Billy Has No Friends
Billy insists that he has friends and constantly we have to tell him, “No.” Billy has no friends. Not a single one.
The whole matter is exhausting. Every day on lunchbreak, without prompting, Billy will launch into these long-winded personal stories, namedropping strangers as if we might know them, or would ever care to, and only by each story’s end, as if the truth has been holding its breath, is it finally made clear.
“Billy,” we tell him, “that’s not a friend. That’s your landlord!” Or, “That’s your dentist!” Or, “The mailman!” Or, “A teenager handing out smoothie samples at the mall!”
We think he might be delusional, or just an idiot, or at the very least, depressed.
Billy mentioned the other day about how, while out walking his dog in the park, he made friends with the most pleasant stranger, likewise out walking his dog in the park, and how the two of them just stopped mid-walk to talk to each other about dogs.
“For an hour?!” We can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. We decide to quiz him.
We ask, “So what was his name?”
“Butterscotch,” Billy says.
“Not the dog’s name, Billy, the man’s!”
Billy mulls it over as we all smack ourselves in the head.
“I don’t think it ever came up,” he finally admits.
“Billy,” we tell him straight, “a dog is not a friend. A dog is a pet! A hostage with Stockholm syndrome at best!”
But Billy remains assured of a deeper connection. He can’t be convinced otherwise. Billy says he’s certain that this man from the park is talking about him exactly the same to his friends. And again, we have to remind him.
“Billy!” we cry out. “For Christ’s sake, we are not friends. We are coworkers!”
But doesn’t that count for something? Anything?
Billy wears his pitifulness like some big obnoxious hat. Not to mention Billy’s insistence on having friends who are women. Female friends he talks to, and relates to, and has drinks and dinner and late-night phone calls with, entirely platonically. Repeatedly, Billy has been caught referring to “hanging out” with his mother and sister, and we are forced to shake him violently.
“BILLY!” we scream. “Listen! Family members are not friends! Families are merely obligated to spend time together out of implicit social contracts of shared blood!”
“But what about Serena?” Billy asks, from behind his lunch tray. It takes every ounce of self-restraint not to smack it down to the floor.
“Billy…” we say, taking a breath. “You dumb, pathetic turd. Serena is your wife.”
The predominant reasons it is so easy to hate Billy’s guts are:
1.) His smile.
2.) His openness to discussing his personal life, his personal problems, his emotions laid so viscerally naked at times, it’s like staring directly into a flayed-open heart.
3.) His name, “Billy,” is the name of a child, which Billy was, at one time (the name perhaps suiting him then), but is no longer now. So now it’s just creepy.
We’ve even tried our best to try and like him. We told Billy, “Well, we’re just gonna call you Bill,” to which he happily obliged. Which only infuriated us more.
Why must he always be so agreeable? What is he plotting against us, in the grander scheme?
Billy continues to smile at us, wave at us, sit with us at lunch.
Why can’t some people just take a fucking hint? Do we have to spell it out for him? And so we do.
“BILLY!” we shout. “We. Are. Not. FRIENDS! Stop emailing us invites to your daughter’s BIRTHDAY PARTY!”
Yet still, Billy persists. He brings in an assortment of doughnuts (two dozen, even a few gluten-free options for Ken) with a note instructing us to, “Enjoy!”
We shove the box sideways into the garbage can, its corners visibly sticking out, so the message is clear: We are not your friends, Billy. We never will be. Keep it up, Billy. You’ll make enemies of us all.
Stephen Wack is an Atlanta-based writer. His work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, Flash: International, Maudlin House, Foglifter, Cleaver Magazine, and The Woven Tale Press, among other places.