I’m a fan of social media. The lack of intimacy in the interaction with people via social media means I feel irreverently comfortable expressing my cynicism and general loathing of people via sarcasm, without the repercussions you would experience should you do the same thing face to face.
For example, I feel assured that if I decide to tell a girl I barely know from my high school days that she should stop posting half-naked pictures of herself on Facebook because- let’s face it- she isn’t really all that pretty, that there will be no consequence in my day to day life. Sure, I may have people delete me, or block me, or maybe even send me a nasty message, but at the end of the day, who cares? Words mean next to nothing when it comes down to it, especially via Facebook.
Twitter is very much the same. Unless you are a celebrity, or a person of note, in which case, Twitter has the power to destroy your career if you decide to make any bold, sweeping statements. I’ve seen it happen, politicians and celebrities alike getting virtually bludgeoned to death by the masses of followers who disapprove of their antics. It can be quite amusing at times I suppose.
The point behind all of this, is that whilst I remain utterly confident communicating via any social media sites, I find myself sadly lacking in that regard when it comes to talking in person.
The responses I would usually give pop up in my mind, but I don’t have the confidence to verbalise them, mainly because there is no certainty that I won’t get a slap across the face or a fist in my gut. I much prefer a swift poke, which can easily be returned, with no hard feelings.
Also, whilst I am by no means a popular guy, I imagine that if I did say all the things that came to mind, it would not take me long to become a social pariah. Walking down the street and pointing out each imperfection is a perfect way to get yourself killed. ‘Smoking those cigarettes is so cool; it takes my breath away, but not as much as it does yours! No, but seriously, you’re gonna choke and die.’ Maybe you think I’m a total dick. Maybe you are right, but if overexposure to the internet doesn’t lead to cynicism, I don’t think anything would.
So, you can imagine, when I got a message from an old friend asking to meet up, face to face, I became somewhat anxious. We had a lot of history. Melanie was my high school love, who never loved me. To top it all off, the friendship we did have ended rather badly, after she had dated a string of numerous douchebags who treated her like shit, and I decided to tell her as much after she was left broken-hearted; again. Maybe it was insensitive of me, but after years of that kind of psychological and emotional torture, your patience starts to wear rather thin.
If she had said: ‘hey, let’s have a catch up on Skype’ I would have been in my element. Instead, I have to go meet her for coffee, and all those old emotions, and all the things left unsaid are going to be running through my mind. There is little chance of me avoiding the encounter however; it was bound to happen sooner or later.
I arrived early, and found myself a good spot, on one of the comfy sofas, rather than the purposely uncomfortable wooden chairs. I know that before long the place will be full of people, and these people will be forced to sit on the uncomfortable chairs, and will immediately begin searching for a new seat. They will glare over at me spread out on the cushions and feel nothing but envy and loathing towards me. Isn’t that brilliant? I especially enjoy the moment when a group decides to vacate one of the comfortable spots. People then swarm to lay claim to the newly open booth, it really is amazing how low a person’s priorities can drop when in a coffee shop.
After waiting an uncomfortable amount of time, especially with the people leering at me for taking up a double sofa booth by myself, I began to wonder whether she would turn up at all. Of course, my doubts were misplaced; she wasn’t going to miss this for the world.
I caught a glimpse of her approaching the entrance of the shop. My initial reaction was a mixture of both anxiety and happiness, but that was soon replaced by plain horror and disbelief. There was someone with her. There was a man walking behind her. Who the hell was he? What was this guy doing with her? Who the hell was he? What the hell was this?
As she got closer, I could see her more clearly. She looked amazing; far better than she ever did when we were friends. She had become plumper, but that was definitely a good thing, she was always on the skinny side, and she had a habit of wearing a little too much makeup, but now she seemed to have settled for a more natural look, and it suited her perfectly. Here is an example of what I was thinking as she walked towards me:
She is incredible, oh god, I didn’t bother to make any effort- oh Christ- who the hell is that guy? What is he doing here? She looks so good, why has she brought this guy with her? I’m not going to be able to do this, oh crap, oh shit, oh god. He is huge, goddammit, why? Is this really happening? She looks so beautiful- she is getting closer- oh god-
“Hey!” she opened her arms to embrace me.
“Hi!” I cried out, mimicking her tone as best I could. I managed to embrace her with the same enthusiasm.
For far too long, she didn’t acknowledge the guy stood beside and slightly behind her. She simply stared at me, as if waiting for me to notice him, so she could then introduce us. I may not be good at talking, but I’m just fine at keeping my mouth closed, so I didn’t say a word and simply returned her gaze. Eventually, once the shop had closed and re-opened once more, the mystery man gave a little cough, and that seemed to wake Melanie from her reverie.
