Almost fifty-two weeks

He blushed, realizing he's become as sappy as her.

"I wonder how many we are," he asked me. "Did that sound right?"

"I don't know," I answered. "But if it works for you, then it should."

They do appear somewhere. He told me that the last time we talked, and before he knew it, she came back. He was surprised, but pleasantly so. Not that he'll try to attach himself to her again - he didn't really like the feeling - but somehow, he was pleasantly surprised.

"I mean," he told me, "she told me she's... flying out. Yeah, that's what she said."

"Well, who knows?" I answered back. "People can be surprising that way."

I think it was sheer coincidence, but things somehow fell into place. With barely a hint of excitement, he welcomed her back, and she was expressing her thanks to the twenty people or so that did the same, too. He must've felt weird, seeing those twenty people. There went the answer to his question, right before his very eyes.

One day, he started talking to them. It must've been fun, I imagine. He was enjoying their company, and in the few times I have been there, they must've enjoyed his, too. Probably enough for him to, for once, not feel bad about attaching himself to her. I don't call it an attachment either. Finally, I thought, he had friends, and they had something in common.

He'd not stop telling me stories, either.

"You should join us," he told me. "It's really fun back there. Random, but..."

"Random?" I wondered. I had this uptight mindset. Anything random will not work.

"Random, yes," he replied. "But fun!"

At least he had someone else to tell his stories. He had a lot of stories, mostly about his pains in life - he's had lots of them, which makes him a lost soul, and one who badly needs something like this group of friends. He'd never tire of telling these stories, partly because whenever he tells them, people don't get it, and just leave. It seems they didn't leave. He was more than comfortable.

"Come on!" he asked me. "Join us!"

I finally got dragged into those meetings one night. There he was, not really being the center of attention - there she was, doing her thing, answering questions that she deemed fit to be answered, while the rest remain happy, or at least try to.

Before that meeting ended, he pulled me to one corner. He actually seemed uncomfortable.

"There are a lot of us," he said. "I think this won't work soon."

"What? But you're having fun," I said.

"Look at them," he answered. I turned to my left, and there there were. Twenty people talking to each other. "This thing will soon spew me out alive," he continued.

But he continued attending whenever he can, which was almost always. So many adventures, so many stories, so many things, and he kept a smile on. As much as possible, he kept a smile on. She and him, they were becoming close friends. In fact, he considers her a friend now. Gone was the feeling of him sticking out with someone who wouldn't possibly have the time to stay. I think he really was happy.

But what he feared would happen, did happen.

Those weeks, he was stressed. So many things have happened, but for some reason he managed to keep them in stride. "I can go there and tell my stories," he told me one time. "They will listen. I'm sure they will."

That night, he came home crying. "They didn't," he wept. "They actually don't like it!"

I couldn't really tell him anything. I can't put myself in his situation.

"They don't like it!" he insisted.

I waited for the one thing he'd say.

"She doesn't! She doesn't! She doesn't..."

And then he broke down.

Despite his frustration at how the world works, he somehow managed to go back, although infrequently. He couldn't take the stories, the way people treat other people, and the way they somehow started treating him. He came home with no tear in his eye, but an apparent longing to do so. "But I have to stay strong," he said. "That's what they've always told me."

"But what else can you do?" I answered. "They're making you cry. Those hypocrites."

"Actually," he answered, "I don't think it's going to be worth it. I think they don't care. I think she doesn't care, either."

"What exactly did you do? " I asked.

"I went out for a while," he said. "I didn't like the way things went. They were starting to be more obvious about it. I was slowly being moved to the side. They were moving me."

"They were moving you," I confirmed. "They?"

"Yes," he admitted. "And then she came and did the same."

I saw him with his mobile in one hand, texting people. His frown was more pronounced as the message tones became frequent. He didn't cry, but slowly, I felt he wanted to do something. That night, he left for the hang-out earlier than usual. Someone had picked him up.

He came home unable to decide what to feel. Angry, perhaps. Frustrated, sad, who knows?

"She doesn't like me anymore," he said. "I don't know. Someone said something. She thinks of me differently now. I think she's also pushing me to the side, while the rest... I guess it's time to go."

That morning, he started calling up the few who understood his predicament. I barely heard what he was saying, but what he wanted to do was surprisingly clear.

And your responses...

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