Friday, January 10, 2014

Wierd raw humanity


One of my closest friends in high school was Felicity. Her name simultaneously reminded me of the show “Felicity,” and the “American Girls” doll by the same name. She was a few years older than me. I was 15/16 during our closest friendship, she was 18/19. Felicity had a 2-year-old son named Zane. I loved Zane, and I don’t like kids. Zane liked to sit in his high chair and fling cheerios onto the floor from a little baggie. He would giggle with such glee, though, that you couldn’t help but think it was adorable.

Felicity had it rough. Her parents were cold and unsupportive. They rejected her to the point that she cut them out of her life completely, because she felt it was healthier. The guy who got her pregnant was a new-ish boyfriend, named Justin, who she thought was prince charming. Unfortunately it turned out he was a petty thug and drug addict—but she didn’t find this out until after she was pregnant. Felicity had to cut him out, too. Not that he cared—he was relieved to be rid of her and Zane (even before Zane had a name). She was so alone; I felt so connected to her…my loyalty was fierce. I would fight with anyone for her.

Felicity’s financial situation was little better than her social one. When I met her she lived in a bedroom of a rental house, off Brooklyn Street (just past the Ave, for my Seattlites). She had been a college student—fine arts major—before becoming pregnant. She tried to make it work, but soon had to drop out. Felicity and Zane stayed in the bedroom she had rented as a college sophomore for awhile…but soon she could not afford it—and her housemates hated the baby.

A few (maybe 3 to 6) months after I got close with Felicity, she felt forced to move. She moved into a studio over a head shop just off Broadway. She didn’t like it—it was noisy and open much later than she would like, plus the neighbors were sketchy—but it was what she could afford that was on the bus line to her job as a waitress at a late night diner (The Hurricane, again for my Seattlites). It wasn’t where she wanted Zane, but she didn’t feel like she had much choice.

As I said, I loved Felicity fiercely. And I found Zane delightful. I did what I could to help her by babysitting when I could—sometimes overnight. It is also true that, as much as she was my closest friend (and she truly was—do not doubt it), I was her closest friend in the world. There is an extent to which I was her only friend. So I spent a lot of time at her place socializing with her as well. Her place was cramped, but I spent a lot of time there. It was vaguely annoying that the only place with ANY privacy was the bathroom, but I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy co-sleeping with Felicity and Zane. It felt so warm and safe. So simple, elegant, and uncomplicated. The blissfully ignorant sleep of a toddler. The exhausted sleep of a hard-working single mom. It is, in an odd way, music to the ears of an insomniac. Sound sleepers seem to help me sleep by osmosis…or something. Fuck if I know.

Suffice it to say, it was inconvenient—but I loved it. We shared dinners of Tuna Helper (which I had never experienced before), and a really big night for us was a dozen doughnuts, 2 quarts of milk, and a movie rental. Accusations were made that she was my girlfriend, and not just my friend. Honestly—I cannot say that I know. She was perfect. Our relationship was easy. The most complicated part of our relationship was that she could not afford a phone. What with the monopolies of phone companies, they are able to charge unreasonable fees. There are other ways to get in touch with people, she could use the phone at work, and there is a legal mandate she be provided an outgoing emergency line without fee. As such, it did not make sense for her to waste grocery money on a phone. Sure it made things harder sometimes, but I wouldn’t hold that against her.

How could I hold it against her? It was her defining feature. It was the single most important thing about Felicity. My best friend for several years. The most important thing to know about my best friend Felicity is that she couldn’t afford a telephone.

The fact of the matter is, though, Felicity’s name did not remind me of the show. The show didn’t come out until a couple years later. That is apparently an artifact of my recollection.  Also?  Zane was a guy I went to school with (that my parents didn’t know). I am pretty sure I got Felicity’s name from the doll. The crux of the story: Felicity wasn’t real. She was an absolute fabrication.

Most of my stories about Zane were retooling of stories my mother told me about myself as a child. I suspect that is why she loved them so much. Why she didn’t question. Why she was too charmed to doubt. Many of my stories about Felicity—particularly the crucial ones—were patterned off things my mother told me about her experiences as a single mother. I guess I left her with the option of questioning her own choices, or leaving my “friend” alone.

To this day, I have never asked. I don’t know if they really believed…or if they just gave up. What I do know is that there were so many family conversations about her. So many with my parents—explaining why I was out all night—and just as many with my sisters—explaining why I was gone so much. Even weirder? My grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins all knew about her too. She was the topic of conversation. Her choices the topic of debate over pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. I do not know if they ever doubted her existence. The only questions I was leveled were: Is she your girlfriend? Are you gay? Does she think she is your girlfriend even if you don’t? What does she want from you? Is she taking advantage of you?

What I was doing during all of those days, all of those nights…a topic for another time. But I cannot help but feel some guilt: My family always asked if Felicity was taking advantage of me, but clearly it was I who was taking the advantage.

More than that, I feel sadness. My closest friend for 2 years was a figment of my imagination. I could tell you what she looked like, what she sounded like, how she acted, what her experiences were…The things we agreed on, the times we had fights…I wasn’t psychotic. I just knew that a lie had to be real. No one believes unless you make it so real they cannot ignore it. And at 15/16, I didn’t get what was creepy about creating such an elaborate lie. And I didn’t see how much of me the lie consumed. There were other things that consumed me, but there is an extent to which Felicity took energy I could not direct towards real life. Moreover, Felicity allowed me the freedom to devote my time to things I did not want anyone to know I was doing—hardly the recipe for lasting relationships.

Perhaps oddest of all (perhaps), Felicity was initially constructed to protect one person from my association. Eventually she extended far beyond him, but all of the best parts of her were drawn from him. I told my family about him through her. And he was a great influence on me. He has made me a better person…but I made his life worse. And I can never change that. And for that I am sorry.

Wow. What a downer. I do not know what this story means. Or if it means anything. Or if it was worth telling. But it strikes me as fascinating that I created a person from thin air. It was a mantra of mine around that time that, “Parents believe what they want to believe.” The thing is, it wasn’t just them. I created this person that many other people asked about for years. I do not know if I am impressed or disgusted.

Mostly…I think I just wish I could meet her. For real. Felicity…if you are out there, and you read this…I miss you.