11: Limit Break

“I like to remind myself where I came from. It helps me see where to go.” – Eve, Spice and Wolf

I saw Ramona again, and that doesn’t matter to me anymore.

That’s the highly condensed version. From a certain point of view, that’s all that really matters, but you wouldn’t have gotten this far if you just wanted a tl;dr of my life. Hell, with the number of people actually reading this, most of you probably could have gotten that from Facebook. As always (Roxanne excluded), there’s a story to tell, and, as it tends to be, that’s what makes this whole thing interesting. Besides, while this time there’s no breakdown to break down, it’d be a waste if I didn’t take this apart like all the others. After all, that’s how I’ve gotten this far in the first place.

I met a girl named Julie at a club that was running an industrial night. My roommate, Jason, had been trying to get me out to one of these for the last year and a half or so – actually since the calamity that kicked me down this path in the first place. Apparently, in that time, two things happened: Ramona started showing up there (and disappeared from raves, evidently), and these events started popping up within walking distance of my apartment, in that order. In fact, the last time I saw her (not long after I wrote about unfortunate run-ins) prior to any of this was while I was walking home. (To the best of my knowledge, she still doesn’t know that she’s been frequenting the part of town where I live. That is, unless Julie told her that along with everything else.) Around that point, I went from not wanting to trek halfway across town to just avoiding the invites because Mean Look is super-effective, until another one started up during the school year, on a weekday, at which point I’d run out of reasons to be worry about the venue’s random encounter rate.

As it happened, Jason was right, and the night in question was a lot of fun. And I’d met some interesting people on top of it. Julie, for one, was someone who, like myself, plays bass. And sings. And writes. She even fangirls over anime just as much as I do (going so far as to simultaneously wtf at my being the only Char Aznable at a mech-themed anime convention). As I found out after talking about the various things we each write, she knows Ramona. But even so, she didn’t seem to hold that against me – at first, at least. I went back to this nightclub a couple of weeks later (thinking that there was still some time before I had any reason for concern) and ended up seeing her there. Still, this was pretty anticlimactic – both avoiding eye contact, mostly, but no actual drama to speak of. In fact, it was good. I saw a girl that had nearly given me a panic attack the prior summer – one of two people to lead me to a breakdown (the other being Emma), or to looking a bit strangely at trains (the other being Yuki) – and my world continued spinning. I reached the conclusion that night that I was actually content to just ignore each other – something I couldn’t have done a year ago. I came out one more time (I had an idea what I was getting into this time, but on the 10th anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins fear simply had no place in my night) only to find her being a lot more active about how much of a plague I was. She was pointing me out to friends (I mean literally pointing), telling everyone she knew, both in person and on the Internet, about “a harmful person from her past” (which I found out after the fact), and generally ensuring that most of these people would be too apprehensive to continue speaking to me. What’s more, after this Julie showed her this very site – you know, the thing where I’ve been obsessively talking about getting better, and have focused that across tales involving a number of different people. From the ensuing messages, I’m pretty sure she didn’t get far enough to see those other parts. (Or the parts where the writing itself gets better, sadly. I’ve admittedly gotten less satisfied with the quality of existing entries as I’ve gotten better at this, and I do wish I’d had the chance to revise some of these before that…) Then she sent me the only piece of hate mail I’ve ever received for this, basically threatening me if I ever talk to/about her again (at the same time, telling me she’d done that exact thing), and calling it crazy that I would dare consider the idea of having the same friends as her, when they know full well what I did. Never mind that some of them know how screwed up I am (or, more accurately, was) because I told them.

My outlook on friends has changed a lot in the last year and a half, and this came into play with how things happened here. I used to think that if people saw what I was really like, they’d leave me alone just as others have. (I mostly have people like Roxanne and my friends in Laughing Flask to thank for proving otherwise. The latter is yet another story for another time.) Since starting on this path, though, I’ve come to an opposing conclusion: friends are, by definition, people you can be open with and know that they’ll still be there. Barring a semester I spent trapped on an island, by this definition I’ve had maybe one or two at any given time, until recently. Looking at things this way has pushed me a lot more toward transparency as I get to know people, which is a large part of what influenced my interactions with Julie. To have people around that are friends with me and not just some version of myself that I show people, I can’t be holding back so much of myself to begin with. After all, a constructed image of a person is a lot easier to shatter than an actual person is. (Never mind that, at separate points, Ramona’s done both.) Maybe that’s my general lack of moderation showing up again, but it’s still better than where I started. I’ve come to realize recently – in part because of this – that I don’t have nearly as many secrets as I used to. This also comes into play with the other piece I factored into this approach – knowing that if I ever came back (which I did) and Ramona noticed (which she did) she’d make sure all of it came out anyway. (Which it did. Note the irony here: the same person who expects that I never speak of her again, and thinks I’ll talk of her as someone who damaged me has no problem with talking about me to everyone she knows.) A little honestly about that allows for some separation between what I am and what I was, no matter how much they may be presented as one in the same, by someone who fails to distinguish the difference. At the very least, one of the people I met this way is still speaking to me, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Ramona is convinced that I’m going to ramble to my friends, or her friends, or the Internet about how I fucked up. I wouldn’t go that far. I will say that I fell short. See, as I’ve stated before, I’ve made peace with the idea that I’ll probably always have some kind of obsession, constructive or otherwise. My obsession used to be people. Now it’s progress, especially from things like this. Of course, being the worst I’ve shown myself to be capable of, it makes someone like Ramona (and the events involving her) into a point of reference – something of a “before” picture – even if I disregard her as much as she wishes. (To be fair, I’ve tried the “literally forgetting she exists” thing with Yuki, and memory simply doesn’t work like that.) I’m not rehashing; I’m measuring. Sort of like Homura Akemi, every interaction I’ve had since that event has been a series of incremental variations, myself being the variable even in events that have played out similarly. Still, it’s entirely possible that the way I described this to Julie made Ramona the center rather than the context. (Especially since a separate Homura metaphor – about the worst of human emotions – came up with her. Apologies for any possible spoilers here.) I can’t say for sure, but it’s not something I can rule out. This, incidentally, is actually something I’ve discussed with other people, about other (unrelated) entries: if I’ve made the subject of a story out to be the point, I’ve failed somewhere. The aim here has never been about the burned bridges, but rather the patterns behind them – about identifying the version of me that would do the things Ramona herself rehashes, and slowly kill it.

