I was out to brunch with a friend and I accidentally knocked over a glass of water. “I’m sorry about that,” I apologized, adding for good measure, “I’m a swollen clumsy oaf.”
There was only a little water in the glass, and it was quickly mopped up with a napkin. It wasn’t, ultimately, that big of a deal.
Or so I thought.
A few minutes later, I got a text. “Do you mind if I check this?” I asked my friend. “I’m sorry, I’m a monster.” My friend shrugged; they didn’t care, they were too busy Instagramming their lox.
So I checked my phone. I didn’t recognize the number, which is why I found the text itself very, very confusing.
“Please stop talking shit about me.”
I went into an immediate tailspin about who it was I wronged. Being an inconsiderate buffoon who has the self-awareness of the average ottoman, the list in my head was miles long. Did I say something thoughtless online? I checked my Twitter (again, apologizing profusely to my friend, explaining that I was a sick parody of humanity), and most of my tweets seemed fairly banal. Although there was this one:
“I don’t know how I feel about hats.”
“Christ almighty,” I thought to myself, “that must be it.” Obviously I must have a friend who’s a hat collector, or a haberdasher, or the Goorin Brothers’ cousin, or perhaps one of the characters from “Lidsville".
I erased the tweet immediately, and posted, “I am the dumbest dummy in the history of idiots. #hats”
After that, I finished brunch with my friend, along the way mentioning to them in no uncertain terms that I was a moron, a hateful dope, and a human superfund site. They laughed and smiled uncomfortably, in a way that I had come to accept from my friends as their way of saying, “I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I’m too polite to say anything. But make no mistake, you are absolutely the worst.”
As I was walking home, I thought about the spilled glass of water, and how it was probably the breaking point in our friendship, and how that person will never, ever speak to me again. And then I thought about how I checked my phone during the meal, and although this is a thing all my friends do on an almost constant basis, I was sure the way I did it was especially egregious and thoughtless.
The combination of these two things would surely lead to this person not only never, ever speaking to me again, but probably also calling a secret meeting of all of my friends and loved ones. A meeting where they would all vote and decide to end all contact with me. Me. The worst person. In the world.
“I am the worst person in the world,” I said to myself as I walked into my apartment. “The worst.”
My phone buzzed again. It was another text from that same unfamiliar number. And it read thusly:
“Hey. I told you to cut it out. You’re still talking shit about me, and if it doesn’t stop, there’s going to be a problem.”
At this point, I flew into a full panic. I erased all of my social media accounts, and emailed every person in my contacts, begging their forgiveness, but understanding if they would sooner eat glass than forgive me for being such a vapid jerk-monger. I finished up by telling each and every one of them that they no longer had to bear witness to my stupid face, and especially my hateful mouth, from which my ear-splitting tone-deaf voice sprung from.
And with that, I moved to a crude lean-to in the forest, and subsisted on twigs and dirt.
That last part didn’t happen. I did, however, cancel my evening plans (my friends sounded relieved when I told them, I was sure of it), draw all the blinds and curtains, ordered pizza, and prepared to spend the rest of my days alone, separating myself from a society that had no place for dunderheaded one-person loser festivals like me once and for all.
A little while later, there was a knock at my door. It was my pizza. I prepared myself emotionally for my interaction with the delivery person, knowing that I was probably going to say a bunch of stupid things, and then attempt to tip them by giving them a spoon instead of money. It was best, I decided, to open with an apology, let them know that I was terrible, give them $100, and then remind them I was terrible.
“Hey, sorry it took me so long to open the door, I’m a horse’s ass who doesn’t value people’s time, due to the fact that I’m terr--"
That is the sound it makes when somebody at your door hits you over the head with a giant foam hammer.
“AAAAAAAHHHHH WHAT THE FUCK”
That is the sound I make when somebody at my door hits me over the head with a giant foam hammer.
“I told you if it didn’t stop, there was going to be a problem.”
I looked up, and realized I was staring at…Me. Me, holding a giant foam hammer. And a pizza.
A few minutes later, me and Other Me were sitting at the table, eating pizza. Other Me laid it on the line.
“You’ve been going on like this for decades, and I finally reached my breaking point.”
“Of course you would,” I replied, “When you’re stuck being a person as loathsome as I am, naturally you’d--“
“Okay, shut up,” Other Me continued, putting the hammer down and returning to his pizza. “Why do you do this? Why do you say these things?”
“Because I’m a human superfund s--“
Boy, Other Me was quick on the draw with that thing.
“Rhetorical question. I will tell you exactly why. You got in the habit of doing this when you were a kid, to beat the other kids who picked on you to the punch. Oldest trick in the book, and damned effective. But nobody’s bullying you now. Nobody but you. And as you, I’m goddamn sick of it.”
Keeping my eyes on the foam hammer at all times, I chose my words very carefully.
“Okay, point taken. But. I’m still an awkward weirdo…” I saw Other Me’s hand begin to reach for the hammer, but hold to see where I was going with this, “...and I’d rather let my friends know that, so when I invariably screw up, they’ll be well prepared.”
Other Me rested his chin on the handle of the hammer for a minute. Then he hit me over the head with it WHA-BOP.
“WRONG. You are not doing this for THEIR benefit! You are doing it for YOUR benefit!”
“Because I’m a selfish asshole.”
I waited for the hammer. It did not wha-bop me. Uh-oh.
“Uh-oh is right,” Other Me elaborated, “Let’s look at the unifying factor in your shit-talking. ‘I am a clumsy oaf.’ ‘I am a monster.’ ‘I am the worst person in the world.’ ‘I’m terrible, I’m gross, I’m thoughtless, I’m disgusting, I, I, I, I, I.’ SEE THE TREND HERE?”
“Yeah. Damn it.”
“You make yourself the center of every conversation. You constantly put your friends in a position that they have to tell you you’re wonderful, or at the very least, not something they’d find at the bottom of their shoe. And the fact is, you’re neither of those things. You are a person, who is occasionally wonderful, occasionally garbage, and generally somewhere in between.”
“So, where do I… we go from here?”
“WE LISTEN. We listen to our closest friends. We listen to our loved ones. We have faith in them that they will tell us when we ACTUALLY screw up. But also, and more importantly, we listen to ourself. We goddamn well know the difference between knocking over a glass of water, and hurting someone’s feelings. We goddamn well know the difference between checking a text at lunch and being an inconsiderate friend. And we goddamn well know that constantly shouting ‘I AM TERRIBLE’ conveniently works as a way to divorce yourself from our actions when we occasionally do something terrible.”
Other Me was goddamn right on all counts. But he wanted to make sure.
“You got this, now?”
“I think so. It’s a lot to take in. And I’m not all that brigh--“
“GODDAMN IT, ME.”
When I came to, I was at lunch with my friend again, right as I knocked over the water.
“Damn it,” I said to my friend, reaching for the napkin, “Sorry, you okay, there?”
“Totally. No problem,” they replied, “I did that the other day, and I was like, ‘UGH, I’m assuredly the worst person on the entire planet.’”
I was about to correct them, and then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Other Them standing in the corner of the restaurant, giant foam hammer in hand. I shrugged. They’d figure it out soon enough.