by Galvin Chapman
with photos by Max Deeb
The crickets have moved into my room. Or maybe I’ve moved into theirs. Either way, we typically live in peace, until nightfall. Throughout the day I make music with them as they stick to their predictable rhythms and me, my predictable musical dependence. Either that, or we just live side by side, disconnected. Aware of each other’s presence, yet independent in action. Like a relationship that’s gone on far too long, we aren’t delighted to see each other anymore, but tolerant of each other’s presence.
My behavior is far from tolerant, though. I come home at 4 a.m., shitfaced and shifty eyed. When she hears me come in, she cowers because she knows what comes next.
“Where is the bitch!?!” I yell to myself as I search for her.
I drunkenly check every nook and cranny of my room; check every corner where the walls meet the ceiling; check underneath every piece of furniture that is lifted just high enough for a bitch to fit; lift every piece of clothing lazily left in an unorganized fashion.
“I know you’re here somewhere, motherfucker!”
Finally, I lift a shirt of mine from off the ground, and there, stoic posed, stands a cricket, fearless. She knows I will never catch her and, so, she stands in peaceful cognizance. We make eye contact and stand still for a moment. Then. I swipe, using my shirt as a weapon and she dodges in confusion of our coexisting relationship. Somehow, she finds refuge out of site and resides in safety somewhere new. I soon forget of my failure and pass out, only to wake up in moments to a new day. If my bed is the ocean, then the crickets are the storm. Zeno would be ashamed.
I wake up alone and surrounded by silent crickets. I check my phone and find that Finn has texted me. He wants to meet for coffee. So, Finn and I meet up for coffee that afternoon. We haven’t seen each other in months, although we proclaim to be best friends. After ordering our coffees, we head straight for the patio seats out front, where we proceed to chain smoke for hours over conversation.
“…and then she called me, at like 5 in the morning, crying. I had to console her for like 2 hours.” He complains.
“Well, what did she expect?” I ask rhetorically, “She hit up her ex-boyfriend, who had clearly treated her like shit in the past, and then he treated her like shit again. Like, did she think this time would be different? Did she think he had changed or did she just forget in the moment what had happened to her in the past?”
“I don’t know, man. I think she just wanted to be close to somebody.” He responds.
“Look, I’m not saying that what this dude did to her was okay, but it was clearly stupid of her to think that if she fucked him, he wouldn’t treat her like shit. I mean, people’s romantic lives are so full of shit. Like, it seems like it’s pretty clear to me: if you don’t want something bad to happen to you, then don’t fuck, or hang out with someone who has done something bad to you in the past. So, if someone treats you well, and they meet your other standards of a romantic partner, then great and stay. If someone treats you like shit, then dip. Being single isn’t a fucking death wish, it’s a blessing, if you should be so lucky. And most people would probably be much better off emotionally if they were single rather than pissing away their lives in the shitty relationships that they refuse to end. Like, how the fuck are there so many romantically masochistic people out there? Like you, for example.”
“What do you mean me? I’m not romantically masochistic!”
“Dude, just last weekend you called me crying that your girlfriend was trying to beat the shit out of you and that as you were trying to run away from her, she tore off your shirt. You told me that as you were running down the street in tears, you could hear her screaming at you that she was going to call the cops on you. All because you wanted to grab a beer with some friends.”
“Well, yeah, but that was more of a miscommunication, really.”
“What are you so scared of? What about being alone is so terrifying to you?”
“What do you mean? I’m not scared of being alone”
“Yeah? When was the last time you were single for longer than 3 months? Huh?”
“I don’t know, maybe…”
“Since before you even had sex, man. That’s how long. You haven’t even been an adult and single at the same time yet. You have no idea what life is like without a romantic partner. Don’t you wonder? Isn’t there some part of you that fantasizes about being alone and free?”
“I mean, I don’t know what to tell you, man. I happened to be lucky and run into amazing women immediately after ending relationships. It’s not a personality pattern, it’s just what happened coincidentally. No need to look into it any further.”
