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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vesta - the Shirley MacLaine factor

We're outside on a crowded terrace with Vesta and another friend, sipping our drinks, chatting the night away when Vesta looks over into the distance, and then announces, "oh there's my brother."

The other girl, Katie, immediately looks over to where Vesta is indicating and asks, "where?"

"Over there, at the other end of the street," Vesta replies and I look at Katie, who seems pretty interested, if not to say excited. 

"I haven't met him yet," she tells me. "But I've heard stories."

Vesta nods at this, as if this is nothing special and turns back to us. Some time later, her brother and his group of friends walk through the door and as we're pretty well-hidden - or immersed in the crowd, depending on your point of view - he doesn't notice us. Vesta punches him so hard on the arm, most guys would yelp and shouts out, "hey."

As they hug, I watch Katie's face, which is a mixture of shock, awe and horror. 

Vesta is one of those girls who don't follow any trends but still manage to scrub up really well. They don't have to look for individuality because they truly are. At the same time, she can fit into any environment with an ease most people simply never possess. Her brother on the other hand looks like he stepped out of a cage fight. 

Vesta shrugs when I tell her. She is also one of those girls you can tell anything to and she won't get mad. 

"You should see the other one," she merely states. 

"Her oldest brother," Katie says. "Apparently, when he walks down the street, people move out of the way."

Vesta shrugs again. 

"They really are nice guys," she simply states. Then she gets serious, "whatever you do, just don't get taken in, okay?"

I look at her blankly, while next to me, I can hear Katie mutter, "too late."

"They're natural-born charmers," Vesta explains. "Just don't fall for them." 

I'm still mulling over that statement when he comes over to us a while later. Vesta goes over to talk to him, stopping him midway, and I can see Katie's eyes resting on them the whole time. They do seem pretty close. From the way they interact, mirroring each other, glancing in the same direction at the same time, you can tell they share a special bond. Just as Vesta is about to turn so she can introduce us, he is already by our side, laughing in a friendly manner when we get his name wrong, correcting us in a nice way. We talk about mundane things for a while but when he leaves, I can sense the emptiness. And I can tell Katie  senses it as well from the way she keeps looking in the direction he left. 

"Wow," is all I can say.

Vesta laughs like she has seen this reaction before, which I'm sure she has. 

"You should have seen them in high school," she says. "Between those two, who even needs a dad. It's a miracle I even went out on dates." 

But she is laughing, so it couldn't have been that bad. 

"We used to beat the crap out of each other," she goes on. "Our older brother just let us fight. The other two never fought. Me and him, the one you just saw, we were at it all the time."

"He's gorgeous," I finally manage to say. 

To my surprise, she doesn't laugh or shake her head. 

"Well, it's hard to judge when you grew up with them," she says. "But they really don't look too bad. You know that thing Shirley MacLaine said?"

I shake my head. Next to me, Katie is doing the same. 

"Something about how just once she would like to do a love scene with her brother just to see what all the fuss is about. I mean, eww, but still, I can see where she's coming from. The other one looks exactly the same by the way."

"Twins?" I ask. 

She shakes her head. "Four years apart. Me and the one you just met, we're a year apart. We took the same classes in high school a few times. That was fun." 

"I can imagine," is all I can say. 

"It teaches you life skills," Vesta goes on. "So many girls who want to be friends with you, just so they can get closer to one of your brothers, you really learn to suss out who's in it for what pretty fast."

"You mean all that glitters isn't gold," I ask. 

She shakes her head. "No, I mean, you learn to be a good judge of character. It's a great lesson. Obviously I don't see the whole sexiness angle but they always had a big following of girls so there must be something about them. But yeah, you learn to judge people pretty well after that."

I wonder if this is what made her so easy-going today or if it is more to do with the fact of knowing that no matter what will happen, your brothers will always have your back.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Living Freak Show

"Have you met  . . . " someone asks me, providing a name. 

I shake my head, no. 

"Oh you're in for a real treat," she tells me. 

I shrug it off, not thinking too much of the whole thing. 

