A short preamble. Emotions hold no intrinsic value in my eyes, neither does any aspect that contains positive emotions, such as friendship and romance and affection and warmth.
Subject F started as a mere interest for me, nothing more than an amusing pastime. I stalked them online when I was too bored to do anything else.
Subject F texted me sparsely, for memes and such. When they realised I am not invested in the conversations, wisely enough, they stopped. And that bugged me, unbeknown to myself. So I decided to text them first one day, except I didn’t know how to start a conversation. I kept typing and deleting:
Yo. (Too casual)
Hey. (Too friendly)
Waddup? (Too bro-ish)
Wanna hang? (Yeah, let’s kill ourselves together.)
Finally I settled with Send memes before I could change my mind. They replied almost instantly with a meme I had already seen the day before. I tossed the phone on the bed, and focused on an assignment instead.
A couple days after, Subject F invited me to a post-festival hangout with their friends. I kid you not, my eyebrows shot so high up they almost reached my hairline. Me? Hangout? Why? I was not funny or warm or touchy or anything that friends are. What would I know about how friends are anyway? I stared at the screen for a few minutes before sending a concise reply: no.
There you go. Problem solved.
But then Subject F replied, “Too bad. It would’ve been great if you could make it.”
I sat up on my chair. What was so great about my company? I chewed on my lip. I had been in the pursuit of finding “friends”, always failing miserably. They seemed interested, so why not? Again, a concise reply: OK.
An hour before the hangout, I stood in front of the mirror, wearing all black. I tugged the sleeves all the way down to my wrists carefully. I ran fingers through my hair that refused to be tamed no matter what. I didn’t want to care much about how I dressed for some stupid hangout, but I also hated that I worried I didn’t look attractive enough. A shade too pale. Scrawny. Fuck it. I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed for the festival, of course with mom in tow who only left me alone once she was assured I had settled.
I spotted Subject F from a distance, surrounded by their friends. I scoffed. How many friends can a person need? Poser. I almost turned around and sprinted away. This wasn’t a place for me. Nowhere was a place for me. I knew what people thought of me. A stone-cold bitch. But my house wasn’t a place I wanted to return to either. I sucked my breath and marched towards Subject F.
I don’t know what I expected, but Subject F smiled at me. “So glad you came!” They boomed. They put an arm around my shoulder, instantly sending a chill down my spine. I braced and shook off their hand resentfully. They didn’t seem offended.
Subject F was too loud and brisk and talkative. I promptly crossed their name off in my mind from my list of potential “friends”.
ENTRY: Subject F, not a potential friend.
Subject F said I looked so much better in real life than in my profile pictures. I eyed them cautiously, trying to detect if they were flattering. It did not seem so at all. They really appeared to be enjoying my presence. I tried to be as amicable as I could, though I couldn’t tell if I was succeeding.
Little did I know, that was the first. Subject F displayed genuine heed to me. They never did anything offensive or touched me inappropriately. For someone like me, all touches were inappropriate. I guess they understood that the first day, so they kept their distance.
Subject F and I began texting a lot, more than I expected. We would spend late hours of the night talking. I didn’t talk much, so I mostly listened to their incessant chattering. They had so much to tell. Anecdotes from their boss’s magnificent cats, their classmates’ antics, concerts they’d been to — everything. A lot of things they said, I could not relate to. I had never been to a concert, or had a large group of friends, or worked at some place, neither did I even own a device of some sort. They knew some impressive technology hacks that I was certain were pretty straightforward, but I had no idea how to do. I would tell them of an otherworldly cool video I had seen that I can find no longer, and they’d magically locate it from the internet before I’d finished talking.
Subject F was a constant reminder of all the things everyone else had but I didn’t, about what a caged person I was — jailed in my house, punished like a criminal. But, weirdly enough, as insignificant and deprived as I felt, I didn’t much mind Subject F’s stories. They only added to my realm of imagination. I would envision everything impossible in my mind quietly at night, like a picture book. Picture books in my mind were just that — out of touch and perception, as absurd as sliding down a rainbow.
Subject F was more considerate than ever. I could almost never get out of my house, but that didn’t bother them. They were okay with whenever I could manage hangouts with them, as rare as those were.
I reminded them a hundred times a day that I hated them and they replied every time that they knew.
I added Subject F’s name back on the list.
EDIT: They could perhaps be a friend.
And then they happened to start asking questions.
What’s that cut on your brow?
What’s that mark on your neck?
Why are your knuckles scabbed?
Is that your lip bleeding?
If only the visible parts of me raised that many questions, I didn’t want to know how many the covered parts would.
It got too far. I had to put an end to it. Curiosity kills the cat, didn’t they know? I stopped responding to texts or calls. They could go to hell for all I cared.
I hated myself for missing their company. I’d get over it, not a big deal — I told myself. But it was a big deal. Why was I such a fool to go ahead and take Subject F seriously? Friendship is idiotic and toxic and parasitic. They wanted to help. That’s not good.
EDIT: Subject F failed.
It occurred to me that friendship was a two-way road. Subject F didn’t have to deal with my mess, but they did. What did I do in return? Well, I stayed up at nights for them, spent my time texting them when I could’ve been more productive, hung out with them while I could’ve been at a library instead. Not like I hadn’t done much on my part… right? What did that matter? It’s a closed case.
But then, over a week after, Subject F sent a message, when I was in class, that went, “I don’t know what I did wrong, but I’m sorry if I offended you in some way. Sorry if I was being too intrusive or touchy or I don’t even know what. I’m in a terrible situation right now, and it’d be great if I had you to talk to.”
I frowned. Why did this person think it was so great to do things with me? How could I be of any worldly help at all? I dismissed the text. Surely, they were cajoling me (?)
I groaned in annoyance, and replied, “What do you need?”
Their call came the next moment. I rushed to the washroom to receive. I had never heard them sound so broken before, or so quiet. They kept fumbling for words like searching for the light switch in the dark. I pieced their detached phrases, and construed that their relative had died only the day before.
Clearly someone’s death couldn’t budge me at all, but Subject F was in a desolate distress. They sounded like they hadn’t slept in the last thirty hours probably.
This didn’t sound like a good idea, but I sighed and asked if they could free up some time to meet me perhaps.
They said yes.
The same old icy voice slithered in my head, why do you give a damn about someone else? They can go kill themselves for all you care.
But Subject F sought my company, not anyone else’s.
I bunked the remaining time of the class, and found them at the lakeside. They were bent over on a bench with their face buried in their hands. I padded towards them and sat silently.
I observed their hands looked wrinkled and hair tousled. I bit on my lip, wondering what to do, when I reached over and cautiously brushed their hair — slow at first, then deeply when their head leaned on my palm with recognition.
I think the reason why I didn’t attach much effort to any relationship, be it romantic or platonic — was because I firmly believed they won’t last. Everything ceased to exist at some point. Only a fool would reckon they can stretch something beyond its elastic limit. What was the point of investing in a project that was ought to fail?
But maybe that was okay. Even if Subject F and I became strangers someday, that didn’t mean what we had now never happened. The late night conversations that spanned hours and ended when the sky bleached, the occasional hangouts I could manage where I rolled eyes at all their silly antics, the pictures they took of me despite my desperate attempt at seizing the camera, and this moment by the lake when my fingers are interlaced with locks of their satiny hair.
Friendship or intimacy repulsed me because I was frustratingly tight-lipped. But it didn’t have to be only about disclosing the skeleton in the cupboard. It could be as simple as just being there. Friendship didn’t come easy to me, but I did sign up for this.
EDIT: Subject F is a friend.
The writer, a cynic, is a part of the TDA Editorial Team.