six degrees of separation, post-collision.

3 February 2013 § Leave a comment

While my co-worker Robbi spun tops in the toy store, I waited in the red brick park across the street and watched homeless kids try to kickflip off a two-stair. I rehearsed ways to tell my boss that I was done with the job after two weeks. Canvassing was not my thing. I had enough trouble accepting money after working for it, let alone trying to instill a warm fuzzy feeling in people on the street for contributing to an environmental cause I knew was funded mostly by oil companies. I didn’t believe in it, and only Jehovah Witnesses would listen to my rap and think that I was fo’ shizzle.

“I think need to focus my energy elsewhere,” I said to myself, in my most professional tone.

“Like where?” Robbi asked, sitting on the old brick memorial.

I had no idea, and changed the subject immediately. Neither of us wanted to go back to work, so we danced around topics to kill time. An actress, Robbi related her canvassing job to the thrill of the stage. When a whole audience rejects you, she told me, that hurts. When someone keeps walking on the street and doesn’t want to listen to my rap, whatever. Other people have money too.

Acting has always scared me. In classes, I learned techniques for stepping into character, how to make the script a three-dimensional, living breathing being, and how to represent something much larger than myself. A sort of sacrifice, where just before stepping from behind the curtain, I placed my ego on a chopping block, and walked out without it, giving the axe-wielding, masked executioner my blessing with pat on the back and a sparklewink.

Um, no. I retain full rights and responsibility for the death of my ego, thank you.

At one point, Robbi said something of Runa. Runa was a girl who lived as hard as she could in every direction, the conductor of her own great drama, and a great friend. You should meet her, Sean, you’d think she’s great.

I’d heard of someone named Runa once before. She was an idea, an internet friend you’ll never meet. I’d talked to her on the phone a few times. Seen her naked. An ex-girlfriend of mine, of my first real/crazy/awesome/scary long term relationship, was e-married to a Runa. They talked all the time. Sent each other thinspiration photos. Enabled each other to starve, or binge, or cut. My ex, then 17 or so, cried for days when Runa ended up in the hospital.  All, years ago.

Robbi – suddenly, innocently, unknowingly – started describing my memories back to me. Late-teen dramas of eating disorders, addiction, and suicidal tendencies. My eyes welled up with tears. I took my fedora off, ran my fingers through my hair, and pieced my history together. Runa was from the Netherlands, but lived in Portland. My ex always wanted to visit her, but never did. Not when we were together, anyway.

Robbi tripped out on our degrees of separation with big smiles and laughter. Had my memories been less malevolent, I might have matched her excitement. Ever a sucker for nostalgic moments, I indulged myself in my past, and told her some of what I remembered – not knowing if I should have felt jealousy or amusement that my girlfriend was e-married to someone whom she had never met, not knowing how to hold space for a woman who’d starved and beaten her survival instinct to a pulp every meal since childhood, thinking that if I just stayed there and kept loving, that everything would be okay.

Yes, and if Okay isn’t good enough?

As of the day I quit, Robbi and Runa, best friends, hadn’t talked for five months. That night, Runa replied to a text containing my name. Fascinating.


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