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Once upon a time, in a darkened dancehall, a guy called John had a decision to make. There were a lot of choices dancing around the room, a lot of mermaids in the proverbial pond, if you know what I mean. And standing there looking out on all those dancing bodies, all those connections to be made, options, favorites to be discovered, places to put one’s attention, you see — John started to think about his past history with the dating pool.
There’d been a long line of different sorts of chicks he’d spent time with, without ever really considering why he’d put his focus on each girl. At the dance, John found himself under the twinkling of a fake starry night sky swaying gently to the retro remixes, amid the crepe flowers, the streamers and balloons. There were as many balloons as he’d had chicks, not more. He had been focusing his romantic attentions in a multitude of ways for so very long.
His first steady girlfriend (a long, long time ago) was really the choice of his parents who had introduced them, and when you really thought about it, even their parents’ before them, in terms of the expectations they had for the kind of chick he’d spend his time with. Anyway, his first chick was called Doing. That was her name. Doing was a pretty normal girl, as the world saw her — outgoing, accomplished, very pretty, and basically what you’d call “acceptable” by society’s standards. In other words, she was good on paper.
Although John had had a long-term thing with Doing, really out of obligation to his folks and the shared history he had with her, her family, the fact that they grew up together, there came a point when the relationship wasn’t enough for John anymore. He wasn’t fulfilled with Doing, and eventually he had to stop and reassess his priorities.
Shortly after breaking up with Doing, he’d met his first older woman, News. She was a real piece of work, if you know what I mean: severe, stern, and kind of a know-it-all. It was John’s first grown-up relationship and it made him feel very grown-up to spend time with News. She really knew what was going on and so, spending his time with News and listening to her drone on and on, so did he. News was serious business alright. I mean, why the hell was she always wearing a suit? Even at the beach — even in bed! Actually, truth be told (which, by the way, News really didn’t do very well), News was … well, she was a Class-A Bitch and she scared the hell out of John.
So, in short, it didn’t last. He just stopped going to her place and eventually life moved on. She kept contacting him after it was over, telling him he was going to miss out without her in his life, that he’d never amount to anything (the audacity!), but John just FELT better without her around.
All this FOMO and breakup stuff led to, as rebounds inevitably do, a wild and torrid affair with a playwright who was a hippie chick called Conspiracy Theory. She was a very cool chick with a very cool name and she knew it. She was definitely fascinating — while being bat shit crazy. Though, upon later reflection, she wasn’t exactly wrong about anything. She was just kind of obsessed with her stories. She wasn’t a “liar,” not per se, not like News; her intentions were always in the right place but she was prone to hyperbole and exaggeration. And furthermore, John’s family threatened on several occasions to disown him if he kept bringing her around to dinners.
So, better judgment prevailed, intuitively informing him that he would be better off without her, and so they broke up. Actually, John ghosted Conspiracy Theory, just stopped reaching out to her — I mean, he had to when she really finally went off the rails. At first, he was like, is this chick gonna end up institutionalized, or what? But then he heard a few weeks later that she was totally fine and had started dating a bunch of other guys right away.
As John felt the molecules of the dance hall evaporate and return in swirling movement around him to Duran Duran Redeux, he sipped his undoubtedly spiked fuschia-colored punch. He smelled the aromas surrounding him — drugstore perfume, men’s cologne, distant cigarette smoke and sweat. John found himself reminiscing about his on-again off-again tryst with a couple of sister twins from the neighborhood, chicks called Thinking and Worry. They’d all grown up together and everybody knew them (some of them intimately), though most people couldn’t tell the twins apart. The problem with the Twins, you see, was that everyone around town knew they’d just show up places, uninvited, spoiling the party with their intrusion. Like you’d be trying to get your homework done, trying to figure out some difficult Trig problem or something… and suddenly, climbing into your bedroom window would be Thinking and Worry, ready to party.
They were kind of losers, honestly; they never actually got anything accomplished. And then they’d want you to sit up all night keeping them company, talking and talking and talking — All. Night. Long.
