He didn’t want to be Gary anymore.

He wanted to be The Guy Who. The guy who had geckos running loose in his apartment to eat his cockroaches. The guy who had seven squatters running loose in his apartment to drink his beer and molest his geckos. The guy who had a suburban bitch who occasionally came down from Nashville to visit and bring him hugs and to bully his squatters.

Being Gary was too dangerous. Someone might see him for who he was and start to care about him. Then they might start to understand him. And empathize.
And then all of a sudden there’s someone coming round to make sure that you’re eating and that the squatters haven’t stolen all your clothes.

The night we left Cincinnati and moved back to Tennessee, we sat face-to-face in an empty McDonald’s, sharing 20 nuggets of chicken. We’d shared beds and refried cigarettes and toothbrushes and hair dye and a budget. This was natural. This was an unconsummated marriage.

I sat in that empty McDonald’s seeing every last inch of Gary’s past and present. I saw his brilliance. I saw his lack of motivation. I pictured him with a needle in his arm. And I hated him for it.

I hooked him with my eyes and enjoyed watching him wriggle as I told him every last thing he’s ever tried to hide from anybody.

He desperately wanted someone to know him. So I sat there and impaled him with my eyes and my words. I gave him what he wanted. And I knew that we would never be close again because of it. I gave him what he wanted, and I sacrificed our friendship for that one blindingly clear moment of desperate understanding. He needed it, and I wanted to make it hurt.

He’d known that I knew him too well, and that was okay. Proving it was not. Now he was vulnerable. He was afraid, and I had to pretend to not know it.

So when I visited him in Memphis, I pretended to be the perky girl with the bouncy ponytail and the silly questions. I played this part because I wanted to see him so badly. I had to make sure he was still alive.

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