|Is there something wrong with me — is it really that noticeable that I didn't shower today, or yesterday? I don't think so, because I tried really hard to smell me, and I can't at all, so I know it's not bothering you that much.|
It begins innocently, with a conversation. I'll politely tell this new acquaintance a joke. A good one, usually. He'll laugh, always, and I'll politely chortle along to acknowledge the humor of the joke. Things are going well at this point. The skies are endless and blue, and social butterfly wings can be seen splitting out of my back like feathers in Black Swan. What could go wrong!, I foolishly ask, and I launch into another joke, certain to forge forever this new friendship in the fires of humor.
Suddenly, from the distance, a friend, Mike, approaches with wild reckless speed. He's heading right for my conversation. My conversation. No, I think to myself. Not this time. Coolly I turn my body 90 degrees in an attempt to box out this social wannabe. At this point, I am willing to make a certain sacrifice to protect my social stability, a sacrifice that involves acknowledging the inexplicable way I've turned my current conversation into what can best be described as a right angle of people. My back to Mike, I smile awkwardly at my dear acquaintance and pray that my realignment has caused a gravitational deflection of Mike's oncoming trajectory.
It's no use. In a brilliant maneuver, Mike swings wide around my defending body and enters the conversation from the opposite side. He makes a joke of his very own. What a stupid joke you moron, but what's this? My acquaintance laughs and turns his attention to him! O, bitter betrayal! Terrified, I jerk my head left and then right, surveying the room. My acquaintance has laughed too loud. A few heads have turned and spotted my threesome. A few bored people saunter over. Now there are enemies coming from all directions. It's all over now, I know. Nevertheless, I'm not giving up yet. I will fight to the god damn death.
With each new person added to the small mob, I try to chip in at the conversation with little witticisms to make my presence known. Everyone totally saw that I was here first, anyway. Again, it's no use. My fruitless desperation slowly gives way to the imminent circle that begins to form and tighten. I start to feel constricted on both sides. My arms are pressed against my sides, and the intense wave of body head shoots my temperature through the ceiling. Voices bounce and reflect back and forth across the walls of the circle, pounding at my small body and beating it backwards, until finally, here I am in my usual position, standing behind the little crack between Mike and Steve. Steve isn't that tall, so I can sort of crane my neck over his shoulder and peer in at the ensuing fun that seems to be going on in a world outside my own. I have fallen. My ego, once stroked, has been reduced to fluttering each time I succeed in eye contact with someone from The Group. I don't quite make out everything they're saying, because the music's kind of loud in here, but I don't really dislike Katy Perry, anyway. Whenever Mike or Steve talk, though, I hear their words easily, and I feel vicariously as if I'm a part of their words, as if in some small way, my presence has some bearing on the wind of influence that blows into them from behind. My acquaintance looks at me from across the way, and I yearn for some kind of acknowledgment, some hint that he knows things were simpler once, more beautiful. There is no spark in his eyes, though, and I can only guess that he's already forgotten my name. I shrink back, hesitantly, and I make one meek and final push toward the circle, but there's no give between Mike and Steve. The Group has everyone it needs. And I am alone. I remember the joke I told just five minutes prior, and I chuckle quietly to myself. Yes, it was a good one. I tell it again in my head. Yes, very good.