This was something I wrote a few months ago and posted a draft of on the forums. This is the final version: not very different content-wise, but touched up a bit from a technical standpoint. Specifically, tense consistency throughout sections, and some clarifying words in places. I figure this counts as this week’s writing release. Anyway, enjoy.
Something to maybe note; yes, this is fiction. While the speaker is debatably—alright, definitely—me, this “Ravi” person is fictional. Or maybe he’s a chimaera of lots of real people. That’s possible too, I guess.
… but people don’t look at my feet while I sleep
He was starting to bug me because I’m an impatient kind of guy. He was preaching patience and introspection and we’d been through this a million times before. I had a class to get to—never mind that the bell wouldn’t ring for another ten minutes. And never mind the fact that we were about a minute’s walk from my class.
“I gotta get to class,” I said abruptly. He nodded.
“Seeya, Mike.” He extended a hand, and I was amazed—for the millionth time—by how strong it looked. He works out a lot, so he’s in great shape, especially compared to me. What do I do? I walk a couple hours a week. Home from school, to a store, things like that. He’s always trying to get me to start working out. Says it’ll make me happier.
“Seeya, man,” I said slowly as I took his hand. We shook once and then he let go.
I stood there for a moment as he turned and went off his own way, off to his next class. Looked at my watch. Four minutes. Somehow, I had become lost in his talking. Patience my ass.
I set off in the direction of my Math classroom.
After five seconds, I looked back over my shoulder, saw him walking in the opposite direction. Just as I was about to turn back to watch where I was going, he turned his head, looked back at me. Smiled. I couldn’t return that smile, so I continued walking towards my Math class, ignoring his smile as best I could.
I gripped the strap of my backpack more tightly. I couldn’t feel our handshake anymore. As I was about to enter the Math building, I looked back one last time. He wasn’t in sight anymore. And I panicked.
Ravi and I have been together since elementary school. And now we’re nearing the middle of our senior year in high school. It’s been a long ride, and bumpy at times (especially in middle school; he was the dorky social outcast and I sometimes pretended to be more than that), but I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. He’s my best friend, my most important friend; he eclipses every other person I know. Even my family.
Ravi’s been with me through thick and thin, and I try to be there for him, too. Sometimes I talk about shit that doesn’t interest him, sometimes he talks about shit that doesn’t interest me. I’m not trying to make him seem perfect. I don’t tire of his lectures about patience because he’s perfect. I tire of them because I’m starting to lose rejoinders. I’m starting to lose lectures of my own. In the past, we were on the same square. Role-playing, drawing swords, watching anime. We did that stuff together and enjoyed it a lot.
But at some point we branched out.
He became interested in military technology. I became interested in… well, the same thing after a fashion, but more the end result—the internet. He stopped doing the geeky things I considered fun. He started working out, running, and growing a beard. Funny how these things work—for years he had chastised me for being lazy with my shaving. Anyway, he matured, and he probably became a better person.
Me? I don’t know so much. I lost a lot of my interest in those fun geeky things with time, thanks to overexposure. But there were plenty of other fun geeky things to fill in the gaps. Web design, for one. I became kind of good at it. One thing I could talk to him about, was what site I was working on. How I was accomplishing such-and-such. My technobabble about XHTML and PHP and whatever other acronyms surely meant as much to him as his borderline Buddhist explanation of why I should value myself more. Or rather, why I do value myself, and why I should realize it.
But I don’t, really.
I value him. I only value him.
And that’s why, as I stumbled into the darkness of the Math building, I was massaging my right hand with my left, trying to see if there was any trace of our handshake. I wanted there to be something. Some kind of proof. That yeah, we had just had contact.
Ravi doesn’t talk to lots of people. Especially not the teachers. Them being the authorities of the place, interacting with them is kind of like proof of existence. There’s no “I think, therefore, I am” at my high school. There’s either you talk to the teachers and exist, or you get talked to by the teachers and exist, or you sit in a corner and fade away.
There are some places he shines with life—science classes, Math classes, probably cross country. But he’s not an outgoing guy. Not to say that I am, either, but I don’t care about myself. I care about him. And at that moment as I started climbing the stairs to my classroom for fourth period, I was scared.
