1. Whenever you get close, everybody stops talking
It’s because they were all just talking about their awesome plans tonight. You heard them, if not the words, you could make out that general sense of excitement. From far away you could feel the laughter, that crazy energy, and then when you got within earshot, everybody just kind of stopped. Did one of them say, “Quiet, here he is,” just before you said hi? No, that’s crazy, that’s all in your head. But is it? It’s probably not that crazy.
2. After a minute or so of awkward conversation, everyone leaves
Until it’s just you and Dennis left standing there. You say to Dennis, “Hey man, you want to grab some lunch or something?” and he’s like, “Uh, actually, I really have to get back. But uh, hey man, can I borrow one of your XBOX controllers later on? Is that cool?” And you say, “Of course, you can take both. You want to play some online multiplayer later?” But he says, “Yeah, um, I’m actually headed to Jersey tonight to hang out with my … my cousin. But thanks for the controllers.”
3. And when you call everyone else, they all say they’re not doing anything either
Bill will say something like, “Yeah, I’m not feeling that great. I think I’m going to stay in. And then you call Steve up and he says, “Man, I’m beat. I might just watch some Netflix and go to bed early.” Jeff? Pete? Chris? “So much homework.” “I’ve got a really early day tomorrow.” “My girlfriend’s aunt just died.” Sure, it’s theoretically possible that they all might be separately unavailable on the same Friday night, but it’s more likely that they all decided at that group meeting that they’d all prefer to hang out without you, if only for one night, but most likely for as many nights as they can come up with excuses to possibly avoid you.
4. You start making up delusional rationalizations
Like, maybe they’re all getting together to throw you a surprise party. Don’t you have to try your best to play it cool, to lull whoever is getting surprised into that feeling like nothing’s going to happen tonight? Isn’t that how it always goes down in the movies? But as you start to get lost in imagining how you’ll try to act shocked when you see everyone yell, “Surprise!” you realize that your birthday isn’t for another four months. And there’s not really any other justification for why they’d pick you to surprise. If anything, it would have been Jeff. Wasn’t his birthday last week? When he said he didn’t feel like celebrating, was he trying to keep you from being included in his surprise party? No, that doesn’t make any sense.
5. There’s zero social media activity
As you spend the rest of the day trying to get everybody else out of your head, you can’t help but notice the lack of social media activity from any of your friends. And sure, Facebook isn’t as popular as it was a year ago, but this is like a deliberate radio silence. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, nobody’s posted anything all day. Not even Sam, and he’s at the very least got the results from a BuzzFeed quiz popping up on your timeline once or twice a day. Did everybody block you? Are they trying to make sure you won’t see how much fun they had when they post photos tomorrow?
6. Nobody’s responding to any texts
You’re not calling them, right, so it doesn’t have to be right away. But again, it’s like any text you send to anybody is just totally ignored. Even Dennis, you were just like, “Hey man, when are you picking up those controllers? Want to grab a bite?” Nothing. You hate the fact that you’re getting so paranoid, but there’s a clear picture in your head now. It’s all of your friends, they’re all playing beer pong and getting ready to go out. Steve’s cool cousin from Denver is in town for the weekend, and he somehow managed to smuggle in a whole bunch of legalized weed from out of state. That Pearl Jam song “Evenflow” comes on shuffle and everybody’s so pumped, they start belting it out in unison, “Oh-ho even-flo-ooh …”
7. Even the pizza delivery guy won’t talk
Was it a little crazy, ordering pizza from the same place that your friends always order pizza from, hoping on the off chance that they also ordered pizzas that night, that the delivery guy might not spill the beans about how cool their party looked while he was dropping everything off? Yes, and maybe you should have thought out a slightly more casual way of probing him for information. But still, he was awfully quiet, wasn’t he? It’s like, didn’t he see that big tip? Wasn’t that worth something? A head count? Were they playing Pearl Jam? Anything?
8. Friendly conversation is stripped bare of all pleasantries
It’s like eight or nine when Dennis knocks on your door. “Hey man, did you get my texts?” you’re trying way too hard to simultaneously make it look like you’re not giving him the once over, all while actually doing your very best to get some clue as to what might be going on. “What? Oh, I think my phone is dead.” No way, nobody’s phone dies. You go grab the controller and Dennis says, “Didn’t you say I could borrow both?” What does he need both for? If he’s not doing anything tonight, why two controllers? But that’s way too weird of a question. “What do you need both for?” You asked it anyway, it reeks of desperation, but come on, what does he need both for? Who else is he playing video games with? “It’s for my little brother. He’s having friends over.” Is that really believable? Why won’t the bullshit alarm stop blaring in your head, “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!”
9. You just feel it, in your gut, you just know they’re all hanging out without you
And so you put your jacket on and you head out to all of the bars where your friends always hang out. It’s totally pathetic, this one place actually makes you pay a cover to get in, even though you’re not going to stay, even though you’re only trying to see if your friends might be inside. “Sorry bro,” the bouncer says, “You want in, it’s twenty bucks. Just call your friends and ask them if they’re inside.” And you don’t want to get into it with him, that you can’t call, that you’ve already sent like twelve text messages to Pete. So you pay it. You give the guy twenty bucks. And they’re not in there. Maybe they’re across town, at that karaoke place. But on your way over, some sort of common sense kicks in. This is nuts, you tell yourself, who cares what other people think about you? Why not just cut your losses, go home and play some XBOX? Oh yeah, there aren’t any controllers. But just go home and hang out and watch TV. Nobody’s plotting behind your back. Why would everybody go to such lengths just to avoid having to spend a night in your company?
10. That’s them down the block, all of your friends, they’re all hanging out
You’re on your way back home and you’re just starting to feel a little better, but you turn the corner and there they all are, everybody, Steve, Sam, all of them. And it’s really awkward for a second, longer, like ten seconds, everybody’s just kind of standing there. You suppress the automatic urge to cry like a little baby until Jeff says, “Hey man … is your cell phone off?” Your cell phone isn’t off. Pete says, “You … you wanna come hang out?” Just smile and tell everyone you’ll see them later. Make sure you get those controllers back from Dennis, though. And make sure he doesn’t try to pull that same trick he did last time, where you gave him one of your good controllers and he returned a visibly more used one later that week, it didn’t have an X button, and when you tried to protest, he just shrugged and said, “That’s it man, I swear, I don’t have any more controllers back at my place.”