I still don’t know why the memories drudge back to the forefront of my mind over two years later. Like last night before I went to bed, my mind took me back to the night after my best friend’s sister’s wedding, when I drove from suburban Philly down to Ocean City, Maryland to be with the girl I loved and her friends at the shore house they were renting. I was just so happy to be with her and she was so happy to see me when I walked through the door. Never before in all my life had a woman shown me that kind of adoration.
That night we walked to the beach; she left the loud, raucous group and their drinking and games just to spend time with me. We sat in a lifeguard stand and took in the evening’s sights and sounds, watching the waves lap against the sand. I was so happy, so blessed, so at peace, so grateful; her silky blonde hair between my fingers and her warm cheeks against my face.
The next night we went out to a dive bar and her girlfriends were singing and dancing and showering me with attention and inclusion. I was brought into their games, conversations, and felt for the first time in the longest time, a part of a new group of friends. It was like the birth of a potential new social life, and at I time I could’ve used it most. The feeling was magical, to for the first time be among attractive sorority girls, somehow dating the most beautiful one who also happened to be somewhat shy and nerdy in her own unique way. She seemed to care so much for me.
And then, all of a sudden, it was as if the universe needed to right itself and realized I had slipped into an alternate dimension in which people like me didn’t belong. What was this reserved and modest guy with not even a quarter of the experiences of these people doing in this crowd? The forces of the universe realized I was merely an impostor, disguised as a fun, outgoing and confident guy worthy of them. For the smallest time I had a brief taste of a world I’d never been included in.
Two years later, miles away from that alternate universe, financially stable, completely independent, living out my dream at the beach, I’m lonelier than ever. Daily I watch those around me have children, marry, go on dates, enjoy casual hook ups. I stand on the outside looking in as I have most of my life, unable to figure out what it is about me that’s so missing, so pathetically awkward and broken that I can’t join in naturally and effortlessly like the rest of society.
But through this increasingly debilitating condition I’ve learned to live with for all these years, I’ve had the great privilege to grow so compassionate towards social outcasts and lonely, broken people. And that alone is a gift I would’ve never known had I not slipped into and back out of the alternate reality.