I see him all the time. I pass him on the street, I ride the same subway car with him, and this morning we went to the same gourmet deli for breakfast. There's a flicker of mutual recognition, but we never say anything to each other. I haven't seen Neighbor Neil, who lives six goddamn feet away from me, in three weeks. But Willow's ex, who lives in a completely different borough, but obviously works near me, crosses my path on a nearly weekly basis now. Further (minor) evidence of fate's utter refusal to be nice to me.
Willow and I went out last night. Things have been rocky for her as well, so we shared a nice cup of Life Sucks (as well as a giant pitcher of sangria). Work has been trying for Willow, she's expecting family drama over the holidays, and things with Spanish Sam did not work out. No tidy endings, either, he just drifted off, stopped returning phone calls. Which is more reasonable after a lackluster date or two, but after two months of passionate dating? A chorus of "what a loser" is called for.
"He used to have a much different life," Willow said, "He had the wife, the house, the car, the high paying job. He doesn't have any of that anymore."
"Maybe the divorce and all the crap that followed caused a kind of regression in him. He took the grownup, responsible route, and when it all fell apart maybe he decided not to do the adult thing for a while. Not that it excuses his disappearance and disregard for your feelings, but it could be a reason why."
"That makes sense," Willow nodded.
"I know that after getting knocked around by life the last few months, I feel like I've regressed to being all kinds of teenager. I cut off my hair, paint my nails black, listen to the angsty music I listened to a decade ago, and have an angry and destructive mindset. I feel separated from the rest of the world and generally hate people--present company excluded, of course."
"I know what you mean."
"Seriously, though," I continued, "if all this has taught me anything, it's that being a good person does not guarantee a happy ending."
"That's so depressing."
"Well, let's not say ending, but more that everyone is given hardships they have to deal with, and being sweet or nice does not mean a person will have an easy life or is even entitled to one."
Willow mentioned a rather bitchy and self-centered friend in her mid-20's, who has shot up the career ladder, found love with little diffuculty, and is getting married next year.
"It seems like everything has been handed to her, yet she still complains about friends her age who are becoming lawyers and doctors and making tons more money than her."
"There's always a reason to be dissatisfied," I shook my head.
The bartender refilled our sangria.
"And the fact of the matter is, half of our friends who are getting engaged and married now are going to be divorced within a few years. I can think of one or two people already who I don't think are going to make it."
I never heard sweet, thoughtful Willow sound so cynical. It was actually comforting, because I can't deal with saccharine peppiness right now. And sure, I know it's not good for us to wallow in our bitterness, but we have enough perspective to know it's a phase and will pass.
Call it a crisis of faith.
"At least you believe in God," I said to Willow.
"That doesn't always make it easier."
"Yeah, but they say God has a plan for everyone. I don't believe in God, so I'm just in the midst of a whole bunch of chaos right now."
Depression is defined as anger turned inward. Sometimes, I let the anger go a little, like last night, with Willow, and find comfort in the fact that we are both lost, anxious, sad, frustrated. We've had so many upbeat nights out, but I think it's a mark of true friendship that we were able to be real with each other, not put on a phony front, and still feel somewhat uplifted at the end of the evening. It was more validating than any things-will-get-better platitudes. Shared pain, real feelings, and an overriding theme of: "we just have to get through this, and we will."
When we were done with the sangria and asked for our check, the bartender poured us a free shot. It was dark brown and tasted like an alcoholic pancake.
"Thank you!" We trilled, and left a generous tip.
"Wow, that sangria seemed to go on and on and on. What a huge pitcher," Willow marveled.
"I know! It was like Jesus blessed it or something. No offense..."
Willow just laughed, ever easygoing.
That potent shot pushed us over into proper tipsiness, but also gave us just what we needed to deal with the bracing cold outside.
It's going to be a long winter.