Last week on the way home from vocal rehearsal I listened to this past weekend’s episode of This American Life (462: Own Worst Enemy), and then again on Monday morning while doing a project at work. The second act, The Conversation, features a fictional radio play about a guy who is basically sabotaging his love life by being a complete jerk, but seems incapable of doing anything about it.
It all starts with a phone call.
This girl he’s meeting at a coffee shop for a date calls him up to tell him that she’s running late, but that she’s close. It goes downhill startlingly fast. At first she’s pleasant, but then she seems to be reacting defensively, as if talking to a completely different person. In a moment, we realize that she is. She finally tells him to forget it and he sees her walking away down the street. The guy is confused, but by chance recently downloaded an app onto his phone that allows him to record phone conversations. (Not creepy at all.) He plays back the call. It’s the same words, but he’s irritable, sarcastic, condescending, even a little cruel. He realizes that she was right to walk away, and he doesn’t blame her.
What follows borders on the obsessive as he tries to fix himself, to force himself to be more aware of how he’s coming across to other people. He calls the girl back and apologizes, but like the first time it quickly goes downhill. He admits to playing back the recording of their phone call, and she’s understandably creeped out. “That’s really creepy,” she says. She then admits to lying about her dog being at the vet, and then lying about her dog actually dying the day of their date, which she used to explain why she was so upset. It turns out that she’d met someone else the day before and had been planning to blow him off but didn’t know how to do it.
It was… uncomfortable.
For several reasons.
In some ways, I rather feel like some of that’s going on in my own life. Sometimes it’s like my mind is home to two distinct people. One is the nice version of me, the one that people are (inexplicably) drawn to. The other me is stormy, dark, changeable, and emotionally unstable. He reacts violently to rejection. To abandonment. To being disrespected. To betrayal. Or perceived versions of any of these. And the change can happen in a matter of seconds, as anyone who has witnessed it can attest to.
A few weeks ago I was in a snit over the state of the kitchen in my home. My roommate’s dad moved in about a month ago and is fond of cooking large meals, but not cleaning up after himself, and I’d had to clean the entire kitchen more than a couple of times. It’s a matter of a difference in living standards (although admissions of simple laziness have been made). I was raised that you don’t go to bed until the kitchen is clean. My roommates are a bit more… lax about it.
I, however, did not handle the situation well. After one night where I was up until nearly 1 A.M., I chewed my roommate’s dad out the following morning, telling him in no uncertain terms how angry I was, how disrespected I’d felt, and that he needed to start cleaning up after himself. This culminated in a huge fight between my roommate’s and I one night, and things haven’t really been the same since. The kitchen has been staying pretty clean, Mark and I have chatted a few times, but I haven’t really talked to Emily in weeks.
The kitchen was really about hearing from Emily that Seth was dating that fuckwad closeted pastor; about feeling as if I have no control in my life; hating the fact that I’m single and that none of my romantic relationships have ever worked out; and basically hating myself.
Regarding my romantic life, I’m unsure whether the guys in the Midwest just aren’t my cup of tea. The majority of them seem religious or spiritual, and they also tend to have a shelf life of about a month or less before they literally disappear on me. There have been a few exceptions, but most recently a guy I’d met on OkCupid and had been talking to on the phone and exchanging texts with for a few weeks suddenly disappeared. This mirrored a similar experience several years ago, where I met this guy about a month before he moved to the Pacific Northwest, we hit it off, decided to keep talking. And then he abruptly disappeared.
Then I’m also wondering if it isn’t just me. If I’m not somehow to blame for the destruction of all of my relationships. When my younger sister was going through therapy for her eating disorder, she came home one day to announce that her therapist had called me toxic. Needless to say I did not take that news well, but I partly knew that it was true. I have an obscene amount of unresolved anger that’s nearer to the surface than I’d like, and depending on my mood it doesn’t take much to set me off.
A lot of the anger has to do with my family, and about basically having over two decades of my life stolen from me by fundamentalism and the lies that it told me. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I am a single gay man nearing age 30 who hasn’t been able to make a relationship last longer than six months, watching everyone else basically just fall into happy relationships while I can barely even get anyone to flirt with me. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not good at anything enough to make a career out of it.
Basically I feel like a raging destructive spewing poison, magma and ash.