July 26th, 2005

I'm creepy

Hearts grow cold.

Losing a close friend is always a sad experience. Losing one to his own misbehavior is both sad and enraging. It's hard to know whether you should feel sadness for the loss, anger for the insults and manipulation, or guilt for your inability to put up with it all.

Often you end up feeling all three.

Paul's someone I've known since high school, a big teddy bear of a man who was always ready with a shy joke or a kind word. After graduation our group went its separate ways, as they tend to do, and he and I probably suffered the most for us. Both of us went to relatively prestigious colleges, both of us got depressed didn't do our work and dropped up, and we both ended up back in our parents house. While I eventually rebounded to the best of my ability, went back to school, and graduated with high honors he bounced around a few places and ended up being shipped off to Long Island to live with his grandparents. There he floundered to some degree, gaining weight (something I certainly did as well) and getting more and more depressed. Eventually a psychiatrist was called, various medications were tried, and he's rebounded some now himself. He's lost something on the order of 50 pounds, his energy level has definitely spiked, and he's clearly much happier and more excited than he was.

This has not, however, been without side effects.

Paul was always bright, in some specific arenas even brilliant, and he always thought highly of himself. Even when he couldn't do his work in high school or college he blamed the work rather than himself for his problems. I know that process well myself, and sometimes the work is indeed beneath the student, but unlike a Steve Jobs who dropped out of school to found Apple and start a computing revolution Paul hasn't done much of anything since his leaving behind Academia as basically beneath him. Instead most of what he's done is sit at home and watch cartoons, surf the internet, and theorize. His theories are numerous and in some areas quite complicated, with hours of lengthy pseudo logic cooked up in support of them. As the theories of anyone who spends most of his time alone tend to be, though (and I am not exempt from this) they are often based on a tenuous grasp of the empirical. He assumes certain untruths as axiomatic and goes from there, ending up at often twisted and confused conclusions that cannot be fully explained to, apparently, another living human being.

All this would be okay, even interesting, except that with his newfound energy he has become more and more overconfident, even overbearing, and less and less civil. He has managed to re-alienate his parents, alienate many of our mutual friends, and now finally to alienate me because of this.

I don't want to make this entry a list of my grievances against him, because I'm sure he would not only disagree with the brief description I've written of him but with every possible complaint I could offer, as his way, but there are a few incidents I would like to get off my chest. For example he showed up at my house when I was not in the mood on Sunday and demanded I go out for a nighttime walk with him. When I declined on the basis of my recovering from an illness and having caused a relapse by a lengthy walk the previous Thursday he became belligerent and started to call me names and berate me about my weight. He then tried to foist his "Weightloss plan" on me against my will, which is incredibly aggravating because he never listens to a word anyone else says about anything, including people who have had more success in the arena in question than he has. He left to get hand sanitizer from a drug store, asking me to await his return, and then never came back. This caused me to miss considerable sleep, since I try to be nice to people and accommodate them when possible. Later he would call me a pussy for this type of behavior.

Last night he called asking for a place to stay again, and I grudgingly agreed because I did want to encourage his new interest in life and being out. He proceeded to arrive after our agreed upon cutoff time, and then after arguing that male-female relations in lions could be easily translated to human beings he took a shower. In the morning when we awoke he asked me to accompany him to Times Square so he could hit on women (This is basically his job right now. He looks for the most attractive women around and tries to get what he wants from them, which in general is sex or sex-related activities. He has no time for or interest in women he considers unattractive and doesn't care about their feelings. He's said as much to me.) I was going to go for the walk until one of the building employees came and said that there was a leak in the apartment downstairs. After some examination it was determined that Paul's shower had caused the drainage pipe to burst under the bathtub. Francisco told me that he was sending plumbers by around noon to examine the situation and perhaps resolve it. I told Paul I wouldn't be able to go on the walk with him because I had to wait for the plumbers. He began to berate me for agreeing to do so and claimed that my various motivations (It is what my mother would want and I am staying in her apartment, and I want to make things easier for the building staff, who are generally helpful and kind to me) made me a pussy and a bitch.

The fact is that Paul has recovered his confidence and energy but lost many of the things that made him a worthwhile friend to begin with. He is now interested only in his own pleasure and benefit with no concern for reciprocation or anything else. He doesn't think that when someone gives him a place to stay he owes that person either kindness or respect, and he believes that not only does he know what's best for everyone but that he knows what's best in every situation. This means that time with him invariably devolves into an incoherent lecture about some theory detached from reality, and empty offers to do things he'll never get around to. He doesn't even do the simple things he promises.

His unreliability used to be a charming aspect of his gentle persona, but coupled with condescension and selfishness it is now a gigantic irritant. He's no longer a big fun teddy bear of a man who wants to make you laugh, he's now a guy who gets thrown out of bars and banned from stores, and who has no interest in amusing or pleasing anyone but himself.

And that's not the sort of person I can be friends with.

Now some may say his crimes are not great enough to lead to the end of a lengthy friendship, and I would agree. But he will not apologize for anything nor admit that he was in the wrong, and I'm not going to be anyone's doormat. He called me a giant pussy several times this morning, and he was right in one respect, I should have kicked his ass out earlier than I did. I guess I still had a remnant of friendship and love for him left, but I shouldn't have let that keep me from standing up to him and telling him his behavior was unacceptable. I'm not worried about him, his grandmother called me and he's still welcome back in Long Island, so he has a source of food and shelter. It won't be close enough to the New York City women he covets, but as Paul himself said "It's not about wants, it's about needs." His needs are met.

I still care about Paul and if he calms down or is willing to apologize for some of his behavior I will welcome him back as a friend with open arms. I am not blameless in all of this, I tend to get easily irritated and we both pushed each other's buttons all morning, but the difference is I wasn't imposing on him. All I wanted today was to sit down and get some writing done then go for a walk in the evening. Maybe call Jenny and chat during the Mets game. I didn't ask for a burst drainpipe or a flooded bathroom or any of the rest of it.

It's funny but spending time with Paul did leave me with one gift, besides the energy bars he kept trying to foist off on me. It showed me a little of the conservative view of things, and some areas where my own behavior hasn't been great. I see now that indulging people's desires not only doesn't always make them grateful it often fails to help them. Paul is in many ways like the prototypical welfare queen. His family and friends give him whatever he needs and in return he both takes advantage of and resents them (except his grandparents.) He has the capacity to work, even to accomplish great things, but his only interest is in pursuing his current carnal pleasure. Hopefully he'll grow out of it some day. There's a brilliant mind tangled up in all that pseudo-nietzscheian bullshit.

Meanwhile it was also a reminder of some of my own stuff. I see my mother's perspective a little clearer now. A mother child relationship is of course different from friend friend, since mothers DO ask for the imposition (at least ones whose pregnancies are planned like mine were) and the bond is much deeper, but I understand her frustration when we fight more clearly. It sucks to give something to someone and have them spit in your face in return.

So I guess in the future I'll try to get along better with my mom while looking harder for work to get out of this place and into my own. That's a positive. I also hope that Paul can rediscover his good nature without losing his energy or happiness and that we can repair this breach. For now, though, if he knocks at my door at 1:00 AM looking for a place to crash I'm going to have to say no. I can deal with the crashing but I'm tired of being burned.