“Dude,” Sean sighed with a disapproving look at my portal game console. “Don’t do that. Get yourself a drink and talk to people.”
Part of me knew that he was right. Bachelor parties required some level of camaraderie. I could refuse alcohol but refusal to interact or talk with the other guests was a severe social taboo. Part of the groom-to-be’s happiness depended upon the outward appearance of enjoyment among his friends and family. I could not celebrate his future happiness holed up in a corner of the cabin playing video games, reading mystery novels, and essentially wishing . . . dreaming of being elsewhere.
On the other hand, as the 2017-2018 school year dwindled to no more than two weeks, the strain of feeding my energy, my excitement, and my concern to an indifferent audience of adolescents was taking its toll. I was . . . no, AM drained and in need of a stress detox. Half my days at work are spent dreaming of summer mornings that drift lazily into summer afternoons. The large mountain of to-be-reads by my bed. A full cup of hot tea and an empty house. An hour or two spent in Hyrule. Several hours with Abbott and Costello. A walk outside. Maybe a swim. Otherwise, nowhere to be. Nothing to do.
God. That. Sounds. Awesome.
I’m at a point in the school year when anything shy of that perfect moment sends spasms of anxiety bubbling beneath the surface. Moreover, I need time to remember how not to stress, like treating PTSD for teachers. If I survive for another two weeks and avoid the stress equivalent of a ‘lava bomb,’ I’ll call this year a success.
“I’ll try to play nice with the other kids,” I sigh, depowering my game and steeling myself for the necessary social interaction.
I don’t consider myself anti-social but do have a fair share of social anxiety, especially around my brothers’ friends. Much of my reservations does stem from overthinking and awkwardness when attempting to small-talk. Nonetheless, I have little in common with most of these guys. Very few obsess over sci-fi or fantasy, discuss the latest Marvel movie, game regularly, or watch anime. Their lives are centered around business, sports, kids, tuition, and microbrews.
Still, I try not to generalize with others’ hobbies and drop subtle verbal cues to see if I have any sympathizers to my geek lifestyle:
The classic: “Seen any good movies lately . . . with superheroes?”
The professional: “. . . and I used to cosplay for my class every day while reading Romeo and Juliet.”
The kamikaze: “Yeah, I pre-ordered this Rem figure months ago from Japan. She’s a demon, a maid AND the best goddam girl in the entire series. Ask anyone!”
Failing this, I try to steer conversations to safer topics such as my job, which affords me a few minutes polite conversation about 1) where I work, 2) what do I teach, and 3) yes, I’m very excited for the end of the school year. After several such encounters, I feel that I’ve paid my social toll for the afternoon and can quietly slip back to the couch, my game and social-outcast mode.
Sean had other ideas. From the car, he drags two cornhole tables painted with Baltimore Orioles and Ravens iconography. Orange and purple corn-stuffed bags complete the game, and he sets both on the hill below the deck of the cabin. The rest of the bachelor party pairs up for teams and I finally relinquish the couch for a game of cornhole. We sit around the deck, sipping cheap beer as the sun dips below the horizon. The sound of bags falling onto the wooden boards and a homemade Spotify playlist echo into the night.