Last night two friends were in town, having made what tends to be a yearly foray from the grim north. They seemed to be enjoying it. I hope they are, and do. But it won't be on my account. I was sat right there but I was miles and miles away.
It always interests and amuses me, when someone sings the praises of a friend of theirs. You know that the line "you'd like them" is never far away. Friendships are so organic and based on chemistry that, however well-meaning the human impulse to try and share the good things with each other is, in this instance it just can't always work that way. Everyone is different, and needs different things. The kind of confidant I need may set your teeth on edge. The people I think are funny may bore you. It's inconceivable to me how you could think that way, of course. Just as it would be if the roles were reversed.
One of the key factors in this is it assumes that people's moods are constant. As I loll about on great tides of variability, I always imagine that I'd find everyone I know to be pretty much as I expect them to be. I never factor in that they might be sad, or angry, or stressed, or excited, or whatever. Which is absurd. I wonder if other people think that way and if they do, if it serves some sort of useful evolutionary purpose - rather than just contributing to an ongoing Cartesian existential nightmare.
The person I am, of course, remains a constant. But as I tend to lurch from despondency to hyperactivity most of the time, it's difficult to know what you're going to get. Beyond that, I'm also terribly shy with new people. Even with people I know, at times.
Yesterday I was fairly happy within myself, but that was as far as my ambition went. I imagine I radiated nothingness, to the point of invisibility. I was sat there kind of hoping no-one would talk to me, because I was surrounded by people who I properly love and would never dream of ignoring. But at the same time I could feel that even getting words out could prove to be a Herculean effort. Believe it or not, this actually represents something of a step up for me. In the past to catch me on a downward curve could have seen me like a black hole of self-loathing, hell bent on actively sucking all the joy out of the room. Misery really does love company.
What I'm about to say may sound a little big-headed, but false modesty was very last year and anyway, I do actually have a big fat head. I am a very entertaining person. Whilst I'm unlikely to be physically dominating any situation, when I'm at my best I can be at the very centre of affairs. I'm funny, imaginative and outspoken. Charming. Interesting. Sweet. Controversial. I'm as excited as anyone is when that person turns up, believe me. But that is the person that someone would tell people about. The other one - the anonymous one - can do all of the same things but has no desire or need to. They'll just sit in the corner and hope no-one notices them.
Of course, people do notice them. I am lucky - very lucky - in that my friends understand that the sparky and brilliant dotmund won't always turn up and are all perfectly content with just your entry-level dotmund, the tortoise without the shell. The footballer's wife without the vajazzle. But I can still sometimes feel the disappointment when just the very basic package turns up as it did last night. And it is disappointment, rather than frustration. Very lucky, you see. Indeed, the disappointment may actually just be concern onto which I am projecting my own feelings of disappointment at, and in, myself. This would be very like my friends, who are a genuinely good bunch. They have to be, let's face it.
Yesterday night continued into the early hours. There was a spirited debate going on, encompassing personal, interpersonal, social and political topics. It was pretty interesting and strident stuff, delivered at all times with a smile and a wink. A delightfully good-natured and stimulating affair. I just sat in the corner drawing. And the pictures I was drawing weren't even very good, to top it all off. To everyone's credit, I was left to my own devices whilst always being welcome to join in should I want to. I wish I could have done. If someone had tried to convince a stranger they'd like to meet me, by this point they'd have called a cab.
I'm disappointed today. However, I'm a wiser person these days than in the past, so I'm disappointed for me, not at me. It's a pity that my friends from afar won't be able to return with any great tales of dotmund whimsy. Hopefully next time.
Next time someone is telling you that you'd like their friends, I think the best answer could just be to say that you sincerely hope that their friends are as good to - and for - them as your own are to and for you. Unless you feel you've tethered yourself to a real wagonload of losers. In which case, someone may have just offered you a ticket to the promised land!