Friday, November 30, 2012

It's a Small World After All

Rest assured, this post isn't about my trip to Disney World or that stupid song that got stuck in my head to the point I thought I would die of an animatronic induced aneurysm. That's a rant I'm saving for another day. No, this one is about bumping into old friends in the least expected places and how you can make new connections from old ones and vice versa.

I was at Tastee Donuts on Transcontinental tonight. For those of you worrying that I went there to take a high dive off the diet wagon into a shallow gutter filled with sweet, delicious chocolate covered donuts with sprinkles and lots o' calories, let me set your mind at ease. The NaNoWriMo group met there for our last chance write in and I tagged along even though I'm technically finished.

I had one plain cake donut. Don't judge me!

Any way, Rob Cerio, one of the participants and a friend of James, a guy who used to game with us on Sunday nights, showed up late with his wife in tow to congratulate all us winners and to shoot the breeze. I learned that he and our regional head honcho Shannon Kitchens have worked together on a few films, one of which (The Adventures of Keith Flippen, Didgeridoo Player from the 3rd Dimension) recently won best film in the 2012 New Orleans 48 Hour Film Project. Their submission for 2011 won some awards too and was pretty damn hilarious.

While they were talking, I noticed Rob's wife kept staring at me. Before I could panic and put out a restraining order, she said, "I know you from somewhere. Where do I know you from? It's going to drive me crazy." For the sake of her mental health, I went down a list of all the places I had worked during my lifetime, going down the line from my most recent job as a massage therapist to my first job as a cashier at Eckerd's Pharmacy when I was working for the anti-christ (a pharmacist named PJ). For every job mentioned, she would narrow her eyes for a few moments and then shake her head. Finally, one of the other WriMo's asked if I had ever been to any Sci-fi Cons. I've been to Coast Con and Crescent City Con, but only a couple times for each, certainly not often enough to make myself known amongst the regular Con goers

Suddenly her eyes lit up like it was Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or "Screw you bitches! I'm atheist...pick your politically correct poison of choice) and she finally asked me what my name was and had I ever LARPed (live action role playing, for those of you who have never got your geek on). And indeed, I had. I used to play Vampire: The Masquerade at a bar called Buddah Belly's and another called the Half Moon, both on Magazine Street. Then she told me her name was Cheri and my eyes lit up like it was Agnostica. The mystery was finally solved.

Okay, the thing you need to know is that I was something of a socially awkward loser back then. Shocker, I know. A coworker at the supermarket I was working at the time told me about this cool game with vampires and character sheets and all that good stuff. This was back in the day when I was still living on the Westbank with my mother, because that's what socially awkward losers do. Anyway, I wanted to find a game, but this was before I knew anything about Craigslist and I'm pretty sure Yahoo Answers hadn't been invented yet so I did the only thing I could do. I put an ad in the Personals asking total strangers if I could play with them. I got one reply.

No, not from Cheri. From a guy named Punt. Seriously, that's what everyone called him. He and some of his friends ran a game at a bar called Buddha Belly's and he was more than happy to take me there. I was a legal adult past the age of consent, but when my mother found out what I had done and what I was planning to do, she nearly went berserk.

"What the hell are you thinking? Do you know this guy? How do you know he isn't some psycho-killer-puppy murderer-rapist? And what the hell is Vampire: The Masquerade, anyway?!?! Sounds Satanic to me." (Insert suspicious mom glare here)

She refused to let me set foot out of the house unless she knew where I was going and who I was meeting and of course, she had to follow me and pick me up. I didn't have a driver's license then so I didn't have much of a choice. She and my Aunt Elda drove me to the parking lot of a mall where we met up with Punt and his friends, then followed him to the game. There she left me to my own devices, warning me that she would be stopping by later in the night to pick me up and that if I was missing, Punt's bald head would roll.

Yes, my mommy dropped me off at the game. What part of "socially awkward" did you not get?

So where does Cheri fit in to this embarrassing tale of nerdy goodness? She was one of the few players there I could get up the nerve to talk to, possibly because she was one of the few female players and she seemed safe-you know, she didn't have that psycho-killer-puppy murderer-rapist look about her. This is sexist, I know, so to all of the female puppy murderers out there, you have my humblest apologies.

Cheri befriended me. She made me feel comfortable in a world where I was unsure of myself...which looking back, was just about anywhere I happen to be standing at the time. She and her husband (husband #1) took me to my first Con and put up with me as a third wheel. For that alone, the woman deserves a medal.

We eventually lost touch, something I have regretted for years. I've never been good at holding onto friends. Hell, I was never all that good at making them in the first place. I didn't call when I should. Didn't write. I would get wrapped up in my own world of bullshit and lose track of the things that mattered. But mostly, I think I was just afraid of people. My biggest fear was that once someone really got to know me, they wouldn't want to know me at all. So I didn't commit. I kept people at arms length afraid if they got too close they might see the real me and turn tail and run. I feared rejection more than anything in the world so I kept my distance. Because of this, I had trouble holding on to those oh so tenuous connections that we come to cherish later in life.

We talked a little about what she is up to now. Cheri is now married to Rob who seems to be a genuinely nice guy. She has two children she loves and she is happy with her life. I am happy for her. We exchanged numbers. I have NO excuse for not calling her now. I made a new connection today from an old one and I aim to keep it.

...She's also thinner than me, but I'm willing to look past this...fucking plain cake donut!

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