Slightly off Center of The Universe

SOCOTU. This a nickname an old friend gave me some time ago.  It was in reference to the fact that he deemed himself to be “The Center of the Universe”, and thus I was “Slightly off Center of the Universe”.  I thought it was a joke at the time, but in reality he actually thought he was the center of the universe, and our friendship had to therefore go in the direction of a black hole.  I thought of this after listening to David Foster Wallace give his famous  “Water” speech. In this speech he discusses how we all feel like each of us is in fact, the center of the universe.  Everything that you feel, touch, hear, process, see, is through your perspective. You see the world through your eyes. Therefore, you are in fact the center of your universe.  What does that mean for everyone around you? Well, they become slight off center of that universe. They are in it, but not entirely.  My friend had it all figured out.  He just took it to the nth degree.

“Jay” and I met as co-workers.  Actually, I was his boss.  We hit it off immediately.  We both had just moved into the city, and were in the process of adjusting to our new surroundings.  Although it was frowned upon for management to hang out with our subordinates,  Jay and I didn’t care.  We were rebels; both of us distrusted authority.  As we grew to know one another, we became inseparable.  We were best friends, even soulmates.  Neither one of us was sexually attracted to one another; it didn’t seem to matter.  We seemed to love each other unconditionally.  I knew pretty much from the moment that I met Jay that he was gay.  I asked him once, in the beginning of our relationship, but he denied it.  What I was to learn that it was the semantics of the label “gay” that John objected to.  Jay didn’t see male and female as the general public saw them.  He saw them as people.  Just that. People.  I understood that, because I too didn’t really see Male and Female, but I saw individuals.

Sexuality has always been a difficult emotion for me.  I’m not sure if it’s the catholic in me or the damaged part of me that makes me feel this way.  I found men attractive and desirable, but in general, I never was able to have a strong emotional attachment to them.  I had surrounded myself with a seventeen foot steel wall so I couldn’t be hurt.  I had been psychologically hurt by romance before so I wouldn’t allow it to happen.  I did allow emotional attachment to women, but I was not sexually attracted to them.  With Jay, it was mostly the opposite.  Partially, that’s why we became such close friends.  I told Jay things I never told anyone and that includes my most close female friend, whom I grew up with.

Jay has been the only male I have ever had a platonic intimate relationship with.  I loved him more than you can imagine.  And that’s why his actions later on in our relationship became so hurtful.  In the beginning, he was supportive and helpful.  I quit my job, and I opened my own catering business.  Of all my friends, he was without a doubt the most supportive, at least outwardly.  I really didn’t see the self-absorption behind this support.

He helped me network my business by hosting many parties at his house.  He owned a gorgeous Queen Ann style Victorian that I helped him renovate.  That house was without a doubt the perfect venue for my style of catering.  I loved the creativity that I could display in that house by different themed parties.  We started monthly “Wine and Highball” cocktail hours for a wine and literature group he belonged to.  It consisted of mostly gay men, so I went quite eclectic with its food and decor.  We planned the first party pretty elaborately.  I decorated with heavy velvets and tule, and fresh flowers.  The food table had layers and layers of tapestry, coupled with levels of artisan cheeses and breads(this was way before they became commonplace). I had chaffing dishes filled with Mediterranean foods, as this was Jay’s favorite; a dessert table with homemade cannoli, eclairs, assorted petite fours.  I also included chocolate fondue and assorted cut fresh fruits.  Through the night I heard screeches of “Oh my God , Fondue!” The party was a hit.

There  was an uninvited individual at the party.  His name was Spiderman.  Jay had a life-size statue of Spiderman in his dining room.  To this day, I still don’t know why.  The day of the event, I told him that I wanted Spiderman gone before the party was to start.  He assured me that it would.  I left a few hours before the party to go home and shower and change, and I again warned Jay that I wanted Spiderman gone.  When I returned a few hours later, Spiderman was still there, and our guests were to arrive in just an hour.  I gave up.  I told Jay to go get his old Bistro apron and his old bow tie, and I dressed Spiderman as the waiter.  I placed the apron around him, put the bow tie on his neck, and placed a towel around his arm.  It worked, and Spiderman became very popular that evening.  Through out the night I observed many an individual lift up Spiderman’s apron to check out his “package”. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Spiderman became our mascot.  He was at each party, welcoming every person that came in the dining room.  Our most memorable party was an oldfashioned Tiki party.  I have always wanted to throw a 1950’s style cocktail party, and the one Jay and I planned was a doozy.  We had bamboo placed all over the house, along with tiki poles. Each person who walked in were greeted with a lai, and when then entered the dining area where the food was displayed they were greeted by a giant Pineapple that we made out of papier-mache and Spiderman dressed as a cabana boy.  We dressed him in a grass skirt and flowers, and I hid a banana under his skirt that was tied around his waist. Each time anyone lifted up his skirt, they got a surprise.  As for the food, I made martinis out of tang, a salmon moose, fruit skewers, a cheese platter made of various types of spray cheese.  I also hid spam in many of the dips, and made spam animals.  We had a blast.  I loved doing these parties. The only problem with them, is that I never made any money. In fact, I generally lost money, as I was afraid to tell Jay exactly how much I was spending.  I thought that this was an investment, as I would be getting so many booking out of these parties.  I didn’t get one booking.  Ever.

