Monday, December 11, 2006


The following series of posts were originally written for Crisis of Infinite Monkeys in October of 2005. I decided to collect them here in a slightly more linear fashion to make them a bit easier to read. After all, if you're going to have to suffer through the chronicles of the emotional roller coaster that was my first 20-odd years on earth, you shouldn't have to work too hard to do so.

Part One: A Psychosis Is Born

Over the past few weeks you’ve gotten a glimpse into the neurotic workings of my mind, and have learned a little about those brave, brave souls who have been able to withstand the twisted processes of my psyche long enough to be labeled my friends. But so far you’ve only gotten to see snapshots of the more recent results of my neurotic evolution. I think it’s about time to take a trip down the long and winding road that has made your good Cap’n Neurotic that strange and unusual individual he is today. Not all will be revealed (a head monkey has to keep some aura of mystery, after all), but much should be made clear over the next who-knows-how-many posts. So, let's take a trip in the Wayback machine to a little town in Oklahoma called Wyandotte (pronounced alternately WHY-en-dot, WINE-dot, or, if you're Wrath teh Berzerkr, wan-DOT-tay), the speck on the map where I spent my formative years.

If you've never heard of Wyandotte, don't feel bad, pretty much nobody has. My parents were long time residents of the area, having grown up there themselves. Mom taught freshman and sophomore English at the High School up until my senior year, when they bumped her up to juniors and seniors; yup, that's right, I had my mom for English for three years. All the jokes about "I bet you got good grades in that class" might have been funnier if I hadn't made good grades in all of my classes . . . but probably not. My dad split his time between farming and working at BF Goodrich, until the plant closed down and we had to sell the farm. After a series of sales jobs, he went back to school to become an R.N., graduating from nursing school at the same time I graduated from high school.

In a lot of ways I took after my mom: my verbal skills, sense of humor, songbursty nature; I took after my dad in my love of SF, Fantasy, and Horror. Nobody's sure where my math skills came from. I attended the Wyandotte school system for 13 years, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating with a class of 29. I was involved in tons of school activities: 4-H, Technology Students Association (TSA), Student Council, Academic Team, Band, Vocal, Competitive Speech; I was class Valedictorian; and, by the time I went off to college, I had lost contact with every single classmate.

You may have noticed a certain something lacking from my list of activities above: athletics. While still in Elementary school, I developed a strong aversion to organized sports. This was a pretty odd decision on my part, since both of my parents were avid sports fans. My mom was at every Wyandotte football game, come rain or come shine, and subsequently, so was I. Who knows, maybe this was my one act of rebellion, manifesting a bit precociously; heaven knows I avoided all of the usual ones during my teenage years. For years I convinced myself that my eschewing of the world of athleticism was out of an embracing of my inner nerdiness, which cried out that I couldn't enjoy sports without giving up that part of myself that got good grades and read comics. It's not that I made the assumption that jocks were dumb; there were plenty of outgoing athletic types in my class who could have aced all their classes if they'd applied themselves; the fact that most of them didn't seemed to prove my point. But, after many years of peeling back the layers of my neurotic tendencies, I think that there was one factor that drove my distancing from sports: fear.

My sophomore year of college I wrote an essay entitled "Of Prisms and Plotlines" which I'll probably wind up posting here sooner or later. The gist of it is that too often I’ve let stupid little fears rule my behavior over the years. A lot of the excuses I made for a lot of my avoidance behaviors were, I now believe, merely a self-deluding smokescreen for my fear-based lifestyle; specifically, a fear of failure/embarrassment. I do think those nerdy stereotypes played a part, but not in an “I can't make good grades if I do this" sort of way, so much as an "I'm a nerd and couldn't possibly be any good at sports and will make an ass of myself if I try" sort of way. So, I subscribed to the philosophy of "better to abstain from sports and be thought a klutzy wimp than to try to play and remove all doubt." It's this same fear of inadequacy that has tripped me up again and again over the years: it kept me from trying to learn to ride a bike (I mean, that takes balance and coordination, right? Forget that!); it delayed me getting my drivers license until I was almost 20 (judging spatial relationships and relative speeds? That's crazy talk!); it made it more difficult to build deeper friendships (it's nice and warm here inside my shell, I don’t think I’ll risk poking my head out to make friends, thank you very much); and it forced my mom to drag me kicking and screaming to my first 4-H meeting, and later brow-beat me into joining TSA (both of which helped me discover my love of public speaking, so thank you, Mom). Anyway, to complete the illusion that it wasn’t fear keeping me away from sports, I assumed a studied disinterest towards athleticism of all sorts.

My relationship with sports changed once I reached Jr. High and had to start attending all of the football games with the band. This would start my pattern of being as interested in sports as my current social circle; while playing and cheering for our team, I got caught up in the school spirit and finally developed an appreciation of the game, which would then spill over into love of basketball. Of course, I was only interested in our high school sporting events; it would be several years before the NFL or NBA made it onto my radar. During this blossoming of interest in athletics, I briefly (very briefly) pondered if it was too late for me to try my hand at some sort of physical activity, but the voices in my head assured me that it was. My self-consciousness about my physical prowess (or lack thereof) would inform my neurotic behavior for years to come, much to the eventual dismay of several Parkerites. But that’s a story for another time.

Thus ends chapter 1 of “Cap’n Neurotic: The Early Years.” Join us soon for chapter 2, “Cap’n Neurotic 2, Electric Boogaloo or: Kryptonite is to Superman as Socialization is to You-Know-Who.”

Part Two: The Ol' Vick Incident

When we last left our good Cap'n, he was just about to tell us in exacting detail just how painfully socially inept he was in elementary school. And junior high. And high school. And . . .

I don't want to give the impression that I was a total outcast back in the Wyandotte days, like the protagonist in a 80s horror film, shunned by all until finally exacting my dark revenge. Perish the thought. My early years were far from torturous, just a bit lonely at times. As I struggle with explaining the particulars of this time in my life, my biggest stumbling block is determining just how to refer to the people I hung out with back then. Is there some word which adequately covers the ground between "acquaintances" and "friends"? Pals? Chums? Homies? My need for specificity of verbiage defeats me.

The problem is, after 13 years at the school, my bonds with many of these people definitely exceeded what the term "acquaintance" covers in my mind. And yet, for the most part, my dealings with the majority of the people I tend to refer to as my "friends" from that time period had little to do with me outside of school functions. School trip or function, I was in the big middle of everything. Party or gathering after the school trip or function, and I'd generally get to hear about it in class the next day.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a few steps back and talk about my early school days.

I'm not sure exactly when my weird social anxiety first manifested itself, or what the root causes were. Was I just inherently fearful of rejection, or did some early failures at social interaction make me overly cautious and reticent to make myself vulnerable? I haven't the foggiest. My memories of the early years are hazy; certain things shine in my mind's eye like diamonds, but so many others have been lost to time. I've just become so used to the idea that I don't do well meeting people that I can't picture a time when that didn't define my personality.

I don't think I always focused well on what was going on around me in the early days, often lost in my own thoughts. One of those crystal-clear memories is "meeting" a classmate in the 2nd grade, and then learning that he had been in my class every year since Kindergarten. Is that normal? Granted, he was one of the quieter kids in the class, but c'mon! And if I spent the first several years of school living in my own mental world, is it any wonder that when I tried to interact with other kids on this plane of existence, there was some gap in understanding? I did manage to make some friends over the years, and had the occasional invitation to a sleep-over or birthday party, but most of the elementary years were dominated by my relationship with my “best friend.”

I met the first person I ever considered my "best friend" back in 1st grade. I had just gotten back from a trip to Hawaii and did a show-and-tell presentation. After it was over, he came over and did the one thing that was guaranteed to bring my attention into sharp focus: offered to share some of his comic books with me. Thus began a long and oftentimes dysfunctional friendship with the boy I will call Ol’ Vick. The friendship was based largely on our common interest in those hallmarks of geekdom: comics, SF, fantasy, horror, and good grades. Where the friendship ran into trouble was our differing temperaments. He was much more aggressive than I was, willing to wade into conflicts at the drop of a hat, while I was doing everything I could to avoid them. 9 times out of 10, when we would get into arguments, I would be the one apologizing, whether I thought I was wrong or not, just because I couldn't handle the thought of anyone being upset with me, especially not my best friend.

Now, this passive nature was formed long before I first met Ol' Vick; family stories bear this out. One of my great-uncle's favorite stories is how he and my Papaw were joking around about which of their grandkids was tougher; as Papaw was bragging on how I could whup the tar out of his brother’s grandkid, four-year old me was standing behind him shaking my head vigorously and making frantic "no, no, no!" motions. Quoth young Cap'n Neurotic: "I'm a lover, not a fighter." But while this passive nature was ingrained at a young age, I do believe that Ol' Vick did everything in his power to foster that nature, whether by conscious design or not I couldn't venture to guess. But over the years, he peppered our dealings with little comments and actions designed to put me down, keep me in the passive, subservient, sidekick role: cutting down anyone else I tried to be friends with, reminding me of my inadequacies, taking command of every situation.

One incident stands out surprisingly clearly in my mind; it was probably the first time I was consciously aware of the constant marginalization. We were in 6th or 7th grade, and Ol' Vick was spending the night at my house. Dad had just gotten some firewood, and asked us to unload the truck, which was one of my usual household duties. Well, as we began hurling the logs out of the truck, Ol' Vick kept going for all the heavier pieces, steering me towards the scrawny logs. I don't know if it would have made an impact on me at all if I hadn't gone to pick up one of the larger pieces, prompting Ol' Vick to tell me, in an extremely condescending way, to leave that one for him, since it was way too heavy for me. Now, those who know me pretty well know that the one thing guaranteed to send me off the deep end is being condescended to; add onto that the fact that my blood was pumping from the physical exertion, and his snarky comment made me see red. I snapped at him, told him to stop treating me like I was useless, or something to that effect. He was taken aback (and, on some level, so was I), but I don't think he realized just how profound a change in our relationship had been wrought in that moment.

