If I had an old lamp, and I rubbed it, and a Genie rushed out (especially after all that shaking), and if, after a certain amount of impressive mid-air improvisation, it swept in close and offered me three wishes, the first one would be: Genie? I wish I had more friends.
G: More what now?
Me: More friends. I wish I had more friends!
G: Okay, wait, now. Jus’ a second. Y’see? First of all – let’s get one thing straight. It’s very important when doin’ this whole Three Wishes thing, you get the Ts and Cs absolutely watertight, y’know what I’m saying? You gotta concentrate. This shit’s important. You don’t want to end up saying something that through some legal bullshit smallprint kinda deal ends up giving you something truly awful.
Me: It’s what I want.
G: Okay then. So let’s just take a moment and knuckle down on the facts here. When you say more, do you really truly honest to God MEAN more? Or are we REALLY talking ‘any’? Because, my response to THAT would be: What – are you KIDDIN’ me?
Me: No! I do mean more. I think. I mean – I’ve got friends. Obviously I’ve got friends. C’mon! I’m not THAT bad! I can hold my end in a conversation.
G: Maybe that’s your problem right there, my friend. Holding your end in a conversation. That’s some weird vibey shit you’re giving them, right there.
Me: What I mean is, I can do the normal stuff. I don’t think I’m hard work.
G: Honey? We’re ALL hard work! It’s what makes us interesting.
Me: You, maybe.
G: The cute pants help.
Me: I don’t know. It’s just – sometimes I feel like I used to have friends, and I let ‘em go.
G: Shit happens, man. People move apart. You gotta make more of an EFFORT. You gotta join some CLUBS! Play some tennis or shit like that. Hit a few balls round the park, see where they land.
Me: It’s true. When I lived in London I used to play softball. I got to know a lot of people through that. And when I was at university I had friends. I even married one of them. That didn’t work out.
G: Sheesh! You’re the first person I ever offered three wishes to that had an instant nervous breakdown. I oughta open with a disclaimer.
Me: It brings it into focus, that’s the truth.
G: Okay. So – look. What you’re telling me is you need more friends?
Me: Wish Number One!
G: Great. Yeah – but – see? I’m not sure this is your actual wish territory. Sure I could do it! No problem! One snap of the fingers, there’d be thirty shiny happy people camped out on your lawn. You’d have to set up a ticket system, like at the deli.
Me: I wouldn’t mind.
G: But they wouldn’t be REAL friends. They’d LOOK like friends. They’d be CONVINCING. They’d sure as hell make a lot of friendly noises, make you tea, answer the phone at two a.m. But you’d soon get freaked out by all that uncanny valley shit. I’m good, but I’m not THAT good.
Me: So what do I do?
G: You gotta let go of the past. You gotta stop playing that broken record that keeps skipping back to the lines that hurt you, the throwaway comments like: ‘oh – he’s so alone’ or ‘a bit dry for some’ or ‘antisocial as ever, I see’ – the throwaway shit that’s particularly sticky for some reason. That lodges in the brain, and all you do is play it over to yourself over and over till you end up BELIEVIN’ it.
Me: How long were you IN that bottle?
G: It’s a lamp, num-nuts. And in answer to your question, long enough.
Me: Is this one of your special skills? Seeing into people’s souls?
G: Now – maybe this is why you don’t get the dinner invitations so much.
Me: So what do I do, then?
G: Number one? Relax. Things are almost always better than you think. Number two? Go through your address book and call someone up. Be like the tick on the shoe and JUS’ DO IT! Email at the very least. Ask if they wanna go out for a drink. Go see a show. Aladdin or something classy like that. Number Three? Join a club. I know, I know. It’s the kinda thing your momma woulda said, but y’know what? Your momma ain’t that bad. An’ you ain’t that bad, neither. IMHO.
Me: So you text in there?
G: Signal’s crap but I try to stay current.
Me: Thanks for the advice, Genie. I appreciate it.
G: No – thank YOU! I was getting a bit antsy stuck in that thing. There’s only so much you can do with a spout. So – what about them other wishes?
Me: I don’t know. Give them to someone else. I’ve always felt uneasy when people say they’re waiting to win the lottery. I can’t think of anything worse. It’s like admitting life’s so hopeless it’ll take divine intervention to save it.
G: (pause) No wonder you got no friends.