FITTING IN (FITTING)
There was a time in my life when I felt a strong need to fit in, and to be liked. One way of achieving this I thought, was to be cooler then the next guy, keep my composure and display an attitude of "I don't care!". Little did I know that this would hurt not only me, but others also, in the end.
It was a typical evening at my usual watering hole, when all my feelings and attitudes about fitting in and being liked began to change. Beer, bourbon and music flowed while I took extreme pleasure in watching all the "Too cool, I wear black all the time!", people pass. I sat silently, making observations of these people, who should I get to know and who to avoid. I noticed this one kid that passed me a couple of times slowing down and staring long and hard. I didn't know what to think of him, I'd never seen him here before, but he had a familiar face. Finally after four or five times passing by he stopped and spoke.
"You're Andy, aren't you?"
"Why do you want to know?" I replied, in a harsh and snide tone. He went on to tell me his name, Ted, and how he knew me indirectly through a good friend of mine. He looked cool enough, biker boots, leather jacket, and spikey hair but something about him was unsettling.
As the night progressed people got more drunk, and their talk less intelligible, but this guy wasn't drinking much. In about four hours he had only three or so beers, but one wouldn't know that by the things he said.
"You never need to sleep if you're dead, do you?", "Does all the pain end once you die?", "I wonder what it's like to be dead?", he asked me these questions, as if I knew the answers. Then he said something that really threw me off guard, it also sparked a memory. Looking me straight in the eyes he spoke these words, clear, soft and articulate for only me to hear.
"I killed someone!", "Burned to death in my car." Then it all came to me, this was the guy a year behind me in high school, who got drunk on graduation night and wrecked his car.
I callously replied, "So what of it.", and turned away from him, ignoring his words for the remainder of the night. The look of a lost child in a large department store possessed his face. He did not say much after that. So cool and hip I thought I was, to play this guy's confession off, as if he were telling me the weather or baseball scores. Before he left the club he put his hand on my shoulder and said that he'd see me later.
All the next day I thought about Ted and what he was really asking for, wishing I had been a human being listening and speaking openly with him.
Some time later I met up with that mutual friend, Ted had mentioned. We talked about the people we both knew and when Ted's name was brought up, I asked how he was. Short and quick came the reply.
"Oh yeah, he killed himself in a car." All that flashed in my head was the image of a young man begging for someone to listen to him, and me being an insensitive ass.
My attitude has changed since then. I'm not so concerned about fitting in, or what other people think. I also take the time to listen when someone speaks to me, keeping in mind their feelings. I regret deeply having acted the way I did towards Ted.