He’d called it her ‘comfort zone,’ condescendingly urging her to step out of it, while not bothering to notice—an oversight to his usual discernment—that his restless pursuit of unbalance qualified as the confines of his own. Or was it that he pretended not to acknowledge it? She couldn’t be sure.
He was good at assuming, good at improvising in situations—without a doubt a skill traceable to his professional training—but the fact was that she wasn’t another one of his surgical cases, with a clear course of action and a set end goal, and maybe that had been the reason he’d been amused long enough to keep her around.
She now realizes in retrospect that it had probably been a frustrating endeavor for him, to conduct a rational examination of her behavior only to be baffled at its lack of consistency, but then again, she wasn’t conceited enough to believe she’d confused him deliberately, that she was that interesting or complicated, because if her internal logic eluded him, it might have been good to also add it eluded her just as much. On the other hand, she felt the need to extend him the courtesy of humoring, without quite knowing why—anybody righteous enough to be a condescending jackass should have been reminded of their place at once—but it was part of their little game, of how sometimes he was the wiser and other times she was, a sort of dance, this customary procedure where they left to silence all the answers that could have been found. No assumptions ever to be outwardly expressed or confirmed, and now that she had violated that rule, the consequences emerged, apparent. It was their private omertà aimed at preserving the state of things, weightless and informal…
Alone, she always found the perfect reply for his comments, always wittier in her head than in real life, always eloquent, but then when faced with him, even when she could answer, banter, play that game, she always reconsidered saying these things out loud, and chose silence instead. Did he think about these conversations too, did they carry the same weight, did they make him ponder and question things within his life… And if they both overanalyzed, if they both got it wrong on each side, it was certain that depending on the concerned party, it was taboo to admit as much. She smiled politely, gazed at him inquisitively, trying to understand what really went on in his mind, why in spite of resisting any form of label for his person, he persisted in assigning others to these confining mental boxes, missing the point, most of the time, but also getting it right when it most mattered, and most unable to find a suitable interpretation to the ‘enigma’. She wouldn’t have gone as far as guessing the reason; just wondered. She might have liked that he was hard to follow, difficult to get to know, and even came to feel accustomed, perhaps found a somewhat form of comfort in the familiarity of this impenetrable behavior. And while he picked at her brain in a far more active and extensive manner, at the obviousness of certain character traits, she couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t really talking to her most of the time—for the distinction chiefly rested in his not actually talking to her as much as at her—and that her role could sometimes be reduced to that of plot device as he tried to justify directions taken and reassert traits, mental dispositions he’d developed throughout his life’s experience. With a little more perspective, and the wisdom usually brought on by elapsing time, she was now left to wonder if she hadn’t been right in initially assuming she could have easily been traded. Probably. She had wanted to believe, hold on to the unsubstantiated hope that it hadn’t been the case—vanity or a need for reciprocity, why, it would be conceivable— but her internal compass often stirred towards a resounding ‘yes’. The sharing aspect of these conversations might have after all been a stretch. Who was to say she hadn’t willingly or unwillingly—that part wasn’t so evident to make up— been playing just a passive part? Who was to say that sharing anything to anyone had any meaning? And even if and when he made an observation about himself… She was aware that he was usually revealing more of himself than he actually wanted. It felt voyeuristic to notice, nosy to ask. That was the annoying thing with people with trust issues… Constantly monitoring your own behavior, usually expecting some kind of freak out that would ensue, with its classic signs: indifference, silent treatment and/or the disappearing act. However, it wasn’t so easy to pull off if you both worked at and practically lived in the same place, as many awkward elevator rides where they’d both stare at their phone in an attempt of pretending the other one wasn’t also there had taught her. Oh the usual freak out pulling him out of some estimated danger she represented. Until the next time, until he’d have another ‘unguarded’ moment, until he recanted as soon as he’d shared. Repeated ad nauseam. Hadn’t ‘complicated’ boys lost their charm once you’d outgrown been twelve year old? But she actually liked him, like a stupid twelve year old, and to him, she pointed these incongruities out only a fraction of the time they manifested, while giving them her undivided attention, remembering details, slowly mapping his mind within her own, and maybe learning to know him better than he would have cared for. The paradox was that he’d been, and remained, a reassuring presence, in spite of all the shaky grounds, a lighthouse to guide her in pitch black, because oddly enough, what she saw in him, she knew to be her own flaws, and the traits their minds shared brought her comfort when she feared the unknowns of the future. His existence seemed to be proof, as he was further down a path she would soon follow, that life might turn out to be alright, and it felt as if he was almost calling to her saying “it’ll all be okay, you’re not as lost as you think you are, you’ll be okay”. But maybe she had imagined all of it.
She had needed to know you could be like them, and yet do and be good at the profession they both exerted.
And then what if he hadn’t known her? He didn’t actually know her, she now realizes, and it’s so obvious, she wonders why this seemingly minor, yet crucial detail had escaped her.
Today, it was a feeling of burning shame that kept her awake at night; rehashing things and berating herself about being a perfect idiot for thinking they had actually been friends. Friends. Friends? What was the true make up of actual friendship? He’d managed to make her doubt things she thought she thought she’d understood. Did it ever need to be so complicated, so messy, so… Exhausting? And if it had been more, could it have been more, hadn’t she just gotten played? There just weren’t any satisfying answers to be found, yet she failed to abandon the hopeless cause, instead stubbornly sticking to the task of deciphering some pattern in the fabric of this past life. ‘Torturing herself. It was as if her brain had a mind of its own, decided to run on autopilot regardless of her general giving up on the matter, on him, or any otherwise rationally reached settlements. In fact, it seemed to be some kind of deeply seeded mechanism, almost innate, based on the unwise but hopeful belief people deserved the benefit of the doubt. Ha! It therefore wouldn’t matter how many times he’d flaked, disappeared, failed her—even if she remained unsure it could in all justice be called ‘failing’ if she had been charged with the task of idealizing him— and it neither seemed to matter whether he might have manipulated her—for as foolish as she had been at times, she had never completely lost her senses to her unpractical infatuation—, because in spite of it all, she simply could not accept he might have lacked so much moral character or sincerity—nobody is that great of an actor. So, what now? Hypocrite, sociopath or scorned friend? Ah ‘friends’ we always came back to that point. But why? She was just being naïve, after all, hopeful and delusional, so that the carefully crafted excuses, the anxiously built structures with their rationales and stretches, all these weak foundations within her internal monologue collapsed with the first question… At least until a little while later, when the mental deliberations started all over again, all because this indecisive jury couldn’t commit to a sentence. It was apparent now that there would be no victor in the matter; all the parties involved would end with battle wounds, imaginary and real. Why keep trying to acquit anyone? Processing all evidences objectively was just a pointless task that didn’t come with the zeal usually summoned by other puzzles. Why bother? Did it matter? It seemed important to know, but why? It wouldn’t make anything right.
When and why had he become so important? What had given him this right?
She just wanted answers, to find her peace of mind, but the easiest solution, to ask, would mean actually facing the fact he didn’t have the solution to all this. He probably didn’t even know; that was the most frustrating thing of it all.