Pictures were taken of us two. It seemed a way of saying goodbye. She would have laundry to get done the following night. As he and I planned on meeting up at the bar again. This time, including the company of another friendly face. Another friendship of many years, who we didn’t visit with often. The invitation was more of a test than anything. Wondering if the conversation would impact any situation moving forward. She wanted me to have a picture of herself. A token of the brief friendship we had found. Because, there seemed something in the works for later in the evening. The impending events could be felt as the night at the bar came to a close. My role as his trusted sidekick had been violated just hours before, standing in disagreement with comments made. His belittling label of lacking any friendships. While needing his protection from others who would have bullied my impactful disability. The statements felt shocking and irrational upon her articulation of them. Calmly voicing the opinion of their inaccuracy was my response. The impending result of backing away from the game, now invading the mind. Answering the questions swirling my headspace would lie in her actions. The night could end in the way he was envisioning. With her falling into the whims he planned for the two of them. The actions concluding our evening out seemed to indicate the game had succeeded once again. Despite my attempts to voyage onto another path. He dropped me off at home, with all the excitement of a player about to achieve victory.
The night didn’t yield much sleep. Thinking specifically of the final moments inside the truck. His tone the most gleeful in months. Understanding the small group from the bar would be continuing the party. Having opted out because of obligations the next morning. Even though, the following mornings obligations were far from the only reason. It was my role to opt out of the gathering at this given point. The point when my services were no longer required. The purpose of his sidekick, in portraying him as the compassionate man was fulfilled. The man who protected his best friend with a disability. Sheltering me from becoming hurt by others, while saving me from having no friends. Now, it was on into the night, where people with cerebral palsy weren’t welcome. The real fun could begin, after being setup idealistically. He had checked in with me on the heels of my conversation with her. None of the context of our conversation being revealed. Simply responding positively in regards to the chat It didn’t make sense to confront the descriptions brought forth. I had a pretty good idea of the actions he was taking. The failed requirement of backing him up on the insinuations about me was left alone. He was an unquestioned bully at that point in time. It was time to begin protecting myself from his manipulation. So, instead of providing her with the nod and smile, everything sounded good. The neutral response was given to him. My place as sidekick hadn’t been completely carried out. Pulling away from the particular obligation on that night. The possible impact of my chosen path kept me awake.
If history played out as predicted, they would find themselves together by nights’ end. The idea was challenging to grapple with. Having seen the scenario play out many times. He was always looking to make additions to his stable. My part was alongside him as the game began. During the early section of many evenings. As a face attempting to help him look like an honest guy. Never completely realizing the misguidance I was contributing to. Thinking of myself as holding myself back from objectifying women. When the reality was different. Me, helping contribute to the objectification, building up the one who objectifies, holding back the truth of how he will most likely act. It was finding me on the same level. This time had turned into something different, however. My views about her had been unique from the start. Failing to maintain any inkling of wanting him to succeed. It wasn’t about standing in the way of his desire. There remained fear over his actions if the goal wasn’t achieved. This situation found me telling the truth more than in the past. Departing the bar had caused an unsettled feeling. While the ride home only contributed to the awkwardness felt. Hopping out of his truck, the air was full of anticipation. Anticipating his next stop along the journey. Not able to register my communication over our plans for the following night. If things went the way he envisioned, there wouldn’t be a following evening. My place in the coming nights out would disappear. No matter how everything played itself out, something told me our friendship wouldn’t be the same.
For me, there was attraction to her. An attraction we both seemed to be experiencing. The major issue inside the circumstance were my emotions. The room to be interested in the same woman he was didn’t exist. He was going to have me remain in that sidekick position. Helping his agenda without paying much attention to mine. Though he played the great friend, encouraging my perusal of a relationship. Insinuating interest coming from her words during my absence. Playing the encouraging friend, wanting me to show more interest. His position on my intrigue would later be shown as part of his games. Mixing up a social cocktail for his enjoyment. Leading me to believe in some kind of potential. Only to find us all together on that night, one he seemed to be hoping for. Where my emotions could be squashed based on information he had given her. I had no friends and required his protection from being bullied. He was making a fool out of me for his own enjoyment. With the prediction of this situation working out just like the others. She was only being kind about my attention, before ultimately choosing him. Encouraging me to pursue, making his own victory taste that much sweeter. The social conquest and competition would be won again, he would never question it being in the bag. Sending me away onto the bench, while their relationship continued. Until the time came when his interest grew tiresome. Wanting a new social dynamic with a whole different female to conquer. Pulling me off the bench when our friendship might be helpful in meeting his goal. My place had become servitude of the monster. This circumstance starting to bring it all into frame.
