Work work work, blah blah blah, and then I went grocery shopping. Before stepping into the store, though, I stepped into a phone booth and clinked some coins.

I mentioned several days ago that I’d gotten two phone messages from one stranger. I should’ve called her back over the weekend, but I’m a dolt and didn’t until tonight. Cynical and shy am I, and I was pretty sure it would be awkward, because what the hell am I going to say to some stranger on the phone? 

Someone calls and leaves a message, you call back. Them's the rules, so I dialed, half-hoping to reach an answering machine. She answered, though, and we were almost instantly having a conversation, and it wasn't awful.

Her name is Judith, and she’s clearly an extrovert or maybe an outravert (which is even farther off the scale than an extrovert) but she seemed like nice people anyway. I wasn’t looking at my watch and trying to squeeze in “goodbye” like I usually do, so I'll judge the call a smashing success.

She made it clear quite quick that she’s happily married and not offering anything romantic. Well, she seems nice enough, but me and an extrovert could never happen anyway, so hearing about her husband didn't break my heart.

And then we talked for a looong time. Mostly she talked, but I wasn’t bored. Best of all, we hung up without arranging to meet anywhere or any time, or even saying we ought to. That's something I was happy not to hear, because I never say much beyond “uh” and “um” when I meet anyone.

After adios and click, I went into the store and pushed a cart, and tried to count my friends. I didn't need a calculator. There aren’t many friends.

Here in California, Kallie and Stanley are not quite friends but maybe getting there, and Lottie and maybe now Judith are further down the scale. In the life I left behind to move here, there were three friends, but of those, only Maggie has kept in touch, and even Maggie and I aren’t getting along too well in our last few letters and calls.

There are zine readers and publishers who write me letters, and some of them I’ve replied to, but I’m not sure even the best of pen pals count as a friend.

I’ve always had more ‘fractional-friends’ than friends — people I could talk to about baseball, but never politics; about sit-coms, but never sex or politics or zines, and so on. There are always untouchable topics, conversations that can’t be had. Gotta keep parts of myself hidden, so as not to offend the wrong fractional-friend with the wrong opinion or obnoxious joke.

To my thinking, a friend is someone you can talk to about anything, everything. And right now, I got none of those. Only fractionals.

When a thought occurs to me, I want to simply say it, not stop and sort through what I know about whoever I’m with, to estimate whether he/she could hear it without stomping away angry. A friend doesn’t have to agree with whatever babblings come out of my mouth, but I gotta know I can babble and you’ll be a friend anyway. And a friend knows the same, that he/she can say anything to me and it'll be OK.

Of course, that’s only half the reason I’m basically friendless. I'm also just not friendly. Here in the zine I’m wide open, but in person I almost never speak unless spoken to. Being so damned introverted means most people never get a chance to know me.

When I try to be sociable, I’ll usually stumble across some invisible, unspoken line, say something shocking, and whoever’s been unlucky enough to talk to me will suddenly want to be a stranger.

That's why I’m usually alone, but I’m not complaining about it. It would be nice to have a friend, but until that happens — or if it never does — I try to be a good friend to myself. I tell myself everything, and never get offended and stomp away angry.

From Pathetic Life #8
Monday, January 9, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. Do I remember Jay from the phone call? I can't remember names. Is she someone who plays a role in PL in the future?

    You're free to say nothing, because of spoilers.

    1. You might have met her. Yeah, she's going to play a role in PL in the future — I'll be living with her.

    2. OK, yeah, I remember her. Mainly from the zine, but I do think I met her once.

    3. Are you in the zine? Or was it over by the time you got to San Francisco?

    4. Ha, I actually was going to be (I think) in the issue after you shut it down. I remember a tease line for the next issue at the end saying "A New Friend?" I had recently become a potential friend, si I figured it was me, but I never brought it up. I think it was juuuuuuust before I came out there, but had plans in place. Do you have a copy of the final issue, to check the date of the last entry?

    5. May 1996 is the last I have, PL#24. I'm pretty sure that was the last issue. Didn't see any mention of a new friend, but I only spent a few minutes flipping through the master copies.

    6. I definitely arrived after that. My zine text from September 6, 1996 says "I'm leaving tomorrow!" I got to SF on the 21st, apparently.

    7. Welcome to San Francisco, ya fat schmuck!

      I'm actually unsure whether there was a PL#25. My collection of master copies ends with #24...

  2. As far as I recall the last issue ended with the guy following you home and saying that he "just likes your zine."


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