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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. 

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