It was the transition to Jr. High which really put our friendship through the ringer. Blame it on the new school setting, blame it on my growing tired of being the passive one, blame it on puberty; whatever the reason, I suddenly found myself filled with the need to reinvent myself. My relationship with Ol' Vick became more and more fractious, our interactions more and more likely to cause irritation to one or both of us; I found myself trying to put distance between us socially whenever possible, thinking that escaping from Ol’ Vick’s shadow might make a new social standing more easily attainable. It saddens me that I was such a clichĂ©. But, even with growing tensions between us, things remained pretty much the same up until the day of The Incident.

I find some irony in the fact that The Incident which signaled the dissolution of our friendship revolved around the same thing that ignited the friendship in the first place: a comic book. It started when one day we got the word that we had a sub for P.E. and didn't need to dress out, so I took some books over to the gym, figuring it would be a study period. But no, the sub decided to have us play half-court basketball in our regular clothes, splitting us up into 4 teams, with 2 playing at a time. Ol' Vick and I were on separate teams, both of which sat out the first game. Since we didn't really care about watching the others play b-ball, I got out a new comic book for Ol' Vick to see. Soon, it was time for teams to switch out, and Ol' Vick's team went in, while the team another friend (The Comedian) was on came out. The Comedian asked if he could see the comic, and I said sure. Then it came time for my team to go in, and Ol' Vick's team came out. I stood out on the court, doing my best to keep from actually having to handle the ball, which wasn’t too difficult since most of the other guys playing were all too happy to oblige; suddenly, I heard a commotion over on the sidelines. I glanced over just in time to see Ol' Vick ripping the comic's cover in his attempt to grab it away from The Comedian. I yelled at him to let go of it, that he could see it in any one of the other six classes we shared, but he was ticked. Called me an Indian giver, and stormed off. Before the day was over, there was a pretty nasty note waiting for me in the locker we shared.

At the time, I was incredulous that such a small thing would create such a huge effect, but in retrospect, I can see that the comic book incident was symptomatic of a larger problem. Obviously, the growing fractures in our friendship had worn on Ol' Vick as much as they had me, and he had finally reached his own snapping point; maybe my distancing myself had made him overly sensitive to anything which could be seen as a betrayal.

The biggest difference between this blow-up and any of the previous ones (aside from the note detailing all of my perceived character flaws) was that this time, I made no concerted effort to patch things up. Was I saddened by the way things had ended? Sure; I was still the same overly-sensitive geek who wanted everyone to like him. But at the same time, it was huge relief not to have to deal with trying to keep the peace between us at all times. Plus, I had hope that this might be the chance for me to finally re-invent myself, to show everyone that after years of being Ol' Vick's nerdy sidekick I was ready to stand on my own.

Oh, young Cap'n Neurotic, you foolish foolish child.

Part Three : Reinvention and Revelation

In our last thrilling installment, we witnessed the train-wreck which was Cap'n Neurotic's first long-standing friendship. We now venture back to the aftermath of The Ol' Vick Incident, as Cap'n Neurotic discovers just how difficult that whole "reinventing yourself" thing really is.

Following the dissolution of my friendship with Ol' Vick there were a couple of stumbling blocks to my newborn desire to reinvent myself. The first was a sort of perceptual inertia; after 7 or 8 years of seeing me play the part of the socially backward, or reaching out and seeing me withdraw in fear, the general view of me as introverted nerd had ossified. The second obstacle complimented the first: after 7 or 8 years of playing the part of the socially backward I was (surprise, surprise) backwards socially. You remember the kid in your school who jumped on the hip and happening trends with full abandon about 6 months after they had ceased to be hip and happening? *points to self* Right here, baby, right here. For me, it was Rude Dog t-shirts and incredibly loud and distracting jams; I shudder to think of just how dorky I must have looked, especially since I was still wearing fully extended knee-high socks at the time . . . So, in those early days, most of my backward socialization attempts backfired.

But, somehow I struggled through the awkward 8th and 9th grade years, and managed to form some friendships of sorts: some based around my church Youth group, some around common classes, and some from common school activities. A big boon in my quest to be accepted was the small size of Wyandotte; in a class of 30-odd kids (which dwindled down to 28 by the time I graduated, 29 if you count the foreign exchange student) it's kind of hard to totally disappear into the woodwork. Plus, while there was a bit of a divide between the jocks and the non-jocks, it was never as strictly defined as it is in the larger schools. Yeah, there were always a few guys who decided to puff themselves up by ragging on the nerd, but for the most part those guys were considered jokes by the really cool kids, so it was easier to bear; not so easy to bear was the fact that these jerks, though considered jokes, were more likely to get invited to the cool-kid parties than I was.

Slowly, I began to feel more comfortable in being myself in certain situations. I was lucky enough to find a couple of guys who shared my odd sense of humor in my Youth group, who would become my regular lunch buddies at school. School trips were the best catalysts in my quest for social acceptance, especially Competitive Speech trips, since the high energy and outgoing nature of most Speech students helped bring that aspect of my personality to the forefront. And, again, with such a small student body, there was a lot of bleeding together of groups, so that members of the Speech class were also involved in Student Council, and TSA, and the like. I know the old saw of "Familiarity breeds contempt," and while that has manifested itself in my life, both as the contemptor and the contemptee, with my self-conscious personality it’s more often that familiarity breeds comfort. But even as I became slightly more outgoing; even as I started to build a history of running jokes and common experiences with classmates; even as the number of signatures in my yearbook expanded exponentially, both in number and in depth of content; even as I closed the gap between when something was cool and when I knew about it; even through all this, there was something inside me that kept me from engaging fully with those around me.

I could have the time of my life on a school trip, but all of those good feelings would come crashing down when I'd find out about the latest out-of-school gathering I'd been excluded from. Often, in the aftermath of one of these depressing occurrences, I would get the empty defense of "everyone was invited." Now, in their minds, that might very well have been true; there might have been an open invitation to anyone and everyone who heard about it. But to me, without a firm, verbal, personalized invitation, there was no way I was horning in on the action. Several factors were involved with this personality quirk; a big one that set it all in motion was that I often got to hear classmates griping and complaining about certain individuals who would constantly invite themselves along where they weren't wanted; I was determined I wouldn't become one of those. Another factor was the whole "no driver's license" issue, which was compounded by the "I live on the whole other side of the school district from most of you" factor; any out-of-school activity attendance would have required me to go begging for a ride, which was difficult due to the final factor: my never-ending fear of rejection and constant need for validation.

I guess it wasn't so much that I felt disliked in high school; I just never felt like I was liked enough. You see, while the small school was a boon in many ways, it was also a curse in others. My neurotic mind fixated on the idea that I was merely tolerated on the school trips, church trips, etc. because of circumstance and nothing else; in other words, it wasn't that they hung out with me because they liked me, but because their options were so limited, and as soon as they were freed of the constraints of school, they'd venture off with people they really liked. And, every time I'd find out about something I'd been excluded from, it would just cement that idea in my mind a little more. Even when I reached the point my Senior year where I was going out and doing non-school-related stuff with classmates fairly regularly, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop; I had become so stuck in my outsider outlook that I couldn't fully accept that it was mostly in my head. I don’t know, maybe I chalked it all up to people feeling obligated to have me around after 12 years of being in the same class. Whatever the real psychological underpinnings (and I admit, after all this time I’m still as clueless as ever as to precisely why I was the way I was), by the time I graduated I had so successfully implemented my defense mechanism of detachment that I felt more emotional watching the Saved by the Bell graduation episode than I did at my own graduation.

Probably the biggest break in this mindset came the summer after I graduated. Earlier that year, mom and I had started going to my grandparents’ church in Miamuh due to some fallout from the wonderful world of small-town church politics. The biggest downside to this move was that I was suddenly trying to fit in with a new Youth group, only two of whom were from Wyandotte. So, suddenly thrust into a group dynamic filled with kids who had known each other for years; not my favorite situation to be in. My outsider complex was in full effect; when it came time to sign up for a trip to Glorieta, NM, I didn’t even consider it, sure that nobody would care if I went or not. But then, almost every single member of the group came up to me wanting to know why I wasn’t going, trying hard to convince me to rethink my decision. I had a hard time adjusting to the new feeling that was worming its way through my neurotic minefield and defensive barriers: the feeling of being wanted.

Why did this group break through my barriers, when all of the similar attempts by people from Wyandotte had failed? I’m guessing it had to do with just how uncomfortable I felt in the group, ironically enough. With the Wyandotte crowd, I had become used to holding the paradoxical ideas of being accepted and yet not feeling accepted in my head for so long it was second nature; it made no sense to anyone on the outside, but inside my head, it was all perfectly clear. But here I was suddenly faced with a group I had only know for a couple of months, and yet, despite my spirit of detachment and general lack of comfort in my own skin, still seemed to genuinely like me and want me around without years of history or imaginary obligation tying us together. Plus, timing was probably a big factor: for all my talk of emotional detachment, it was really all just suppressed; there I was, in that limbo that exists between leaving high school and entering college, and I was still desperate for some form of validation that I could recognize and accept, and it took this group of virtual strangers to accomplish it. Unfortunately, I’ve long since lost contact with this group, casualties of the pre-Internet world, but that first trip to Glorieta provoked a huge emotional breakthrough for me, and the first real inkling that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to live my life always on the outside after all; without that, I don’t know if my early days at Parker would have been as successful as they were.