“Coincidence? No. When someone beats the shit out of you and you continue to stand by their side, that’s called commitment. Commitment is a decision, not a coincidence. You’re committed to being with this person romantically, despite all of the shitty things she has done to you. And the list is long, my friend.”
“Ah, the list isn’t that long, man. Look, I’m not interested in leaving her, she means the world to me and I’d do–”
“Well, you’re clearly extraordinarily terrified of being alone. Why else would you endure endless crappy television shows and shitty predictable sex (or lack thereof)? Why else would you stick around after she attempts to beat the shit out of you, simply because you wanted to go hang out with your friends? Why else wouldn’t you leave after being cut-off emotionally and verbally from your friends and family? Why wouldn’t you walk away when she started shit with every one of your best friends, after which, every one of your best friends independently warned you that she has a warped sense of reality? What about the time she threatened to call the cops on you, after she beat the shit out of herself, only to claim you were the abusive perpetrator? Like, she was actually willing to send you to jail, because you didn’t want to stay in that night. And still, you sit here in front me, asking for my ear, to hear you—more importantly—listen to you complain about the next example of how shitty she treats you and as a result, how fearful you are of being alone. And, without hesitation, I will sit here and listen to you all day about your problems with this chick—no hesitation, because I fucking love you and want you to have somebody to lean on and depend on and shit. But sometimes, man, I need to return the favor and express my true feelings on the matter, and that’s what I’m doing right now. I mean, why? Just give me one good reason why—”
“Because of love! I love her dude. I’m sorry you can’t understand that, because you have never felt the same way about somebody, but one day, when you do feel the same way about somebody, then maybe you’ll understand. And I’ll sit here and listen to your bulshit problems that you’re going through with your love. And I’ll offer suggestions that aren’t just ‘you’re scared of being alone dude,’ because I care about you and I want your love to succeed. But love is hard. And love has problems. And love is annoying and restraining. And love comes in different shapes and sizes and not all shapes and sizes are going to fit you, man. You understand?”
“Love? You call all the examples I just laid out for you: Love? That’s the shape and size of your fucking love? Wake the fuck up dude! This isn’t a fucking philosophy debate, this is your life. This is how you treat yourself and this is your happiness. This is how you live and this is ‘love’ as a result of that. If any of the basic human emotional needs were met by your unusual definition of love, then I’d buy it, but that’s simply not the case, man. This is fear. You’re scared of being alone and it’s okay to admit that. Admitting it isn’t going to be the end of your relationship. And I’m not asking you to fucking break up with your girlfriend. I’m just laying out a different perspective for you to absorb, one that I also happen to agree with. Take what you want from that perspective, but please don’t just flat out deny it.”
“Okay, fine, yeah. I’m scared of being alone, but who isn’t? Isn’t it only human nature to seek and maintain romantic and sexual relationships? I don’t want to be alone—without sex and companionship—for the rest of my life. Do you?”
“This is exactly what I’m telling you: I can be happy either way, and so can you. You don’t need to ‘be with someone’ to be happy. It just isn’t a requirement for happiness. I’ve spent many years in relationships and many years alone, and I am telling you that both have their benefits. They are simply just two different ways of living and it’s not black and white. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, I’m just offering you another way and perspective out of a shitty situation. And your situation is shitty, at least from where I see it and what you’ve been telling me.” I finally add.
He sits there, in his chair, anger brewing in his head for a moment. Then, he stands up, still looking at the ground, red eyes and puckered lips. I don’t say anything as regret builds up in my mind. I know that what I had said wouldn’t turn out well, but I just couldn’t help myself. He stands there looking at the ground for a few moments while he clenches his fists and then walks away calmly. I watch him as he walks down the street and then disappears around the corner. I continue sipping my coffee, not knowing what else to do. After a few minutes of pondering, I stand up and walk home, back to my room alone. No one joins me except the stoic crickets hiding in their respective residences. Zeno would be ashamed.