September 17th, 2019, 11:09 PM
So Andrew and I had a talk.
I remember when I never had these kinds of monumental conversations. None of what I said—or what my friends said—none of it had lasting consequences. It was just life, and I kept going. I didn’t have to put up a second blog post within five hours because a few paltry words changed everything. I didn’t have to rely on internet strangers, if they’re even there, just because I didn’t have anyone left to talk to.
But that’s how it is, and that’s how it’s apparently going to be.
It was only about a half-hour after I put up the last post that Andrew knocked on my door. He was holding a four-pack of my favorite beer—a bourbon-aged stout so high-gravity that light can’t escape it—so I knew it was going to be serious. He was all smiles at first, but eventually he figured out that I saw right through the charade. We didn’t even open any of the bottles before we started getting into it, before we talked about Renee and my impending breakup.
Names were thrown around—mostly in my direction—and I couldn’t exactly argue against him. I just sat on my couch and took it as he said I was being an idiot, that I was losing perspective, all that stuff I know is mostly true. If I had come at him another way, if I had gone on and on about what I’d seen from the House of Orphans and Catalytics, he would have just treated me as a crazy person with an extra dose of hostility because I’d need to “snap out of it.”
But while he was going off about my responsibilities, my real life, the people who cared about me… I couldn’t even look him in the eye. Andrew was right; I was giving away almost everything for a silly, little number and I had lost focus on what should matter to me. He just didn’t realize—and I couldn’t tell him—that I was willing to give it all up. I couldn’t say anything like that after he had just come over with expensive beer, especially at the request of a girlfriend who still wanted to be with me despite all my faults.
So I just sat there and looked at the ground, nodding whenever he made a point.
Immediately he was skeptical. He’s known me far too long to think that I’d give up so easily, or that I’d sit there and take that punishment unless I thought I deserved it, if I didn’t already feel guilty about something he didn’t realize. So he started going into investigator mode. Picked up things from my cluttered coffee table, looked through the fridge and through my mail or my trash to see if I had been doing anything crazy like taking drugs or drinking too much.
Even though I knew what he was doing, he was actually pretty subtle about it. Joked around with me once his tirade was over, tried to make conversation about the nerdy stuff we love. Well, that we loved; it’s hard for me to care anymore. Until he logged onto my computer as an attempt to “find a video for me,” which was obviously a way to look at my browser’s history, he was actually pretty good about hiding his efforts.
I could see it on his face once he realized that I had been researching the House and Catalytics. I had been to a few sites and read a bunch of articles, so it wasn’t something I could really hide, had even thought to hide. Andrew’s eye twitched once he found the results, though he didn’t look at any of them. He just filed it away before loading up the video he had promised, which was, honestly, pretty entertaining. If I wasn’t being interrogated by my best friend as my girlfriend was threatening to break up with me, I probably would have enjoyed it.
However, it was only a matter of time before he found the corkboard. It takes up almost an entire wall in my garage, so it’s not exactly like I could hide it. As soon as he said he needed to go to the bathroom, I knew he would look there. I couldn’t tell him that he couldn’t pee; I couldn’t tell him that I was uncomfortable with him looking around like that, so I just told him he could go and waited for him to come back. As he was just about to find everything, I just buried my head in my hands and felt the dread consume me.
He didn’t come back. He yelled at me to come to the garage instead.
I had been prepared for that; of course I didn’t expect him to see it, prop up his chin and nod at what I found. Before he even “went to the bathroom,” I was already trying to figure out what I was going to say to him. That all this mattered? It was the only argument I had—that this was real—and I knew there was no way that Andrew would believe that for a second. It didn’t matter what connections I had found, or how many 616s I had seen since we had last spoken. All he would see is his best friend going nuts and destroying his life in the process.
So when I got to the garage and he started yelling at me for going nuts and destroying my life in the process, I was ready.
Which is to say that I was ready to shrug and take the abuse. I gave a half-hearted attempt to try to convince him, to tell him that this was what mattered to me, what my life purpose was supposed to be, how all he needed to do is read my last post or just look at all the connections. I made the argument that all he had to do was listen to what I had to say and then he’d see how crazy it was, how it couldn’t all be a coincidence.
His counterargument was to tear down my spiderweb of red lines and huff at me.
