Two years ago, when Sarah left, I started cutting people out of my life like they were cancer. It wasn't that I had too many friends--on the contrary, I could count my close acquaintances on one hand and one middle finger. I think I was severing these ties for a few reasons: I wanted to be history-less. I wanted that feeling that you get when you move to a new country. Another big reason was reciprocity. It was an issue for my mother, and despite consciously fighting it most of my life, it has become an issue for me too. I don't want to expect some kind of emotional collateral from friends when I do something for them under the guise of charity, but somewhere down inside the truth is I do. It's an inherent sense of justice and fairness. Maybe it comes from the disproportional reprimanding in the estrogen-flooded household of my youth. Or maybe it stems from the fear of looking like an easy mark.
There hadn't been reciprocity in my marriage for years, and, illuminated by my sudden alone-ness in the wake of our divorce, it occurred to me that my friendships were void of it as well. Yes, it sounds like the Atlas complex, and maybe it was/is. But these friends… I listened to them when they needed to talk. I worried about them when they were alone. I made them laugh when Shannon died, and when Selkirk was thrown out of the country I organized the trip to see him and bring him his son. I helped them whenever there was something I could do. I recoded their tablets to stop waking them up at odd hours, I advised them about relationships... And now I needed more help than I could find in this bottle and they were all out to lunch, systematically shirking their duties as "close" friends. How did I amass a whole stable of Brutuses?
Maybe part of me did it because I wanted to see who would care. Juvenile, yes. Morbid, yes. I needed to know who exactly would make an appearance at my funeral. Everyone wants to know that.
None of these "friends" seemed bothered by the amputation, either. It was easy; I just stopped contacting them. No one fought, no one confronted, no one mourned, no one apologized. I was such a dark cloud of a man at that point, I think they were relieved to be rid of me. They didn't really have a use for me in this state, inoperable as I was. When you're as low as you can get, people can tolerate it for about a week. They'll listen to you too, so long as they can wallpaper their own tale of grief over yours. And after one week of pseudo-empathizing looks and back patting, they will just avoid your flight path altogether.
Torrey came to my hotel room once. Bless him for that, Torrey was the only one. He said he'd go to the house and get some of my clothes, but I told him I didn't want any of them. Sarah had bought most of them and aside from my two pairs of Blowy Clothes, they were mostly broken. He helped me shave and even cut some of my remaining hair (my Growadome subscription had run out, so my scalp was boasting a much more “honest” appearance). He advised me to stay away from the house because I "wouldn't like the changes." When I told him (tritely) that I didn't know how I'd continue to live, he said, "We just keep living. That's what we do." It was the best Morgan Freeman performance he could muster, and when I said so, he looked at me like I was an old DVD Player. Nobody remembers artistry any more. I wanted to talk more about craftsmanship and where it had disappeared to, but he said he had a cab waiting outside. I lent him the $600 and thanked him for cleaning me up. He said, "Stay straight" and was off. I know that I'm straightest when I'm tamped down, so I swallowed two Sempertonin and waited. Nobody came.