“See, you’re making him sad right now.”
Which was completely untrue. However, I shrugged and mustered a wry smile in an effort to play along with the teasing. The next moment the girl sitting next to her flapped her hand in front of her face.
“No, no, it’s just that I have such a tight schedule thanks to my major. I’d love to go if I had the time…”
The rest of this conversation is unimportant. So, technically, was this entire meetup. We had initially come together as an opportunity to watch more Shiki, as we had only been able to watch five episodes during the Halloween party, which by now was about a month ago. Time, as of late, becomes more and more scarce as the last weeks of the quarter grip tighter by the day. There was barely a chance to organize any kind of big meetup to finish it as a club. So I and a handful of other people from the club, minus my staff, decided one Saturday afternoon that it would be a good idea to meet at one of their apartments to do that, and more.
I’ve lived in suburban neighborhoods my entire life, and with the rise of interactive technology came the decline in my interest towards the idea of a healthy social life. The transformation impacted me very little, as my general personality was kind of glad that I didn’t have to see people on a regular basis. At the same time, I did start wondering what it would be like if I hadn’t gotten used to it. Even though I like spending my time physically alone, I seek the company of others at times. Though, the last time I ever truly “hung out” at someone’s living quarters was sometime during high school, in the last moments of us being together before parting ways to our respective colleges, universities, vocations, or military bases. Even when I would hang out with them, it would be at great expense of both my time and gas money, as all of us did not live very close to each other and I do not have a driver’s license. Aside from meeting my old debate partner who transferred here this year (something you can only do during your third year in college), no one else from my high school came to my campus. It’s pretty clear that I haven’t been socially active for the last couple years.
I still feel those pangs when I stop in front of an unfamiliar front door, one sweaty hand poised next to the doorbell, goosbumps prickling in the dank overcast despite it being noon. Years of imaginary “practice runs” filled with talking inaudibly to myself go up in smoke when finally confronted with the real thing. A moment later I realize that they’ve been watching me from the window beside me and I open the unlocked door by myself.
The man who was hosting this meetup was a bespectacled giant, whose only visual weakness was his lanky build. Him, another man, and four women would be present, and all of them seem to have known each other for a while before this. I recognize many of them from the club meetings, but I do not know these people very well. We ended up have a lot of disjointed small-talk while the two or three more talkative people led their own conversations.
I end up not talking a lot because I don’t know everyone well enough, but I do content myself with listening to their conversations with each other.
While I was transferring anime from my collection to the host’s computer, we visited the local whole foods market a couple blocks away to buy tea and ingredients for crepes. It would be these components from which we made beef & onion crepes and blueberry crepes until we hated ourselves, and then drank tea until we hated ourselves, and then played Rock Band 3 until we hated ourselves. A rather vicious cycle of finding something better to do with our time. Before we knew it, the clock struck twelve. There was no time left to watch anything.
It wouldn’t be until after midnight, when all the bus lines were done for the day, that our host offered to drive me back home. Everyone else lived close enough to leave on their own. I, mirroring my own experiences before coming to college, needed a ride.
We talk about a lot of thing on the way to my house, like how I haven’t found a need to get a license, or how long we managed to play Rock Band without doing anything else for the whole evening. He checked up on me about whether or not I enjoyed the whole event, and had this to say,
“Sorry about not getting to watch Shiki. I was really looking forward to that, but got caught up in playing Rock Band with everyone…”
“I really need to organize this better.”
After hours upon hours of wondering whether it was right to come here, it would be this moment. This entire endeavor suddenly became worth it for me because it reminded me of something: the reason I do this to myself is because I want to be more socially open, and that seems a lot harder than it really is when I assume no one else in the room has this same problem. For the time I was there, that was precisely what I had assumed of everyone else in the room, and perhaps if I had changed my perspective I could have opened up myself more to the group, and in the process become a more accessible person. The heat of the moment gets the better of me and, as a result, I become forgetful. Here, though, with just the two of us driving in the dead of night, I’m reminded of all the times my high school friends had to drive me home, worried sick about how I felt about meeting up. Worried they may have driven me away.
I feel better knowing that this feeling of mine did not belong to me alone. Ten hours of dicking around in a kitchen and a few hundred GBs of shared anime later, the most valuable thing I pick up on is the worries of my colleagues. It doesn’t feel very good right now to know it, but I believe that’s the point of any kind of fledgling friendship.