Niko the friendless

The antibiotics I was taking meant I cannot drink alcohol, and frankly, it isn't really much of a challenge, because I'm not the guy who drinks regularly anyway. A "social drinker", as everybody puts it. Yes, I do drink, in a class reunion, say, or during work functions, but I don't drink more than I can handle - and, since I don't know how much I can handle, I limit myself to one or, at the extreme, two bottles.

(Then again, during a business trip to Cebu, and perhaps at the goading of a former colleague, I ended up drinking seven bottles of beer. My head hurt when I stood up for the toilets, but I hereby claim that I was not drunk. Either that, or I didn't know I was drunk. But I'm sure I wasn't. I saw some ladies enter the restaurant and I did not find them any prettier.)

Just last week a colleague I see around during the events I frequent offered me a bottle. I had to say no, because really, and I said this as apologetically, if not as patronizingly, as I should, "I would, but I can't." But the music was so loud and he was not having any of it. "You do not refuse me a drink," he said, before shaking my hand.

It was vaguely threatening, but it could be worse. You could be me two weeks ago, alone in a cocktails event, populated with Europeans who tend to gather amongst themselves and not talk to anyone else. (Another reason why I am not really made to work in marketing: I am not the kind of guy who just comes to someone and introduces himself with a handshake. Hi. Niko Batallones. How's business?) It was early in the night, and the place was already packed, and the hotel staff weren't serving anything non-alcoholic yet. Not even water. All they had was wine and beer. So imagine how hard it is for me to just stand alone, awkwardly, eating some hors d'oeuvres without anything to aid it down to my belly, and thinking, well, my job is to talk to these people, and I am here, standing alone, awkwardly.

"Sir, mango juice?" one of the waiters said, and I was relieved, because I was getting thirsty, and the kebabs are tasty, and I want more, and I can't have more, because I don't want to be the guy who's choking on them because his throat is dry. I don't want to be the guy who went to cocktails and ended up choking on beef strips.

Well, frankly, I was relieved that I told the same waiter earlier than I cannot drink alcohol because of my medicine. I took the glass and took a sip and looked around, still awkwardly, at the other guests. People in high positions. I'm sure that guy, and that guy, and that guy, is the big boss of whatever company they represent, or perhaps own. And then I realize that I rolled up my sleeves, and they're all wearing neck ties and suits, and that the invitation said "business attire". If their job also included going up to someone and introducing yourself, then I must be that unappealing. I stuck out so much, I blended in and was not noticed. I didn't look like one of them.

Everybody has told me that, to have friends, I should learn to get along. You can't go your own way the whole way; you have to blend in so as not to ruffle any feathers, but stand out so that you'll be noticed, and people will assume you're a nice guy and take a chance on you. And I'm pretty sure I've done that, or otherwise I'd have spent eight and a half years blogging increasingly despaired essays on why I am alone. I have friends. I meet up with them whenever we get the chance. I talk to them and listen to their stories and expect them to listen to mine. Hell, if I didn't do that I'd still be single right now.

But there will still be times when you severely doubt yourself. Oh, yes, I went there again. If I do have friends, then how come I'm not always hanging out with them? And how come nobody asks me to hang out with them? And how come nobody feels I'm a guy worth trusting with their problems even if I did everything I was supposed to do? Well, maybe except for keeping to yourself, because I'm reasonably outspoken, and nobody likes that.

I'll have those thoughts while texting Rainy, and when she'd reply something like "giggles" I'd realize that, well, why am I pondering these things? Someone out there has chosen to stick with me. And then I go to Facebook and see photos of my friends hang out with my other friends. I never really had a group. Crap, I am whining again. Nobody likes it when I whine.