Parts of my identity had gone missing. Folded into the fabric of my friendship with him. Wanting to believe at his core, there sat a good person. Even while watching him move from one lady to the next. My hope always having been for one of them to stick. Her comments toward me showed a dim glow on the inaccuracy of those thoughts. The attempt of tearing down your best friend doesn’t exemplify kindness. Not lending itself as the characteristic of someone looking for the right person. Instead, I had been engaged in a toxic game of exploitation. The game lasting for a period of unknown time. While the events of the evening brought my denial of his integrity to the forefront. It also elevated questions around my integrity. By involving myself with someone who treated people in this manner. Thinking, sometimes we don’t understand situations until they are turned on ourselves. The picture of my identity as his sidekick was slowly coming into focus. Even while feeling for years the sidekick idea was real, being allowed to happen, sometimes even enjoyed. When inside, I wasn’t understanding how much of myself the concept had taken over. Ushering me into a person who helped women fall into the grasp of this monstrous person. For one of the first times, it mattered. She had something that caused me to care about the game being played. I didn’t want her to become discarded like so many others. Something inside was in fluctuation. I didn’t want to contribute anymore. I wanted the piece of my identity back.
Everything was in a state of confusion walking through my front door. The evening, for me, had come to an end. The emotional confusion having just begun. Not normally one to stand up for myself. Often in agreement with things being said. Wanting to be accepted by the individuals I called friends. Without considering one would make negative statements about my personality. With the purpose of influencing the way someone thought of my identity. The questions swirled in my head over what to do next. Making nice with him didn’t appear a realistic avenue. The statements were a devastating blow to our relationship. A fracturing of trust that, at the moment, I didn’t want to repair. Did that fact make the friendship over, was my wonderment? If everything had gone to plan for the remainder of the night, it probably wouldn’t matter. He had plans of leaving the area, beginning work somewhere else. Though, it was suspected, she could convince him to stick around. Either way, I would be put out of his life. People didn’t usually stick up for themselves around him. Being in defiance of his goals and opinions normally meant being banished. I had to get ready for a couple of rocky months. There was no way of knowing where our friendship went from here. Assuming he had won the affections of the woman. While simultaneously, hurling me under the bus in pursuit of his goal.
I was surprised when my phone lit up the following night. Though, there was the possibility of him taking a night away. She did talk about laundry having to get done. He might actually be holding true to his commitment of meeting up with our buddy. It still struck me as a bit out of character. My surprise elevated when she came walking through the bar door. Immediately signaling him outside for a conversation. Without acknowledging my presence at the table. This could turn into a long evening, was my initial line of thinking. Instead of leaving me home and alone. Maybe they wanted to flaunt his victory in my face this time. We sat around the table for what felt like an hour, my back turned toward the door. With them on an exterior patio talking over a cigarette. As she reemerged from the evening spring air, her attention was directed toward me, greeting me with a hug, wondering about my day. The night would only advance in oddness from that point. He would get tripped up in a lie, surrounding the events of his day, before trailing her to the bar, fetching drinks. They returned in a heated discussion, as she snapped over the conversation continuing at the table. He wasn’t getting his way, seemingly hadn’t gotten his way, and things were changing. As her attention slanted my way throughout the night. It was challenging to make sense of the moments. My position as his sidekick was melting away inside the bar. Our friendship was slipping away as well.
She didn’t see me as his sidekick. There was more to my personality for her. She saw me as an option. The methods working before, manipulating women for him, weren’t going to stand up this time. She had seen through the masquerade. The transpiring events had me stopping in my tracks. Rethinking my value as a human being. Cerebral palsy wasn’t feeling like my definition. The world was shifting as she wanted my attention on her. Wanted to revisit our pictures taken the previous night. The photos originally taken to say goodbye, because she wanted me to have a memento. Now, she appeared to want the idea of goodbye erased from our minds. Leaving me with the decision to be made. Knowing it didn’t have to be made in that instant. While he also poked and prodded, attempting to sooth any indentation to our friendship. Attempting to recover from insinuations made less than 24-hours prior. Even if he could put the pieces back together. Possibly rearrange the way her and I were thinking of him. Recover from whatever may have transpired after dropping me at home. My thoughts around the interactions most likely wouldn’t fluctuate enough. When he played the game of reestablishment with me, throughout that second night, it wasn’t working. Not in the manner it had before, when little white lies could reverse my cognitive stream. I didn’t know who I was looking at anymore. When it came to him, or when it came to myself. After a manipulative plan doesn’t yield results, things often start to change.
