We’ve come to the end of this series of guest posts about studying. I’m very grateful to all of my friends who shared their stories about studying with us. I am also very grateful to all of you who are still reading my blog despite the fact that I wasn’t around here much lately.
My last guest is a very talented writer and I’m very honoured to have him here. He’s one of those writers who doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves. Robbie writes Tales From Beyond the End of the World and I would be very happy if you would read some of his beautiful and touching stories starting with this one:
-"You've Come a Long Way, Baby..."-
We first met as adolescents in a souk, at southeastern edge of the greater metroplex, attempting to earn a wage without our parents' help or hindrance. I was nineteen, nearly twenty, collecting and counting money for purchases. She was not too far from having first turned sixteen, packaging those very purchases I collected and counted money for. Just two badlands kids trying to start making our way in the wide world, even though we lived along one of its ends.
My first impression of her was she was rather shy. After all, she didn't talk. At all. There was once or twice I was full of enough adolescent arrogance to ask her if she was mute, to which she would shake her head and giggle. There were a lot of things I would say that she'd laugh at, which got me to think I was either that funny or she was that gullible, or perhaps that uncomfortable. After nineteen years of friendship, she had yet to tell me which.
The first two years of our friendship, she maybe uttered a paragraph's worth a words. She would tell you it's because I never shut up, but that's a bunch a who shot john. Even she's been around when my misanthropy has caused me to retreat deep within myself, hissing and growling at anyone bold, or stupid, enough to come near. Yet, I can own up, when held in comparison, I am the more vocal, the more social of the two of us.
She was the first of my friends to find out I was going to drop of university to get married. That I was going to be a father. A little over a year later, she hung out with me in diner into the small hours as I told her my soon to be x-wife was leaving me and we were filing for divorce.
Early into our friendship, I found out the reason she was so shy was far deeper and darker than simple introversion or the paradoxical misanthropy I was possessed of. One night, Jezebel explained to me she was sociophobic, and a little claustrophobic. Being uncomfortable in strange social situations and crowds like I could be, like I still sometimes get, is one thing. Her's was a horse of a completely different colour. For her, walking out her front door could be the very stuff of waking nightmares.
So, a paradoxical misanthrope took it on himself to try and help a sociophobe face her deepest, darkest fears, and interact with the world. I know, it sounds like a joke. And, by the way, that is the punchline.
To Jezebel, I was a social butterfly. Her teacher in the ways of interaction and the human affliction. To me, she was amongst the best of confidants and one of my favourite monkey watching partners.
Although, there were times we would rage against each other. Times I would have had better luck pulling teeth from a blood-hungry shark than getting her to go somewhere. To try something. To acknowledge when some guy might have been trying to chat her up. She would tell me how she had this image within her skull, a phantasm she called the person she wanted to be.
"You want to see that?" I snarled during one of our more heated arguments, and I all but shoved her into the water closet mirror. "She's looking right back fucking at you! Own up!"
Jezebel avoided me for a week and a half after that, but I may have deserved it...
The education was not all one way. She too would teach me lessons. Of course, in my experiences, travels, and adventures, the gurus, guides, saints, and seers I have encountered have not been the ones bedecked in the robes of the holy or found within the walls of temples and monasteries. They have been the most unlikely characters found in the most unlikely places. That sociophbic girl I met in a souk nineteen years ago now I would say has been one of my best teachers.
Jezebel was the one who reminded me the bardo after my divorce, and my relationship with the fucking psycho x, a few years later, that I did not need to be in a relationship. I spent five years being solitary learning to appreciate wanting to be with someone, instead of convincing myself I somehow required it. The irony of that lesson was I was three years into being without when we met Belushi and I convinced Jezebel it might be okay to ask him out on a date. At one point we didn't really get along, him and I, after all, one of my best friends, my favourites monkey watching partner, was leaving me for a boy.
I had to learn to let go. The person she wanted to be, the person she already was, did not always need her strange, tall, lanky friend. It was a profound lesson.
When I was working with a little more earnestness to publish my book, I feared I might just be something I have found myself sometimes despising; a writer. An artist. But then again, I harbor a pathological hatred of labels and the limitation of which they impose. When I mentioned this to Jezebel, she chuckled and said I could not escape my nature, and, like it or don't, I was possessed of a gift. I waxed melodramatic as I told her I had no gift. If anything, having words fluttering about within my skull like angry hornets, stinging my maggot's nest of a mind, was a curse. I had to purge them or go mad.
She chuckled again and called me on being melodramatic and said;
"However you put it doesn't matter. How you deal with it does."
And some days I do better than others. Like when I don't take myself too seriously. When I take myself too seriously, I risk spirals into self-destruction. I do what I do. Not everyone who plays music has jack-off fantasies of becoming John Lennon, Gene Simmons, and Lady Gaga all warped into one abomination. They play because they play. Because it satisfies them on a level and in a way that has yet to be described in cold and clinical reptilian ways. The words are like that for me, and there is simply no other way to put it.
But it was Jezebel who taught me that lesson warped up in girlish giggles, which, nineteen years from sixteen, she still possess. I'd call her cute for it, but she'd tell me to go fuck myself. Although I still might...just because.
Belushi is one of those who play music just because. The band he's in does classic rock covers at summer auto shows. He kicks around playing in a band that does originals, but if he doesn't, it's okay, because he still gets to play.
I had occasion to see him play the last time I saw Jezebel. It was the first time we'd physically seen one another in almost two years, so it was quite the occasion. We've all been friends for so long I'm the only one who really remembers in detail how Belushi and I spent a year and a half plotting one another's horrible murders only to have a catharsis over late-night coffee.
I harassed Jezebel for looking like a groupie in her denim mini-skirt and Mike Ness t-shirt. She shrugged it off. I was introduced to the circle of friends she runs with these days and we drank beer. That evening, I watched her dance and hoop and holler for her husband's band as they performed. Things I'd never have imagined her being able to do even five years ago, although I always hoped she would.
"Well, Mademoiselle sociophobe, I think you've come a long way. Like light years," I told her at one point. "I'm very proud of you."
"Thank you," Jezebel said, giving me a hug. "I owe you a lot."
"Bah! Mon ami, you don't owe me a damn thing. We're more than even."