“Stephen, this is Metro.”
How I managed to stop myself from bursting into hysterics at this point is beyond me.
“Metro” she repeated, slightly louder, as if it was my hearing that was the problem, not the fact that he was named after the underground.
“I see, nice to meet you.”
I go to shake his hand, which he somehow interpreted as a fist bump. I mean- who actually does that anymore? However, this inevitably resulted in me grasping his fist with my hand and shaking it enthusiastically. For some reason, I didn't stop shaking for quite a while, but then again he did not seem to object either. I still consider this to be one of the most awkward moments I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. One thing I did take from the encounter however, is this:
Clearly Metro is a few carriages short.
“Can I buy you a coffee?” I turned to Melanie, as I felt somewhat more comfortable addressing her than the towering beast of a man who stood in front of me.
“You can do- skinny latte please, and Metro will have a hot chocolate, he doesn’t like coffee.”
I resisted the urge to ask Melanie whether Metro is actually able to speak, or whether he simply communicates through a series of grunts. Perhaps he uses binary code? Although that would require some understanding of numeracy.
I realise at that moment that I am judging this guy I have only just met because of my feelings towards Melanie, so I dialled back my hatred of him for the time being, in the unlikely case that he may actually have turned out to be a decent human being. I went to the bar and asked for a skinny latte and hot chocolate- small- no cream- perfect. If they could have made the hot chocolate without the chocolate I would have asked for that- but then it would just have been water- and I’m sure even Metro would know the difference in taste- no Stephen, stop it!
I do not remember agreeing to buy Metro a drink, but I was in no position to argue, the guy was bigger than me. He had a five o’clock shadow on his face, he was probably about 6’5- I imagine- and was wearing jogging bottoms and a tank top, or a wife beater as they are sometime known. Then came the moment when I brought them their drinks and I sat down opposite. I can’t help but feel that the whole situation would have been much easier had she not have brought her ‘companion’ with her.
“So, are you guys-“
Interestingly, it was Metro who spoke this time.
“Yes- we are.”
“You didn’t let me finish- I could have said anything from that point- I’m pretty sure I was gonna ask if you guys were members of a suicide cult.”
Melanie laughs, Metro glares at me.
“You always did have a wicked sense of humour, Stephen!”
“And you always had an adorable laugh.” Goddamnit! I still cannot believe I said that, but the words were out, I said them. Shit! I didn’t want her to know I had any admiration for her, of any kind.
She blushed slightly.
“What, are you still in love with her?” Metro then demands, clearly unimpressed with my compliment.
“I- What? No!”
“Good! Because if you were, I would have to break your legs!”
I needed nothing more to go on, this guy was an asshole, a first class douchebag in every sense of the word, and I hate him now as I hated him then; with every fibre of my being.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“It better not be.”
“Metro, calm down, yeah?” Melanie soothes.
She seemed somewhat embarrassed, although not nearly as much as she should be having this dick by her side, she is trying her best not to show it, but I can tell. She brought him along for a reason, and that reason was to show him off, and make me feel inferior, she wanted to prove that I was wrong when I said she dated dicks, and no-one else but dicks. If that is what she is trying to do, she had already failed miserably. I said the word ‘dick’ three times in that paragraph; but I stand by it.
“So how have you been?” I ask, trying to restore some sense of normality.
“I’ve been well, I’ve just finished my first year at uni, I’m studying law-“
“-And that is where I met Metro, he was such a charmer-“
I think I may have snorted at that point. In what world was he charming? In the prehistoric era, I imagine he was, by far, the most charming specimen out there, but not now, not in the modern world.
“You’re studying law?” I interjected, before she had any chance to tell me any more of the origin of their relationship.
“I thought you were always more interested in hair and beauty?” (Not just in terms of her career)
“I was, but I decided that would never work out, so I went for something more professional.”
“So what do you plan to do with your law degree?”
“I’m not entirely sure yet.”
“So- hold on- you thought getting a law degree, for which you have no future aspirations to utilise it, would be more realistic than completing a health and beauty course, and working in a salon or hairdressers?”
“What is he talking about?” Metro asked, clearly my use of big words had perplexed him and he needed some explanation. To my enjoyment, Melanie ignored him and instead addressed me.
“I knew people weren’t taking me seriously when I spoke about working in a salon- I wanted a little respect.”