What if no one knows him?
We have one class together, an English elective. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t interact. He sits in the back and watches.
What if no one in that class knows he’s even there?
I had recently heard a couple people—freshmen—talking about imaginary friends. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time. Most people with imaginary friends don’t actually believe that their friend is there. They think of their friend as imaginary (hence, the word “imaginary”) and should they stop thinking about him, he would disappear without a trace, and with no regrets. He’s just their imaginary friend. A pastime, if you will. They have real friends. Their real friends are more important. But if most people with imaginary friends have them for the fun of it, what of that smaller population of people who are actually insane? Who actually have friends that are completely made up?
I don’t see Ravi interact with people. I don’t see people notice Ravi. Is he my imagination?
I always get scared when I wonder about whether or not I’m all there mentally. I have no way to check it and if I ask others they don’t take me seriously. Or sometimes they take me too seriously, and look at me funny.
If I knew that we had just held each other’s hands for a brief moment, I would know that he exists. Physical contact is supposed to be a good way to make sure that someone isn’t a ghost, after all. Though I suppose that if I’m hallucinating it wouldn’t be hard for my mind to stretch and imagine that it feels another hand grasping mine.
But I don’t remember shaking hands with him. At least, my hand doesn’t. My hand doesn’t remember the handshake and I’m sure that no one else in the world remembers our handshake. So maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe Ravi doesn’t exist, and maybe I’m insane. I shudder as I open the door to my Math class and walk inside.
I remember this one time, back at my place, when Ravi was over for the night. He was downloading some music over my network, I was lying on my bed and resting a bit, on top of the covers. As the evening grew chillier, I wrapped my blanket around myself without changing my position. I was like the contents of a taquito or something.
“That’s a dangerous way to sleep,” he commented, looking up at me from his laptop on the floor. I raised one eyebrow. “People can see the holes in your socks.”
“This pair doesn’t have any holes,” I replied slowly, somewhat confused. Ravi just laughed and turned back to his computer. He never elaborated, and I never figured out what he meant by that. And I continue to lie on top of the covers and then wrap myself up in them, because for some reason it’s more comforting that way than just crawling under them.
Maybe it’s because every time I go to bed, I hear his voice.
I go home and open up my instant messenger application. It’s been a staple of my online life, and I’ve been using it since before I knew how to make websites. It keeps a record of every conversation I have, for future reference and stuff. I often brag about how I can look anything up. So I go home and open up my instant messenger application, and look up my chat logs with Ravi. The program thinks, and thinks, and thinks. Beach ball. Crash.
I reopen it, try again.
We talked a lot, right?
I know! Gmail! There’s no way Google would let me down—and I know we have hundred-message-long conversations in Gmail. So I load up my mail in a web browser. But no—my internet service provider’s domain name recognition is acting up, and my browser tells me that Google doesn’t exist. Google exists, damn it! Ravi exists!!
I don’t need logs to remember one conversation we had in which he asked me how I knew he existed. This was back in middle school; he was trying to be philosophical or someshit. I don’t have time for that anymore. I don’t have time for patience. Ravi, do you exist or not? Mike, are you insane or not? I’m starting to be convinced I am, if nothing else but for this paranoia. Ravi, you mean more to me than my parents, or my brothers, or my cat. Or my computers.
My phone rings. It’s one of my brothers. I press the red button. I don’t have time to talk to him. But inside, I thank him for his call—it reminded me that Ravi got a cellphone recently. I dial it. That’s right, I dial it. I don’t look for it in my phone’s memory because I know it by heart.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
“Hey, Mike? I can’t really talk right now.”
“Look Mike, I really can’t talk right now. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
I drop my phone onto the bed next to me.
“I’ll see you at school tomorrow,” I murmur.
I didn’t see him at school the next day.
I wish I could remember more of our conversation about existence. I don’t even remember the gist of it. What was he trying to say? What was he trying to understand? And what had my response been? Probably something dumb like, “of course we exist!”
“I felt like shit,” he explained as we ate lunch together two days later. He was there, at school. He had missed a day because he had been sick. That was fine.
And he was fine. Oh boy was he fine. Lecturing me about patience again. God damn it, Ravi, if you’re a figment of my imagination shouldn’t you do less to irk me?
