Lying awake, thinking.
Yesterday we were told that Bob had left the college. The official cause college gave us was ‘personal reasons’, but I know that’s not right. To assume to yourself that official reasons are automatically ‘right’ would be a grave mistake. Official reasons are probably “we’re-covering-our-arses” reasons.
Okay, I’ll clarify this. Sounds like something that would be the basis for an episode of Friends, but here goes.
There’s six of us. Me, Gracie, Johnnie, Anthony, Lisa and Vicky. Bob was an older postrgraduate guy who also lived at college. He had some past involvement with Gracie; it had started and ended before I came to university. Since then, Bob had just hung around us all the time. That’s how it started. It was awkward. Just awkward. Every time I entered into the room and he was there, with everyone, there was just a sense that no one else wanted him to be there. People would talk about him when he wasn’t around.
Then yesterday, he was gone. Just like that. When everyone else found out there was a sense of relief. But me? I was taken aback a little. And I had stayed like that until now.
I’ll get up; I have to be at work in an hour. A lovely 11am-9pm shift at this burger joint that I work at.
I open the window. Sunny day? Nope. Still raining. Jeez, its been raining for the last week! I cobble on my work clothes and head down to the college dining room. Continental breakfast this morning. I eat some toast, make a hot chocolate, and then go to work across the road in the massive shopping centre.
My boss welcomes me when the same happy enthusiasm he always has. He’s a lovely guy, really fun to work with, even if all we do is sell burgers.
“Prep the bread rolls, thank you darl” he laughs. I smirk. Always knows how to cheer me up. I high five him, grab 100 rolls and a cutting knife.
I’ve got my Ipod in my pocket, so I get him out before I start to cut some bread. Need some thinking music. Radiohead looks good. King of Limbs? Too indie. OK Computer? Too popular. Go for tried and tested, and pick In Rainbows instead. I start to cut some bread.
We have a party tonight to go to in the city. An old friend from college, George, is having a 21st that’s at some pub under the harbour bridge. I’ve already said I’ll be late, but I’m keen for a big night. I haven’t drunk for over a month, sometimes when work and uni get too much, drinking with mates and nights out seems just the ticket. Except tonight, I know Bob is coming too.
At least I think he is; he was invited too. But would he come? Something tells me no, because he’s probably over us. But what if he wants us to feel guilty? He can still turn up if he wants, and we can’t do anything about it. God, it would be awkward if he did.
Would it kick off if he did? Would he be that pissed that he’d want to start a fight? Is he even like that? Does he like to punch on?
Bread is cut, and I’m just standing around, with Harry, an awesome bloke who’s just finished university and is about to get married. I tell him about the whole Bob situation.
“If I were you, just ignore him. Works best” he says. Pretty staple response.
“Why? Why can’t he just go away and not come?” I ask.
“You don’t know what’s going through his head. You can make up stuff but at the end of the day you’ll never know what it’s like to be him.
"So better to avoid the conflict altogether. He may not come anyway, so chill out” replies Harry.
He’s got a point. I don’t know anything about Bob. When it comes right down to it, apart from the whole thing with Gracie, no one knew much about him.
We had theorised about him in the past. His age (he looked really old), what he’d done for most of his life, where he was from. That kind of stuff. Eventually, we decided to make up stuff about him; like that he was nearly 50, or that he’d been convicted by the police for some reason.
Bob never told us any of this. He was really secretive.
Harry points out a girl to me, a brunette with brown eyes. I recognise her; she does a class with me.
“Serve her” he says. I know what he’s on about. He’s been trying to get me to get a girl forever. He told me the trick is to be smooth, confident, and relaxed.
It’s got to the point where every time there is a girl that’s pretty that comes up to order, he makes me serve them. His solution is that “if you get laid, you have a happier life”. Didn’t see what all the fuss is about. But I do like the look of her.
The girl comes up.
“What would you like?” I ask. (Come on, make a good impression!)
“Umm… just the beef and cheese burger please” she replies.
“What bun would you like that on? Sour-dough, Wholemeal or White?” I ask (I’m sweating so much, this girl is much prettier close up).
“White please” she says.
“Any chips or drinks?” I ask (She’s going to totally ignore me!).
“No thanks” she replies, smiling back (she smiled! SHE SMILED!).
