re coasting through life at the moment, I see that. I also know you’re not nearly as ambivalent about this mess with Mister Y, and Jim, and even what Paige said, as you’d like to be. But listen, even though I can get on your case about truthfulness and being honest with yourself, for what it’s worth, I don’t think what you told me that day, about not promising anything, was utter crap. It was what you needed at the time to protect yourself, and I’m sorry if I took that away. All of us need those walls and boundaries sometimes, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And while you’re trying to figure out what you want, it’s also okay to be a stereotype, whatever helps you get there. But I’m sensing that you’re pretty close to figuring it out since you’ve already realized some of this shit on your own.“

„It’s when you see yourself being someone you’re not, acting out a part so to say – it’s then that you’re learning about who you are. An elimination process, so to say. In the end, when you’ve excluded all the options of who you’re not, you’ll be left with who you are. It’s that simple really. Simpler than fucking, and not as needlessly complex as you’d expect it to be. In a way, it’s a probable impossibility – this finding yourself business. It seems really difficult at first, impossible even, but then it’s bound to come and it’s a sudden kind of a-ha moment, like falling in love. You can think about it and try to force it, but it doesn’t work that way. Once you’ve eliminated all the people you don’t love from your life, and the people who don’t love you, you can find that person who makes you tick. And it’s not down to the amount of thinking you put into it, it just happens. But you need those other people to know what wrong feels like, so you’ll know the difference when right comes along. That’s what it really is. Falling in love with yourself, with the right person in yourself. One of these days, it’s gonna happen to you.“

Two things happen as Joey is giving his speech. One, I stop worrying about always being as insecure and as confused as I am now, because if Joey says that it will pass, I believe him. Two, I find out something about who I am, something about me that I like. I am the kind of person who has friends like Joey, and someone he calls a friend can’t be all that far from awesome. I remember that saying, birds of a feather flock together, and even though I have no idea where we’re flying, or how big our flock is, at least I’m certain I’ll always be in good company.


One thought on “106. about birds and feathers

  1. The elimination process paragraph makes me think of Sherlock Holmes saying to Doctor Watson, ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’. Though I’m not completely sure quite how that gets to grips with multiple and shifting psychological possibilities, but hey.

You think, therefore you are.

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