A few days later, I am invited to another social event and since it's summer and I don't see why I shouldn't go, I head off. The place offers up the usual suspects i.e. locals who want to meet foreigners (and expect to score) and expats who want to meet foreigners (and expect to score). Since I was never really bothered with scoring of any kind, I feel more of an observer. 

I spy, in the corner, a slight figure, stooped, what looks to me like a business man who just barely had time to throw on a sweater to make himself appear cool, dispersing advice about one of the neighboring countries. He knows everything there is to know, that's quickly apparent. In the meantime, he is also busy oggling all the pretty girls. 

Since the policy at these get-togethers is to introduce yourself as quickly as possibly (remember, it's not a dating service, they just want to appear cool and welcoming), I quickly learn his name. It comes as no surprise that this is the same name provided earlier. 

"Everyone hates him," my friend supplies helpfully. The guy next to us, who is from the same city I'm from, sneaks another look. 

The businessman wannabe doesn't look menacing, just like a downright bore, someone too desperate to even dream of fitting into any social group, even one as intent on welcoming "all sorts of people" as this one. I do notice that one girl there, one of the loudest ones, tells him to bug off. 

I put him out of my mind until the party breaks up and people start heading home. As it turns out, the guy who is from the city I am and the businessman wannabe all live in the same area, so we walk home together, exchanging things about life and past experience. The subject of the President's Ball comes up and the businessman wannabe proudly proclaims that he's been to said function. I ask him so many questions, that my fellow countryman pipes up with, "hey if you really want to go, let's go."

"It's invitation only," the businessman wannabe / social misfit pipes up. 

My fellow countryman and I pointedly ignore him and start plotting Gate Crash Experience in Helsinki. 

"I think I can come up with a good party dress," I tell him. 

"I'll rent a tux," he tells me and we decide on which car to take (rent a limo possibly but maybe we'll just take a cab), what colors to wear and how to get around the whole issue of mud, snow and rain plus the freezing temperatures as the event takes place on Independence Day in December. The social misfit snorts derisively, not getting that we're merely fooling around, just doing this for laughs. We both respect privacy way too much to gate crash. 

The social misfit has his own stories to tell. Or rathe story. How impossible it is to fit in here and make friends, how the bureaucracy is so nasty and incapable of offering any kind of help. I have issues with that because, having lived in several different places, I really don't see that much of a difference. We are, after all speaking about bureaucrats, they have to check, double-check, re-check. Paper work and files bite big time, no matter where you're at. But before I can say something, I catch my fellow countryman's warning glance so I shut up and besides, our new "friend" has already moved on to another subject (another pet peeve?) - Finnish women. They are impossible to deal with, unfriendly, so hard to understand. Again, I catch a warning glance from my fellow countryman so I quickly look away and let my fellow countryman change the subject. 

Later, when my fellow countryman has reached home and I am alone with the social misfit, he tells me that he "might be able to help" on a project I'm currently working on as he knows some people in precisely that field. I file it away under mildly interesting and then he comes out with the one thing I'm sure he's been meaning to come out with the entire evening, or at least since the three of us started walking. 

"If you need a photographer, I might be of help," he declares. 

"Umm sure," I retort, not really that interested, something about him is so off, I don't want to see him around longer than I have to. Not because he creeps me out in a scary way, I'm pretty much immune to that but just because there seems something lurking beneath all that social ineptness that is just dying to get out and I'm not really too keen on that. Besides, considering how he was oggling all those girls, I have a suspicion where this might be going. But being the naturally curious person that I am, I have to ask. 

"What do you photograph, objects or people?"

"People," he replies, then, after having paused meaningfully, "nudes."

I am mentally counting to ten, wishing more than ever that my fellow countryman was here because I am trying so hard not to laugh. 

"Okay," I say instead, counting to ten all over again. 

"So if you know any people who would pose . . ." he veers off. It's not even calculated. Even he can tell that his request is out of this world. And just for the record, it's not because he's ugly, which, if it wasn't for that look of desperation, he actually wouldn't be (he's no 10 but he'd pass in pretty much any setting) but this desperate need for some kind, any kind of female  . .. let's call it companionship. 

"Boys or girls," I manage to ask even though I know the answer and I'm still trying not to laugh. 

"Girls," he replies meaningfully and I can see him practically licking his lips. 