We walked to our usual parting place where I leave for Math and he leaves for Government. I checked my watch. Ten minutes left. He was starting to bug me because I’m an impatient kind of guy. I had a class to get to. But before that, I had six minutes to do something other than listen to him talk at me about patience and introspection.
“Hey, Ravi,” I interrupted him. He blinked. “Remember that time, in seventh grade? Our Latin teacher taught us about some Greek philosophers, and then the two of us talked about existence?”
“Not really,” he shrugged.
“You don’t? You were asking me tons of existential crap. How do I know you exist, that kind of thing.”
“Oh. Yeah, I remember now. What about it?”
“How did that conversation go?”
“How’m I supposed to remember? Check your logs or something.”
“You exist, right?” I blurted out. I was somehow on the verge of tears. It would be my second time crying in three months after four dry years. Last time was when I was down in Mexico with my dad, and he was being an ass to me, and I found myself wishing I were back home hanging out with Ravi.
“Of course I do, Mike. What are you talking about?”
“How can I know?” I asked, my lip trembling.
“We’re talking right now, aren’t we? Look, Mike, it’s time for us to go to class—” he extended his hand and I took it in both of mine. “Mike, lunch is almost over.”
I could feel his hand. It rested between mine, large, and warm, and strong. I didn’t want to let go. But I knew that I had to go to my next class, and he to his, and it would be weird to stand here clutching his hand much longer. So I let go.
“Seeya tomorrow,” he said.
I get home and fire up my instant messenger application. Ravi’s online.
flak => yo
gorgor => Yo
flak => how goes?
gorgor => Goes alright. You doing better?
flak = > yeah im doing fine, why?
gorgor => You weren’t alright earlier, Mike.
gorgor => You sure you’re okay?
flak => yeah, yeah. im good
gorgor => I looked those logs up, by the way.
He has the same application as I do. He got it because I told him to, and he loved it because it’s great. When the log viewer doesn’t crash the thing, that is. I’d forgotten that there were two sides to the logs, so his message surprises me.
flak => and?
gorgor => It looks like I asked you how you knew I existed, and then told you that you didn’t.
gorgor => But then I told you that it doesn’t matter whether or not you can know or not.
gorgor => I said that I didn’t need to know whether or not you existed because we were talking.
gorgor => Knowing something, actually existing… those things don’t matter if we can interact.
gorgor => That’s pretty much the gist of it.
I say nothing for a while. This view of the matter rings a bell. Of course it should, it was a conversation I had once after all. I open my log viewer. It doesn’t crash. I find the logs, and imagine that Ravi’s on the other end of the IM window at home, reading the same words as I am. On the same screen. We have the same kind of computer; again, something I influenced his decision on.
gorgor => Mike?
flak => sry, lookn up logs
flak => so, ravi
flak => youre not going to disappear right
flak => if not then yeah existence doesnt matter
flak => and i dont care if know whether or not youre real
gorgor => Stop being so emo, Mike. This was almost five years ago…
flak => i get scared sometimes
It’s easier for me to be honest and say things outright like this. I can’t do it in person. Not at all. But online, it’s easier. I don’t know why, but it’s the way things have always been.
gorgor => I’m not going anywhere.
flak => yeah?
gorgor => Yeah.
One “Yeah.” Somehow, this one “Yeah” means more to me than any handshake. If I ever doubt things, I can come back to this application, look up my logs, and find this one “Yeah.” Ravi’s not going anywhere. And that’s a relief to me, because without him I would be lost. Other friends have told me that I need to stop relying on him like this. Other friends are wrong.
gorgor => Mike, seriously?
gorgor => You’re kinda crazy but you’re not insane. You can trust yourself more.
gorgor => Value yourself more.
gorgor => You’re a good person.
flak => shut up >:)
Of course I value myself, a bit at least. But not a lot. I can safely say that I value him more than anyone else. There’s nothing else to admit. It’s time for homework and I have to go.
flak => ill see you at school tomorrow am
gorgor => Yep.
Yep, he says.
Yep. He says a lot of things that confuse me and a lot of things I disagree with, but I understand his yep and I agree with it. I’ll see him at school tomorrow.