I don’t like meeting new people.
That seems like as good a way to start this as any. And it may seem like a strange thing for me to say. Especially since I really like strangers a lot, and I like talking to and otherwise interacting with strangers. But meeting people is different. Meeting people involves small talk, and personal informational questions in order to “get to know each other” for the purpose of becoming acquaintances, and I don’t like acquaintances. At least, not until we move beyond being acquaintances to being friends.
I just reached that point a couple months back with a very nice a girl I work with. She’d learned to read beyond my facial expressions and I’d learned to actually talk every once in a while. It was working wonderfully. Then she said, “Oh, you’re living in Boston, now? You should meet my brother.”
Honesty, my first reaction was not, “Oh, yes I should! Yay!” I don’t like meeting new people, remember? But then, how could I reject her first real gesture of friendship? From the way she put it, it sounded like she realized I didn’t have many friends here, and he was my age and outgoing and she thought we would have a lot in common. How bad could that really be? So I gave her my contact information to pass along.
He text messaged me a couple of weeks
later–right in the middle of my Literary Journal midterm–but that
wasn’t his fault. We talked for 45 minutes on the phone later that night. Small talk and personal informational questions in order to get to know each other. And I couldn’t help but notice that, despite being quite nice, he was…not at all my age…not at all outgoing
…we didn’t really have anything in common…and I got the distinct feeling that she’d told him something…slightly different…than she’d told me.
We’ll call this fellow Belvedere.
“What are you doing this weekend?” he asked.
I was going to New York for a conference. (That was actually a lie, but I didn’t know it at the time–my friend who was going to go with me decided against it the next day.)
“Well, we should get together sometime. I could show you around Boston, we could get something to eat, and…um…you could meet some of my friends too.”
He text messaged me again the next weekend to ask how New York had been…and the weekend after that to see if I was free (I was beginning to realize at this point that text messaging was not included in my phone plan). I had to write my senior thesis that weekend (that was true) so I asked for a rain check for the following one.
He called the next week–in the middle of my Literary Journal final–again, not his fault. (Although, a class on Thursday evenings generally means every Thursday.)
What did I want to do that weekend, Belvedere asked.
“Well,” I said “I was planning on joining you for church Sunday morning.” Church and Sunday, both very platonic. “But it turns out I have to get an MRI scan of my brain.” (true. more on this later)
“Okay.” (Not the usual reaction I got to that news.) “There’s this place some of my friends go salsa dancing on Friday nights. Do you want to go?”.
“That sounds nice but…” …that’s a little too much like… “but the Gordon Globes are Friday and I’d really like to go to. It’s one of the major yearly events here at Gordon…” (true) “…and…I’m ushering.” (lie–I was not ushering. I could have just told him my friend’s film was one of the finalists and I’d promised him I’d be there–but I didn’t.)
“I was invited to a wine and cheese social Saturday night. I won’t really know anyone there.”
And I won’t really be able to eat or drink anything there. “If I come in on Sunday I can probably get whoever picks me up from the hospital to just drop me off at the train station. I might be able to make it in time for the service.”
“There’s another service at four,” he said, “and another at six. So you could come to one of those and then we could go out to dinner afterwards.”
Shucks. “Okay…see you then.”
“So… I think I have a date tomorrow,” I said over the phone to the family conference that Saturday (yeah we really have those).
I unraveled the story.
“Here’s the plan,” said David, “Get a can of chicken ala king and hide it in your coat, then after the service is over, make retching noises and dump it all over the floor! Believe me…he won’t want to go to dinner after that.”
For lack of chicken ala king, I didn’t take David’s advice. But I later regretted not settling for clam chowder.