Saturday, September 10, 2005

autistic joe and my emotional celibacy

this post is one of the most revealing things i have ever written and, as such, it is very difficult for me to write this and be 100% completely and objectively honest. here is my paltry attempt.

autistic joe, best friend of my friend dave, PCSd to korea. i had 4 months until my DEROS when he made his debut. dave was so excited. for 2 or 3 months before joe, who is not autistic, arrived, all dave could talk about is how great of a guy he was. february rolled around and joe had finally arrived -- dave took him out one night with the rest of us. my attraction to him was neither here nor there. he was nice looking enough, but call it a long workweek and having to deal with a supervisor from hell, i didn't put too much thought into him. we made small talk; we got along okay.

and then one day, we were all out drinking and i was overcome by my intense attraction to him. all of a sudden, he wasn't just average looking; he was hot. he wasn't just intelligent; he was a genius. i began flirting with him, only autistic joe's response to my flirting was not very usual -- he regarded me in kind with a strong distaste.

i did the opposite of flirting. i regarded him very non-sexually. and he responded in a very unusual fashion -- he seem attracted to that, weirdly enough. and then i was just confused. damned if i do, damned if i don't. one evening at a going-away-picnic, i found myself employing tactics i never once had to use to attract men. joe spent the evening picking on me and asking me sexually explicit questions; i couldn't tell if he was being affiable or mean. needless to say, i was very aroused. at one point later that evening, i was standing outside on the patio, drinking my drink and talking to him. i'm not sure how we got into a biting contest, and i'll never have the guts to ask, but the next thing i know joe is crushing my hand in his vice-like mouth, and he has bitten so hard that he has broken the skin on my palm. so hard i wanted to cry, but mostly i was just confused. i'm not sure if i bit him first or what; i was pretty shit-faced, but i'm not normally an antagonist.

for the next several weeks, i avoided him like the plague. my pride was sufficiently shattered and, as a result, i wanted to have nothing to do with him, albeit i still wanted to fuck him and badly so. i can remember wanting to be with him so much that i would nearly cry with the frustration of it. nothing i could do would cure me of this frustration, either. there i was, on the sidelines as joe picked-up ugly, promiscuous, and mean women, who lacked personality and depth, all the while treating me as if i was worse than all these women combined. i never understood why. i still don't. i never will.

one evening, a month or so before dave PCSd, we all went downtown. me, dave, dani-rae, dana, nick, joe, sammy, greg....a whole crew of us. we were drinking kettles at the xanadu, yet i was taking it easy because it was a school night. i had finally decided to suck-up this weird, unrequited attraction to joe and move on with things. i actually had a really nice conversation with joe about dave's pre-osan days. we were talking and i asked some question that is so insignificant my memory still fails me, and joe blew up. not in the traditional sense. no, instead he tore me a new one. not yelling or screaming, mind you. he cut me down to size with the precision of an exacto knife, his voice so inaudible that nobody else had a clue.

he said to me, "you think you're a good friend to dave, but you're not."

"what do you mean by that?"

"you sit there acting like you're such a good friend to him, but you're not. you don't know anything about him."

wash, rinse, and repeat this cycle, with each repetition becoming more severe than the previous, and you have me leaving my seat calmly and cooly. me, going to the bathroom. and me, with my head on the sink, crying. now, more than ever, i identified myself by my friends. i know a lot of people would hasten to judge me on that statement alone, but it's true -- in a place like korea, where i had behaved according to the deplorable social decorum; by virtue alone of the sins i had committed, and the values my parents instilled in me that i had so easily and carelessly defaced; this fantasy island where i felt my family or anyone who previously knew and loved me, could no longer do so -- they would be too disgusted to love me if ever they knew.

my small group of friends in korea are the only people who have seen me at my worst. they have seen me do morally adrift stuff, and then some. they have been regaled by my antics. they have seen me cry over ugly before and after mid-tour. they have seen me sick in my bed when i got a kidney infection on my birthday. they have found me walking around songtan in a drunken haze of forgetfulness. they have given me IVs when i got too dehydrated from my hangovers. some of them have even seen me naked. they have seen me. and they love me. i don't think even my parents could still love me unconditionally if they knew some of the stuff i have done. they would be disappointed and disgusted and hurt. but these friends of mine have, and that's why i need them so much. that's why i identified myself though them to some degree.

i cried in the comfort of the xanadu bathroom stall. and then, not feeling the least bit relieved, i pulled myself together, tidied my eye make-up, and rejoined my friends. luckily, autistic joe was somewhere across the room. but not for long as soon as he saw me seated at the table. i guess he needed a round two.

round two began. this time, i had nothing to say. this time, the things he had to say were much worse -- i was cold and shallow. i was a bitch. i was insensitive. i lacked depth. i wasn't smart. i wasn't funny. i was fake. you name it, he said it. on the verge of tears again, i got up from the table and exited the club. he was hot on my heels.