These parties may have broken me, but this period of my life was filled with a great many friends.  I was introduced to so many people during that time, and we did so much together.  One individual, we will call him “Steve” , and I became fast friends.  We were introduced at the Tiki party. I had dressed up as June Cleaver and when Steve met me he asked if I had gotten my wardrobe from Divine’s trash.  I knew at that moment we would be great friends.   Through him I met others.  We would organize many a brunch together, and of course I contributed to the food.  I am still good friends with him, even though we don’t see each other very often.  Steve was to be the first of all of our mutual friends to end his friendship with Jay.

Eventually, my business started to fail, and I entered a deep and dark depression.  Jay tried to help me keep my business afloat. He asked his boyfriend to help me organize the business.  This was the beginning of the end.  I’m not going to go into detail, but my business relationship with his boyfriend ended, and not well.  Jay’s and I relationship then changed.  He stopped calling me. Period.  I attempted to continue the friendship, but he appeared indifferent.  When he and his boyfriend broke up, I hoped that our friendship would be rekindled, but it didn’t.  Jay changed.  He was partying quite a bit. Drinking every day, sometimes to an excess. I told him I was concerned about him; I felt as if he had a drinking problem.  He responded that perhaps I should be more concerned with my own problems, and not his.   He stopped including me in activities that he and I would normally attend together.  I was confused and devastated.  I was already in a vulnerable state and the person who was always there for me, wasn’t.  Most people would have dropped him as a friend, but I couldn’t.  I’m too loyal. I remained loyal for about five years.

Five years of very little contact, unless I called him.

If he called me, it was generally if he needed something from me.  One Holiday time, he called me to invite me to his New Years Eve Party.  It wasn’t so much to invite, but to help him with the party.  He specifically said he wanted my rum balls.  When I told Steve about this, he told me to just drop off the rum balls at his door with a  note that said “X” has left me here since I was the only thing that was really invited”. Of course I didn’t do that. I helped him with the party, and at midnight, he left his own party to go out drinking.  I was left to clean up and entertain any stragglers at the house.  It was hurtful and awkward.

Jay had a habit of doing things like that to me during this period.  If by chance we did go out together, inevitably he would leave me , and generally it was without a ride.  Most nights this happened I would walk back to his house and sleep there, alone.

This is also the point that most of our mutual friends simply dropped him from their social activities.  Jay was the most hurt by Steve’s departure.  I was still friends with both men, and Jay said to me one night when he was highly intoxicated, if Steve ever hurt me, he would have a problem.  It turned out that it was the other way around.  Jay would hurt me many times.

When our relationship finally came to an end, it was actually cathartic.  After many years in an emotional rollercoaster, I rebooted my life, closed the business and found a new place to live.  The only person I wanted to share this with was Jay.  I thought he would be so proud of me and we would rekindle our friendship.  I called him once I moved in and invited him over for dinner.  My first dinner guest at my new place! I prepared, decorated, cooked, cleaned and was finally ready.  The day of the dinner, I got a call from Jay saying he couldn’t make it.  He had a job interview in Washington, DC that next week, and he needed to travel down there.  I was disappointed, to say the least.  Then he asked it. “Can you loan me $200.00 for the trip?’  That was one thing Jay knew I very hesitant to do. He had asked for a loan from me before, but I never gave to him, saying that money will always ruin a friendship.

I wish I had listened to my own rule.

I gave him the money, and he left saying he would pay me back in the week.  The week ended.

And the next.

And then the week after that, he still hadn’t paid me back. My rent was due and I really needed the money. I called him and told him I needed it back.  He never returned my call.  I emailed him and he finally contacted me back.  He apologized and said that I shouldn’t call him back about this matter.  I emailed him back, pretty irate. I told him how hurt I was, and it isn’t about the money. I told him all the hurt I had felt these past few years.  I told him about the numerous letters I had written to him about this hurt and betrayal I felt, but never mailed.  And then I told him I was done.  I told him he was poison, and I needed to cleanse myself of him.  I told him Goodbye.  That was the end.  I then purged myself of every contact number, facebook contact, picture I had of him.  He was gone.  I felt relieved and sad both at the same time.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I had never done that with someone before.  I consider myself to be a very loyal friend and obviously would endure much to maintain a relationship. I guess I found my breaking point, or I was growing, or both.

It’s been many years since that happened, and obviously I still think of him. I thought of him as my soulmate, and therefore my memories of him are strong and powerful.  I miss him, I really do.  I miss what we were, and what we both could have had if we both weren’t so damaged.  This is the first time I have every spoken about this. How much I miss him.  I hope wherever he is , he is well, and maybe he thinks of me too.  His Slightly off Center of The Universe old friend


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