Of course, for most of life I’d been trapped in the pattern of “one step forward, ten steps back,” and the Parker years would prove to be no exception . . .

Part Four: A New Hope

I have so many stories about my days in Parker that I could probably stretch this Secret Origins series out for months and months; instead, I think I’ll just hit the highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be), and save the more specific stories for more general posts; perhaps a new Flashback Friday series, or some more Spotlight On entries? So please, take a moment and enjoy this first leg of our running tour of Cap’n Neurotic’s College Years.

In the fall of 1993 I became one of the first residents of the newly minted Honors dorm at OSU, Parker Hall. The dorm itself was not new, nor was it to be called a dorm, for that matter; officially, it was a Residence Hall, a name that was meant to inspire feelings of hominess and belonging, not a place where you sleep, but a place where you reside; a name which was ignored by all but those who worked for the Residence Halls, much as everyone called frats "frats" except for frat boys; yes the dorm wasn't new but its designation as the Honors' hall was. Parker was the only co-ed dorm which allowed Freshmen; men lived on 2nd and 3rd floors, women on 4th and 5th.

That first semester in Parker was a whirlwind of socialization. At the time, I was sure I was the only one trying to stretch myself; I know now that even those who seemed totally together to my untrained eye were also often taking advantage of the new setting to get a new start. The groups and cliques shifted like quicksand; there was no telling from one day to the next who was going to be hanging out with whom. The specialized living conditions helped; as Honors students we all had something in common other than just being college Freshmen, including many of us being in the same classes. In a regular dorm you might have one or two classes with a couple of people on your floor; in Parker, the odds were much higher. We were also a much smaller population to pull from, which gave the dorm an almost small-town feel; by the time the first year was over, I knew every resident by name, even if they didn’t know me.

Initially I think I gravitated towards the more stereotypically "nerdy" residents, but over time I moved more towards the . . . well, I hesitate to say "more average" about anyone in Parker, so how about "less stereotypical?" Honestly, I was just bouncing from group to group, looking for the spot that fit me best. It was this searching for my place that prompted Coronela's roommate to accuse me of having no personality of my own.

This mercurial socialization was strongest in the first couple of months; every evening would find a different assortment of random individuals congregating in the 1st floor living room or lobby, staying up to all hours of the night discussing every topic under the sun. While there was a lot of variation in the makeup of these groups, there were a few near-constants, among whom you can count yours truly. I was drawn to these late night gatherings by my desire to be included in everything; I had distanced myself from so much in the past that I was determined that I wasn’t going to let it happen again. Of course, while I was a de facto member of these gatherings, I don’t recall adding much of interest to the discussions very often; my life experiences were a bit less worldly than those of most of my dorm-mates; I was happy just to drink it all in.

As the semester progressed, these gatherings would begin to decrease in number, as people began to remember that the reason they were there was not just for socialization, but also all of those pesky classes. However, there were a few who still frequented the 1st floor late into the night; once again, your favorite Cap’n Neurotic was among them. This would be one of the reasons why I almost made it onto the probationary list for the Honors program that first semester, barely squeezing out a B in Chemistry thanks to my high lab grade; the tests, on which the professor refused to allow any partial credit, kicked my non-studious butt.

“Non-studious?” some of the non-Parkerites might be asking themselves right now. “But how can that be? You were an honor student, straight-A student in high school, graduated top of your class; doesn’t that mean that you loved school and studying and all that junk?” Not even close. You see, there are generally two types of Honors Students: those who work hard, and those who are quick studies. There is that occasional mating of the two, the hard working quick studies, but in my experience they’re much rarer than most people think. In case you hadn’t guessed it, I fall in the “quick study” category. People always thought of me as an over-achiever, but I have always maintained that there was no “over” about it: I was just an achiever, plain and simple. Okay, maybe I was a “slightly-above-average achiever,” but an over-achiever? Never. Throughout my early school years, being a quick study was enough to get me through most of my classes with little effort on my part; I made the mistake of thinking the same would apply at college. So, when we weren’t given any required homework for Chem, just some “suggested problems” to work, I sluffed them off, eager to partake in more nocturnal chat-fests, sure that some last minute cramming would more than do the trick.

Even when I realized that it wasn’t enough, breaking my night-owl habits was difficult, nigh unto impossible for me. I was hooked; addicted to my newfound social life. Of course, I was still skirting the outside in some aspects, but even at those times when I felt slighted in some way, there was little of the usual spiral of self-doubt and loathing; I was finally starting to accept that I might have some worth. By the time the first semester ended, I had 4 or 5 people who I felt some sort of connection with, including Coronela, Wrath teh Berzerkr, and Dr. G’ovich. I wouldn’t start to really strengthen and deepen these bonds until the Spring semester, which began what I like to think of as The Golden Year. But even with the bonds existing at only a tenuous level, by the time I went back to Wyandotte for Christmas break, I had already begun to think of Parker as my second home; maybe the whole "Residence Hall is a place you reside" thing wasn't so corny after all. No, wait a minute, it was, it definitely was; doesn't make it any less true, though.

Part Five: A Clique Is Born

My second semester of college began what I tend to think of as the Golden Year of College; an approximately year-long period in which I finally made some strong friendships and finally accepted that I was, well, accepted. Read on to see how I became a member of my first Clique.

By the time my second semester had started, I think most of the social groups had, if not solidified, at least stabilized to some extent. There were some shifts here and there, due to new students moving in (most notably St. Flunky), old students transferring out (most notably my next door neighbor for whom G'ovich suggested a not-appropriate-for-family-blogging nickname), and a few even getting kicked out for their abysmal GPAs (remind me to tell you about The Gutter Boys someday . . .), but the continual mix-n-match style gatherings of the previous semester were pretty much a thing of the past.

One shift that would wind up having a massive impact on my circle of friends occurred one day early in the semester when somehow Pooh and Coronela wound up heading off on a Wal-Mart run together. Before that moment, I don't recall having ever seen them exchange more than a handful of words; by the time they had returned from their errand, they were thick as thieves.

One weekend I headed to OKC for the day with the two of them, along with one of the 3rd Floor Brain Trust. The 3FBT consisted of myself and two of my floor-mates who decided that the three of us shared a brain; anytime one of us did or said something less than intelligent, we blamed it on one of the others having custody of the brain. Anyway, the four of us spent part of the day at the Omniplex, and the rest of the day trading embarrassing stories; the bulk of these stories came from Coronela, helping to establish her role as The Uncensored One in our group.

When we made it back to Parker that evening, there was a dance going on in the Parker living room. For some reason that I don’t really recall the four of us weren't too enthusiastic about heading in to the dance, and just lounged about in the lobby. Our mildly anti-social behavior prompted one of Coronela's friends to bitterly inquire about, and I quote, the "six-foot corncob" up her butt. Lovely image, no? Surprisingly enough, the corncob comment did not make us any more inclined to attend the dance; it would, however, be a source of much mocking amusement among us for the following month or two. After the dance was over, my fellow Brain Trustee headed upstairs, but we were joined in our lobby lounging by St. Flunky.

Now, by that point in time I'd hung out with St. Flunky a little bit, but other than knowing that he was in the Army Reserves, had run cross-country in high school and loved Little Shop of Horrors (a fact I learned when, during one of my typical songbursty moments involving the song “Skid Row” while strolling through the Parker living room, St. Flunky surprised me by joining in), he was pretty much a cipher to me at that point. But, by the end of the evening that would change; the four of us stayed up most of the night talking, venturing out to the local 24-hour diner, Shortcakes, which would be a mainstay of my early college years. By the time we had all returned to our respective rooms for the night it was official: The Clique was born.

In case you were wondering, yes, we actually did jokingly refer to ourselves as The Clique; we also joked about forming a band called Bent Toothpick, featuring St. Flunky on clarinet, me on saxophone, and the girls as background vocals. We commandeered an office on the 1st floor, nominally for Hall Government purposes for which Pooh donated her computer, but more often than not it was just the four of us lounging in there goofing off. Some of the best times of my Freshman year were spent in that office, playing stupid video games on Pooh's Mac and engaging in entertaining, if ultimately meaningless, conversations. What exactly it was that made the Clique click, I can’t rightly say; in lots of ways the four of us all over the map in terms of sense of humor, tastes, interests, etc., but somehow our differences and commonalities managed to hit just that right mixture to sustain the group dynamic. I don't believe we were a horribly exclusionary clique, in the way that real cliques are; yes, we spent a great deal of time together, and had tons o' inside jokes, but I still hung out with G'ovich, Wrath, et al; to be honest, I have no idea how many people outside of the four of us knew of our Clique status.

Unfortunately, the life of The Clique was not to be a long one; the Golden Year was half-way done, and we already had our first casualty. Following a brief period of dating, the tensions caused by St. Flunky and Coronela's failed relationship would eventually fracture our once solid bond; I was still good friends with all of them, but I honestly can't recall a time after the beginning of our Sophomore year when it was just the four of us hanging out together as a group with nobody else around. As VH1's Bands Reunited has taught us, once a band has dissolved, recapturing that old magic is next to impossible. Of course, that doesn't mean that there weren't side-projects and spin-offs; Zinger would take St. Flunky's place in the quartet that would eventually become Clan Stoneheart, while St. Flunky and I would eventually join forces with G'ovich, Wrath, and The Old Man to become Roomies. But, while I cherish my membership in both of those groups, there’ll just never be another Bent Toothpick.

Part Six: On-stage and Off at the BSU

Before moving on to my Sophomore year, I'd like to take a quick detour to cover a few of the other things going on in my life during those first two semesters. First up: my involvement with the OSU Baptist Student Union.