She’s also convinced that my rambling will be about how damaging she is, or something. I admittedly wouldn’t be the first person to call her a life-ruiner, if I were doing so, but I’m not. More so, even if I were, that’s really not the point. She might have been a bit more vicious than most of the people I’ve had catastrophes with, but I wouldn’t call her the worst, by any means. (That’d probably be Yuki, actually.) The reason she tends to take front and center so much is because she – or, rather, the initial series of events involving her – is my worst. Essentially the whole thing is a sort of “How I Hit Rock Bottom,” with that point serving as context for my efforts to move forward. (This is important, people. Repeat after me: Ramona is context.) The tales of Emma, of Yuki, etc. call forward to this because they’re part of what shaped how I ended up that way. The ones of Caitlin, Kim, etc. show how I’ve been rebuilding myself into a functional human being since, and how I’m no longer what people like her say I am. That tale becomes a point of reference in how I tell the rest of them, but in the end it’s about the path and not any one point on it. If anything, the way I’d describe her effect on me, personally, is the way I’d describe Jenga. Yes, I had a breakdown, and yes, that began my obsession with what influences the way I’ve acted with people, but it would’ve never happened without a number of predecessors who had taken out various pieces first. This is a large part of the point I’ve been trying to make from the beginning: people’s actions, and the thought processes that influence them, do not exist in a vacuum. Anyone can just tell you that “your emotional fuckery is your own,” but statements like these also won’t solve anything. Your actions are your own doing, but the person behind those actions exists because of a wide range of experiences that begin well before any of us have something resembling agency. The possibility that you or I might be a bit twisted may be on us to deal with, but that in no way equates to being at fault – much less being less of a person – for ending up that way. Responsibilty is not blame.

I’m starting to get why the sight of her would cut into me so much. Or the sight of Emma, or Caitlin, or anyone else like this for that matter. Seeing someone who cuts off contact inevitably leads to feeling ignored, and feeling ignored is tantamount to feeling alone. That power isn’t inherent; it’s transitive. Even since Yuki I’ve been terrified of what each of them has come to represent, far more than their individual beings. And while the former’s newfound irrelevance is sort of the center of this tale, I have to wonder how it affects other chains of events. I haven’t seen Emma, for example, in about two or three years – well before this even started. Yet, every time I go home there’s a certain question in the back of my mind of what would happen if I did. (Not that I like going home much to begin with. There’s something suffocating about being in the middle of nowhere. But the anxiety in that question always added another layer.) Much like how I’ve started actually working around obsession, understanding how these feelings work is a much more efficient way of dealing with them than brute-forcing them would have been.

Amusingly, she’s as content to simply ignore each other as I am. (Or has been, anyway. See what happens if she’s still reading any of this, I guess. We’ll set aside for now the irony of how that in itself would involve a bit of stalking.) Now, I’m even more so. Despite watching my own personal nightmare scenario unfold, I feel fantastic, and I’m still alive. The last time I saw her, I went about my own night so thoroughly that I literally didn’t notice her leave. Even if only in a racing-my-own-ghost context, I’m pretty sure that means I won. (I’m more ashamed for referencing Mario Kart than I am about anything else on this site.) At first, I’d thought of her as being like my own personal Ruby Weapon – a boss that was entirely optional, well beyond my level, and overwhelmingly deadly even when I have put some time and effort into psychological level-grinding. By the last time I had a story to tell that involved her, she’d begun to remind me of Ultros, or Seymour Guado – a recurring boss that shows up at inopportune moments and is always an unpleasant experience. Now I see her sort of like The End – the kind of boss that you can beat by (literally) ignoring it until it (figuratively) dies.

There’s an odd feedback loop behind the whole thing, in which even as points of measurement, they all bear their own lessons. As much as I hate admitting it, these kinds of things don’t just measure progress; they drive it, if only by making it clear where I need to end up next. When she first stopped talking to me I realized I had a problem that went deeper than just what I was doing. When word-vomit ensued a year later I realized what that problem was. When I ran into her at a show a year ago I started to realize what exactly I defined as being “better.” And now I’ve realized, I… actually sort of am. I still run into her from time to time (again, almost always in the part of town where I live) and don’t care. Even continuing this is a sign of that, much like why I still go out to club nights, as she simply doesn’t factor into any decision I make. That’s easily the best definition I have for being past something. But now I’m left with a new question: where exactly do I go from here? I have vague ideas, each with questions of their own that I don’t have answers to – continue disassembling fear, learn to actually foster obsession (toward selective goals, such as a language or fitness), build this into something that can truly be of use to people other than me. But much like when I first realized I had a problem, I’m not really sure how to go about doing any of those things. I suppose it’s because they’re too abstract. So for now, I’m sort of stuck, and that feeling bothers me more than Ramona ever will.

“It’s not a loop. It’s the end of the line.” – Tony Stark, Avengers: Age of Ultron

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