My uh-huh is probably not what he expected. I'm not even shocked, I could see this coming a mile off. But he still has to take it one step further. 

"The reactions are so vast. When you mention this, sometimes the clothes just start flying off." 

I am really trying not to laugh then, though some girls really are that stupid. He is on another social network, one that lets you stay with other people for free and I suspect that he hosts more than he travels. 

"Well, this is me," he announces and I realize that we have just stopped at a gate one house over from mine. Wonderful,  I think but when I tell my friend about it the next day, the one who told me that everyone hated him, we nearly fall over laughing. We are both at work but we still google his profiles and of course he wants only girls when he hosts. The pictures, we don't even loot at. Not one naked man. 

"That guy really is a Living, Breathing Freak Show," I tell my friend. 


Two years later, I run into him again. He has, by now, found a girlfriend. The same friend, who told me everyone hated him, provided me with that information again. She's more invested in that social network than I'll ever be. 

"You're kidding," is my immediate reaction. "How the hell old is she?"

"Oh about 19."

I nearly fall into my drink all while trying to make a mental calculation. 

"30 years," my friend tells me. 

"You're kidding." I really am being eloquent. 

"Well, okay, 19 or something, But it is vast."

And so, from what I can see some nights later, is the change. He is now wearing jeans, a black T-shirt with the logo of some heavy metal band I'm not curious enough to decipher, and some type of linen jacket. When he comes over to our little group of mainly girls, he stands close to another pretty girl, his pelvis thrust forward but again, it all seems so desperately calculated, my friend has to poke me in the back real hard to keep me from commenting or laughing. He is desperate to make physical contact with the girl. I can tell this not only because he is so close to her but because he has tried to do this with pretty much every girl there that night. A look of disdain can go a long way because he's avoiding my gaze like hell. 

"I thought he had a girlfriend," I ask my friend, turning away slightly, pretending to take a sip of my water. 

"He does," she hisses back. "But she went to her home town for the day."

Someone in the group says something funny (that I completely missed) and the Living, Breathing Freak Show thrusts his body forward in a fit of calculated laughter, finally resting his head on the girl's shoulder. 

Just another night out with this particular social network. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Whiner

It's not that she doesn't like this particular situation, she's just not satisfied with any situation. Even her status updates speak of this state of mind. Always a *sigh*, always something negative, always a passive-aggressive comment or other, to elicit pity, perhaps even some financial donation. Those types are easy to spot. I say she but it could really be anyone. They always have to make everything about themselves. They won't let you get in a word edgewise but instead will seek to monopolize any and all conversations. They would be psychic vampires if their energy wasn't spent on all the talking and preening and showing off, only to turn it around so that they can then complain about the same situation they tried so hard to take control of. These people, the ones I know at least, are also the ones who will play endless Facebook games, even creating fake profiles so they can gift themselves. 

But that's not the type I have issues with. Because this type is easy to spot. Five minutes in their presence and you know what is what. The type I don't like is her friend, the Quiet One, friendly on the surface and interested in you but at the same time, too concerned with her own woes to care much about you. She gets hysterical driving, she gets hysterical traveling, staying out beyond dark has never been an option. Instead she will regale you with stories of her own little world, her family, her pets, the things around her. No talk of beauty, no talk of art. Which wouldn't be a problem if the conversation was stimulating, but other than the pictures from her cell phone, we are not familiar with said family or pets or even anything else for that matter. We are not even that familiar with her. 

She is friendly, sure, and she seems more eager to smile than the first one. But she, too, is locked up in her own little world, too locked up in it to ever step out. 

She does not like her new environment and so she decides, after one year of being here, that she will move back. Fair enough, we've all been there before. But she is worried about her husband, especially since he hasn't found an apartment and they do need a new place to stay. 

Through utter coincidence, you hear of a place that is going and put her husband in touch with the people, even mediate, go that extra mile. And then, once he has the apartment, nothing. Not even so much as a quick thank you (which, you then realize, also never came up when you mentioned the apartment in the first place). But that's not the worse thing, crappy as that is. The worst thing is when you email the wife to ask whether or not the apartment thing worked out and you never hear from her again. 

People, I tell you.