Words || Angus MacDonald
I’m seriously considering purchasing one of those large, inflatable plastic balls, just so other people have no choice but to respect my personal space. I will, quite literally, be in my own little bubble, hermetically sealed from physical intimacy, champion of downward inclines and, at long last, able to properly empathise with my hamster. Nobody will be able to use a urinal uncomfortably close to mine and I will never be falconed by an errant Frisbee ever again. Furthermore, I will have a pretty bankable icebreaker for every circumstance but a Zorbing competition.
“Woah, fella! What’s going on here?” people will ask, intrigued by my Spherical Friend Deterrent™.
“Nothing, I just wanted a bit of ‘me’ time. Now get out of my way, I’m ROLLING late for class!” I will reply, pausing only briefly for laughter before flattening anyone in my path like fresh bitumen under a steamroller.
Perhaps it is all a bit extreme, especially in hot weather, but I’m really not seeing too many alternatives. It’s impossible to find a minute for yourself these days given the near-constant pinging of Facebook group chats and friends you thought you’d left behind in high school making vague plans to catch up. I feel HOUNDED sometimes. I just want a second to breathe, to dream, to lie on the grass and think about girls, but none of my friends will leave me alone.
I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of independent, wistful soul, content to choose the cherished embrace of my own company – though I have found the use of terms such as “wistful soul” and “cherished embrace” tend to take that decision out of your hands. It’s not that I don’t like my friends; it’s actually the opposite. I love my friends so much that I can’t be around them all the time or I’ll develop a crippling addiction to their approval. I suppose you could also argue that I’m horrifically self-interested, but I’ve always been like that.
All I ever wanted to do in my primary school concert band was launch a solo career, but it’s not easy to master a wind instrument when you’re eleven and tone-deaf. The result of hours of practice was rarely better than a forced smile from my parents and an ungodly amount of saliva. I didn’t play the saxophone so much as unintelligently toot it, eyes closed and swinging my hips, as I knew all great jazz musicians to do. I also wore sunglasses to most of our rehearsals and the dim lighting in my public school hall meant I could barely make out the sheet music. But you didn’t NEED sheet music to do a sax solo, I would say to my conductor, the jazz is in my soul!
I gave up the saxophone when I realised my playing would hurt my own ears, and so I ventured into team sports. I found myself doing everything in my power to make sure nobody appeared better than me. I would heroically dive in front of my teammate’s shots at open goal, often kicking them in the kneecap when no one was looking, and then complain about nobody passing it to me. I was ushered by my parents and coach and various psychiatrists into a more individual sport. Squash started out okay until I realised, what with those pissweak racquets, that my opponent was a much bigger target than the fiddly little ball. I was then redirected into swimming but apparently ridiculing your competitors on the blocks could not give you size 15 flipper feet or improve your technique. At the gym I would abuse and swear at the sweaty wimp who could barely squat a weightless bar until I realised I was yelling at a mirror. I try to avoid exercise now, though sometimes, late at night, I book out the local velodrome and ride around it on my Razor scooter. It is the only time that I am truly at peace.
I always thought I would rather read a book than go to a club. That I’d rather play Wii golf without any pants on then go putt-putting with my friends. That watching a movie by yourself meant you could chew loudly and not be asked “Who’s that guy again? And where did he get the thingy? Oooh, ooh, I know this girl, do you think she’s about to kill her dad?” Flying solo, to me, has always been a synonym for freedom. You’re the pilot of a plane going wherever you want and you don’t need to worry about customs when you get there.
But you know what? I’ve just realised something. I’m kind of a drag, especially on long haul flights. I’m whiny, I chew loudly and I’m far too righteous for anyone’s good. And I’m a cheapskate – I’d never fork out $30 an hour for the hiring of an inflatable plastic ball. I’d definitely be in the lowest tier of economy on a plane, could you imagine how much a return ticket would cost for a seat in the cockpit? And you know what else? My primary school stage band won awards, every year, even though I never performed a solo. Plus my soccer team overcame my subterfuge and medalled just about every season. I don’t need a second to breathe, dream, lie on the grass and think about girls, all that would do would make me itchy and melancholy.
So I guess what I’m trying to say, in quite a complex, emotionally mature moment of genuine introspection that really came as a surprise to me right at the end there, is this: Friends good, me bad. None of them will leave me alone, no matter how much I think I want them to. And I’m glad, because I’m terrible company. No way I could survive one of those large, inflatable plastic balls with no one to annoy but myself.