I’d lost my careful crafted avoidant little world and it freaked me out. (Go read previous posts for details).
The stress kept coming. Like a rash that itches worse the more attention you give it.
When I returned to work from my training trip, Neo, my supervisor was on vacation and hadn’t taken his training trip yet. The plant manager suggested we hold a meeting, where I would tell them all about it. So, I was to present to everyone – senior management – what I’d seen and learned.
Hey, even “normal” people dread giving presentations in front of others. I have to remind myself of that, since it meant that if I felt wussy about leading the meeting, it was because nearly everyone does, not because of social anxiety.
Well isn’t that comforting? Pfffftt.
In the meeting I tried to recall and summarize what I’d noted in class. At one point, our HR manager asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to, and I responded by b.s.-ing my way through it. (HR! Sheesh.) Everyone was quiet. I think they knew that I’d been throwing lots of words at the answer without really saying anything. Exposure sucks.
I went through a crappy stress reaction over this. Over subsequent weeks I put way too much pressure on myself to try and prepare our plant for the transition to this new inventory system. And to make it worse, I seemed to be the only person stressing out over it.
Overreaction, oh how you love to dine on me. With fava beans and a nice chianti.
So there was that.
Seattle boasts, among other dubious SWPL-ish features, a couple of “alternative” newspapers. I think that’s how you could describe them. Alt-left-libertarian media, or something. Whatever; I’m no expert. Anyway, one night, about a week after my return from the Topeka trip, I took out a personal ad on one of their websites. I don’t remember which one, so I’m not going to name it. It was similar to the “missed connections” section on Craig’s List.
I was reaching out to the Intense Stare Girl.
It was a long shot, but impulsively I took it anyway. I’d been preoccupied with thoughts of her since our paths crossed at the airport. Her big dark eyes fixed on me. The intense look on her face. I kept replaying it in my mind, daydreaming about what I would’ve said to her if only I’d stopped and spoken up. Maybe she wanted me?
Really, I was just waking up (unwillingly, unwillingly) to how lonely I was.
My personal ad went something like this:
It was October _th, about 7 pm. You walked past me at the underground train to the United terminal at SeaTac airport. You were about to get on, I was coming off. You were wearing a trenchcoat. I was wearing a [whatever the heck I wore]. I was taller than you and had red hair and glasses. You looked at me and didn’t look away. Something was happening. Our eyes were locked as we passed. We didn’t speak. I’d like to get to know you. Respond to me if you read this and are interested.
But then I had second thoughts, telling myself the chances were remote that she’d even see the ad, let alone identify herself, let alone respond to me.
One night later, I cancelled the personal ad. I would never find Intense Stare Girl.
Then I took a shower. Long and hot, as I like it, the water cascading over me.
Things were on my mind. Women. Life history. Airports. People. Girls I’d liked long ago. Social failures. I stood there showering and thinking. I finished the shower and noticed I’d forgotten to put towels in the bathroom. Dripping, I half-ran/half-tiptoed to the closet and grabbed a towel and began drying my body. Things. On. My. Mind.
You can hold it back for only so long, and when the flood hits it carries you away and you can’t stop it. You can’t, you can’t, and so the heat began flooding my face – heat not from the shower but from the first hot tears – crying now, and my legs buckled and I hit the floor knees first and then in a split second my hands. I was on my hands and knees and the tears were falling. I couldn’t stop them. I was sobbing.
Everything came out at once, all that I had bottled up and denied for years. Each and every missed opportunity to be with a girl as a kid or with a woman as an adult. Missed and gone. All the unrequited crushes I’d had. Missed and gone. Girls who had flirted with me but I’d not responded to them because I was either too shy or couldn’t believe they’d really be interested in a guy like me. Missed and gone. Too many painful memories. If the phrase EPIC FAIL had been around back then it would label my experience. Amazing how much it could hurt.
I stayed in the same spot on my bedroom floor, naked, legs folded underneath me, my face in my hands on the floor, like a broken supplicant at prayer. Perhaps I should’ve been praying but I wasn’t – I was bawling. Like a baby, yes. I’ve only cried like that a few times my whole life, mostly when I was young.
I’m a grown man.
Amazing what a quantity of fluids can come oozing out of your face when you’re bawling. Not just tears but slobber and mucus too. Your nose starts running, as if there are more tears than the eyes can handle and they start flowing out your nostrils. (My nose was crying!) My face was raining on the carpet. What a mess! This was mouth-open-wide bawling, with that breathy moaning sound that comes out, you know what I mean? And what struck me was that usually at some point you’ve had enough and you can pull yourself together and get cleaned up. Every time I thought I could do that, a new flood would overwhelm me and I’d fall right back into it, into the sobbing slobbery mess. Surprise!
Missed and gone. Opportunities for love and puppy love and infatuation, lust and romance and hooking up, hell even just flirting, and dating and relationships and touching and being touched and holding and being held.
All avoided. And now I was paying for it.
Something was changing on the inside.
I’d kept myself so dead, so hopeless for such a long time, yet never got away from feeling bad. I’d simply been ignoring it. I hadn’t been dead, only deceiving myself. It turned out that I was still alive and it hurt like hell.