The vending machine and the bear

So a couple of years back I began to realize that I had feelings for a friend. Wasn’t the first time this had happened, and this time I was determined not to be a jerk about it. You know, the kind of jerk who hangs around being “just friends” while hiding his true feelings and hoping that one day she magically realizes that the perfect guy has been right in front of her the whole time.

Because man, fuck that guy.

Anyway. Actually having the conversation proved… difficult. I suspect she saw it coming and, being afraid of conflict, did whatever was necessary to dodge it. Which I found weird, because this was going to be a way less pleasant conversation for me. But I’m not here today to talk about that, or the few highs and powerful lows of the year and change that followed. You see, the other day I came across something I wrote that fateful February. My attempt to explain, through a certain amount of self-depreciating humour, what being in my position felt like.

I present that for you now. Enjoy.

And now, a metaphor gets weird

How to explain it. How to say what I’m thinking without actually saying what I’m thinking? Because that’s crazy. Can’t actually say it out loud. Then people would know. What’s the point of secrets if you’re going to let people know what they are?

And this is where we turn to metaphors. Literary code. Yes, metaphors are the way to explain what you find unexplainable.

But this one gets kind of muddled. Bear with me.

Imagine a weight. A pressure, pushing down on you. All the time. As though a vending machine had collapsed on top of you. The weight is a constant. Some days you can manage it, you find a way to distribute the weight or manage to distract yourself until it doesn’t seem so bad, but other days it feels like more than you can handle. You don’t know if you can live with it.

Well, no, of course you can’t live with being trapped under a vending machine, you’re going to run out of food and water, even if you do break the machine open. Also those things are heavy, you’re probably bleeding internally. But that’s literal thinking, it’s what we’re trying to avoid. None of that is germane to the metaphor.

Germane. No, not the Jackson brother. It’s a word, look it up.

So. Stuck under the vending machine. There is a way out, but it’s not exactly ideal. The only way to free yourself is to… and this is where the metaphor begins to get muddled… is to surround yourself with fresh salmon, so as to lure over a nearby bear, which will pry the machine off you to get at the fish.

(Yes, I know. Took a weird left turn there. But muscle through it and it’ll all start to make sense.)

The problem is, you don’t know how the bear is going to react once it’s dislodged the vending machine. It came for fish and found you. What will it do? You want to believe that it will just ignore you and let you leave. Maybe, and this must be wishful thinking, give you a friendly lick on its way? But no. You’re pretty sure you know what’s going to happen. It’s going to maul you. Maybe you’ll live, maybe you’ll die, but that bear is coming at you tooth and claw and it is going to be terrible.

You put it off as long as you can, but the non-stop weight of the machine won’t be denied. You have to do something. You have to make it stop. You’re willing to risk the mauling just to get away. So you summon the salmon. Freedom is close.

Look, I don’t know where the salmon comes from. Maybe it was in the machine, maybe there’s a delivery chute or something, but no, there is no delivery guy that will help you escape. It’s the bear or nothing, and the salmon is on the way so you’d better brace for that.

And so you do. You try to steel yourself for the moment, figure out what you can do to protect yourself if it all goes wrong. The fear builds. The adrenalin kicks in. And there’s that spark of hope, that thought that maybe, just maybe, everything will work out better than your feared. But if you let yourself believe that, the mauling will only be worse. Better to be prepared for the worst.

Only the salmon doesn’t come. For whatever reason, maybe the tube is blocked, I don’t know, you can’t get the salmon when you ordered it. Maybe later. Next week, something like that. There will be no summoning the bear, no mauling, no anything. It’s hard not to be relieved, isn’t it? Your situation hasn’t improved, but for one more day, one more week, possibly, you don’t have to worry about it getting worse. You can just relax.

Except for that weight. Apparently you get to keep living with it. Well, crap.

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