Fiction: Don’t, don’t, don’t!

 
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By Christian Nielsen

Don’t verbalise! Don’t try to be clever! Don’t try to organise me! Don’t sort things out! Don’t stop fights!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

“It’s the constant feeling of being wronged,” I told him. “That’s no way to live, is it?”

He shrugged. “I’m not sure I know enough about living to comment.”

“Jesus, that’s such a copout – I’d expect more from you … but now that I think about it, why should I?”

He shoos a wasp away from his beer. Thinking.

“I mean, here we are … two guys who’re supposed to be friends, and you give nothing. Zip. How d’you think that makes me feel?”

“Like a bit of a girl,” he came back like a whip, turned to the waitress and ordered another beer, as though the quip was part of the same action. The thirst-reflex.

I thought if he put those powers towards getting a job, he’d be some kind of time-and-motion guru. I should have been offended, I suppose. But I knew he’s always seen me as a bit of a sissy, when it comes to ‘feelings’, but his threshold is pretty low for that.

We watched the opening matches of the FIFA World Cup together. The first goal scored in the competition was an own-goal by Brazil’s Marcelo. I said: “Look! He’s about to cry!”

“Trust you to notice that,” he replied.

I threw chips at him – not really a guy thing to do, I know, but the comments stung a bit. Those sorts of remarks always do. Sure, you know all guys, or most of them, are only half as hard as they make out to be, but the other half are probably half as much as me.

Why do you worry so much about what I do or say, anyway?” he seemed to say almost without words after paying the waitress for the round.

“Because I do… it’s just the way I am,” I answered whether he actually asked the question or not. “I don’t say anywhere near what I’d like to about you, or any of these people here,” I made a circle gesture with my hand.

“What makes you think that’s so special?” he said faster than the usual nonchalant drawl.

That’s the spark of the old friend I knew. “I don’t think I’m special,” I told him. “I guess I just feel I have to verbalise these things,” I added as I waved to an ex-girlfriend getting off her new man’s motorbike.

“Yeah, well that’s where you go wrong,” he threw back at me. “Don’t verbalise! Don’t try to be clever! Don’t try to organise me! Don’t sort things out! Don’t stop fights!” he seemed to want to go on, but ran out of don’ts.

“So, don’t be your friend! Is that what you’re saying?” As I said this I realised I was doing don’t number two but at the same time, just verbalising it (don’t number one) was an epiphany. Maybe I don’t want to be friends any more, but in doing don’t number three and four, I wasn’t letting this friendship go the way it should. I wanted it and maybe he did too.

I got up, felt no urge to pay for the rounds I’d tabbed, went over to my ex and gave her a smooch. The boyfriend jumped on me like he’d been waiting for it and pounded me three or four times … I lost count … in the head.

I woke up in a hospital bed and my friend was there reading the New Yorker in the corner. I felt round for my glasses. I could just make out his bruised knuckles.

“Don’t say anything,” he said as he turned the page.

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