Ted and some of his good friends (his real friends) were hanging out saying “My life is so good, my life is perfect” and all that, like “My life is perfect” and Slavona was like “My life is perfect,” and here comes William who’s like “My life is perfect” and everyone was like for real tell us about it and he’s like I look good smell good etc but here comes Mohammed who’s like “Let’s think about some bad thoughts” and the others were like not today that’s not what we’re into just now and so Mohammed just kinda hesitates a moment and just then Sophie rode by on her bike looking like she was talking to herself, her mouth was moving like that, and everyone all watched for a second and Mohammed was like I think we should talk about bad, depressing stuff. The others were like “Kind of can’t believe you’re still here, we’re not interested in your mode.”
So then some other stuff happened between everyone, a bit more of like “We’re perfect, life is perfect” but not so direct but a few minutes later Mohammed again started going on like “No for real right now we should think some terrible depressing thoughts like don’t you probably treat your mom not so good, you’re nice enough maybe but don’t give a lot, don’t call her so much?” And the others were all like “Mohammed would you shut your face” “Cut that shit out” and Mohammed’s like “Ha ha yeah and maybe you caused one of your younger brothers or sisters to turn out kinda shitty, are you not responsible for that?” Sophie (who had circled back) was like obviously not — just shut him down guys. But Mohammed was like “Sophie seriously did you not basically turn your roommate’s insecurity which you knew she had back on her just because you didn’t want to deal with her complaint which you knew was valid? Don’t you do such psychological tricks?”
Sophie, still astride her bike, looked stricken.
“Mohammed shut up we def hating you,” the others said so loud to him in his face, the three of them, with their shoes, on a pebbly part of where the land meets the water at the farthest tip of Leslie Spit, in the sunlight.
“Ted you have some warranted guilt I believe,” continued Mohammed, “Couldn’t you have treated quite a number of people significantly better throughout the last say three, three and a half years? Haven’t you started to make choices based on what you know is savvy, not what is right?”
“Remind me why you’re my friend” Ted said, feeling so bad, knowing he was avoiding the real issues, knowing he wasn’t responding the way he should. “Did you just come here to remind us of our failings?” he said. “Did you just bike out here to make us all feel bad, taking what you’ve gradually learned about us over the course of long intense friendships and using it against us in the most hurtful ways? Why are you doing this? It makes us feel so bad! It makes me feel bad,” Ted said, the sun, he could feel, dehydrating his right eye, which, the way he was leaning, was much more exposed to it (the sun).
“Ted, what do you think makes you feel good? Is it the absence of pain? Is it a relaxing consensus? Or is it a close call with sadness, and then bouncing back? Is it a vision of your folly, w/ chance of correction?” said Mohammed.
“Mohammed, you are a real bud and a friend and we’ve built a lot of good memories together, and we understand each other sometimes in ways that I don’t have with anyone else, and the way you talk makes me feel less alone in the world, and maybe you have good intentions but right now” etc etc, said Ted, watching Sophie stealthily strafe across to behind him.
“Oh no,” said Mohammed. “Aren’t you trying to manipulate me right now? Aren’t you the real devil in this situation? Aren’t you the pile of shit?” etc, he went on, and Ted wasn’t sure if he had made himself understood, and he questioned the truth of the thing he’d said about how the way Mohammed talked made him feel less alone in the world.
Sophie crouched down behind Mohammed so her back was like a stool behind him, a dangerous human stool, setting up a trick she and Ted had been using together against enemies since small times.
“ . . . and aren’t you a bad friend too, and a bad boyfriend, and not a vegetarian, and bad to your parents, just criminal, and not as safe with sex as you should be, and mechanical when you have it, and fundamentally selfish, inconsiderate, a terror plus a pain to be around, pretentious, annoying and unlovable, sometimes you steal, you make eye contact with people asking for change on the street when you say no, what effect do you think that has, does it make you feel like you’ve discharged an obligation? Aren’t you guilty of pride, sloth, lying, betrayal, and wasting your life? Aren’t you an asshole and small plus fat? Aren’t you too cold and self-serving to ever be a good husband or father? Plus I shouldn’t even have to mention too flaky, self-centred and childish, and on the brink of environmental collapse? Too shitty even to be called scum, you dumb fuck?”
“Listen, Mohammed, whadda you want? I’ll give you twenty bucks to . . . jet.”
“No way guy,” Mohammed said, broadening his stance and crossing his arms over his chest and shaking his head, his long flowing hair blowing in the wind. “My place is here.” Sophie, on her knees behind him, was looking impatient. Everyone else had left.
“Come on buddy,” said Ted.
Mohammed’s hair blew, and, for a moment there on the Spit, his hard eyes betrayed him and a fear flashed over his face. “Okay fine. Just let’s see it, let’s see the twenty.”
“Fine,” said Ted, and pulled out the bill, but then changed his mind and said “Oh fuck you Mohammed” and pushed him, the asshole, over Sophie.
“The fuh?” Mohammed said, upending.
Then, in the dirt: “Ted, I know you’re mad, but I want you to just think for a second and realize that what I’m saying is probably good for you to hear. Maybe you’re not self-reflective enough, you know?”
Ted paused, reflected. “Maybe you’re right.”
Sophie jumped up, slapped the dirt off her knees, and said: “Oh for fuck’s sake. I don’t know which of you I’m more disappointed in. Mohammed, you have a lot of nerve. I’ve sat quietly by, but you’ve been pulling this shit for years. I personally don’t know why Ted’s still friends with you. You just absolutely treat him like shit. You condescend to him and then make fun of him to his face. It seems like the only reason you’re still around is Ted’s low self-esteem and the rest of our inertia, or apathy, or ‘politeness’ or whatever it is. What the fuck is your deal?”
Just then the wind died, and a cloud blew in front of the sun, and Mohammed’s hair fell to his shoulders, and his dark brow lost its menacing shadow.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe sometimes when I get nervous I fall into this particular way of interacting with people and it’s hard to snap out of it. It’s like I’m caught in this loop, and all I can think is that something’s not right about . . . I don’t know, the way we all talk to each other. It’s . . . I don’t know, it’s very . . . ” He looked down at the pebbles at his feet. “I’m sorry guys.”
The wind rustled in the trees.
They all looked back and forth between each other. Ted cleared his throat.
“That’s alright buddy.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Sophie said. “That was really harsh of me. I get nervous too sometimes, even around my best friends. You walk into a room and you’re like whoa, who are these people, why am I here?”
They all laughed, and Mohammed said “Thanks guys,” and the three of them sat on a rock together and looked out at the waves of Lake Ontario.
A duck came up to them, and then like ten ducks appeared.
“You are actually kind of a prick though, Ted,” said Mohammed.
“I know,” said Ted, without really thinking, and then immediately regretted it.