The summer after he graduated from college, John hung out for a hot and heavy weekend with a chick called Movie — you know, like a 48 hour marathon kind of thing. You know what I mean. It was a helluva lot of fun, though unsustainable. No doubt, Movie was super exciting. But their affair was plagued by conflict from about 15 minutes into their first meeting. Everything was going along just fine, but then some catalyst they were barely aware of would hit, and John didn’t know what he’d said but he would feel the tension rising in his gut, and then, bam! They were off to the races. A knock-down drag-out high intensity fight would ensue (which is hard to do with somebody you just met).
They had incredibly exciting make-up sex, and everything would turn out “all’s well that ends well,” but then 90 minutes later they’d be right back where they started: the cycle of conflict, a few rounds of intense action, make-up sex, climax, then resolution. John found they never got any fresh air or went outside, he never brushed his teeth, cleaned his apartment, and finally, John said he just couldn’t go through all that drama! So, Movie and John parted ways amicably, deciding it was a better idea to just remain friends and perhaps to see each other periodically.
John soon entered the professional world and some years passed. He found himself missing his youthful connections. So, he decided to try internet dating for a while, where he met a chick called Social Media. She was a bit younger than John but seemed super eager to spend a LOT of time with him right away, so he just kind of went with it by default (being a passive kind of guy). She was very beautiful and fun to look at, though John suspected her looks were highly curated and she was a phony. She knew about culture, decorating, and food; mostly, though, she was constantly on some kind of a cleanse which was very annoying. She had opinions on just about every topic, though she was highly uneducated. Social knew a lot of hip stuff that John didn’t, though, new stuff the kids were talking about, so dating her made John feel young and more a part of the future. Social Media also knew a bunch of the same people at work and from his home town, so that was nice.
However, on the third date when John found himself relaying what he thought was a very clever and funny story about an old girlfriend, she suddenly screamed in all caps —
“WAIT A MINUTE, HOLD UP!” she interrupted.
“ — what?”
“ — That word, that f*cking word, John! How could you?! Did you just call a grown woman a “chick”?! That word, that WORD, is really triggering me right now; I seriously cannot believe you’re actually saying that. Jesus, the balls on this one, you guys,” she blustered to no one in particular. “I’m like…literally offended right n ow— ”
“ — Oh gosh, well — I’m sorry, Social. It was just an expression — wait, what are you doing? Are you…are you posting right now? Wait, let me explain the context of — ”
“CANCELED!” she yelled and walked out of the restaurant.
This brief episode put John in mind of the most painful long-term relationship of his adult life with a chick called Phone. Let me tell you about her: She was sleek. She was sophisticated. She was a petite beauty. (Okay, yeah, she was black; it was thing. Oh, John.) When he met her, he’d never met anyone like her. It was incredible. She had so much knowledge! Such a memory! She could do just about anything! John was so impressed by her. He grew to rely on her so much, rather quickly in their relationship, but in truth he really loved her too. They were basically inseparable from the moment she came into his life. His friends called it “co-dependent,” which John fervently disagreed with, right after Phone explained to him in detail what the term meant. John’s friends said, “You two are attached at the hip; you’re like checking in with each other every five minutes!”
But the real problem was that John began to feel like he didn’t know who he was anymore without Phone, what he thought about things, what his own opinion was. It was as if they were the same person. He was always stopping conversations to ask, “Wait a minute, you guys, let’s ask Phone what SHE thinks about the situation in Afghanistan; what do you think, honey?”
Phone wasn’t any better. She was always calling John, texting, sending him interesting podcasts, forwarding emails from the work they shared. He’d be out trying to have a beer with his mates, and she’d start reminding him of things he needed to do (answer emails, call his parents back, spring forward, fall back) — “Get it done, babe, get it done NOW, babe.” She wasn’t wrong, albeit a bit impatient. She was like a buzzing gnat. Buzz, buzz, buzz!
But in all fairness, it really wasn’t Phone’s fault — she was just being Phone. After all, this was who she was. It was John’s fear of losing her that made it impossible to be without her for any extended period of time. Phone was actually fine to just hang out at the crib as she used to say, “in the cradle,” and just kind of chill. But John couldn’t do it. It was like he was addicted to his girlfriend and it didn’t feel healthy. So eventually, and I know this is going to sound a little psychotic or sadistic or whatever, but just hear me out — John asked Phone to move into the basement, into a box, a little box made especially for her. Okay he locked Phone up — not to keep her from getting out, but to keep himself from going and getting her. Look, it had to be done! It was only for a little while until he had adjusted to being without her, when John had cured his addiction. Within a few days, Phone could just mellow out downstairs while he was asleep in bed. You see, it was the sleeping together that had been so rough on their relationship. Together they looked at some articles online. They did some couples counseling with a bot named Amanda and mutually decided to “make space” for each other.
