Lately I’ve been losing friends faster than I can make them, a slow disintegration that picked up steam in the pandemic. The remaining count is Odious and a few online-only peeps, recluses for whom quarantine didn’t change a lot.
"Why do you always have friends who are so much younger than you?” Odious asked the other day, out of the blue.
“You mean like you?”
"Yeah, I’m like, what, 12 years younger?”
“11 and a half,” I said.
“Right on,” they said, genuinely surprised they got it so close. It had come up once before… maybe a month, five months, a year ago? They gifted me a rare, 1000 watt smile full of clean white teeth. After getting their diamond chipped fronts removed, they paid for Invisalign but claimed they felt naked showing them off.
Me, my teeth are ok, grey like fake marble with faded pink gums.
“I don’t know, it’s just the way it works out.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know? I doubt that, dude. You who have thought out each and every part of your life in exquisite detail.”
"I meant it as a compliment.”
I looked down in my bowl at the orange dust left over from the organic faker Cheezits. As usual I’d eaten too many, too fast, and now I felt gross.
“People my age are either married with kids or totally busted,” I said.
I flashed back to 2019, and the time before, and all the people I partied with for months straight, supposedly to celebrate that I sold my show. Everyone was excited, especially to tell me about their own projects, some of which I’d been hearing about for years and were now suddenly reformulated as episodic serials or anthology kinda remixes. The light had gone on and they realized TV was the way… ya dig? Even my so-called real friends were all about getting hooked up. After a few drinks it was right there on their big bland faces. They thought, if Swim can do it…
We were all old and getting older, the sputtering font of our generation, desperate to believe we were creative but only managing to make ugly stains wherever we went.
“Their brains are frozen and contracted or straight-up damaged. That’s what trauma does when it festers for decades. Meanwhile I feel like I’m just getting started.”
“Another vampire. Just like Pharrell.”
“But instead of sucking the blood of young people you just sleep with them.”
There was a pause, in which my mind glitched out on a response.
“Too bad too many of them caught feelings,” I said finally, my attempt at sounding cool and detached having the opposite effect. But it didn’t matter, as something on the big screen where they were playing Avatar, had caught their eye. They leapt back in their gamer chair and went back frame by frame, in slow motion.
“I’m grabbing all the mentions of ‘skin walker’. You know, like an avatar is an online identity, a skin we put on over our own… it’s kind of banal but I figured I should get them and see if there are any other details.”
“Yep, good idea,” I said.
And I remembered the one time Odious had come out back then to celebrate me. They just sat there with a plate of barely touched vegan tapas in front of them (which they would dutifully get to go, to give to someone on the street) and a mapacho behind their ear. Waiting to make a break. Giving me that dead eye stare that tripped other people out but that I found vaguely comforting.
I took off with them, leaving my day ones and all the others far behind, knowing what they must be saying with their soggy tongues.
Odious gave me a mapacho and asked to sit and smoke it on the curb.
“Real friendship is when you decide for someone, when you have their back no matter what,” they said as we stared at the reflection of the moon in a puddle. There was the smoke and the moon, but our faces didn’t appear. We only sat together for a few minutes, but in that time an entire universe revealed itself to me, one whose planets and characters and situations I’m still just starting to map out.
Image: Ken Price