Coming to OSU fresh off of my
mini-breakthrough with my Youth Group, I thought that the BSU would prove to be my main source of friends and activities.

I was sorely mistaken.

In an earlier post I mentioned in passing the distinction between looking like a fool on purpose and on accident. I have no problem getting up in front of large groups of people and giving a speech, or acting, or singing and dancing and generally being a total goofball; doesn’t faze me at all. But get me off the stage, and force me to strike up a conversation with a total stranger, or fit into a group of people who already know each other well: instant deer-in-headlights. This on-stage/off-stage dichotomy would pretty much define my time at the BSU.

I think my social paralysis is one of those rare neurotic tendencies that actually has a bit of validation behind it: many’s the time my attempts at small talk or ice-breaking humor have been met with blank, uncomprehending stares. There was a former co-worker who never was able to tell when I was joking; I would make a sarcastic comment, and she would respond in a tired, world-weary tone “No, Todd,” and then proceed to patiently explain just why the comment I had just made could never happen. And lest you (quite justifiably) think this is just my paranoia, I have Book Monkey witnesses to back me up on this one. Anyhow, this sort of reaction caused me to keep my sense of humor under wraps until I was sure it would get a reaction other than stupefied glances or condescension.

How did I ever manage to overcome this neurotic behavior to make friends? Well, in Parker I was around my dorm-mates almost constantly, and so was able to gradually suss out what parts of my personality would and wouldn't fly; at the BSU, where the socialization time was much more limited, I floundered a bit. Of course, it also helped that the odds of someone in Parker recognizing a reference to Monty Python, Robert Jordan, or the X-Men were much higher than at the BSU. One Sunday, I was invited to lunch after church by a couple of upperclassmen. It was a nice gesture on their part, but I have rarely had meals as uncomfortable as that one. Outside of church, I was unable to find anything in common with them; the closest I came was noticing that there was a book on the making of Jurassic Park on their coffee table. I tried to use that as a springboard for conversation, but the idea died quickly when I mentioned I had read the book, and they both acted like that was one of craziest things they'd ever heard; almost as if the task of reading a Michael Crichton novel was tantamount to having read Moby Dick for fun. Needless to say, I was not invited back.

Now, the BSU did set all of the Freshman up in "family groups," with two upperclassmen acting as our "mom and dad"; the groups would meet for Bible study and fellowship an hour before the Thursday night service, which in theory would have been a good tool for socialization, right? Well, my fellow family group freshman consisted of two Stillwater residents who had known Ma and Pa for years thanks to attending the same church; P.A.L., another Parker resident who was at least as big an introvert in those settings as I was; and two or three random folks who only showed up once in a blue moon. So, the family group, not that big of a help; outside of bonding with P.A.L. over the uncomfortable situation of seeing Ma, Pa, and our two Stillwater sister get along like gangbusters, I didn’t gain much from the group. Of course, that was still a function of my neurosis; I remember one week when Wrath decided to come to the BSU with me and sat in on the family group, he was more comfortable and chatty with my group after 5 minutes than I had been after a full semester.

The one aspect of the BSU where I felt comfortable was the Drama Team. Basically, the DT would do skits at various churches in the state, sometimes for Youth groups, sometimes for a church service. When I was practicing, traveling, and performing with them, I felt comfortable; when I wasn't, I had a hard time translating that camaraderie into a wider range of friendships. I attended most of the BSU services and functions, but the pull between hanging out at Parker where people seemed to finally get me and attending the BSU where I was slipping back into full-on Outsider mode started to wear me down, and it would only get worse as the Golden Year began to run down.

Part Seven: New Blood and Tarnished Gold

In preparation for the next few Secret Origin entries, I’ve been reading through my old journal entries and letters; while reading one journal entry I came across a reference to a conversation that I had apparently had at some point about how weird things were that first semester of my Sophomore year and how much people had changed over the summer; for the life of me, I have no idea who or what this referred to. Darn my eyes for not being more precise!

But oh, if only that were my only regret from those years . . .

When I moved back into Parker the beginning of my Sophomore year, there were already a few changes in motion before the new blood moved in. Several of my old crowd, including Dr. G'ovich, Rocket, and my fellow Brain Trustees, had moved out; St. Flunky, who had been elected 3rd Floor President, moved into the room directly across from mine; Wrath teh Berzerkr, who was now Hall President, moved into the room right next door to me, which became a de facto hangout for the guys in our group, since he owned both a Super-Nintendo and a computer (many's the night Wrath would go to bed while the game-obsessed St. Flunky sat glued to the computer screen); Pooh, Coronela, Wrath, and I were all also now sans roommates.

I haven't really mentioned my Freshman roommate, have I? Not a whole lot to say about Bubbles, the Barney-loving Pantene Wussie Boy (I had little to do with most of those nicknames, other than helping popularize them). We got along fine for the most part, not the best of friends but didn't exactly want to kill each other, either. He was one of several 1st generation Parker residents who joined a newly revived chapter of Alpha Tau Omega; other members included Captain Ego and the OKC Daytripper Brain Trustee (really need to come up with a shorter moniker for him). Wrath would also eventually join the ATOs, but not until the end of Sophomore year.

I had volunteered to help out during Alpha, which was the Freshman orientation event at OSU, so I got to be there when most of the newbies moved in. The atmosphere in Parker was quite a bit different this time around; before, the dorm had been filled with people who were unsure of themselves and searching for their place at a new school; but now, there was a pretty large number of returning faces who were old hats at this stuff by now; while there was a little bit of shifting among the newbies as they tried to decide if they wanted to graft onto an existing group of form their own, the massive all-nighters of my Freshman year were a thing of the past, a fact that wouldn't dawn on me until the next semester.

The fallout from the dissolution of The Clique was felt pretty early on; for at least a couple of weeks Coronela wouldn't go to meals if St. Flunky was going to be along. That would eventually die down, but the dynamic of the group was permanently skewed. It wasn't long before newcomer Zinger insinuated his deceptively quiet self into the quartet, keeping the male/female ratio even; the biggest difference was that this time the relationship that developed was between him and Pooh, and this time it stuck. It wasn’t long before Coronela became a fixture at the ATO house, cutting down on the amount of time we saw her for a while. Out of all the newbies that semester, Zinger made the biggest impact on my circle; I wouldn't get to really know GMC or Little Man Stud until later, and The Old Man was another mid-year move in like St. Flunky had been. Even though G'ovich was no longer a Parker resident, he still spent the majority of his free time hanging out there. At the time the semester began, G’ovich and St. Flunky didn’t really hang out with each other much; G’ovich made some passing comment once about how he didn’t think they had that much in common. This kind of bummed me out, since they were my two best friends. But I knew better than to try to talk G’ovich into changing his mind on this sort of topic, so I just let it go.

This was the semester that the push to get me to stop being such a out-of-shape couch potato began in earnest; while never completely successful for numerous reasons, for the first time in my life I was taking part in athletic activities that weren’t required for a grade; pretty big step for me.

I was still involved with the BSU Drama Team, and still unable to make any connections there beyond that. I was also starting to become more and more reluctant to partake in any BSU activities, since I was starting to feel like every time I did so I was missing out on something at Parker. This feeling would intensify after I returned from an overnight trip to find that, in my absence, G’ovich and St. Flunky had, in a night filled with pranks involving face-paint, finally discovered that they had something in common after all; things would never be quite the same again.

Now, you might think that having my two best friends hanging out with other was a good thing; I know I had. Be careful what you wish for . . . Here's what you need to understand: Flunky and G'ovich: athletic, fearless, adventurous. Me: not so much. So, when G'ovich would get one of his random "wouldn't it be cool?" ideas, Flunky would dive right in, while I'd hesitate and then get left in the dust; instant third wheel syndrome. The two of them clicked on a whole different level than I did, feeding off of each others’ ideas and energy in a way that I was completely unable to emulate. It seemed like every time I turned around there was a new inside joke, a new story I had missed out on, a new reason for my supposedly vanquished paranoia to rear its newly resurrected head.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad; that semester the fun times definitely outweighed the paranoid ones. G’ovich even invited me to go with him to San Diego over Christmas break; of course, he then invited St. Flunky as well, which was cool, but he got so caught up in the idea that his first impulse was to completely rework the plans to accommodate St. Flunky in a way that made it obvious that I had slipped his mind. *sigh* Cellophane, Cap’n Cellophane . . .He quickly realized his mistake and apologized, but the seeds of a depressing idea had been planted: when push came to shove, Cap’n Cellophane was going to be second choice, at best. This relentlessly depressing idea would haunt me for a long time.

In the end, there were four of us on the trip; G’ovich came down to Wyandotte for a few days after Christmas; we then went to Tulsa and picked up Wrath, before heading on to Texas to pick up St. Flunky. I’ll talk about the actual trip some other time; it was a good time overall, but there were two or three things that happened that woke up the dark passenger in my mind; the paranoid monster had clawed its way back to the surface and no matter how much I tried, it would be far too long before I managed to shove it back down again.

The Golden Year was now tarnished; the Neurotic Roller Coaster Ride had just begun.

Part Eight: Beginning of the end

This is it; this is the one I've been dreading; or, more accurately, the first of several I’ve been dreading. Trust me, there’s been a lot of dread floating around out there. Re-reading my journal for this time-period you can't imagine how many times I've wished I could travel back in time and slap the #*$@# out of my younger self; please try not to think less of me as you read the next few entries in my Secret Origin.

