So I Did This Dumb Thing Where I Paid Actors to Hang Out with Me and Play My Best Friend, But, If You Knew What I Was Going Through at the Time, You'd Probably Say, "Oh, I Guess that Makes Sense" 

 

  

This old friend of mine is getting divorced, I heard,

and then she immediately started chatting me up

on Facebook. So I suppose what that means is that friendship

is its own reward. That’s true of most things,

but we get confused

when you throw in other variables: career, money, sex.

I’m sure there are others, but this is what’s coming to mind,

how the different burners of our life,

the ones we decide to leave on or crank up to High,

and the ones we must therefore turn off or down,

which I think includes health and friendships and career,

and there’s one other—maybe family—and that’s the one

I always forget, not because it isn’t important but maybe

because that’s the one whose neglect

seems most intimately tied

to a Larger Truth, about which if we’re failing

we’re really Failing, and so I don’t know how

to go about adjusting that burner. I only know

that sometimes I turn it down. Once I had a neighbor

who kept telling me to do things differently,

to escape, to leave what I’d started, to leave her, to abandon her,

to get going, to scram, to up and go, to find a way to Get Out,

to learn myself a new plan of action: Do Not Be Where You Are.

I asked my other neighbor, this beautiful woman with red hair

and glasses, for advice, and she thought about it for six months

and then finally said, “It’s tough to know

what a friendship is ‘about,’”

which would have really struck me as profound

if she’d said it sooner or if we hadn’t pulled off

all those bank heists. Which is a euphemism.

But only partly. We should all take turns

listening to this or that silence. Even that seems a good plan,

a good idea, something at least to consider. But after the bank heists

I decided to go ahead and hire actors—because of loneliness, I guess.

My wife kept saying things like, “Nobody wants to get divorced,

but that’s no reason to keep having all these affairs, right?”

Which is true. And then we talked about John Edwards.

And Donald Trump. And then it seemed even more true.

The strangest part is knowing what you’re thinking

while casting. One I chose because she had red hair and glasses.

Another I chose because she knew the difference

between all the different old-timey hats, which seemed

pretty essential at the time. Turns out: it wasn’t useful at all

to have these actors asking me if I’d rather take a walk

or find a movie on Netflix or to just get busy

chatting up the old friend on Facebook

while we sort of ignored each other.

It was weird to pretend to be comfortable sitting on their beds

as they did their homework. It was weird

to pretend that I also liked all their favorite music.

Turns out it wasn’t that rewarding to compliment

the taste of another, to ask how her day really was. Plus,

I got jealous dissecting their dates. The men

they were trying to love, while I was paying them,

happened into one casual sexual encounter

after another, which seemed facile and kind of confusing,

My red-haired friends (they all had red hair and glasses,

I should have said)

described these encounters

in a way that made me sad

for them, my paid-actor friends,

because they could only justify it. They just kept saying

how they couldn’t really be mad. They just kept saying

how they couldn’t really be mad because of these payments,

because of the weird thing they had going with me, which,

they wanted me to know, was its own kind of bank heist,

and which, they wanted me to know, would need to stop

soon, very soon, right after the next semester got underway,

right after the new year, right after the new management

took over and things improved, just as soon

as they got their shit together, just as soon

as they got all their burners

dialed, you know, the way they needed to be.

I mailed my old friend a check for a thousand dollars.

I mailed the bank a check for half of what I stole.

To my friends (because what other name is there)—

their mouths would twitch a little when they’d say it,

when they’d put their wet noses into my chest

and tell me how they couldn’t be mad,

not really, because they’d never officially agreed

they wouldn’t be sleeping with other people—

I only listened. That’s all I’d paid for.

   

—Richard Sonnenmoser

Designed by Hayley Brown

Frog in a Drain Pipe
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