Being perceived as an alternative to him felt awkwardly different. When for years, my desire was to be similar. To date the women he didn’t want, remaining out of his way, while still in his life. Knowing in the back of my mind, getting in the way of his game carried consequences. This situation was the first of me standing tall. Not allowing his manipulation to cast its threatening shadow. Refuting the fabrications designed to belittle me in the eyes of another. The stand meant accepting the possibility of backlash. The almost inevitability of a broken-down friendship. Raising myself out of his shadow would mean many things. It seemed pretty evident, he wasn’t interested in changing his behavior. The objectification of women had been working for long periods of time. Heartbreak would be the most overwhelming emotion in the months to follow. Starting to place into perspective the functionality of our relationship. Something in recent months, had begun changed my perspectives around my disability. Raising the self-worth being felt on a daily basis. She simply came into our lives at a crucial moment. Highlighting the dysfunction having been there forever. Along with the irrational perspective I had about myself and the friendship. There would be further bullying in the following weeks. Actions beyond my familiarity with the person I had known. Phone calls and random stops at my home. Obsessive behavior regarding my whereabouts, never appearing previously. Until one day, not long after those two nights transpired, he moved across the country. Our communication became spotty, until it basically disappeared.
We visited just one final time. Home for the holiday, seven months after he drove out of town. Meeting at the neighborhood bar where everything had transpired. We caught up with each other on the heels of our period apart. Though there wasn’t a whole lot to discuss. The few hours involved me often listening. Hearing of his adventurous stops along the southern part of the country. Stories similar to the times he had spent away from home on prior occasions. Not much appeared to have changed about the way he conducted his life. About the way, he looked at the female population. The conversation stalling at points, my views had changed over the months. Differences showing themselves as the conversation moved forward. I felt myself losing the desire to be seated on that barstool. Each time my eyes peered around in boredom, something reminded me of his star status inside the establishment. People coming up to say hi, wanting to chat him up. It began dawning on me, just how fooled he had everyone who surrounded him. Which, included me for the better half of twenty-five years. We finally paid our tabs, walking behind the bar to our cars parked in adjacent stalls. We planned on hanging out again during the holiday season. An idea seemingly as likely as snow in a summer desert. But, I did leave him with a parting suggestion. He owed her an apology for the hurt he may have caused. We drove our separate ways into the winter darkness. I haven’t seen him sense.
Our family departed for Hawaii three days after the fresh year began. My phone lit up by her, while enjoying the island life. Uncertain over how to respond, we agreed to lunch when I returned. With little doubt in my mind of his presence on the agenda. We met in a nearby city. Away from the friendly glow of the small town we both called home. As suspected when plans were made, he was on the agenda. First up after our orders were scribbled down for the chef. I learned his night was far from over when we drove in separate directions, away from the bar. He had circled back, seemingly to visit with her. With her arriving after we departed. However, there was no apology issued from him to her. Them having visited shortly. Ending without a goodbye, only pouting as he turned away, never receiving what he had come for. Tears welled up inside her eyes during the conversation. Everything continuing to arrive at its intended conclusion. Becoming clear that his only desire remained his personal wants. Seemingly using the information from me, in an attempt to manipulate results again with her. The visit left me feeling cold and betrayed all over again. That meal only reaffirming the emotions being felt around the relationship. My improved self-worth continued the journey of releasing me from that toxic friendship.
The ending of relationships often brings about sadness. Seemingly preceded by some kind of shocking event. For us, it came down to feelings of desperation over a female. One who didn’t want to participate in the game being played. While taking it further and confiding information in myself. The statements posed about my lack of friendships. Along with the allegation of his role in protecting me from bullies. He was tearing me down in the eyes of someone desired. Who might have been too interested in my company. With me also curious over getting to know her better. He couldn’t have things end with him missing out on the woman. Losing her affections to someone he saw himself as protecting. Protecting because I had a physical disability. Unlike women from the past, who chose him without hesitation. Agreeing with the sidekick role we had both contributed to placing me inside. She wasn’t going to take his word at face value. Instead, deciding to explore something he determined as being fact. Her exploration turned our friendship upside down, while causing me to reexamine myself. My self-worth began the slow climb from those moments. Helping me view myself as more than my disability. While also, prompting me to take a good look in the mirror. Working toward an end of many negative behaviors in my life. But first, the identity of his sidekick role for me had to be released. Followed by the ending of a toxic friendship. With those two steps eventually taken, my journey toward healing was given new life.