Thanks to my journal for Honors Comp. II, I can pinpoint the exact date that everything went to Hades in a hand basket: February 8, 1995. Things weren't exactly perfect before that; there's one entry from several days earlier chronicling friction between G'ovich and myself; it was apparently the beginning of the psychological torture phase of our friendship, where everything I said was contradicted or shot down by him in a way that made me feel like the dumbest man alive. But it was the events of Feb. 8 that proved that all of the progress that I had made in the previous year was only held together by spit and scotch tape; the least push was enough to bring it crashing down around my ears.

The incident revolved around the preponderance of couples in my group of friends; by this point Clans G'ovich, Stoneheart, and Flunky were all headed down the path that would lead to wedded bliss. I didn't begrudge them their couple status, but I had started to feel that I was being edged out of everything due to my single status; I was suddenly not only a third wheel in my friendship with the Doc and St. Flunky, but also a third, fifth, or seventh wheel, depending on how many of the couples were around. On this particular day I was sitting in the Parker Living Room with the G'ovichs and Stonehearts when I noticed the Doc lean down and whisper something to Rocket, who then called Pooh over and said something to her; Pooh in turn walked over to Zinger, whispered something to him, and then all four of them disappeared. Such a small thing, but as I sat there, suddenly alone without even a word of goodbye from any of them, the thought manifested itself: I'd just been ditched. Even then I knew how ridiculous it was to let it bother me, but that voice in my head wouldn't stop; I headed up to my room to do some reading, but couldn't focus; I would head downstairs every so often to see if someone had reappeared, but the Living Room was deserted. Until, that is, right after curfew, the magical time when members of the opposite sex were no longer allowed on the 2nd-5th floors, at which point I ventured downstairs and saw several couples sitting around the tables. My inner voice of doom did a silent cheer at being proven right; they were obviously all avoiding me until forced out of their rooms by the curfew.

Yes, I know how insane that sounds; believe me I wish more than anything that I hadn't been capable of such thoughts. But the sad truth is, I was; the situation wasn't helped by St. Flunky being the only one to say hi when I came in, adding to my feeling of being unwanted. I sat down, and stared into space vacantly, trying to quiet the gloating paranoia in my head, so I'm sure my demeanor wasn't conducive to others trying to talk to me, not that that fact could have registered to me at the time. Gradually, everyone ventured off to bed, until it was only Doc, Rocket, and me; it may as well have just been Doc and Rocket, since they weren't really acknowledging my existence. I sat there for a while, in my patented passive aggressive manner, before finally deciding I should just head upstairs. As I got up and headed towards the elevators, The Doc finally spoke: "Todd, are you going to bed?"

Now, in a perfect world, I would have replied in a civil tone; in a perfect world, I might have even rethought my decision to go upstairs and lied through my teeth, saying I was just heading to the water fountain, and then come back and tried to strike up a conversation instead of just sitting there like a lump, waiting to be noticed; in a perfect world, I might have done a lot of things differently.

But, this is far from a perfect world, and I was far, far, far from a perfect person; instead, that voice inside my head was screaming at me: "Disposable friend! Only good when nobody else is around! They'll drop you like a hot potato as soon as someone else shows up!" And so, brainwashed by my own doubts and insecurities, my only response was to reply in a very regrettable tone "Why not?" and slink up to my bedroom. Of course, as soon as I got to my room I was overwhelmed with remorse and guilt at how I had responded, and wanted to rush back downstairs before they left to try and explain myself; but how could I? How in the world could I explain how such a simple series of events had reduced me to a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Y'know, I shouldn't even say "man"; I was still a boy at that point. A scared, nervous boy who had thought he had finally found a place where he belonged, and now was convinced that it was all slipping away from him. And the more I tried to grab onto these things, the more I tried to analyze my actions and see what I was doing to drive everyone away, the more self-conscious and defensive I became.

In the long run, that evening wouldn't be much more than a single drop in the ocean of my neurosis; if it wasn't for my journal, I don't think I would have been able to place exactly where in the grand scheme of things the event occurred. In my mind, it's just one of a series of slights, real or imagined, that contributed to my downward spiral; it's only by viewing its description in context of its surroundings that I can see that it was the first in a series of escalating freak-outs on my part. The Outsider Complex had returned with a vengeance.

As I was reading through the journal, I found myself constantly wanting to scream in frustration at my younger, idiotic self. Every neurotic entry ends the same way: "If this happens again, I'll have to talk to so-and-so, and let them know how much such-and-such bothers me." But of course, I never did; or, rather, I would occasionally talk to somebody, but I would never reveal the true extent of my inner turmoil; every entry about my discussing a problem with G'ovich or St. Flunky would include something along the lines of, "but I didn't tell him how much it had really bothered me, or for how long; he doesn't really need to know just how messed up I am." Always scared to let down the guard, always worried what they might think, always doing exactly what I promised myself I’d never do again. Makes me want to puke.

Once again, despite my rampant paranoia, things were not all bad that semester; there were many good times as well, with most of my delusions meeting some sort of resolution of one sort or another, and by the end of the school year I had somehow managed to not totally alienate everyone and wound up renting a house with St. Flunky, Dr. G'ovich, Wrath teh Berzerkr, and The Old Man. I don't recall exactly how that all came about; I do remember G'ovich being a little put out at one point because he felt like he wasn't being fully included in the process, which I found highly ironic at the time.. So, I moved into the house with my four friends, never thinking that there's a world of difference between living in the same dorm with someone and living in a house with them. More fool I.

I think the worst part about all of this is realizing just how much that journal helped me sort my thoughts out that semester; if not for it, the self-destructive behavior might have taken over much earlier. But after moving into the house, I was too distracted by a new job and new classes and new paranoia to keep up the journaling process. If only I had kept the journal out to remind myself of all of the resolutions I had made to change my behavior; if only I had used it as a guide to reinforce my positive thoughts and not my negative ones; if only I had memorized those sections where I recorded conversations with St. Flunky where he persuaded me that I didn't have anything to prove to him or anybody, or the conversation I had with G'ovich where he told me that he counted me among his real friends; if only, if only, if only. Regrets are worthless, dwelling on them even more so. And yet . . . do you know how much it hurt to read that last thing? To know that I had there, in black and white, confirmation that once upon a time G'ovich considered me a real friend, and yet I allowed all of my issues to wreck it; to wreck it so badly that about five years later during a Parkerite gathering we were located in the same house for roughly 3 or 4 hours and only words exchanged between us were “hello”; how messed up is that?

Of course, even trying to remind myself of our former bond probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference; the issue wasn't so much that I thought we were never really friends; no, it was much more insidious and hard to dispel than that.

Part Nine: Are You Gaslighting Me?

Still hanging in there, my blog monkeys? Weathering my psychological storms all right? Well, we’re moving into the heart of darkness now, my friends, so batten down the hatches and prepare to find out all you never wanted to know about the mental breakdown of young Cap’n Neurotic.

Since my class journal ends on a hopeful note, I don't have any hard record of just when things began to go really, really sour between my roomies and me; I know part of it began over that summer; I have very unpleasant memories of awkward silences and snappish behavior between G'ovich and myself when I was in Stillwater for a few days in May before our rental house opened up. The weirdness between us was already there, but I think that was the first time it dawned on me that there was something fundamentally changed in how we dealt with each other.

Again, so much of that time period is a blur; I have tons of memories, both good and bad, clamoring for my attention, but putting them in any sort of meaningful order is next to impossible. About the only thing I can say for certain is that, at some point during my two years in that house, I started to lose my mind.

Your first impulse may be to chalk that up to my usual hyperbole, but let me tell you: I'm dead serious. Something inside of me snapped; I lost all emotional control. There had already been some signs of this back in the dorm; I can think of at least two instances in that last semester where in a fit of anger and frustration I lashed out physically at my friends; not my proudest moments. But in that house . . . I was Cap'n Mood-swing. My life was a constant roller-coaster, zipping between lows of depression to highs of self-righteous anger; careening between self-pity and self-loathing; plunging into the dark pit of confusion, and hurt, and frustration; running on an endless cycle of insomniac self-recriminations. All of my emotions boiled right under the surface; there was no lag-time between experiencing a stab of hurt, or jealously, or anger and spewing it forth; no censor in place to keep it in check. The slightest insult or oversight would send me into paroxysms of rage. All in all, not that pleasant a fellow to be around, I'm sure. I honestly considered seeking a therapist several times those years; if I had, I'd probably have been popping Prozac like Pez.

So, what caused this mini-break-down of mine, this short-circuit in my ability to keep from lashing out at my closest friends? It's pretty much a chicken or the egg situation; I can think of so many things that contributed to it, that helped feed the fire of my psychotic tendencies, but how many of those things were caused by my behavior in the first place? The phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" has long been an apt one to describe my life. I know of at least one contributing factor: the BSU Drama Team. Now, I know that by this point the Drama Team had often been a distraction to me during my quest to maintain my Parkerite friendships, but I was still determined to keep plugging away at it. So, when the semester started, I tried out for the team just as I had the previous two years; only, this time, I didn’t make the cut. Nothing helps to bolster the self-esteem than being cut from a team, huh? When I checked the posted list and saw that my name was nowhere on it, I was devastated. There went my last link to the BSU; my new job at the Public Library became a convenient excuse to miss the Thursday night services, and without having found a church I really liked in town, I was without any sort of spiritual guidance for the first time in my life. At the time I made no connection between the lack of church and the onset of my mental breakdown, but looking back I’m sure it played a huge part.

