He’s just lazy. Don’t try to defend him. I know him and that’s how he is.
Sitting on the couch in my friend’s living room, we chatted about her boyfriend…
Me: I think he needs to see a professional. He’s depressed.
She: No, let me tell you, he’s just lazy. I’ve been with him for years. I know. *answered briskly*
Me: But… *not sure how to continue*
She: Honestly, you’ve tried, I’ve tried, and his mom has tried. But we can’t help his laziness. *mixture of resignation and contempt*
Me: Maybe we can try to view things from his perspective? *tentatively*
She: No, I give up. He wants to continue living that way so let him be. I have no hope for him to change. Depression is just an excuse, don’t give me that.
Realizing this conversation would lead to no where, we changed the subject…
I have been friends with this couple for almost a decade.
I still remember the time when they were just friends. We were sitting at the corner table in the school library, and she pulled out a steamy container with scrambled eggs just for him. The affection was visible to everyone but him.
He enjoys math and statistic but has trouble keeping up with school attendance. I have asked about his tendency to skip lectures. It was not easy for him to put those thoughts into words. Perhaps he also did not really understand it.
At the time, he had already been in college for 8 years.
Sitting in the same living room, except this time, I was on the floor, and he was lying on the couch with days of unshaved beard…
Me: Hey. *uncertain*
He: I don’t want to talk because I haven’t brushed my teeth. *covered face with blanket*
Me: That’s okay. I will just sit here. *quickly peeled back*
Me: Thanks for answering the door. I heard you’ve locked yourself at home for 5 days and barely ate. I’m worried.
He: … *shifted towards the sofa back*
Me: I texted you but I’m not sure if you saw…
He: No I didn’t. *pulled out his phone from the gap between the cushions*
In the dimly lite living room, he began to play with his phone while I sat there for seemingly an eternity of silence.
“What should I say? What did those psychology books say? Psychotherapy? Talk therapy? Wait… let me recall those lectures from the mental health workshops…
Ask, listen and be curious”
Okay, I can do this. Deep breaths.
Me: Did you skip school when you were young?
He: Ya since elementary school. *mumbled underneath the blanket*
Me: And your parents?
He: They would work ’till really late maybe 8 or 9pm, so I just stayed home and watched TV. *peeling off the blanket and sitting up*
Me: That sounds really lonely… *taken aback by this*
He: It was okay. I didn’t really have friends, but I had a TV. So it wasn’t that bad. But I remember once that I was waiting for my dad after the school hockey practice, I watched all the kids getting picked up and finally, there was only me. The ice rink shut off all the lights then I was waiting in the dark… it turned out that my dad forgot to pick me up.
Me: Oh… *heart sank; face fell* do you remember how you felt back then?
He: Not really. Just that the ice rink was cold.
Friends for almost a decade, this was the first time I heard him talking about his childhood.
And perhaps, this was also his first time telling the story.
Me: And I suppose this was before your parents’ divorce.
He: Ya but they were already fighting a lot.
Me: You must had been scared. *remembering that he’s told me about this*
He: Hmm.. I can’t remember.. mostly I just wanted them to stop. Maybe that’s why they shipped me off to boarding school. I was living in dormitory and bullied by my roommate. *playing with fingers*
Me: … *lost for words*
He: It’s okay. I don’t remember much about it. It’s the past. *hugging both knees*
Something hit me then, a vague memory.
A bunch of us were looking for him in the nearby park and school grounds on a Thursday night.
His girlfriend texted everyone, saying she found his handwritten suicide notes on the table.
Me: You’ve ever thought about suicide? *fingers gripping carpet*
He: Yes *Without hesitation*
Me: And why haven’t you done it? *Recalling my workshop training*
He: I’m too scared. *looking up at the ceiling*
Again, we sat in silence. The last of the winter sun only just disappeared, but the night had already swallowed the living room. Everywhere I looked, I saw a tinge of dark blue.
Somehow I can’t remember what happened after that. I think I walked over and hugged him, or I hope I did.