remember that the city is a funny place

2022-08-30  egg

Yesterday I texted Cora, "I really want to go to Sedona." Within five hours we had booked flights and an Airbnb for a 4-night trip in November. All that's left is the rental car, my jurisdiction. Today I learn during standup that we have Friday off, and I buy a ticket for Dia:Beacon before the meeting ends. I'm feeling restless and uneasy. My circadian rhythms are all fucked up as if I'm experiencing delayed jet lag, the kind of drowsiness that hits suddenly, and hard, where you go from functional to unable to keep your eyes open within seconds. I need caffeine, but even so little as two sips of coffee from the place downstairs makes my heart pound. I want to throw my phone away. I have a suspicion that something has shifted in the past twelve hours but have little evidence with which to prove it, is it intuition or is it pessimism... In college my friendships were like pendulums; I would become close with someone in a matter of weeks, enamored with them and the parts of myself that I felt were singularly teased out by being around them, but then something would flip and I would feel sick of them. The mildly irritating things that I had previously ignored would become unbearable, and these annoyances would usually feel connected some fundamental aspect of their character and how they operated. In the years since graduating I've tried to manage this by approaching friendships in a more measured way, to stop putting people on pedestals, and the inherent boundaries erected by adult life have helped with this too, in some ways you learn to expect less from friendships because everybody is caught up with their own shit and because sometimes friendships feel better when they're less intimate and entangled. When sitting on the stoop across from Eric's apartment several weekends ago we contemplated how much we expect friendships to satisfy us emotionally. As I've spent almost all my waking time around friends for the past couple weeks, I've wondered--what would my friendships look like in an ideal world? What is my relationship to my friends' company, and do I make them happy? Do either of us wish we were closer? Do I take up too much space in our friendship? Are these friendships enough to make me happy? During second year I became friends with this girl who I had known for awhile from afar. She had a kind of no fucks given, manic energy--some people just radiate an aura of being smart and interesting, and she had that. She frequently wore oversized tshirts with basketball shorts, and clear-framed glasses dominated her petite and surprisingly quite pretty, delicate face (surprising because even though she presented as more androgynous, she had very femme and dainty features). I often saw her in the library chatting animatedly with people, and when we became friends it was organic and quick, my other friends remarked that they were confused where this girl had come from who I seemed to spend most of time with. She was the only person I knew who I would describe as insouciant; her sense of humor felt almost dismissive of you or your problems, and although this was initially very off-putting she seemed mostly to lack the awareness that her quips had the effect of being rude and disrespectful, and she was often sweet and doled out thoughtful compliments in the same childish manner. She and I became friends in the spring, around the same time I descended into a whirlwind romance with someone who I had also known for awhile from afar--intuition. For several weeks he and I stayed up til 3am talking, skipping our morning classes to sleep in together and spend more time with each other. I had never been so attuned to the magic of springtime, and the budding and blooming was like this wondrous reflection of what I was experiencing inside, the narcissistic pleasure of feeling that it was fate, I had *known* this would happen between us, and the material world was validating it. As finals approached and we were forced to drift back towards earth I introduced him to my friend, who his roommate was trying to sleep with. The weight of all the responsibilities we'd been deflecting seemed to settle disproportionately on my shoulders (especially as he was a fucking philosophy major and had no real finals), and I felt increasingly anxious as his responses to my texts grew sparser, more delayed. I would receive photos of him and my friend gallivanting around downtown Chicago, they were so unencumbered to read in coffeeshops or explore the random places she wanted to check out, while I was stuck to the back of the second floor stacks, having mild panic attacks every other day about whether I would need to pass/fail and retake CS 154. Jealousy and stress rolled into one large ball that was so overwhelming that when she told me that they had accidentally fallen asleep together watching a movie in his bed I just felt upset in a blank and directionless way. I was uneasy and a little irritated that she didn't just stop the situation before it reached that point, but bore little resentment towards her in the moment. "I thought he was being kind of sus," she said as she apologized, "I don't like messy gray areas like that." Even when I inevitably got dumped after the school year ended, I had yet to feel any anger towards him. Instead, I was introduced to the concept of gaslighting as my friend railed against him, how inattentive and selfish he had been, how I needed to cut him off because his manipulations made me unhappy. And yet I knew without asking that she hadn't stopped talking to him, that their friendship was unmired by the opinions she professed to hold of him and how he treated me. That summer in Chicago was swampy and paranoiac, I felt suffocated by the flatness of the city, landlocked into my depression. We would sit together for lunch in the sunroom of my 54th and Woodlawn apartment, and I would stare down into my bowl of rice and lose my appetite. Her presence made me miserable, but I had the anxious suspicion that the moment she and I weren't together she would be with him, and I was right; one night I decided to watch a movie with Marie and Samara, and the next morning I pieced together that they had gone to a movie at a ramen restaurant in West Town. Irrationally, I felt that she was using the special, shared parts of our friendship to charm him, like how *I* had been the one to tell her about that screening, *I* had been the one who wanted to trip in Jackson Park, *I* had wanted to watch that movie at Music Box. No matter how much I talked to her about my feelings and no matter how much she tearfully apologized, little changed. Sometimes I still felt like we were on top of the world, two intelligent young women whose potential felt boundless, but mostly our friendship made me want to throw up. The end of summer put some more distance between us as she went back to New York until the beginning of the school year, and I was relieved to have some space from her, for her to disappear from my world. A year later when I ran into her at a birthday party, she drunkenly confessed to being hurt by our drifting apart and told me I needed to go to therapy because clearly my female friendships were so toxic that I hadn't been able to learn to trust her. Afterwards I learned that she and my ex had indeed ended up hooking up, and that was that. Because of her and that relationship, I feel like I'm often averse to talking about my anxiety, especially when it involves another person; it makes me nauseous and icky to think of the things I've verbalized when at my lowest floating out in the world, and it has to be really, really bad for me to talk to someone about it, usually someone far removed from the situation. Boundaries are a curse and a reprieve. Doing things alone becomes a sort of revenge, some proof that there are things about me and my experiences which can't be co-opted by anybody else and whose significance can't be stolen and will remain guarded and intact, mine. I felt this way today when booking that ticket to Dia, when thinking of escaping to the desert with Cora... When will I trust that the people I want or care about truly see and value me for who I am?