There is this one guy who goes to my school who is always surrounded by a gigantic group of people. He’s always the center of attention; telling jokes and stories, making all the ideas, and everyone around him just laughs and laughs.
I’ve always been intrigued by those kinds of people. I’ll stop and watch in amazement because they seem to make friends so easily. They are so confident and so sure of themselves, and they seem to bounce and bubble through the halls.
I’ve seen him talking to almost everyone in our school. It doesn’t matter the grade, age, or gender; he’ll talk to anyone, and everyone knows who he is. He’s talked to my group of friends as well, occasionally coming to talk to us during lunch, or stopping by in the mornings to tell a joke or two. During these occasions, I can’t help but watch him very carefully. To me, people who seem constantly happy are immediate sources of suspicion. I am simply doubtful of their incessant cheer, and good attitude. No one can be happy all the time… Where do all the other emotions disappear to?
He stared hanging out with my group more; showing up a lot more at lunch, and actually staying after school. He even walked me home once with a few other people. The more I observed, the more I started to get uncomfortable. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about him was undeniably off.
I’m not sure when I realized it, but I do know it was when he smiled. I remember us making eye contact, and his mouth lifted, cheeks rose, and the skin around his eyes crinkled like its supposed to. At that point, I still didn’t know what was wrong, but I felt like I was very close to discovering it.
It took a few more times before I realized it was all in his eyes. Or rather, there was nothing in them. I thought back to all the times I had seen him smile. I realize now that so many of them were fake. I don’t mean to say he never smiled or laughed for real, but the amount of times the smile didn’t reach his eyes was alarming. I kept this to myself. I didn’t say anything to anyone.
He started walking me home more. I wasn’t really sure why, but I let him because I figured, why not? It was kind of nice I suppose, and we didn’t ever run out of things to talk about. Mostly because I just listened most of the time. It was nice. Usually I panic because I can never think of things to say. He talks, I listen, it all works out.
This one day I was feeling particularly down, more down than I usually feel anyways. I ended up leaving school earlier than usual. He decided to come along, even though I had told my friends I would rather walk alone. I ended up telling him that it was okay, that he didn’t need to walk with me, that I would be alright on my own. He didn’t listen and said that he could tell I was upset, and that he wanted to help, and “You know you can trust me right?”
Here was a guy I didn’t talk to very much, and didn’t know much about. I just saw him as the guy everyone knew, and everyone liked because he was fun to be around. This was the guy I suddenly broke down in front of and sob-screamed at.
For some reason the sight of a mentally distressed human reduced to a puddle of tears didn’t scare him away. He still didn’t awkwardly back off even after I had dropped to the dirt covered ground.
After I had calmed down a bit he told me he wanted to try to make me happy. What does that even mean? I only kind of know the guy. I didn’t really say much, but I made it clear that me breaking down didn’t mean I trusted him…I was just really frustrated. It’s the same thing that happens when something terrible happens and you manage to pull yourself together, but when someone asks if you’re fine, you break into a thousand pieces.
He walked me the rest of the way home anyways, and gave me an awkward side hug. The main reason why I couldn’t see myself opening up to him, besides the fact I didn’t know him super well, is like I said before, because of the way he smiled.
But recently I randomly messaged him at 1 in the morning to see if he was still awake because I was feeling lonely. It was really a stab in the dark, because he is one of those crazy people who actually get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Amazingly, he was still awake. I won’t go into the details as to why, because it isn’t important. What was important, was he asked how I was doing, and he was still set on making me happy somehow. He brought up trusting him again.
Before I could decide against it, I told him that I couldn’t see myself trusting him because he didn’t seem sincere. He acted confused, and eventually I ended up telling him it was the way he smiled.
He seemed shocked and surprised, but also tried to act like he had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually he sort of opened up to me a bit, and said that it was difficult acting happy all the time. I was the first person who pointed out the way he smiled.
By 2 in the morning, he was talking about how he was “a man of many masks” because I had asked him about all the friends he had. He said that he just acts in a way that make people like him, and changes his personality based on who he is around. I mentioned that it might be better to me disliked, than loved for something you’re not. Doesn’t it get exhausting, pretending to be somebody else?
I asked him about his masks. I was curious, naturally, what he is actually like. He doesn’t want to show me, because he is afraid I wont like what I see. We keep talking, it gets to be about 3am.
Eventually he says, that keep him up late enough, and the mask starts to slip off. He reveals that really who he is is someone who is afraid of being disliked. He’s happy all the time at school, or at least it seems that way. But he doesn’t have any close friends. Never did. He feels lonely a lot, despite being surrounded by crowds of people.
He also says that he meditates a lot, and loves thinking about “deep shit”. He was kind of shy at first, which was very surprising to me, as it contradicted with everything I knew about him. Apparently he’s very philosophical, but never shows this side of him because he doesn’t want to be a bore. I tell him I want to listen, and the ensuing conversation is the most interesting one I have had in my entire life.
I ask him why he can’t be like this all the time. He tells me that people wouldn’t like it. I ask if he could at least keep the mask off around me. He tells me fine, but only for me. We stay up until its 4, and he is dead tired. He asks me to try out meditating, and challenges me to think about what happiness is. He tells me that he has thought of this a long time ago, and is interested to hear what I have to say. He is currently trying to figure out if luck exists, and if it does, what it is. Then, we say goodnight.
I am not tired. The more I stay awake, the more awake I become. I lie in bed, and think about our conversations. I realize I trust him a lot more, and I learned so much about a person and had my conceptions about him completely turned around. It’s weird to think that such a seemingly happy guy with what seems like oodles of friends is actually sad on the inside a lot, and gets lonely.
I do not sleep that night and end up dead by the end of the day. I am still thinking about what happiness is. So far, I’ve got that happiness is the opposite of sadness. However, happiness is not the absence of sadness. I’m a bit stuck after that…but I will keep on thinking.