The problem when everyone thinks you’re made of iron

is that you’re really not, and when it shows, people don’t even recognize it for what it is. They think you’re just being bitchy or something. They never even stop to think that maybe you’re breakable too.

Like today, when I finally came home after holding it together all day, and I just crashed onto the sofa, but naturally couldn’t sleep, because if I could sleep I probably wouldn’t feel this bad anyway – ha ha – but the thought that kept going through my mind was, “I’m not made of steel. I’m not. I’m not.” I had this in mind when thinking, actually, not of people who challenge me or my superiors, but rather of the friends I keep wanting/not wanting to talk to so badly.

How could I even start to sit down with Jake or Stan, who always tell me they are amazed at how efficient I seem, how sometimes I seem so brilliant, how it seems like everything comes easy to me? Once, Jake said to me, friendly-like, “I’m just so jealous of you.” (It was actually a friendlier expression in the language we speak, that literally is something like “I’m all jealousy,” but meant as like a, “have a great time doing what you’re doing” type comment.) I remember that on that particular occasion, I just said, shocked, “Oh God, don’t say that.” The immediate reaction was that I would never ever want someone I care about to have to be me. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. He was surprised, asked me if there’s some superstition about not saying things like that or something. After all, it was only an expression.

But, after so many years, working where I do and doing what I do, and doing it with sprezzatura, and seeming to land on my feet after bouncing around to millions of different places and jobs and stations in life (which probably I wouldn’t have even had to bounce around to if I didn’t have all these goddamn tendencies to keep doing new and intense things or feel like I’m dead or dying), they think I’m made of steel or stone. Everyone comes to me with their problems. (Hell, that’s part of my current job.) When you get into people’s minds this way, they aren’t expecting depth, other dimensions. Most of our views of people are pretty one-dimensional anyway.

I’ve had semi-friends say to me, what, are you made of stone or something? Or make the comment, you don’t have to be perfect. And I know that yeah yeah yeah in my childhood love was always contingent on being perfect and that’s all fucked up etc etc but whatever, that doesn’t make it any better.

The thing is, I think the fact that I’m kind of shy makes me seem aloof or icy, rather than what it really is – terrified. I’ve been faking it so long, no one sees the seams anymore. Today someone I sort of know at work, who I like well enough, invited me to his 30th birthday party, which is tonight. I refused, because honestly, parties and social situations with lots of people I don’t know well make me incredibly nervous and I hate it, but it probably seemed to him like I was brushing him off, being cold, the ice-queen cometh. After that, since he’s moving to a new city and job soon and I’ll probably never see him again, I wished all afternoon that I’d just been honest. When he said, “So…probably no chance of you coming by…” (I’ve refused social things he’s invited me to before for the same reason, his friends are sorta high class for me, and I feel awkward around them), I wish I’d just been honest, said, “Honestly, parties and stuff like that make me uncomfortable and shy.” That probably would have been more human than just saying, “No, can’t make it.” But I’m not supposed to be uncomfortable and shy.

And this is how I found myself curled into a ball on the sofa today, wishing I could call Jake and ask him to just help me not kill myself this time, to remind me that this too will pass, but thinking of the way I just couldn’t bring myself to do that in front of him or anyone else, crying over and over, like the crazy person I am, “I’m not made of stone…I’m flesh…I can break just like all of you…I’m not made of stone…I’m not made of steel…”


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