the backlash outside was much worse than the two he previously doled out. he told me dave "told" him things, and i had no idea what that meant. did that mean dave liked me or something? or that dave secretly hated me? what did that mean. i didn't ask; like watching the scene of an accident, i was paralyzed. i was grounded to that very spot of pavement while joe continued with a barrage of nameless, faceless insults: you're cold, you don't care about anyone, you're not a good friend to dave, you're shallow. you can't even express a deep thought.

i cried. i cried while this guy wrote me off for everything that is wrong in the world. i just stood there and i cried. i didn't even flick my tears away. at this point, i just wanted to be in the comfort of my dorm room, in my favorite jammies, curled into a fetal position, so great was his onslaught. i continued crying, though not looking him in the face while, for the umpteenth time, he launched a one-sided battle.

finally, he let up. i told him i had to leave. just as i walked back in the door to gather my two-man pity party (me and dani-rae), he said something about meeting him in his room tomorrow evening so we could talk because he hadn't intended to hurt my feelings.

a little late for that, i suppose. so, the emotionally celibate me dragged a very pissed and tequilla-imbibed dani-rae from the xanadu. she was pissed as hell that we left early. when i told her the next day what had happened, she was mortified for having called me a fucking bitch and comparing me to my dorm-ho of a suitemate from across the parking lot (which actually kind of makes me smile and giggle now because she was sooooo shit faced and so melodramatic and everyone in the parking lot was gawking at us as she sauntered to the cab). she felt really bad and gave me a big hug. we both agreed that joe was a jackass, albeit a good friend to our friend dave. dani-rae also wondered, and still wonders, what he meant about the whole dave thing.

at any rate, i like to party with dave since he only lives about 2 hours away and he happens to be a great friend. i crash at his house when i'm down for the weekend, and that's okay. dave's house is one of the few places i feel completely comfortable in. normally, i hate not sleeping in my own bed and i hate not being in my own house, with exception to my immediate family. if i happen to be there and autistic joe happens to call dave, dave will mention that i'm up for the weekend partying and, on cue, i will hear him say into the telephone receiver, "no, it's not like that." that's because joe will inevitably ask dave if we have been or are fucking, which we have not. i haven't so much as batted an eyelash at dave, and that's saying something considering the amount of time we spent together in a place like korea.

dani-rae will inevitably say, "he wouldn't fuck you because he's such good friends with dave, and you're dave's friend, too, and that would just be weird." she will also defend that joe finds it hard to believe that dave, a goodlooking guy, and me, a goodlucking girl, haven't had sex, as does she (which is very weird and uncomfortable to me). and then, for a while, she will get stuck on joe's comment that "[i] don't know anything about dave..." she will ask me what joe means by that. i will tell her i have no idea. because i don't. she will then say, "do you think dave had feelings for you and maybe he confided in joe?" and i will get a sick feeling in my stomache and say, "i hope not."

when joe didn't make tech last year, she emailed me a comic strip, her own work-of-art, to celebrate the moment. apparently, he had gotten so incredibly drunk and had fallen into some constantine wire, forever fucking up his hand. it's a sad story, but a really funny comic strip. i keep it in a document protector, taped down to my desk.

and then dani-rae and i go to dublin. my relationship with t, quickly withering away on its deathbed, she says, "i think you have to fuck autistic joe before you settle down." i say, "yes, that's very likely since he's in italy and i am not, and i am in a relationship." also, he wants nothing to do with me. i omit that part, though.

"girl, you will regret it your entire life if you don't."

she is right. she goes on to tell me, that the months after i left korea, joe would frequently attend her and dana downtown. she will tell me how all he could do was talk about how much he hated me and what an awful person i am. she said his conjecture over me was one non-sequitir after another. she and dana would be talking about ditching this bar for that club due to lack of atmosphere, and joe would launch into a diatribe about how much he hated me and how incredibly glad he was now that i was gone. she said he did this a week after i left and it was understandable. but four months later, my image a blur, she said he would still talk about how much he hated me and how awful i am.

anyway, the last time i partied around autistic joe was the night of my going-away. dani-rae and i headed to xanadu's, where i would no doubt run into time machine (only i didn't, thank god), and joe was in there. he looked really hot, too. i only remember it so well, despite my absolute drunkeness, because i had avoided him since the evening he ripped into me. at any rate, he came up to me, and i'm not sure if we were talking or what (alcohol), but he was standing very close. so close i could feel my skin burn tingly-hot, his head tilted down, and then he pulled away and said, "i was going to kiss you, but i decided not to because you're too snotty."

i don't know what i said. in fact, i'm pretty sure i didn't say anything at all. when your lower lip is trembling from anticipation, talking is kind of awkward. joe stalked off.

