Are Your Friends
By Trevor Hopeworth
Copyright © 2017 by Trevor Hopeworth
Published at Shakespir by Trevor Hopeworth
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Table of Contents
[Are Your Friends
I’m a bit off, at least in the eyes of other people, though I can’t really see what they mean if they believe my differences make me crazy. I’m just fine living here in the menagerie with my roommate Marie and our dog and five cats, and I really don’t need the kind help some neighbours offer me in connecting with more people. I don’t know the latest fashions, trends, celebrities, or whatever is new in pop culture, not for an inability to tune in and follow, but because I genuinely have no interest in those things.
I have no friends, with the possible exception of my roommate of six years, and Marie is much the same as me: She has numerous acquaintances (most of them old, but some newer) and no real friends, with the slight exception of me. I don’t lack friends for a lack of social abilities, and I’m a fairly dynamic person overall, if I do say so myself; I can carry a conversation a long time, and I’m a good listener. It’s just that I lost my curiosity about people a long, long time ago.
I’ll admit that I had perhaps more than my share of disappointments with friends and lovers when I was younger, and that seems to have blunted my drive to connect with other people. The fact is, I believe that other people in this world have a propensity to let me down badly, leave my gut wrenched and my head swimming with grief. I always was a bit of a misfit in society, in that my interests were science, poetry, good rock music, and politics. I’ve always been sensitive, though not actually shy, and I really, really don’t like violence. For some reason, these qualities have made me a lightning rod for abuse and treachery by other people, in a manner consistent over a span of many years. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I began my permanent retreat from society, and since then, I haven’t been badly hurt by anyone – they can’t get close enough to put the sword in my belly or back.
I don’t miss people. In fact, I don’t even miss having a lover. Some who have known me many years say that I’ve become bitter, yet my current life is almost idyllic. The only problem is that the big world continues to have woes verging on the apocalyptic, and that takes the wind out of my sails some days.
Neither does the world miss me. Sensitive, thoughtful, creative people are not wanted on many people’s social desires lists, especially if the person comes with a high or somewhat high I.Q. Perhaps it’s an excess of conformism at work in society, or an averaging phenomenon, but people seem to overwhelmingly prefer the average, ordinary, regular, typical, normal kind of person over anyone who strays far enough from the centre to stand out as different. In my experiences of earlier decades in life, even those who celebrate and embrace being different than others have an intolerance, or a hostility to people markedly different from themselves. So, here I am, more different than ever for being an urban hermit, and quite happy with my life.
I mentioned my shared responsibility of caring for a dog and five cats that Marie and I own. These animals have quite literally become my friends. Those who have not become emotionally and socially intimate with any higher animals may scoff at the notion of inter-species friendship, but those of us who have can testify that animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits and weasels, among others, can make extremely good and satisfying companions. Some will insist on playing semantics, and define friendship in such a way that rules out people being friends with animals. To them, I can only say that I talk to the animals, I listen to them, we have conversations, we care about each other, and we’re happiest when we’re all together. Sounds like friendship to me.
Marie is a little dysfunctional, I’ll tell you right out. She has been married twice, once to an abusive alcoholic, and once to a philanderer. She is estranged from her two adult children and her young grandchildren, and her world has shrunk down less by her own choice than by a genuine fear of the unknown: The human heart.
I’ve watched Marie make and lose a number of friends over the course of our six years living together, and she always does the same thing: She insults her new friends so often that they are driven away, and what’s more, she will aggressively push herself into their private affairs and suggest dramatic changes, along with making a host of hurtful judgments. She was, in her own words, raised by “wicked nuns” at a boarding school in Quebec and a “very, very dysfunctional” mother. The only person she ever got along with very well was her father, and he’s been deceased for over twenty years. She and I manage because I recognize her shortcomings and know how to deal with them, and because, despite being sensitive, I’m actually thick-skinned. We have settled into a routine with each other over the years of sharing our animal concerns with one another, and not much else. We speak our “animal-talk” around each other in the complete comfort that we understand one another on that level.
In both our cases, though for very divergent reasons, we have come to adopt animals as our friends as a last resort, only to find that we should have started this long ago. At least in this world, or perhaps only these western societies (I haven’t travelled much) animals have many of the virtues that we look for, and usually fail to find, in people. They are loyal to a fault, eager to make contact with their owners, easily pleased (for the most part,) not terribly fussy about superficial matters like appearances, fun-loving, forgiving, and very affectionate. What’s more, they are socially superior to most people in our societies because they are dynamic and highly intuitive.
Ages ago, before there were civilizations or even agrarian societies, there was a world populated entirely by hunter-gatherers: Wild human beings. Our needs and abilities evolved in the wild setting, and I don’t think they have been much modified in the ages of crowding and civilization. Those that are well-formed for roles in civilization, I think, make very poor friends to other people. Their needs are channelled into productive vocations where they serve the needs of the big industrial machine, rather than meeting the needs of actual people around them. Of course, the most successful people tend to be in this mould, and their emotional tendencies and behavioural preferences become models for other citizens to adopt and emulate. In other words, materialism snowballs until it crushes the living energy out of the citizens of civilization, and those that remain instinctive and dynamic are very much marginalized, along with criminals and many of those with disabilities The individuals who are well-formed for civilization’s materialism make “friends” with others who share interests in similar activities and things. They do not share emotional intimacies with their companions, except for the angry, even violent feelings they have. Hence, my personal needs would be best met by another person similar to me, who I have never met, or, for lack of human possibilities, the dog and cats I live with.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m like a wild person, in that I wasn’t formed in the wilds, but if you follow my argument, I’m more emotionally spontaneous, sensitive and intuitive – like an animal – than the vast majority of people around me in society. Animals are the natural choice for me as companions in a world going mad over the thing.
I live among the animals, though they are tame, not truly wild, just as I am not a truly wild human being. I will say that Buster, Roxie, Tigger, Pumpkin, Quigley and Callie are the finest friends I could ask for in this life. I won’t part with them, and I will have them, or subsequently adopted animals, by my side until the day I die. My only fantasy is that I could be buried in the wood like Robin Hood, where the animals of the forest would then be my companions through eternity.
I hear a cat calling me.
More by the Animal-Loving Author
Trevor Hopeworth has written a few poems, I Need Love (1 poem,) and Seasons of the Stars (2 poems.) As of the date of this publication, he has also published the short story In the Passage of Memory. All can be found at fine Ebook retailers everywhere, or you can go to his page at the Shakespir store:
The modern subversive rails not only against materialism and conformism, but also keeps to himself in what is very much similar to the Orwellian "own-life." Inevitably, we need companionship in this socially shrinking world, so we turn to our wild selves - or, the substitute for that, pet animals. We who love pet animals the most have come to live apart from other people, and they provide more than mere comfort: They become authentic friends. This semi-autobiographical short piece contains absolutely no content that is strictly adult, shocking or viscerally unpleasant. Please enjoy. ~1400 words.