I tapped my pencil on the hard cover of So You Want to Stop Those Crippling Feelings of Loneliness by Making Friends: the Trilogy. With a nervous chance around the room, I shoved it under a pile of papers. Maybe I didn’t want to get in trouble with my boss for reading it on the job. Maybe I didn't want my colleagues to know I was struggling to make friends.
Yeah, that was probably it.
They’d probably be shocked. It’s not like I’ve ever had trouble holding up conversations at work. I’ve got plenty of work friends. But the minute I clock out those friends disappear. I want more than work friends. I want friends friends. Someone I truly trust and can share secrets with.
Yeah, that'd be the true sign we’re friends friends.
Unfortunately, all my hope in these people being potential friends friends diminished as soon as people started stealing my lunches and cooking fish in the microwave. *shivers*
I leaned back in my chair and pssted my desk neighbor, Cuts-You-Off Kelly. “Hey, Kelly, I wanna know—“
“How to make friends?”
This is why she has the nickname Cut-You-Off Kelly.
“... what the budget for the Bluefair project is. Why would you—“
“Ask you that? Because you do. That’s what that book is for isn’t it?”
I compulsively stacked more papers on top of it like the first ones were translucent.
“So what should I—“
“Do? Well, an introvert like you—“
“How do you know I’m an introvert?”
“Don’t interrupt me. It’s rude.”
I almost snapped my pencil in two. Cuts-You-Off Kelly continued, “And again, because that book. Only introverts or socially anxious people read something like that.”
And now, I was considering renaming Cuts-You-Off Kelly into Invades-Your-Personal-Business-And-Makes-Assumptions-About-You-Despite-Never-Having-More-Than-Five-Minute-Conversation-With-You Kelly.
Geez, I was out of breath just thinking about that nickname.
“So like I was saying,” Kelly said, “since you’re an introvert, your best bet to wait for an extrovert to find you, like you, and adopt you.”
“If that’s how it’s supposed to happen, why hasn’t it happened yet?”
Cuts-You-Off Kelly slid me a flyer for a 50% off latte at Corey’s Coffee Shop. “You just gotta know where to find them.”
So, I spent my next Saturday afternoon camped out in Corey’s Coffee Shop, slowly sipping my latte. I was beginning to see why it was 50% off. From the lonely corner of the shop, I kept my eyes down and tried to work up the nerve to talk to one of the several packs of friends.
I got close to doing it once. I even made it halfway across the shop when I lost the courage and derailed to the cashier. This time I got hot chocolate with a slice of chocolate cake. I needed a pick-me-up.
Just as I finished up the cake and finally started considering leaving like part of me had been screaming to do since the moment I walked in, the front door’s bell rang five times. I glanced up to see a new group of friends gossiping and giggling. I squinted my eyes at them. Something was different about them than anyone else in the coffee shop. Maybe it was the perfect hair. Or the matching manicures. Or the bottles of tequila in their hands.
Yeah, that was definitely it.
One of the girls stumbled over to the cashier. “Okay ladies~!” One of the girls slurred as she held her hands up. “Let’s sober up! Sofia!” She called out to the girl at the counter. “Get the drinks!”
Sofia nodded and ordered a bunch of coffees.
Meanwhile, I kept my head down and started to open random apps on my phone to pretend I was busy texting someone or something. The girls were unintentionally barricading the front door—and only exit—so I decided to wait it out. What’s that? Compass app? Sounds interesting.
Oh, and I got a level on my phone, too. How fun. I checked the table so you don’t have to. -30o off. You’re welcome, world.
Once the drunken noise died down, I decided it was safe to glance up. Sure enough, the pack of girls was gone. Well, except for one—and she was passed out in the chair in front of me.
Oh crap! What do I do? My breath quickened and surveyed the shop for any more of the group’s stranglers. None.
Frick frackin’ snick snack.
What do I do?
I bolted towards the front door and swung it open. Nope, they weren’t anywhere in sight.
I shook my sweaty hands out as I paced around the table. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?
Oh wait, I know. I can just wait here for her friends to realize she’s missing. That shouldn’t take too long.
Except it did and now the coffee shop was closing...
As the crowd thinned out, so did my composure. After everyone had left, the owner tapped me on my shoulder and told me that my friend and I had to leave. I tried to tell him I didn’t even know this unconscious girl, but he didn’t listen. Great.
Half an hour passed, he threatened to call the cops if we didn’t leave. Left without a choice, I picked up the girl, leaning on my shoulder and nearly crumbled under her weight. She may have been a foot smaller than me, but the gym and I were even less friendly than me and this girl. And again, she was unconscious.
The only place I had enough strength to drag her to was the Walmart across the street. I took shelter at the McDonalds inside and waited for her to wake up.
After twenty minutes passed—in addition to the extra hour I’ve already spent waiting in the coffee shop—I got impatient and asked the underpaid cashier to make sure she didn’t get robbed while I did some light shopping.
Personally, I didn’t need anything, but I figured based on how long she’s been asleep for, the mystery girl could probably use some ibuprofen for that wicked hangover she was gonna wake up with.