The base root of the breakdown was probably this: in the dorm I had finally lowered my guard, finally allowed myself to open up to others, finally stopped distancing myself as a preemptive measure; but, because of my self-imposed ostracization during my formative years, I wasn’t really prepared for how to react when the road got bumpy; with every slight or insult I found myself turning myself inside out, trying to figure out what I had done wrong, what I could change about myself, to get things back to normal. I was unable to sleep at night, endlessly composing speeches and dialogues in my head that I wanted to have with my friends, but which I was generally too fearful to follow through on; what if they reacted negatively? Since my problems were derived from being unable to reconcile the cognitive dissonance surrounding the actions of people close to me, it should be no wonder that the main foci of my issues were the two people I felt closest to; the two people I had opened up to the most in the previous years, and from whom I had previously felt so much support: Dr. G'ovich and St. Flunky.

Warning! All of the following observations are to be considered highly suspect, in light of the Cap'n's unstable mental state at the time the observations were first formed; take the descriptions of the subject’s actions at face value at your own risk

My issues with St. Flunky started when he began spending all of his time at Flunky Lover's place; no, the issue wasn't that he wasn't around as much; it was that, when he did make an appearance, it seemed like it was only because he wanted something. I would help if I could, but it became increasingly grudging on my part. Of course, I'd never say anything to his face; I was far too passive aggressive for that. I would, however, fume and stew after he left, occasionally ranting to whoever would listen; regret #5,972 in my life: collect them all! At the end of that first year in the house he moved out; I can probably count on two hands the number of times just he and I hung out that year; the following year, I could probably count it on two fingers. My Outsider Mode was in full swing by that point which, coupled with my damnable stubborn streak, prevented me from reaching out to him; I'm sure my piss-poor attitude did nothing to encourage him to make any steps in my direction either.

My issues with G'ovich . . . oh, man, I think I'd need a whole other post to catalog my issues with G'ovich. Heck, I might even need a whole other blog. Y'know, actually, that's not a bad idea . . .

One other unfortunate aspect of this time frame: I fell out of touch with Zinger and Pooh for a spell for some reason; it was a gradual thing, and I wasn’t really aware of it happening until I found out that she had finished up her Bachelor’s early several months after the fact, which served as a bit of a wake-up call to me.

Now, once again I feel the need to stress that, despite my horribly self-destructive behavior and chronically depressed frame of mind, my time in the house was not constant torture; I never really had any major issues with Wrath teh Berzerkr or The Old Man, and there were still times when the old dynamic between St. Flunky, Dr. G’ovich and myself resurfaced; sadly, though, those good times between us would be overshadowed in my memory at the first sign of a new insult or oversight.

Wrath moved out of the house during our Senior year, deciding to try living in the ATO house; by the time the Spring semester rolled around, however, G’ovich had moved in with Rocket, and Wrath had moved back in his place. By the end of the Spring Doc and Rocket were married with a kid, and Wrath got married and moved to Colorado. The Old Man and I moved into an apartment right next door to Coronela. The year rooming with The Old Man would encompass my final semester of school and my search for a full time job. The very worst of my breakdown passed along with this move, but I was still not back to the nearly-stable version of myself from The Golden Year.

Part Ten: Shock and Awe

We're starting to come into the home stretch here, people! Honest, the deep psychological scarring is almost done. Almost. If my calculations are correct, we should have the bulk of my neurosis all dealt with within the next two or three Secret Origin posts; but I have been known to be wrong before.

Hark, is that a light at the end of the tunnel I see? I'm shocked!

In the year I roomed with The Old Man I reconnected a bit with Coronela (who was our next door neighbor) and the Stonehearts (who had by that point gotten married). I also hung out with Dr. G'ovich a bit; not being cooped up in the same house had eased, if not totally erased, many of the frictions between us. Of The Old Man I saw little, as he spent the majority of his time at his fiancĂ©’s place. I hung out quite a bit with one of my co-workers from the public library and his wife; yes, the same ones I had begged off of doing stuff with back when I was obsessed with recapturing the glory days of the Golden Year.

I suppose that marks the biggest difference in my attitude during this time period; I had stopped hopelessly pining for the close-knit camaraderie of the Golden Year. Did I miss it still? Of course I did; but at the same time, I had finally resigned myself to the fact that too much had happened for things to return to the way they were in the good ol' days. But while this resignation helped me to crawl out of the mental pit I had dug for myself the past two years, it also carried with it something else: a tinge of bitterness.

Bitterness towards whom, you may ask, although by this point you're probably conditioned to say "Dr. G'ovich" automatically. And, if you are, then I've done my job well; there was indeed some resentment harbored towards the good Doctor and towards Flunky as well. Was the resentment well-deserved? More than likely not, but it kind of made things easier to bear; I had finally decided to go the route of "self-pity" over "self-loathing," no longer trying to figure out where I had gone wrong to drive everyone away, but instead compiling a list of all the ways I was being let down. Still not exactly the picture of mental health, and not really living up to that whole spirit of forgiveness thing, but at least I was able to sleep most nights.

Now, what sort of things was I resenting? Well, I'll refer you back to this post at CoIM's spin-off site; again, I'll caution you that many of these grievances were colored by my more-than-slightly out-of-whack P.O.V. at the time. Although G'ovich and I were communicating slightly better, that overly-sensitive aspect of my personality was still pretty active, causing a flare up now and then. Probably the biggest thing to bug me about the Doc over the next year or so was an off-shoot of the Cap'n Cellophane effect; the biggest difference now was that it was not a case of him forgetting about me when plans were made; no, at this point plans would be made, but he would then forget about them or, at the least, forget to tell me that they had been cancelled. For me, it all smacked of disrespect; I knew G'ovich had a lot going on at that point, and I like to think that I would have been understanding if plans had to change due to family commitments; but all too often I would wind up structuring my activities to accommodate plans which would never come to fruition. I don't think I ever adequately communicated to him at the time exactly why I was so ticked; it probably came across as more of my old clingy, needy behavior, rather than the brand new font of bitterness it really was.

And what of Flunky? Well, as mentioned last time, during most of this time I hardly ever saw the boy outside of an occasional gathering at Doc and Rocket's place; again, I was feeling abandoned, unwanted, yada yada yada; hence, the bitterness. I remember when I got a call from him one evening to see if I wanted to go see Starship Troopers with him; I was shocked as all get-out. And, if I'm not mistaken, that was also the evening where he let slip that he had gone to some sort of activity earlier that day with G’ovich, GMC, and some others, but didn't ask me to come along because it was organized by The Eskimo, and he knew I didn't like The Eskimo; apparently, according to Flunky, everyone knew this.

Now, this was not the first time something like this had happened to me; back when we were all still in the house, Doc and Rocket broke up for a time, and I had multiple people make the comment to me that I was probably happy, what with me not being able to stand her and all. I couldn't believe my ears; if I ever did express any such dislike, I honestly have absolutely no recollection of it. While it was true that Rocket and I weren't the best of buds at the time, it wasn't a question of dislike or detestation; it was more a question of us never really having found much of a common ground at that point. And now, here it was a couple of years later, and I was once again being told that everyone knew I couldn't stand someone else in the group. Once again, I was shocked; only this time, instead of a "where did that come from" reaction, the shock was of a "holy crap, am I that obvious?" variety.

So, yes, I admit it: at the time, I did not care for The Eskimo. I can chalk that up to a couple of things. The first was of the first impression variety; in early encounters with him he struck me as cocky and condescending, and I had a hard time getting past that initial mindset; everything he said or did seemed to reinforce that image in my mind. But probably the biggest source of my dislike for The Eskimo was that green-eyed monster, jealousy. Jealousy of what, you may ask? Well, let me put it this way: back when I was suddenly feeling excluded from all of my roomies' activities, three guesses as to who was G’ovich’s new constant companion? Yes, that's right, I didn't like The Eskimo because I felt like he was stealing my friends from me. In my defense, remember that I was psychologically unsound at the time.

I remember at one point G'ovich said "You know what I like about The Eskimo? It's that if I say 'This is how we do it' he'll respond {singing} 'This is how we do it'." That would be a reference to a popular song of the time, for those of you who were wondering; of course, upon hearing this statement my first thought was a firm certainty that, if I had responded in a similar manner, as my songbursty nature made me apt to do, I would have just gotten a dirty look and been mocked relentlessly. I guess it just felt like I was being discarded, that old "disposable friend" fear showing up again; here was someone cooler than me who could actually play basketball and volleyball without being a complete embarrassment to his teammates, so of course I was being shoved to the sidelines. So, instead of trying to fit into the new dynamic, I became resentful and sullen; and apparently, didn’t hide the resentment and sullenness nearly as well as I thought I had. Heaven knows how much stuff I got excluded from over the years because of it; and of course, now that I knew that my attitude was transparent to everyone, I was doubly self-conscious in Eskimo-related situations.

Again, my memory of exact sequences of events is a bit hazy; after the movie night, I think some of the ice thawed between Flunky and me; when he told me that he and Flunky Lover were going to get married in Houston he seemed shocked when I expressed an interest in attending, and even more shocked when so did Coronela and the Stonehearts. How shocked? This shocked:Yes, that's a young shocked FlunkyBut even though we were on better terms than we'd been for a while, we still weren't quite back to the best-buds level; that's why I was pretty shocked when Dr. G'ovich told me that Flunky had asked him if he thought I would be open to rooming with him the next year. Now, you might be shocked as well, what with him being married and all, but Flunky Lover was graduating a year before he was, and already had a job set up in Texas, so they were going to be doing the long distance thing while he finished up his degree.

I have to admit, I was sort of dreading Flunky actually asking me himself, because I wasn't sure how I was going to respond. On the one hand, yes, things had been better between us recently, so it wouldn’t be totally awkward; on the other hand, I had experienced an instant flash of "oh, sure, never hear from him unless he needs something" when I first heard the idea, which was a big red flashing neon warning sign that maybe some of those old neurotic tendencies were still pretty active; but the gripping hand was, despite all of my petty resentments and weird hang-ups, even though we hardly spoke and he was so unsure of our standing that he had to ask The Doc, of all people, about how I might react; despite all of this, on some level I still considered him my best friend. The chance to mend the tears in our friendship was too valuable an opportunity to pass up and, besides, even if I hadn't been a 100% certain about the move, I probably would have said yes anyway; a friend in need, and all that rot.

