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Jenga

by Christine Jupp about a year ago in friendship
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Christine Jupp

Jenga
Photo by Valery Fedotov on Unsplash

As Megan and I drove to game night we talked casually. Her car had an empty paper bag on the floor and an orange phone holder attached to her air vent that looked like a cartoon character. Megan had just colored her hair a deep chocolate brown. Her hair changes colors with the frequency of Ramona Flowers and I love her for it. She wears glasses that match her face and clothes that move with her body.

Occasionally in life, you meet a person that means something to you right away. It is not always easy to understand exactly why, but you sense some common ground or greater truth just beneath the surface. It might take a little more effort to get to know these people but the task is always worthwhile. This is how I feel about Megan.

“It’s fucked up”, she says, “When people ask you about your family. It’s like ‘alright, sit down a minute, let me ruin your day.’”

I know exactly what she’s talking about. I shuffle my feet on the brown paper bag and Megan complains about the traffic. She explains how she could never move to L.A. because gridlock would be too much and the people would be well, the kind of people that move to L.A.

There is a strange relief in discussing a difficult childhood with a kindred spirit. You don’t get the shocked, concerned face mirroring back the emotion you’ve become numb to long ago. There is no stark realization that what you once might have considered an adolescent road bump is trauma. The sun shines through the roof and we don’t talk about anything specific, just Trump-supporting mothers and absent fathers.

“It’s crazy, I actually just found out about a new half-brother.” Megan says, “His mother, I’ll show you a picture, I mean I feel really bad saying this but she is really unfortunate looking.”

“ Oh trust me,” I say, “I know you wouldn’t say anything like that unless it was obvious.”

It’s easy to laugh with her and make fun of a truth that shouldn’t exist. My dad is a seed spreader as well. Somewhere along the line, you lose track of how many siblings you could have. I second guess myself when I share stories that are so similar to hers. I know we’ve carved out different avenues through our hardships. It’s as if somewhere early on in our lives we stood at the same impasse.

Far before we were ready to answer, life asked us, “What kind of person will this pain make you?”

Megan is funny. She has the kind of quick wit that can only be crafted through adversity and prowess. Her broad self is a glowing sun. To the outsider, she is all polka dots and stripes with a tongue that will cut you if you tell her to turn her music down too early. She keeps the darkness that made her in a memory box that she talks over. You have to deserve the key to look inside.

I am a restless hunter of empathetic others. I treat late-night bar strangers like souls worth saving. My best friends make fun of me for pulling these people aside to read a poem of mine. I call these people my chosen audience. They are a part of the deserving many that don’t hear kind words often enough. The consensus is that I am weird. Too much eye contact and a stray shoulder touch lead others to believe I am trying to steal their partner. Truthfully, I don’t notice when I’m getting too close until it is too late, and I can’t back-peddle enough. A made-up mind is a powerful thing; quickly formed and comprised of diamonds.

Eventually, it’s 2:00 am and we’ve lost game-night-participators to their beds. I am too drunk now, reeling from the evening. My night was a flood of cards. Too much wine and new information made me uncomfortable. These events are farther between as the years go on. I can’t decide if I am becoming more self-aware or more self-conscious. They are probably one and the same.

Megan plays Jenga with Carlo and I watch their friendship exist. Carlo flicks another block across the table with finesse. We are decidedly impressed. I walk to the store by myself to buy more wine and cigarettes. In my absence Megan assures Carlo I won’t die walking under the bridge with all the vagrants. I return unharmed. I am decidedly impressed with myself. Shortly after, Megan leaves with hugs.

A quietness exists after Carlo locks the door behind her. There is a calm-after-the-storm feeling in the air-- the kind that is only felt after all the partygoers are gone. I have spent my sanity tokens on too many glasses of wine, but I pour myself another. These days the word ‘enough’ has lost its place in my vocabulary. I sit on the sectional and cry with fervor about my brother’s death earlier this year and the therapist who walked me through it. I know Carlo is tired. He spends too many evenings with me, awake and devastated.

I remember flashes of that evening. I drew something abstract with figures that danced in simplicity. I felt alone while Carlo valiantly attempted companionship. There is a great rippling effect caused by traumatic loss. It rips apart more than just those directly affected. This affliction bleeds into the caretakers and the ones who care for them. It can feel oftentimes like we are a single Jenga block, flicked across the table with great cruelty and finesse. With each debilitating blow, our tower becomes increasingly precarious. Each wooden brick fights a little harder to hold up the tower. We must learn to take care when dropping our dislodged selves back on top. If we are not careful with our placement we risk toppling and a resounding yell that is anything but triumphant.

friendship

About the author

Christine Jupp

I call Portland my home, even though I don't see it often.

Mostly poetry.

Some prose and short stories.

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