“Okay, then just $9.50 all up” I reply.
She pays on card. Then turns to leave.
“Umm, excuse me” I say (okay, here we go).
She turns around. “Yup?”
“I just noticed that we’re in the same class. It’s… god… its—” (trying to remember her name, OH GOD!).
“Mia; I remember you” she replies (YOU SHOULDA KNOWN THAT!).
“Yeah, you enjoying the class?” I ask (Trying to find something to talk about. Stop it! STOP! STOP THIS TRAIN WRECK, STOP!!!).
“Yeah, its good” she replies.
“I was just wondering, did you want to catch up for a coffee or something? Or a beer?” I ask (SHE DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A GIRL THAT DRINKS BEER!!!).
“A beer? Really?” she laughs. “Perhaps” (WHAT???)
“Perhaps as in yes, or perhaps as in—”
“Perhaps” she says, laughing. And leaves.
(THAT WAS THE WORST ATTEMPT AT TALKING TO A GIRL EVER! MY GOD!).
“Well done” says Harry, patting me on the back.
“Well that’s doomed to fail” I say.
“You don’t know that. You don’t know her. Give her a chance” replies Harry.
The day passes fast, the girl eats and leaves. Well, I tried. But I didn’t really know her, so for all I know she might have a boyfriend. So I don’t let it get me down.
Finally, the night comes and work closes. I head to the party, hopping on the train and sitting in silence. Trains into the city are so rubbish, and the worst part is, on a Saturday night, like today; its already full of drunk people. I think about the party, meeting all my friends, having a great night—
Then I remember Bob is coming too. Oh great, its going to be so awkward! God damn it. Why can’t that creeper go away?
I stop, I just remember what Harry said earlier. About not knowing him. I shouldn’t say stuff like that. I know I shouldn’t really.
That girl showed me something; that I really don’t know anyone do I? I figured I do know, but in the end I have to really know someone in order to judge, shouldn’t I?
I think about my group. Vicky, Gracie, Lisa, all of us. How do we have the right to judge him? I don’t think any of us know anything about him. So what were we doing, saying things like that?
I think about it. Then it came to me. It’s bullying. Simple, honest, brutish, bitchy bullying at its brilliantly effective best. And now I start to agree with what Harry says. Best to avoid conflict; don’t say anything if he’s there.
I still hope he doesn’t turn up, just so we don’t have to deal with all that messiness of us being there together. If we upset him, who knows what will happen. Bob, I seriously hope you stay away, not for our benefit, but for yours.
I arrive at the pub where the party is after a ten minute walk from the train station. This party is already going off! Bloody hell! I enter in, and after saying hello to George and having a quick tequila shot with him to celebrate his 21st, I grab a Canadian club from the bar, and I find Vicky, Lisa and Anthony over in the corner. They all seem pretty drunk, and Vicky is balling her eyes out.
“Hey guys” I chirp happily. None of them acknowledge me.
What’s going on? I look at Anthony, waiting for a response. Nothing comes.
“Lisa?” I ask. (Hello guys? I am here you know!)
“Gracie and Vicky had a fight about something. Gracie was behaving like a child” she says condescendingly.
Vicky puts her head up, her eyes are filled with tears. She wears so much makeup she looks like a ghost, and now half of that makeup is flowing down her face.
“I saw her talking to him at lunch today! There is something going on!” she whimps.
What? You got to be joking.
“That’s why you’re angry at Gracie? That’s literally it? That’s nothing!” I say. I quickly realise how drunk Vicky is, and trying to make sense of her drunkenness is near impossible.
“Shut up! You don’t understand! She’s a bitch!” squawks Vicky, burying her hands again. Lisa tries to comfort her. Anthony is just looking at the floor blankly.
You guys are getting upset about nothing. Really?! Literally nothing.
I turn around and look around the party, looking for other people to talk to. I can’t see Johnnie or Gracie.
Holy crap! There’s Bob. Especially with these guys behaving like idiots they are now, why did you come?!
Anthony sees Bob too. Soon everyone knows about it. “Bob! Why can’t that annoying creeper leave us alone?” Vicky spats out furiously (Once she gets started, she’ll never stop. Sometimes I wonder if she talks about anything else!).