That next year rooming with Flunky really set the stage for the new, more stable Cap'n Neurotic, although not without a few bumps, bruises, and blowups along the way.

Part Eleven: I'll See Your "Awkward Silence" and Raise You a "Self-Conscious Dork"

Glancing back over the last several entries, I can see how, in my fevered rush to plow through this dark and disturbing time in my history, I may have accidentally omitted some key ideas or put forth some apparent contradictions, both of which could cause confusion to my faithful blog monkeys, both those who did and didn't live though that time with me. So, we'll start by addressing one of those things which may well have been puzzling some of you, and which will lead into the next chapter in the seemingly never-ending saga of my neurotic life.

There are two types of people in this world: those who like to make sweeping generalizations, and those who don't. Three guesses as to which camp I fall under. It goes hand in hand with my dramatic and hyperbolic tendencies; saying "I hate all shows where people do stupid things for no reason" is a nice, dramatic sweeping statement that I've used quite often; of course, then I run into one of the G'oviches of the world who calls me on the overly simplistic basis of my statement. Leave it up to the Doc and his kind to ruin a perfectly good overly-dramatic bit of hyperbole with silly old "logic" and "reason."

So, what does this have to do with the price of tea in China, I hear you grumble impatiently? Absolutely nothing, you silly blog monkeys, and what an odd question to ask. I mean, why would this have anything to do with either tea or China? I just don't understand you monkeys sometimes, honestly, I don't.

Now, if you had asked what that had to do with my promise to address a possible bit of confusion in previous entries, then my answer would be: very little, but I've been wanting to work the sweeping generalities thing into a post for a while now.

But seriously, folks, this tendency towards sweeping generalities isn't just a form of communication for me; after thinking in those terms for long enough, they start to become a part of my reality, and it's only when I step back and take a good hard look at the situation in question that I can start to see the shades of grey.

Now, I'm sure that throughout my posts there have been many such statements that don't reflect the true reality of my life at the time; when possible I've tried to note them as such. But one which has really jumped out at me recently is the idea that, after the debacle that was our rooming together, G'ovich and I weren't really on the greatest of terms. And yet, as readers of the last Secret Origins entry will have noticed, during my year rooming with The Old Man, I spent more time hanging out with G'ovich than I did Flunky; in fact, I would continue to spend time around G'ovich pretty consistently up until the time that he and Rocket became part of the Great Parkerite Exodus to Plano a few years later. So, what's with up with my "not on great terms" way of thinking? It’s all relative.

One thing you have to understand about G'ovich; when he wants to be, he can be quite charismatic. He's a fun guy, a funny guy, an entertaining guy; if things were clicking just right, all of the negative stuff would just vanish right out of my head as I was caught up in his Eeeeeeeeevil spell. This was especially true if we were in a group, rather than just one-on-one, since in a group I could just sit back and enjoy the floor-show, rather than getting caught up in the drama of "why can't we carry on a conversation like normal people?" Or at least, it was true for a while; but over time, our one-on-one hanging out sessions began to color my perception of the big group outings, as my wonderfully paranoid little brain began to worry at that question: why couldn't we carry on a conversation like normal people? It was during The Year of the Flunky that I really began to obsess over the fact that I saw G'ovich treating everyone else differently than he did me; this was probably due to the fact that it was during this year that I finally became part of the Doc's regular Poker night.

I'm not sure how long Poker night had been going on before I became involved; I'm not even sure exactly what prompted them to finally invite me. I do know what kept me from being a regular part of it from the beginning: it was an activity with high Eskimo-involvement. I have a suspicion that my rooming with Flunky again was a big part of my being drawn into the fold; also, I had been trying very hard to get over my irrational dislike of The Eskimo, and had by this point whittled it down from "can't stand" to "kind of ambivalent," which might have had some impact. The general poker gang consisted of old Parker residents G'ovich, Flunky, and GMC, and some of The Eskimo's pals, including The Squatch. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in the Poker setting; I was familiar with the basic rules of what beats what, but unfamiliar with the strategies of the game, making me very self-conscious; plus, as a late addition to this group dynamic, I went into instant Outsider mode. But even though those first several months of Poker night made me incredibly uncomfortable and I barely enjoyed myself at all, I wasn't about to opt out of it; I had finally seen a chance to get into the big group again, and didn't want to let it slip by. Of course, I would eventually burn this bridge, but does that really surprise anyone at this point?

It was during the course of these Poker nights and other Poker-gang related activities that I began to notice the difference in how G'ovich related to me, and how he related to everyone else. From my perspective, I would get there early, ask him a question, and get a noncommittal grunt; 5 minutes later Flunky or The Eskimo or any other member of the gang could come in, ask the same freaking question, and get a 15 minute comedy routine on the subject. And, of course, with the way my mind works, after the first time I noticed it happen, I then saw examples of this double standard everywhere I looked; I began to slip into the "what am I doing wrong" state of mind again, barely opening my mouth for fear that I was going to say something that would make everyone like me even less than they already did; this led to the Poker games to be even less enjoyable than before, and for my one-on-one time with the Doc to become even more awkward and painful. Do you see the irony, my book monkeys? While I was excluded from the activities, I had regained a bit of stability; now that I was included, I had started to lose my mind again.

About the only time things felt at all normal was when it was when it was just the two of us and Flunky hanging out; something about the combination of the three of us helped make things feel more comfortable, more safe; by that point Flunky and I had had a lot of talks about the previous few years, and had gotten our friendship back on track; you don't know just how grateful I am that he needed a roomie that year because, to be honest, if he hadn't I don't know if we would have stayed in touch at all afterwards. Not that we stayed in that great of touch anyway, since the [expletive deleted] can't seem to figure out how to use the reply button on his email . . . sorry, haven't taken a really cheap shot at him for a while, was long overdue. I fell better now. Moving on.

One day G'ovich and I had made plans to go do something, and when I called to see if he was ready I got a pretty brusque brush-off; I was ticked for a couple of minutes, and ranted and raved to myself about how typical it was, how I was such a meaningless blip that he couldn't even take the time to call and let me know he couldn't make it, etc. etc. It wound up being a brief explosion, actually, and I was back under control when he called back within an hour to see if I wanted to come over and hang out. But later on, after spending yet another bit of awkward time at his place, I started to fixate on the idea that my explosion of temper was a symptom of something deeper that was bothering me; I could see myself going down that same path that had led to so many problems a few years earlier, and I didn’t want to go through all of that again; the only option was to talk things out with G’ovich.

Except, of course, that that wasn’t really an option. Our conversations about this sort of thing didn’t usually pan out to my satisfaction at the best of times; I would start out with my well-rehearsed dialogue, he would throw out something completely random and totally off-book, and I would be sent floundering around trying to bring everything back to my mental script, but was never able to; flustered, I would never be able to communicate 2/3 of what I wanted to. My quest began to figure out how I could communicate everything I wanted to without being thrown off balance. So after much soul searching, and pondering, and only one sleepless night, I finally hit upon a solution; I would write him a letter. Which brings us to the next break in our story, as I try to figure out a way to travel back in time and slap some sense into my younger letter-writing self before it’s too late. Wish me luck, although if you’re reading this, then that means this timeline is intact and my efforts didn’t work.


Part Twelve: Letters! I Wrote Letters! I Wrote Sacks and Sacks of Letters!

Well, despite my best efforts, the time stream still resists my efforts to reshape it to meet my whims, so I suppose I'll just go ahead with the next chapter. I'm as ready as all of you are to get past this incredibly long and neurotic section of my history, so I plowed full-steam ahead for this one; makes yourselves comfortable, this is going to be a long’un. As I mentioned last time, during the Year of the Flunky I had started to slip into my old patterns again when I was over at Dr. G'ovich's house for Poker night, which then began to bleed into all of our other interactions. After a mini-breakdown which turned into a mini-epiphany, I finally decided upon writing him The Letter.

Now, I know that Flunky was aware of the letter at some point; whether I told him about it before or after, I don't recall; if I did tell him about it before, he apparently didn't try to talk me out of it. In retrospect I wish that I had had him look at it first, so that he could have very patiently explained to me that giving that particular behemoth to the Doc was going to be a very, very silly move.

I still think that the idea of writing a letter was probably my best chance of getting out exactly what I wanted to say; unfortunately, there was whole heck of a lot that I wanted to say, and, I, in case it might have, somehow, someway, escaped your, I'm sure, incredibly astute powers of observation, have a tendency, nay, let us say a compulsion, even, to be, for want of a better term, overly verbose. So, there I was, overflowing with issues, overflowing with wordiness, and unencumbered with any sort of editorial guidance; I wound up with a three page, single-spaced letter, the first two pages of which were just set-up. I basically did a much more succinct version of the Secret Origin for him, and then laid out the following:
I’ve really been wondering about for the past few years, but have been either too chicken or too stubborn to ask. Which one of your lists am I on now, [G'ovich]? I know I sure as hell got knocked of the respect list a long time back. Am I just the guy you called when you started needing a fifth for poker? Am I the guy you feel obligated to invite because you hang out with my roommate? Am I the guy you once had something in common with, but now can’t remember quite what? Or, am I possibly the guy who, up until you got this letter, you thought everything was A-OK with? This is the question that has been bothering me for way too long now, and it’s a question I would really like to have answered.
And just think, there was still half a page worth after that.