Meanwhile, and here’s where got complicated, John and Phone had built a small business together and Phone was incredibly efficient, so John still basically needed her. And frankly, she didn’t have anyplace else to go. They decided to just be work colleagues and housemates. Phone moved downstairs, signing off after 5 o’clock every night, leaving John alone. Phone realized she just wanted to be a career woman anyway; she wouldn’t get so overheated with John fingering her all night long. It was better this way for both of them.
As the music in the dancehall seemed to swell, John made the rounds watching couples pair off on the dancefloor. He felt very alone amidst all of these people, as though he was surrounded by so much movement but he was standing still. He was surprised to see a chick he was sure he recognized standing off to the side. It was odd but John had the strong sense that he’d known her in childhood; if it was true, it was a chick called Boredom. Yes, that was her for sure. John had a vague recollection of being about eight years old, lying on the grass of his backyard with Boredom, staring up at fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky. It was a pleasant, floaty sensation.
Boredom was standing near the exit, a bored look on her face, playing the wallflower, seeming as though she might just blow this popsicle stand. She never talked to anyone at these things, but honestly everyone avoided her like the plague anyway. The other guys seemed scared of Boredom. They called her a nightmare behind her back. John could see that they would do anything, dance with anyone, even the ugliest chick in the dancehall, anything to avoid even having to look at poor Boredom. They ignored her. They despised her. They tried to pretend like she wasn’t even alive.
Boredom was wearing a plain beige dress of nondescript design. She was fresh-faced with no make-up at all. It seemed to John, watching her stand there all alone with nothing to prove, that she was what you might call a “natural beauty,” but nobody other than himself seemed to notice. She didn’t have an angle. She didn’t want anything from anyone, even their attention. She was the opposite of most fo the chick in here, chicks with desperation on their silly painted faces. She didn’t have a story to tell, no wish to be fulfilled, only endless possibilities. But also…Nothing.
And then, suddenly, John remembered something about Boredom. He remembered how it was when he was very young, when he was an only child, a lonely child, and Boredom would come to visit him in his room. And he felt a flush all over. Pins and needles like shivers surged his body while John re-sensitized himself to the memory.
Boredom was his old friend. Yes, Boredom had been very loyal to John. She would always come back, if you made room for her. And she was magical in a way. Boredom had this neat trick where amazing ideas would flow out of her when things got really quiet. It was only with Boredom that John had been able to create castles in his mind; no other chick wanted to do that kind of thing — paper Mache animals they would design from their imaginations, building blocks made into mansions on the sea of a fuzzy teal blue blanket, army invasions of colored toothpicks, so many games they played — they created together!
And here she was, all these years later, discovered in the middle of a dancehall. Boredom had suddenly showed up again in his life — right in the middle of a sea of distractions. John realized that he had hypnotized himself by all these other chicks. The truth was that Boredom wasn’t scary at all! Her silence and her stillness, her empty open space, waited, unacknowledged, to be filled. This wasn’t a just chick to spend time with. This was a woman who could bring out the best in you.
John stared at Boredom from across the room, knowing what she represented, who she really was. He knew just as surely as he was standing there in that dancehall among all those movers and shakers, that Boredom was something so much more than anyone else could understand, that just being with her could quiet the chaos of the world and make a man know who he really was, what he was made of and what he was capable of doing. Boredom was the kind of woman who might grace you with “real magic,” helping you to discover a treasure buried deep within yourself — the wisdom of how you REALLY felt about yourself and your place in the universe, about being alive here and now, and how to find your creative spark or solve a problem. John knew that in her stillness you might find the answers. And so, to John, Boredom was beautiful, regal, yes, plain but also lovely, familiar, comforting, nurturing, yes, boring, and magical. She wasn’t a chick at all! She was an incredible woman.
John knew what he had to do.
He put down his drink, walked over to her, and smiled. John took Boredom by the hand, looked deeply into her eyes and said, “Hello again,” and off they went into the night.
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