Is this how its going to go down again? Another rant about Bob? All the things I’d thought about; from Harry to the girl to being on the train. We didn’t know him. We really didn’t.
“Oi, can we just go easy on Bob, seriously; I don’t really wanna hear shit about him” I say.
Vicky turns on me in scorn. “What? You obviously didn’t know the guy! Did you ever hang out with him? How he always hung out with us, but never said anything? How every time our group tried to chill out, he’d always be there, breathing down our necks? You obviously don’t know!”
“I’m not having a go at you” I say in a calmer way (covering my bases, best to appear neutral when you’re not), “but seriously, every time I chill with you, its like… Bob’s a creeper cause… Bob did this or that…”
“Have you ever hung out with him?” roars Lisa furiously. “He’s creepy, he never talks. He’s even asked me ‘why are you avoiding me?’ when he doesn’t realise that him being him is why we don’t wanna chill with him! Or even the fact we never knew a thing about him. You don’t get it, you just don’t. My god”.
These answers seem like such a joke. “Whatever” I say, to calm the nerves of everyone. I say to them all that I’m heading to the bar to get a refill, but really I’m hiding the fact I can’t stand being around these people any longer. In frustration, I down my drink and then order another one.
Bob is over in the corner, by himself. I think, after all the thinking I’ve been doing about him today, that someone better go over and say something to him. Part of me is telling me to ignore him, as Harry told me; because we want to avoid conflict.
Screw this, I think to myself; the man needs some sort of apology, and I walk over to him. “Um Bob? Can I have chat with you for a sec?” I ask. I’m so nervous. I feel like he’s staring at me like an insect.
“Yeah, sure” he says appreciatively. I pause, I’m not sure exactly how to begin. I think for a second.
“Well… I know about the whole group thing, with Vicky and Johnnie and Lisa and all that. I know that you have heard some of the things they’ve said about you –”
“Quite a lot, actually” interrupts Bob.
“…Well yeah” I persist. “And I know they can be a bit childish… not all of them, but some of them are –”.
“All of them are” interjects Bob.
“Well, I just thought…that I can’t myself apologise on their behalf, cause that’s not fair. But… if I’ve ever caused you pain myself with that group, then I’m sorry. I never really intend to hurt anyone, and that includes you” I finish. I feel so small and scared now. I can’t believe I’ve just done this!
Bob is thinking. It’s a moment of silence that I’ve really noticed is becoming really bloody long.
“You weren’t responsible for any bad things against me; but at least you were mature enough to come and say sorry, so I appreciate that”. I’m a bit dumbfounded by my actions.
“I’ll admit though, I made mistakes. Big mistakes myself. I’m a socially awkward guy, I’ve always had problems with it. I just found it painful that that group of childish brats (taking slight offence here, that’s my friends he’s talking about, but I let it slide) couldn’t recognise that”. I don’t know what to do; so I take what he says with a pinch of salt.
“But, I do appreciate you coming to apologise. It does show that not all of you are like that. Thanks” he says. I acknowledge him, but feel like I’ve outstayed my welcome. I stand up, and he stands up with me (awkward). “I’m off” I say. He extends his hand and I shake it tentatively. “Thanks for dropping by” he says.
I’m not sure what to think as I head back to the bar. I feel like I’ve had the energy sucked out of me. Yet, I also feel a sense of catharsis. Closure. It’s a good feeling. As I order another drink, I look over towards the table where all my friends were. They’ve all gone.
I don’t really care. They can be childish if they want! As for me, I feel enlightened. Forgiveness is something I’ve never felt from anyone much before in my life, because there’s been no need for it. We’re young. We make mistakes, and we recover quickly. We’re supposed to learn that stuff as we get older.
Does that mean I’m getting older? Maturing? Becoming wiser? If so, hello maturity, you feel fantastic.
I feel someone touch my arm. I turn around. Mia is next to me at the bar. She looks like she’s drunk a bit, but still looks happy.
“Hey there, guy from the burger store” she says. “Didn’t know you knew George”
“Yeah, he and I go way back” I say. I couldn’t believe it. What are the chances of running into her here? Bloody hell!
“You were so funny today” laughs Mia, “So were you serious about that drink?”
I blush. This is so embarrassing. But something’s telling me this is going to be the start of a fun night.