Luckily I hadn’t gotten too far into the process or I would have been really upset with him. If that had been months of work and research and newspaper clippings, I probably would have slugged him right there, but as it stood, it was only a couple hours of work. I was willing to see it temporarily destroyed since my friend was being so emotional.
God, “my friend…” like I’m not emotional or anything these days. His outburst was nothing compared to what I’ve been doing or going through.
He actually tried to salvage it. The night, not the corkboard. After he stared at me for a few seconds—watched me just looking down at the red strings he’d thrown onto the floor—he suggested that we go somewhere, do something. There was a new movie about the AI singularity that had just come out and a few months ago we had been excited to see it.
Obviously I wasn’t too concerned anymore, but I thought that I could at least try. I probably wouldn’t be able to save my relationship with Renee, but I didn’t have to necessarily lose my best friend.
We went to the movie, and the entire time in the car Andrew was trying to tell me that this was good for me. How this would be the first step in my recovery, how I could stop being so crazy and I could get back to my old life before I started to fuck everything up. It sounded like a sermon straight from the pulpit, even though it was from the driver’s seat of a banged-up Volvo. I made the appropriate noises whenever he paused in his monologue, nodded when I needed to, but I wasn’t much for conversation. I think Andrew just wanted to hear himself talk, needed me to stay quiet just because anything out of my mouth would be pure crazy.
The movie was alright, but it was very predictable in a Terminator sort of way. Humanity won, the machines were destroyed, and all just in time for the guy to get the girl. It wasn’t the singularity movie we were promised, that’s for sure. It was supposed to be this high-minded discussion about what would actually happen, but it turned into a schlocky action movie by the third act. Andrew liked it, but he just happens to enjoy things blowing up or electricity going haywire.
A few months ago, I would have at least thought it was a fun time.
After the movie, Andrew was all smiley and chummy; in the mindset that I wasn’t going to fight him on the 616 angle. Apparently he thought that he could change my entire perspective and bring me back from the edge just by tearing down some red string and giving me a pep talk. I resented it, honestly, even though I knew he was just trying to help. To think that he had overcome my life purpose just with a few words, I don’t know… it made me feel like he didn’t respect me. Made it seem like what I hold to be true and important—what I believe in, what matters to me in my core—it made it seem like none of that was worth a damn. That I’m just silly, with silly little notions, with flights of fancy and obsessions that can be thrown away just because they’re inconvenient.
So I was not in the greatest mood when he put his arm around my shoulders and guided me over to the burger place next to the movie theater.
I mean, I needed to eat, but I would have been just as satisfied with getting some shitty fast food on the way back, or just ordering a pizza once Andrew was done trying to convince me that I’m wrong about everything and left me alone. Sitting down at a crowded restaurant to order mediocre food wasn’t too exciting, though Andrew was sure to order us alcohol and appetizers to make it flashier.
You guys already know where this is going. I saw another 616.
It wasn’t even hidden this time! When the server brought over our potato skins, the ticket was still clinging to the grease on the bottom of the plate. She apologized, grabbed it before she left, but that didn’t stop Andrew or I from seeing the ticket number which was a big, bold, red 616. We smiled and laughed with the server, waited til she left before each picking up a potato skin—eating them and consequently burning the roofs of our mouths—and we even tried to make small talk about some video game in development. It was a couple minutes before Andrew shook his head and smiled at me, then did something stupid which ruined dinner.
He said, “Proud of you for that. There was a 616 and everything and I know you noticed. Good for you for getting past this whole thing and giving it up.”
It was the wrong fucking thing to say, that’s for certain. Because even though I had nodded to him all night, surrendered all night, I had never, ever said I was giving it up. You guys already know I wouldn’t. The only reason there was any hesitation at all before my reply was that there was a scalding piece of potato, cheese and bacon still on my tongue. Once I swallowed, I knew that the man-date was over. Even wiped my greasy hands on my napkin since I knew where the conversation was heading.
I told him that I wasn’t giving it up. It shocked him; I could see it all falling apart behind his wavering stare. I don’t think he even considered that he had failed, that there was any possibility that I wouldn’t listen to him and that I’d be willing to give up Renee. I think that after all this time there was a part of me that he didn’t know, and I think it scared him. I think that that’s the reason he reacted the way he did; instinctually, almost primal in the way that people fear what they don’t understand. Because it was clear that this aspect of me—the one that’s driven by a set of three numbers—that he doesn’t understand it at all.
