The Friend Zone
(Twilight Zone music: Di-di-di-di-di-di-di-di, di-di-di-di-di-di-di) You unlock this terror with the key of romance. Beyond it is another dimension; a dimension of joy, a dimension of laughter, a dimension of happy devotion. You’re moving into a land of both substantive beauty and childlike wonder; But then your hope is turned to fear as the relationship rug is pulled out from under you and you realize that the feeling you’ve just crossed over into, resides in…The Friend Zone. (buhd-oo-bud-up!)
Written By: Terry Allen Cummings on 02/09/20
With elements of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’
Brought to you by: Cous’n Cummin’s Entertainment
Featuring: The Ghost of Rod Serling
I’m Feeling: https: https://open.spotify.com/track/6gRACp2CvsIhc7hyw8CecQ
Episode 20: Nevermore
Ghost of Rod Serling: What you are about to witness is a nightmare. It is not meant to be prophetic and it need not happen. But in this place, at this moment it does happen to one Terry Cummings. This is the fervent and urgent prayer of all men who seek to be ignorant of isolation. A confrontation with one’s self. A balancing act that can tip the future into either direction. This is not an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, or a fragment of underdone potato, as Dickens eloquently dismissed a similar portence so long ago. This vision is flesh and blood and occurred right here….in the Friend Zone.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary….
A few weeks ago, on a wind-hewn and thunderous Friday night, I was bargaining with my computer screen while reviewing potential pairings on Match.com. In my living room, I looked over the buffet table of, most likely, incompatible prospects and came up with self-made excuses relating to their value or lack of value, as potential mates. Internet dating is sadly unrealistic in allowing hope to flourish, and I find its numbing properties as harmful to love as chronic masturbating is desensitizing to physical intimacy; both roads I travel far too often these days. As I contemplated the degree to which I was comfortable spending my future alone, there came a knock upon my door; only this, and nothing more.
My hound dog Blue, previously asleep on the couch next to me, raised herself and began baying. It was not a howl of rage or protection…but of foreboding. Terry, her call bellowed, a stranger arrives; and he brings sour notes to call. She stopped when my calming hand stroked her neck and thunder crashed in the sky above as if seeking to end Blue’s warning with an exclamation point. The wind took up where the intuitive hound left off and howled as its fury grew; entering my apartment uninvited, it blew open the living room windows and billowed the curtains high but slow, as if it were the frightening and methodical enforcer of my uninvited guest. It brought with it the copper smell of coming rain. The lights flickered and the knocking continued, as if in rhythm with the forces of nature that were being played out. I guardedly approached the door and my potentially sinister caller; nameless here, for evermore.
Anticipation and curiosity wrapped themselves around my spine and brought caution to my approach. Mixed with the chill night air that carried with it epic notes of the coming storm, goose pimples formed on the back of my arms. Who could this be I inquired to myself? I was expecting no guest; I wasn’t currently seeing a woman so this could not be that. Could this be an ex? Doubtful; all bridges have been successfully burnt. I am the “Bridge over the River Kwai” of former relationships. Potential is something sought of one’s future, not something to be discovered in one’s past. This must be a mistake knocking on my door; only this, and nothing more.
Darkness. The lights cast by my open door reached out a few feet, grasping at nothing. Darkness and ferocity lay beyond. The heavy wind rustled in the trees and the copper smell in the air brought to mind the taste of blood. I strained to look out into the black night, when thunder crashed and a bolt of lightning, off in the distance illuminated he who was entreating entrance into my home. It was my future and in an instant I knew that my soul was forfeit. Darkness there, for evermore.
He stepped into the light cast from my room. His hair was long and disheveled, greasy and matted. He wore a dirty black coat and torn jeans. Of the few teeth left to him, his smile revealed them to be black and crooked from lack of care. Though his face offered friendly greeting, his eyes betrayed that intent with silent rage, blameful remorse and bitter resentment. Isolation dripped from him as if he owned no umbrella to protect him from the downpour of loneliness. My future was bleak. Merely this, and nothing more.