When I returned, it looked like she was slowly waking up. “Glad to see you’re awake,” I said as I plopped the shopping bag on the wobbly table.
“What—“ She grimaced and held her pounding head.
“Here,” I slid her a cup of water and the ibuprofen.
She muttered a thank you and took them. “So where am I?”
“The Walmart across from Corey’s Coffee Shop. Your friends left you there and they closed and I didn’t know where to bring you so I brought you here.”
“How long was I out for?”
“At least an hour and a half.”
“Yikes, they never noticed or came back?”
I shook my head.
With a sigh, she pulled out her phone and started deleting contacts. “Well, those are four ‘friends’ I’ll never see again. I need new ones.” She glanced at me and smiled. “Hey, wanna be friends?”
“Ah, I guess? But we don’t even know each other’s names?”
She stuck at her hand. “Mackenzie.”
I hesitated, then shook it. “Charlie. My pronouns are they/them.”
Without skipping a beat, Mackenzie added, “Mine are she/her. So, wanna go to this big party with me this weekend?”
“I—I don’t know. I’m not really good around big crowds.”
“Hmm. Oh, I know. How did this little get together with my sister is planning? It’s like ten people tops. Totally low key. I promise it’ll be fun.”
I cracked a small smile. “Sure.”
“Great. What’s your Insta? I’ll DM you the details.”
She tapped her phone a few times. “Just sent you a friend request.” Mackenzie peered at the wall’s clock. “Ah, I gotta go.” She blew me a kiss as she left. “I’ll see you there, new bestie!”
I sat there in shock for a few more minutes. I think I was just adopted by an extrovert. Smiling to myself, I thought, yay, I finally made a friend...
About half of the people at Mackenzie’s sister’s get together were family or family friends and they were… not what I expected to be to say the least.
To say the most, the event started with Mackenzie’s seventy-three-year old father doing a keg stand. Suddenly, passing out in a coffee shop didn’t seem too crazy anymore.
One second, I was closely following her around, the next I strayed to get an orange juice refill—I was probably the only one not getting drunk—and she was gone. I couldn’t find her anyway because there had grown to be way more than ‘ten people’ here.
I miserably drained on my juice dry and hid in the corner. Maybe I should just leave. Maybe we weren’t meant to be friends.
Wow, it hadn’t even taken three minutes for the doubts to settle in, when I thought I heard Mackenzie’s voice over the constant chatter of strangers. “What the hell, Lindy?!”
Woah, Mackenzie, why don’t you take a chill pill? Or even better—smoke one. I think I have some in my bathroom cabinet…”
“You’d said this would be low key. Where did all these people even come from?”
“Ugh. How are you handling this, Charlie?” Silence. “Oh my god where is Charlie?! Charlie?!”
“Woah, who are you screaming for?”
“Charlie. They said they can’t handle large crowds… I need to find them and make sure they’re okay. Charlie!”
I smiled and raised my hand up so she could find me. “I’m over here,” but my words were drowned out by everyone else.
Well, one person did seem to hear me. “You sure are, sweetheart.”
An older man in a tank top slowly approached me. Instantly, my fight or flight response kicked in just from the vibe of this guy. Eyes wide like a deer about to be I backed up into the wall. Frick frackin’ snick snack.
“Don’t you wanna dance with Uncle Finn, little lady?”
I gripped my empty cup and stepped onto the corner’s chair to get even further away from him.
“Charlie,” Mackenzie broke free from the crowd and rushed towards me. “There you are.”
She took one look at Uncle Finn, and motioned her arm she was gonna throw her drink at him, then paused and handed it to me. “You should do the honors…”
I stared at the drink, then glanced back at her. She gave me a smile and thumbs up. So, I shoved down the flight response and focused on the fight. I threw her drink in his face and climbed off the chair to her side.
“You wanna get out of here? I know big crowds aren’t your thing,” Mackenzie asked.
“Let’s go get drinks.”
“How about something non-alcoholic?”
“Milkshakes sound great.”
“So…” Mackenzie said, her first words since we left her sister’s disaster of a get together and got milkshakes at Benny’s Milkshake Barn where a cow with a tray strapped to his back actually delivers your milkshakes. I’ve ordered like three just to see the cow each time. He’s a cutie pie and I love milkshakes!
“That was a disaster.”
“Total disaster,” I agreed.
“I mean, if I had any idea Creepy Uncle Finn was gonna be there, I would have never brought you. No one deserves to be exposed to that.”
“Hey, at least you got me a drink to throw at him once you realized it. You really saved me from him.”
Mackenzie laughed. “Should have gotten you two. He earned that nickname for a reason.”
I laughed. “I know what you mean; there’s this girl at my work. Everyone calls her Cuts-You-Off Kelly because she—“
“Cuts you off?”
We laughed and ordered another round of milkshakes. Taking a swig of her frothy milkshake, Mackenzie said, “You know, for as chaotic as our time spent together so far has been, I’m glad we’re friends, Charlie. It feels like you won’t leave me stranded in a coffee shop. Like you’ll always throw drinks at creepy guys with me. Like I can truly trust you.”
“Mackenzie, can I tell you a secret?”