So, in the first time in the history of our long-standing friendship, Andrew and I started screaming at each other in a crowded restaurant.
He was the people’s champion, of course; it was never in doubt. He rattled off the same exact reasons as before, talking about how I’m crazy, how it’s absurd that I can even entertain the notion of losing everything that’s dear to me just to chase conspiracy theories. Even brought up my parents at one point, talking about how they would be ashamed to know how far I had fallen, how I had started to waste my life in the pursuit of nonsense.
And that’s when all the resentment I had been feeling boiled over.
See, with every interaction I’ve had with Renee, with Andrew, with even my boss, I had always taken the position of an unwilling spectator. Before dinner, I was just a guy who was convinced that a number was following him, a victim, and I always said that I didn’t want to lose my friends or hurt the people I love.
But when he said that? When he said that my parents would be ashamed, it just snapped for me. Instead of apologizing for my actions, all I wanted to do was defend them. The numbers are there—I know they are, I see them—I point them out to Renee and Andrew when they’re around so they can see that I’m not crazy, but then they go and think I’m crazy anyway. When I try to make sense of it, they don’t help me, they don’t watch over me or anything; they just put it down as craziness, they put me down as crazy and absurd and foolish and that just isn’t what this is anymore!
I didn’t need to apologize, or give excuses or defend myself; I didn’t need to give up something that matters to me. They should have been apologizing to me, giving me the chance to explain myself, to see what I’m seeing, to keep an open mind. They’ve known me forever—they’ve seen me change into the person I’ve become—and that doesn’t just happen naturally. You don’t go crazy without a reason, without some underlying cause, and I know for a fucking fact that my brain chemistry hasn’t been tampered with. I haven’t done any drugs, I haven’t been reading crazy stuff, I haven’t been going to a cult like the House, I haven’t done shit but just observe when a number shows up in my life.
And it shows up in my life! It’s there, and now that I’m starting to see things, now that things are coming to light, I can’t even argue the other side anymore! You can’t get glimpses of the future from nowhere; you can’t get dreams after twenty years just because; something has to happen. 616 happened, is happening, and I’m only just starting to scratch the surface. I’m only just figuring out why the number is following me, where the clues are leading, and I’m already seeing results.
Those connections to Catalytics would be enough, honestly! If all I accomplish is to expose Catalytics for being responsible for Escape, why isn’t that enough? If that’s the only thing I get out of 616, that’s already more than I would have ever done as an accountant in white fucking suburbia. If they just kept an open mind, then maybe I wouldn’t be screaming at him in a restaurant and trying to convince him to just leave it alone.
But of course, when I said that kind of thing in a crowded restaurant, I was the one who looked crazy and unreasonable.
We left—we kinda had to after Andrew threw his drink at me and glass shattered in the middle of the dining room—and that car ride home was tense. I was going to just call a cab, but Andrew insisted; said that he owed me a ride, at the least. For a long time, I thought he was going to bring me over to my parents’ house for an intervention, or skip the whole thing and go to a mental institution, but he just drove in silence until he pulled into my driveway. When I was getting out of the car, I paused at the door, leaned down, tried to say something to make it better.
Once he made eye contact, though, I knew I should just keep quiet. He was fucking angry, and I knew that another second with me was going to cause an actual fistfight. So, instead of dismantling my friendship completely, I just stood back up and closed the door. I hadn’t even backed away before he put the car into reverse and then screeched back onto the street. The Volvo almost spun out he hit the gas so hard, and if anybody from my neighborhood had seen him, they probably would have complained about the reckless driving of my friends.
But it was ten o’clock, and no one was there to see him leave except me.
I haven’t lost him. Not like Renee. It’s only a couple more days before the ultimatum will take effect for her, but Andrew would never do something like that. He’s pissed now—probably wants to beat me up and scream at me for losing a girl like Renee when he’s been alone all this time—but we’re still going to be friends in the morning. We just won’t talk for a few days.
So yeah, that’s why two posts in a day, today. One for the conspiracy; one for my life falling apart. You can just compare and contrast the two, now. I’m upset, too, and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I broke into that four-pack and started listening to heavy metal. But I have no reason to lie to you, internet diary. I’m drunk off my ass right now and looking up more connections to Catalytics.
After what happened tonight, that’s just all I want to do.
END OF ENTRY
Oof, a fight between friends is always messy. See what Ray's parents think about all this on Sept. 22nd!