Metro, evidently understanding he was not needed in the conversation, decided to take a large gulp of his hot chocolate right at that moment, the key word in there being ‘hot.’ He didn’t want to display any form of pain however, as that could be construed as weakness. So instead he held it in. His face went bright red, his eyes became bloodshot, and streaks of chocolate dribbled down his mouth. I can now truly see how Melanie could refer to him as a ‘charmer.’
“You okay there, big guy?”
It took him some time, but he eventually managed to mutter something that sounded like ‘fine.’ I have to hand it to the guy, it was impressive the way he held it in- it didn’t look pretty- but then the two things are not necessarily synonymous with each other. Again I had to fight the desire to burst out laughing. Maybe it was because I was so nervous, or maybe it was because watching this guy simply be was just downright hilarious. Perhaps it was a bit of both.
“And what are you doing now, Stephen?” Melanie asked me, again completely ignoring Metro.
Now- I’m not ashamed of my job by any means, but I knew it would be met with mockery from Metro, not that I care about that necessarily, any jokes he could make about my job would no doubt be the basest and most idiotic puns I would ever had the misfortune to hear, the kind of jokes that pop into your head right away, but you dismiss them, because they are so bad they would get a laugh from pity alone, but would get nothing from an actual humorous standpoint. My point being, whilst I’m decidedly neutral about my, let’s be real, average and somewhat dull job, I don’t care to be made fun of because of it, even if it doesn’t really mean anything to me. Therefore, when this question came up, I was somewhat reluctant to answer her, although I knew- of course- that I would.
“I’m an IT consultant.”
Metro snorted, although in my remembrance of the scene, he erupted into full blown hysterics and I threw the contents of my cup into his face. Then from nowhere, there was an unusual peak in my confidence.
“And what do you do Metro?”
He gave me a blank look, I’m assuming he was taking his time to process what I had just aske; apparently questions aren’t his ‘thing.’
“I work at the gym on the weekends- I’m an instructor.”
Of course he was.
“Of course you are,” I said, “That must be so intellectually stimulating,“ I finish.
Melanie snuggles up to him, wrapping her arms around his engorged bicep.
“He’s doing a physical sciences course at the moment, and when he finishes it, his parents are going to help him open his own Gym.” She gushes over him disturbingly.
“Wow- that- that is really something.” At this point, I couldn’t control my laughter any longer, and I actually let out a few chuckles before pulling myself together again. When I looked up at them, Melanie seemed bemused and Metro was staring at me with
“Sorry- do you even lift?”
“Did you really just use that phrase without a trace of irony?”
I don’t think he knew what irony was.
To be fair to him, I couldn’t give a dictionary definition, but I sure as hell know what it is. I’m pretty sure he threatened me again after that, although I forget exactly what the threat was- it all became a blur of trying my best to ignore metro and trying to be civil with Melanie. Overall the experience was decidedly uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes amusing when Metro decided to chip in. I do however, recall how the meeting ended.
Metro had finished his hot chocolate without further incident, and had proceeded to work his way through several muffins, which- he made sure to inform us- he would work off later that afternoon. I shared one with Melanie. When I say shared, I mean, I had a couple of bites, and she helped herself to the rest of the muffin without question, despite being the one who insisted that we ‘share.’
“So-“ Melanie began, clearly building up to something, “the reason I wanted us to meet up is so that we could reconcile, I didn’t like the way things ended between us- so I wanted to make amends.”
“Yeah, so I thought we could just get together and apologise to each other-“
“We both said some pretty dumb, hurtful things, and I think if we just say we are sorry, then we can go back to the way we were.”
“Listen, Melanie- I’m not going to take back what I said- because I don’t think I was wrong in what I said.”
“Yeah- I mean- sure I wasn’t particularly good at putting across what I wanted to say, and yes, I may have been insensitive about it, and I may have been hurtful, and for that I am willing to apologise, but the essence of what I was trying to say- well- I stick by it. You kept getting hurt, and it wasn’t anybody’s fault but your own, and I couldn’t just sit there and watch it happen to you.”
“Wow, okay- well- I don’t know where we go from here.”
“Neither do I,” I admitted.
“You don’t need this twat, Melanie.” Metro decided to advise at that point, and he was right, she didn’t need me. Some part of her wanted me to be in her life again, but she didn’t need me, and she never would.
“Okay- well then, I guess this is goodbye.”
“I guess so.”
“Thank you for the coffee, Stephen, it was nice seeing you again.”
And that was it. They left. Metro made sure to give me the finger when Melanie wasn’t looking, but that was that. Which brings me to the point I am at now: sitting in front of my computer screen with Melanie’s page on it. There were things left unsaid during that meeting, and I sure as hell need to say them before we part ways for good. So… here goes nothing.
End of Part 1.