"Text forever," I told Ariane last night, when she tweeted about deleting one of those online messenger apps that everybody seems to have lately, only to get another one. I've always thought it was a bit ridiculous - but only if you think of those apps as a wholesale replacement for text messaging. Or maybe it's because of the people I usually text. My parents, my siblings, my girlfriend. My colleagues, my other colleagues. "I'm on my way to High Street." I was going to a meeting, the sort that happens between extremely busy people, and thus has to be held after work, somewhere relatively neutral. Those people may always be online, checking their email, but they don't have the time to open, say, Line, more so chat with people (about, I don't know, deadlines?) illustrated with abusive cartoon bears.

"But calls are better!" she replied. "Live interactions are the best."

"Of course," I said. "I mean I'd rather text. Yung piso-piso."

"Ah, okay. Why do you prefer text?"

"Dahil hindi lahat may WeChat o Viber o Line or whatever, pero lahat may text?"

I do have Viber, and not much else. I only had a smartphone this year. I am, essentially, behind the curve. Everyone I know has been tweeting while walking for years now, and I still don't feel comfortable whipping my now-apparently-obsolete iPhone out on the street. While they have been talking to each other without the need to spend any money on text messaging, thanks to unlimited data and those apps, I was still thinking whether I really needed those apps to survive. Or why I even took out a plan with P800 consumable when the people I want to talk to - save for Rainy, who isn't always online - would rather not text anyway.

"But honestly, ayokong palaging online sa phone," I continued, aware I was sounding like the smartass everybody outwardly tolerates and secretly hates.

My phone's battery life isn't the best when I've got my mobile Internet on, really. Also, as demonstrated by Chesca's many tweets to me yesterday, ending with a "please answer my tweets" plea, I may want to reply, but I am at the mercy of whether there's a good enough signal where I am.

"Sabagay," Ariane answered. "Good point. Pero what about Facebook Messenger? Everybody seems to have a Facebook account."

"Mag-o-online ka pa?" I answered, realizing that, again, I am being that smartass. "Text ka na lang."

"Pero seriously, I've noticed that people text less often na lately. Ang daming conversations na nagmi-migrate to chat."

"Depende rin. It's never happened to me. Or maybe it's because nobody really texts me."

Nobody really texts me. And I think back to college, and I wonder what I could have done differently to have a group of friends, and yes, those same people will tell me that I am doing fine and that I should not try so hard and, well, they're my friends and they'll always be there, but no, they will never ask me to hang out with them because, well, I don't know why.

"Because they're online and nagtitipid sa load. Chos!"

I should be more appealing. I should look the part. I should not roll up my sleeves. I should wear a suit and tie. I should be more available. I should be online everywhere! I should have my phone attached to my hip, ready to respond when someone sends me a message! I should be more open to going to unknown places and staying out late and doing crazy things and let my guard down and not give a damn if I do anything that would tarnish my NBI clearance! I should take more chances, like they would! Like they would on me.

Like they would on me.

"Mga kuripot kayo! Hindi kayo masaya kausap!"

And by that, I meant nobody takes the effort to talk to people. Everybody wants it free. Or maybe I'm saying this because everyone's doing it effortlessly now, because they've done their groundwork, and I am still not the kind of guy who just comes to someone and introduces himself. Hi. I'm Niko. Can we be friends?

"But we're talking right now!" Ariane replied. "On Twitter!"

And your responses...

Well, I don't text anymore cause nobody replies. Sayang yung load na kakainin lang ng Globe kasi di nagamit. Haha! :)) Those I text chats me up on, say, Viber or weChat instead kasi nga naman mas tipid, lalo pag group messages. Practicalan nalang, more than anything else.

Blogger Aleigna Lin9/20/2013     

Don't be too hard on yourself. :) Come to think of it, konti lang naman talaga kasi ang boys sa course (and class) natin noon. So medyo mahirap talaga makahanap ng swak na kabarkada ang isang commarts guy (unless if you have shared or similar backgrounds I guess). Sobrang eclectic pa naman ng personalities. hehe

Blogger Unknown9/21/2013     

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