I invited him in, as one cannot hide from the future, though I continuously try to manufacture ways to defeat it. The future is not ever set, though neither is the potential to change its occurrence. This visit is meant to be a reminder of that fact, my future told me as he sat upon my couch and asked for a beer. His cocky demeanor and familiar narrative immediately brought realization of my own behaviors as I started drawing paths in my mind to the destination that would lead me to look upon my younger self with such arrogance and revelatory inequity on this Moorish night. A wailing grew in my head; a metaphor or a troubled condition of my circumstance? Tis the wind, and nothing more!
My future told me of all that went unaccomplished in his past fifteen years. He bragged of his misfortune and crowed of his bad choices. He told me of calamity as if trying to convince me, rather than warn me. If anger and complacence fueled this vision of me, then conformity and blame was the road on which it drove. My future was not good, and neither was the man of its cloth. Complacent in his rut, fear was not a concern as he had long since lost the desire to grow and change. Change of any kind and growth from that change are the only precursors to fear. Mastering fear is what brings change and growth, and in that way life and its potential are cyclical. Potential was seen with trepidation to my future, as he was running a straight line to nothing. He was happy in his study of ignorance, this me, and glowed at his self-made inequity, worn like a badge of courage on his breast. When he was done, he took a long draw from his beer bottle and smiled at me, in fresh conceit from my couch. Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Condescendingly, my future awaited a response, as if this were a contest with the devil, with words instead of fiddles. He dared me to rebuke his sadness, to censure his hardships, to criticize his choices; what right have I, who am him, to cast blame on choices made by us? And for a moment, he had me. My future held me in his palm and gently stroked my back. I was in his thrall and ready to give in to his mastery over me. It is so easy to give up, to live a life devoted to nothing, a presence felt by no one; to haunt rather than to live. Not a friend to my friends, not a lover to my lovers, the son of no man, and loved by no woman. This was the message delivered by my future, as a raven bringing ill tidings on a dark and stormy night. “Is there no hope?” I asked of my future. “Is there no room? Have you no desire to put upon me the responsibility of bringing about a contented end to our story, rather than the framed turd that you present?” Quoth the raven…”Nevermore.”
My future held out his hand as he stood up. He beckoned me to follow him and was satisfied in my defeat. For the first time since he arrived, he lost his smile and a blank look of disinterest hollowed his face; indifference…apathy. Insouciance stared back at me from mine own eyes and surrender turned to rage in my heart. This was not the ire which could potentially lead to this version of me, but the prideful resentment of perceived insignificance brought on by provoked triviality. His quote belied his intent and spoke of his true name. “Fuck you” I told my future. With such name as “Nevermore.”
I pressed him, and he continued to retreat. “Fuck you!” I said again, and he recoiled as if struck a physical blow. “I will not be cowed to the irrelevance you represent. You are the cold that lies in wait just outside the reach of a warm hearth. You are the dream forgotten upon waking in the sun’s embrace, you are piss in the rain, you are shit on the bottom of my shoe and I control where you are wiped. Nothing you are is me, and I will not be so easily misrepresented by your ineptitude, nor dismissed by your look of irrelevance. I am the lord God of your existence; fuck with me and suffer my wrath. I own you because I am you and although you may exist on some plane, I choose to ignore YOUR significance. You are as nothing. You’re a wingless bird without the potential for flight. That is YOUR future, not mine. Will you ever darken my doorstep again?” Then the bird said: “Nevermore!”
I shut the door to this apparition, closed the windows to his acolyte, and barred his thought from my mind. Blue curled up next to me on the couch and I returned to my search, sparse and fraught with rejection and pain to come, as it may be. No matter; this search is mine and I will not go gently from it. I endeavor to succeed in all things and as unrealistic as that goal may be, I stand solid upon that platform. I’ll take each win and each loss as it may come, but I will not relinquish my iron grip on the present, in order that I may have a free hand to grasp, flailingly at the future. Unlike my guest, I am neither a good man nor a bad man. I am just a man with the potential for either outcome. I don’t know where the future will lead me as I endeavor to be a better man, but I know where it will lead if I stop; so I will continue that I may never answer the door to such absurdity again. Of ‘Never….Nevermore’.