I started to get more accustomed to work. Lauren and I would get to work around 7:45 everyday even though we acted like we got there at 7:30 so that we could leave at 4 instead of 4:30. Angela would quickly stride in around 8:30 or 9 her long black sweater flowing behind her yellow crumpled hair.
She’d always start talking about her pug, Romeo. He loved chicken and whenever she said do you want some chicken? He would go ballistic. She showed us a video one time. Other times she’d show me weird historic videos where people would disappear or there were UFOs or something. She was fun, I liked her. I learned that she rented a place that was only like 5 minutes away and I was instantly jealous of her commute.
One day Lauren was having a hard time with something, I forget what. She had told me about Cheeseburger Thursdays at a local shop down by where Angela lived. She said sometimes she went there with people on Thursdays and then went to the beach nearby. I suggested that that day we should go and get burgers to get her out of her funk.
We got to the beach. She seemed appreciative of the idea but I couldn’t help but notice she seemed more distant. We sat on concrete blocks that lined the beach and ate lunch and chatted. I tried to remain positive and have a good time and cheer her up. Then we headed back to the lab.
Other times we’d head to the local Hannaford together and grab snacks to stock our desks up with. I’d get instant oatmeals and teas and cookies and mini Reese’s for the afternoon slumps of data entering.
She started talking about other people we worked with on the rides home and gave me the low-down on everyone. That was nice. It made me feel like I could kind of know what was going on even though I had only been there for a little while.
Then the real trash talking started. She’d talk about this one girl, Mary, in particular. I had met Mary and she seemed just as nice as anyone from what I gathered. She was about Lauren’s age, maybe in her early 30’s, pale with glasses, not too thin with big wide hips and long greasy auburn hair she usually wore in a ponytail. Lauren gave me the low-down that she supposedly had herpes. She had gotten it, Lauren said, by sleeping with a bunch of fishermen where she used to work, up North in Lapoint, where our other partner lab was located.
I had become friends with Lauren, but for some reason I felt like I had to agree with her that this girl Mary was no good. It felt like if I spoke up and said my opinion of her that Lauren would close off or become angry.
In the same car ride, she casually brought up how she can get stressed out at work and overwork herself without even realizing it. She asked me if I ever did that. I admitted that I did, I knew I needed to calm down a bit. She said how nice it is to not care and I agreed.
She then continued to talk about anxiety and told me how she was seeing a therapist. I confessed to her how I had been wanting to get a therapist. I was pleasantly surprised with how much we had in common and was grateful for the new friendship.
Bemused, she asked why I was thinking about getting a therapist. I told her partly because I had had a bad experience at my last job. Not just that though, I assured her, and told her I had been struggling with anxiety for a while as well. It felt nice to have a friend. She asked me if I would start meeting her at her house instead of at the restaurant we had been meeting at in the mornings and I got to meet her dogs.
We would talk about commonalities and she was learning more and more about me as I was her. She started talking more about Mary and I would just listen and gawk when she said especially surprising things that she had done.
Then the chatter about other people in our lab started. I accredited it to a want to be funny so I went along with it. I agreed how gross it was that Mary had supposedly slept with all those fishermen. But I didn’t even know the girl. And I laughed when Lauren would insult her. I didn’t think about how terrible it was for that girl. I mean I was only just meeting and getting to know Mary, yet I knew a very intimate detail of her life. I had thought she was a little strange but definitely nice. I started always hearing about slight social missteps Mary would make with other people. I so desperately wanted to be accepted by Lauren and for her to think that I was cool. But after a while, I couldn’t help but feel like I was abandoning myself.
Jacob who was a field sampler also seemed like a nice guy. He was young, like me, and short and seemed interesting. He worked with the older gentleman, Peter, down the hall and on the other side of the building. I learned Peter and Jacob were both water samplers for our lab, but didn’t work in the lab and spent the majority of their time out in the field. I remember talking to Jacob at a random work barbeque right when I started and learned that he played ultimate frisbee and we talked about how we both did disc golfing.
Lauren didn’t have anything nice to say about him on the carpools. She mentioned that he was the reason why the samplers were continually getting new rules placed upon them and was always talking badly about him.
Even though she was always talking badly about a lot of people I tried not to worry about it too much. I felt safe and like I belonged as her friend. I felt like I couldn’t be touched. I was completely myself with her and felt like I deserved the idol worshipping that she gave me when I was being funny or awesome.
She made it seem like she was telling me more and more about herself because she liked me and wanted to deepen our friendship. Turns out things aren’t always as they appear. The friendship that I thought I had created with Lauren, in fact, was only created in my mind. I learned that sometimes things appear to be what you need, until they give you what you actually need. What you actually need, always being, to realize false beliefs you are holding about yourself. For you to grow spiritually. I hadn’t realized I was holding the belief that I needed to be accepted by people, in this case, Lauren, for me to be acceptable.