Every day, there’s a new gadget or online tool being released which further erodes our interpersonal skills. Statisticians can probably chart the growth of WiFi & broadband networks and see how it mirrors the growth of divorce rates and hate crimes in our society. Really, this correlation isn’t too preposterous. Texting, IM’ing, and update posting have replaced the need to communicate in complete sentences and look someone square in the eye. If you don’t believe me, think about the last conversation you had with a cellphone-owning teenager.
I get that same feeling when I’m having a conversation with Marcus. His most intimate relationship is between him and his Blackberry. If he had a girlfriend, he’d probably dump her as if he were changing cellphones—frequently upgrading to the newest model. His Blackberry is the last face he sees before he goes to sleep, and the first face he greets each morning. They even share the same pillow.
So it came as no surprise when I woke up at 5:05am to Marcus yelling obscenities at someone on his phone. Yeah, don’t mind me. I’m only sleeping. Here in my own home.
I raise my head to shoot him one of my best “WTF?” faces. He sees me. He doesn’t care. In fact, he’s so disrespectful that he’s using my laptop. My laptop had a security password, but he seems to have cracked that rather easily. (Note to self: create new password that isn’t your child’s name.)
Pretty soon, Marcus makes an international call on Skype using my laptop. But it’s not even the same conversation. Two different conversations, two different devices, simultaneously. This is why teenagers are so savvy: they can probably ignore their parents using two different technologies simultaneously.
I begin hearing Skype conversations with heavy Eastern European accents. The Frankfurt financial markets open four hours ahead of the New York financial markets. But I’m more sleepy than curious, so I bury my head in my pillow. I exaggerate my hints with plenty of added tossing and turning, until finally, Marcus takes my laptop into the bathroom. I can’t hear anyone else’s voice except Marcus’. Ever notice how yelling in the bathroom creates a louder echo than anywhere else in your home?
Normally, at 6:30am, even while unemployed, I awake to the natural, meditative sounds of a babbling brook on my iPod alarm clock. Today, it serves more like a backdrop to two roaring grizzly bears fighting over the same salmon. I have to kick Marcus out of the bathroom so that I can take a piss. He shoots me a look like I’m kicking him out of his own office.
By the time that I emerge from the bathroom, Marcus is already collecting his belongings and lacing up his shoes. He’s cursing. Are you kidding me? You woke me up. You broke into my laptop. You were a fucking drunk last night. And you’re cursing at me?
I didn’t really say any of that out loud. That’s the kind of guy that I am. Valerie used to love that about me. Nowadays, she tells our couples counselor that my propensity to speak my mind—after the fact—is part of our problem.
I would eventually learn that Marcus wasn’t cursing at me. He doesn’t even realize he’s cursing. If there’s anyone who needs to awaken to the sounds of a babbling brook, it’s Marcus. To him, cursing is like the morning pep talk that you give yourself as you sit at the edge of the bed trying to will your legs to the bathroom before you can fall back onto your pillow.
I attempt some polite small-talk so that I don’t have to hear his cursing anymore. I make references to the church services, because quietly, I’m still eager to learn more about these gemstones. Marcus curses even more. He believes that he missed his daily church services yesterday. I remind him that I actually accompanied to him church after we left happy hour. He didn’t remember that at all. He doesn’t seem surprised. He admits to remembering very little when he drinks a lot. Lightweights are like that.
I wondered if and when he would remember donating the gemstone to the church collection plate. Or will he think that I stole it from him while he slept?
Marcus opens the door. Not even a thank you or a goodbye. Then again, you would only expect that sort of courtesy from a friend. What exactly do you call someone that you wouldn’t want as a friend, but that you have a morbid curiosity to see again?
“Are you some kind of thief?”
I can’t believe that I blurted out what was on my mind. Valerie and my couples counselor would call this progress.
I look him square in the eye. Because that’s how real people have real conversations.
I try to sound like the caring friend that I am not. “Are you doing anything illegal?”
Before Marcus looks away, I spot his unique smile. Walking out my door, this Cool Hand Luke boasts, “Dude, you have no idea what I’m all about.”
I respond, “I’ve seen your type before, Marcus.” I’m lying. Marcus is the last of the originals.
At that moment, Marcus seems to receive a text message. He looks annoyed. More annoyed by the text message than by my line of questioning. He seems to text the exact same response that he gave me moments earlier. “Dude, you have no idea what I’m all about.”
Still can’t look me in the eye. Yup, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Even the closest relationships couldn’t possibly survive that.
I have this strange mix of hope and despair. Opportunity didn’t just knock—it walked right out my door after spending the night and waking me the next morning. I sit back on my bed. I meditate to the sounds of the babbling brook. I hear the brook taunting me. Without a job or any other opportunities, do I really have a reason to get out of bed today?