One of the problems with The Letter, other than my aversion to brevity, was the odd tone; I was trying to talk about something serious, but I didn't want it to be too serious; I tried to add some levity to it so I wouldn't come across as too psycho, but re-reading it now, that need to joke around strikes me as so pathetic, so needy that it makes me cringe. I think it probably would have been better to just slip this note to him:Yup, that probably would have worked out a whole lot better.

Anyway, I printed off the lever, and headed over to G'ovich residence; I'm not sure what I had planned on doing if they had been home. But they weren't, so I left it in their mailbox and waited for a response. Any response. Even a "You're a *$#&@ nutjob and we've got a *$#&@ restraining order, so stay the *$#&@ away from us and our kids" would have been acceptable at that point. But no response was forthcoming. I'm not sure how many days I waited in nervous anticipation; surely not as many as it felt like. When I saw the Doc was online I kept waiting for some message at least acknowledging the letter, but got none; I finally caved in and sent him a message asking if he had got it. His response was, yes, he had, but he was swamped with school stuff, and needed time to think about his response. Which was fine; however, several more days passed, and still nothing; again, my will-power was unequal to the challenge, and I soon asked about it again. This time, the response was basically that he didn't really have anything to say about it, and he didn't think he treated me any differently than he did anyone else. And, well, that was it.

I was, to say the least, nonplussed. I had poured out all of my fears and insecurities and neuroses onto the page, and all I got back was a brief answer little better than "No comment," an answer that felt like pulling teeth to get. I mean, if he had instantly replied with that answer, it might not have bothered me so much; bothered, yes, but not to such a degree. But to have what I'm sure was at least a week go by and to finally have to be browbeaten into replying; it was too much for me. At that point I was ready to wash my hands of him.

Now, to be fair to G'ovich, he pretty much did do what The Letter asked him to do; he answered the question of whether I was unwanted or not; I suppose I should have included a "Please explain why, in a minimum of 200 words" clause. But while the general "it's all in your head, now leave me alone" tone bugged me a bit, it was nothing compared to what I would feel about a week later, following a particularly ugly volleyball game involving the Doc, Flunky, and myself, which led to an interesting yet infuriating ICQ conversation, which led to yet another letter. Yes, that's right, I never learn. As to the volleyball game, let's just pull a direct quote from the 2nd letter:
I was tired, frustrated, and wound up beyond belief from the events of the previous week, so I was even more sensitive than usual. So, when you started yelling “Play it” after I had already let the ball go, I didn’t hear any joking tones, I just heard disgust that I didn’t go for it. Later, when you said “Play everything, [Cap'n], the line lies,” I knew you were trying to kid around, but I had fallen too far into my black mood by that point. When I asked for you to just tell me if I was doing something wrong, it was my attempt to try and get things back on track. When you set the ball and called my name, I started to go for it, then saw it was going more toward [Flunky], who was running for it, so I stopped. Of course, then he stopped too. I was pissed, but at myself for not going for it, not at you. But then you were defensive about it, which made matters even worse, since I knew I’d just blown my one chance to patch things up between us. Afterwards, [Flunky] informed me that you and I were both being overly touchy. Well, I can’t speak for you, but I know I sure as hell was.
Following this lovely incident, I struck up an ICQ conversation with him the next day, trying to apologize for being such an overly-sensitive jerk. He then proceeded to tell me this was why he never joked around with me, because I took everything too seriously; he griped about the fact that I was so self-deprecating, but then bit off the head of anyone who put me down even slightly; and then he made the now infamous "If you keep this up, you won't have any friends left" comment.

May I take a brief moment before relating the rest of the conversation to comment on just how infuriating it was to me that, after giving me the "I have nothing to say, I don't treat you any differently" answer a week or so earlier, he was now unloading this bit of "here's all the stuff you do that tick me off and make me want to not be around you anymore" information on me. I find it very hard to believe that this pattern of unbearably obnoxious behavior had developed in the span of a week; the fact that he had waited till that moment to relay this info angered and confused me; now, back to the conversation at hand

So, I don't know, maybe I'm the only one, but if someone has just told you that you're in danger of running off all of your friends because of your horrible actions, wouldn't your first response be to question the speaker to see if he had hard proof to back this up, examples of your other, apparently soon to vanish, friends expressing their dismay over your thoroughly unpleasant behavior? Or is it just me? When I asked him if someone else had said something, his response was "It's not like we sit around talking about you all day."

Let's stop to ponder that response for a second, shall we?

"It's not like we sit around talking about you all day."

Where to begin?

First of all, that's obviously patently untrue; we all know that I, Cap'n Neurotic, with no disrespect intended towards Cap'n Disaster, am the center of the universe, and that all words, deeds, and actions exist only to somehow further my status as such; of course all conversations held in my absence are designed only to humiliate and inconvenience me. Second of all, even assuming, for a moment, if you can stretch your incredulity that far, that the whole world does not revolve around me (I know, it seem impossible, but bear with me for a second); even assuming that improbable theorem were true, couldn't he have picked a less flippant and insulting way of communicating it? I mean, I had just been accused of being such a gigantic and colossal ass that I was in danger of driving away everyone who was close to me forever, was I crazy to feel like the crack was a slap in the face to my concern? Or was it just a case of me being overly-sensitive and not being able to take a joke? Or, as G'ovich put it, in what has to be one of my all-time favorite G'ovichisms: "Cap'n N., you have trouble separating G'ovich from reality."

While the accusation of my unbearable behavior hurt, I couldn't deny that there was some truth to it; however, after much thought (not to mention a seeking of reassurances from some of my other friends that I hadn't yet come close to driving them away), I decided that, for the most part, all of my problems revolved around G'ovich.

Raise your hand if you're surprised.

And so, the second letter was written, this one only a little over two pages long; this time I expressed my ideas that the only person who set off my temper seemed to be him; I related the "You realize you aren't hurting me" story and explained how most of his trash talk and jabs served to trigger a flashback to that time for me; I tried to get across that, yes, I had trouble separating G'ovich from reality, and yes, I would strive not to take everything he said so seriously; but I also urged him to realize that so much of the time when he saw the pissed off look on my face to realize that it was more myself I was angry with, and not anybody else. Finally, I ended this letter with an assurance that I was expecting no response on this one; I had said my piece, and I would strive to change my pattern of behavior, and that was that; if he wanted to comment, fine, but I wouldn't stay up nights wondering if he would. And, of course, he didn't, which surprised me not at all.

So, what was the immediate result of all of this letter writing? Well, let me answer that with a couple of quotes from some much more laid back letters I wrote to Flunky after he moved out
I know what you’re waiting for now. The latest blow-up between G'ovich and me, or at least the latest catalog of uncomfortable silences. But, true to my word, I’m not letting anything G'ovich says (or doesn’t say for that matter) upset me. Well, he still bugs me (he wouldn’t be G'ovich if he didn’t) but nothing that the new, incredibly stable Cap'n Neurotic can’t handle. Not that we’re best buds or anything, but I’ve found that not giving a crap about what he says has made poker night much more enjoyable. Why didn’t I think of this before?
Well, it’s been, what, three months since G'ovich and I had our last little blow-up? Yes, I believe it has. And guess what? The meter’s still running. That’s right, G'ovich and I haven’t really ticked each other off since you left town. And we’ve actually been able to talk a hang out a bit the last month or so without having huge, awkward silences as the prevailing mood. In fact, I hardly even worry about that stuff around him anymore. It’s only at moments like this that I stop and think, “Wow, we haven’t killed each other yet!” Here’s hoping we can keep the civility up at least until one of us moves off, which might not be too far off.

And yes, we were able to keep the civility up until Clan G'ovich joined the great Parkerite Exodus. However, at that point I fell out of contact with them; on the rare occasions when I would happen to see them, the old awkwardness between the Doc and I had somehow managed to resurface; it felt like we were tiptoeing around each other again; there hadn't been any snapping at each other or anything; that would have required us to be able to carry on a conversation of more than three or four words between us. It was bizarre; if there was some precipitating event, it's lost to my memory, if I ever knew it at all. I eventually just chalked it up to us growing up and growing apart, somehow losing whatever we had in common when we were no longer around each other constantly.

When I eventually moved to Denton, I had hopes that things might get better, but honestly, for the first year or so I was here I talked and saw the Parkerites less now that I lived 45 minutes away than I did when I lived almost 4 hours away. I would do things with Clan Stoneheart, and later Clan Berzerkr, who eventually moved to Plano from Colorado, but Clan G'ovich and I had next to no contact. I admit it bothered me a bit; not at old uber-neurotic "nobody likes me everybody hates me" levels, of course; I really was a much more stable, self-confident person by this point in time. But even if this distance between us bothered me, I didn't know how to rectify the situation; it made me so uncomfortable that I began to dread being around the Doc, because the lack of conversational compatibility was like a huge honking elephant in the room; I even remember one occasion when Pooh-bear asked me to call the Doc to find something out and I balked because I had visions of a disturbingly awkward phone call filled with long pauses and miscommunications; look, I know I said I was a much more stable person, but you have to remember just how unstable I was to begin with; the fact that I wasn't staying awake all night trying to figure out what I had done to cause this latest breakdown in our relationship was a huge step forward for me.

So, this strange awkwardness is where I shall leave us for now; the worst is behind us, my blog monkeys, so now we shall backtrack to the days of the Book Monkeys and travel through the time of The Singles, before eventually reaching the resumption of not-quite-so-awkward-as-before dealings with Dr. G'ovich.

What was that? Did I just hear a near-infinite number of blog monkeys letting out a huge sigh of "finally, no more G'ovich talk!" relief? I believe I did. But don't get too comfortable my dear blog monkeys.

You know the best villains always come back.