nearly two years later, i still think back to that evening when joe followed me out of the club. i want to cry because mostly i feel empty when i think about the things he said. i cringe when i'm at dave's place and he calls. i want to cower in a corner. i want to drink a stiff drink. i want to not have to hear dave say into the receiver, "c'mon, it's not like that" like a broken record.

and i don't want to think if his accusations carry any weight.

the night the lights went out in germany

i know how to wash dishes. i know how to do laundry. i know how to clean a toilet bowl. and i even know how to cut grass. i know how to weed and rake. i can do just about anything short of killing cockroaches and spiders the size of dessert plates. i know how to move heavy furniture. i know how to eat pizza while watching surgical procedures on the discovery channel. and i've almost mastered surfing the web, but how come is it i don't know how to change a lightbulb?

yes, i'm not ashamed to admit that certain light fixtures in certain rooms (kitchen, walk-in closet, and basement stairwell) cannot be engaged at present. now, before ya'all start judging, please take some things into consideration. i have never had to change a light bulb in my entire life. growing up, it was my dad's job. then, it became my husband's job. after my divorce, i lived with three avionics' roommates so i never had to power anything up, much less change a lightbulb. and then there was my year in korea; i was never home at night and my lights stayed off during the day, so i never had a chance to kill any of 'em.

at any rate, i finally caved yesterday and consulted my co-worker, 4-H regarding lightbulbs. Here's the conversation, give or take a few words:

me: hey, 4-H, how the fuck do you change a lightbulb?

4-H: say what? d'you mean changin a bulb when it dies?

me: sure, whatever...

4-H: well, i'm trying not to laugh in your face right now.

me: thank you for that, jackass. how do you change a lightbulb?

4-H: maybe you should dye your hair black so nobody can call you dumb 'cause you're blonde.

laughter, mostly one-sided, as his texan humor is completely lost on me.

more laughter.

4-H is leaning back in his chair, the top of which is nearly parallel to the floor. he is laughing pretty good now, clutching his stomach, shaking his head in denial.

me: so, how do you change it?

4-H: it ain't too hard so don't worry. well, go to the store and buy 220-volt bulbs...

me: will it say 220-volt on the carton? which store?

more laughter. again, very one-sided on 4-H's behalf.

4-H: (trying to contain amusement) yes. go to that one grocery store a couple towns from base and you'll see the hardware department.

me: well, i have a bunch of really odd-shapped lightbulbs in my house. how do i know if i'm buying the right kind?

4-H: (his face is turning red now) well, take a bulb of each to the store with you and start looking around.

me: you can do that? i thought about doing that, but then i thought i would look really really retarded.

4-H: trust me, the one thing i've learned since i've been here is that the stupider you look doing something, the better these people will understand you.

now i'm laughing 'cause he's dead-on -- german men, after all, do carry purses...

me: okay. so how do i get them down?

more laughter. wow, this kid sure does like to laugh....at me.

4-H: i'd make some jokes right now, but i'll refrain. basically, you unscrew the light fixture and remove the dead bulbs.

me: okay. i don't have one of those.

4-H: one of what?

me: a screwdriver.

4-H: oh, man.......okay...god, i want to laugh right now. well, you'll need a screwdriver......

me: oh, you know what? i could ask monty downstairs in maintenance....i'm willing to bet he's got one.

4-H: sure, whatever.

i pause the conversation to call monty.

me: hey, i have a favor to ask of you.

monty: sure, what is it?

me: can i borrow a screwdriver?

monty: sure, which kind?

me: kind, what do you mean which kind?

i shrug my shoulders at 4-H.

monty: do you want a phillip's head or......

me: phillip's head? ugh....4-H? What's a phillip's head? is that what i need?

4-H: you need the one with the tip shaped like a plus sign.

me: monty, whichever one is shaped like a plus sign....?

monty: okay, a phillip's head. not a problem!

me: also, while i have you on the phone, can you drop your ladder off at my house around 6-ish?

monty: uhhhhh, sure. what for?

me: changing of the lights.

monty: yeah, that's not a problem.

i hang up the phone and 4-H is still chuckling, but he's not as red as he was 5 minutes ago.

me: so what exactly are the mechanics?

4-H: well, you have to wait for the fixtures and the bulbs to cool down first before you unscrew them....

me: cool down? they've had 3 months to cool down! how much longer do they need?

laughter like i have never heard it before rips from his mouth. he is slumped in his chair, propped on his knees, turning a lovely shade of beet...at my expense. i can't help but laugh either at the thought of a grown woman who does not know how to change a lightbulb.

anyway, since i'll be home this weekend for the first time in, oh, i dunno....it's been a while, and i can't drink, i will be forced into a state of productivity. now, if ya'all don't mind, i have some lightbulbs that need changing.