It’s the Fourth of July weekend in Hilldale, Pennsylvania, and all the local townspeople are having their annual bonfire. My cousins and I have always especially enjoyed it. It’s a nice way for each of us to get out his frustrations and, more importantly, to act stupid in an acceptable context.
My cousins and I have had such an entirely lopsided rapport over the years. The fire is only one representative example of all our odd antics, which, of course, no one else understands. We laugh. We reminisce. We watch strangers burn things. Are we a fun bunch or what?!
Fortunately I’ve never been involved with anyone I shouldn’t have been mixed up with. I can understand how taxing that kind of relationship can be. Imagine all the incessant arguing because of such a total lack of compatibility. Such an experience must be quite a nightmare. Whether it’s for reasons of either a religious or political nature, or for some other kind of circumstances, that’s bound to lead to some seriously nasty consequences, especially in today’s era of victim status where so many self-pitying, self-aggrandizing creeps are encouraged to demand all kinds of entirely blind sycophantic obedience. At least I’ve been spared, however obnoxious my life has been, such a horrendous ordeal.
For as far back as I can remember I’ve always been a bit of a square in certain ways. I’ve never felt sufficiently comfortable with either new people or new experiences. I’ve always referred to my big move from Jackson Heights to Lindenhurst, at twelve years old, as the perfect example of how hard it is for me to deal with change, though I’ve gotten much better at it since then. Because I’ve never liked sports or animals, and I’ve never been married or had kids, that leaves me with a shortage of things in common with others. It always helps, when meeting someone new, to be able to establish a common bond. In my dealings with new people I’ve always been strictly a speak-when-spoken-to kind of guy. If someone wants to say hello to me, I can handle it but I tend to shy away from making any attempt at an overture. I’m at my best in a classroom, workplace, bowling alley or any other environment where people are forced, by definition, to associate with each other anyway. It always helps when one’s sources of conversation are intrinsically built into his circumstances. A common responsibility is just as good as a common interest in forging new friendships. Another major advantage is when I get to meet someone who’s already a friend of Mary Anne’s, Steve’s or of one of my cousins. I’ve always been good with those collaterally connected characters. Do former classmates and teachers, when they come back into one’s life, count as new friends? Someone like that isn’t new because I already knew him long ago. At the same time, though, he’s entirely new because of our having yet to establish a current relationship. As I said earlier, it always helps to have something in common. That’s why I always like to try to keep my eyes and ears open just in case someone either is left handed, went to Catholic school, dreads left turns or is somehow otherwise in cahoots with something I can identify with. By now I’ve grown quite comfortable with both my supposed lack of popularity and my feeling of discomfort with new people. I’ve learned to attribute things like that to my always having been such a distinctive character. For obvious reasons I never even think of presuming to unleash entirely too much of my colorful side on someone new. My obnoxious habits, and distinctive tastes and character defects require quite a lot of preparation. Long ago I learned to save them for only the people who’ve already gotten quite accustomed to having me around. To a large degree my attempts at making new friends are at their best when I go about things with a sense of moderation. It pays not to go too crazy. I know what all my strengths and weaknesses are and can easily recognize all the things I shouldn’t do in the company of someone new. Things always work out reasonably well for me anyway. It’s just so terribly annoying for me to have to deal with the beginning of anything.