Facebook can be pretty awesome but as I’ve noted in the past it can also be a hive of scum and villainy and, moreso than Twitter, you can really find out which ones of your fake-and-or-real friends are racist or sexist or shitclumps of some other shape. And recently I saw one person kind of go on and on about the “friend zone,” that most toxic and passive-aggressive of male memes that begins in high school and often enough doesn’t get disproven — and this person was trying to prove that it was real, as if this were some kind of scientific study into the idea, as if he were on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, hiding in the weeds while watching the “friend zone” phenomenon manifest itself, provably. It was, of course, an argument positively choking on its own horseshit. I didn’t engage, I just clicked “unfriend.” Because, really, ew.
I thought, well, I’ll write a post about the friend zone, but I realized that my favorite most-wonderfully-horrible anti-hero, Miriam Black, already said it (albeit in a way more venomous than I would normally convey, as that’s how she rolls). Further, I am not averse to a tiny bit of self-promotion when the time comes (my shame sensors were destroyed in the war), and so I thought I’d quote a little bit from Miriam’s most recent adventure, The Cormorant, where she deals with this, erm, “friend zone issue” in that Very Miriam Way.
So, here’s a snippet from the book.
* * *
“I got you a job!” Jace blurts.
Miriam turns. Makes a poopy face. “Me and jobs don’t play well together. My last real job kind of ended with a shooting. And a stabbing, come to think of it.”
“I don’t mean that kind of job–” He fishes in the pockets of his flannel surrender-pants, pulls out a folded up piece of paper: the world’s most boring origami. He begins to unfold it. “I ran a Craigslist ad–”
“I definitely do not want whatever this job is. Particularly if it has the word ‘hand’ or ‘rim’ preceding it–”
“No, wait, shut up for a second. A couple months back I put up an ad for your… particular talents, the psychic death thing, and for a while I mostly just got a bunch of trolls who thought I was a pimp–”
“I don’t like where this is going.”
“But last week I got this email.”
He thrusts the unfolded paper at her. Like a beaming toddler proud of his dirty diaper.
She grabs it. Scowls. Reads.
Her gaze suctions onto a very big number in the middle of the email.
“Five grand,” she says, looking up. “This guy wants to pay me five fucking grand to tell him how he’s going to die?”
Jace nods, grinning ear to ear.
“Are you sure he doesn’t think this is code for sex?”
“I… I called him.”
“You called him.”
“I thought he might think it was about sex, so.”
“And it’s not about sex.”
“No, he’s some rich guy in Florida. A little obsessed with his own…” Jace flutters his fingers in the air, a gesture he makes when he’s trying to think of a word. “Demise.”
“That means I need to get to Florida.”
He shrugs. “Well. Yeah.”
“Call him.” She snaps her fingers. “Set it up.”
“OK,” he says. But he just stands there. Staring at her.
“You’re looking at me,” she says.
“I think it’s OK to look at you. You can look at me, too.”
“I am looking at you looking at me, and at this point I’m starting to wonder what’s going on.”
He shifts nervously from foot to foot. “I just thought you could say, you know… thank you?”
“Oh. Well.” Miriam clears her throat, loosens some of that tobacco mucus that nests in her vocal cords. “Thank you, Jace. By the way, I hate that name. Jace. Jason – Jason is a good name. Or Jay. I like Jay. It’s like a bird. I like birds. Mostly.”
“Do you like me?”
“I like you.”
“Oh, sweet Christ on a crumbcake, really?”
“Really what? We’ve known each other for a year now and we’ve kind of skirted around each other and flirted–”
“I did not flirt.”
“We were flirting,” he says, nodding, smirking. “Sometimes people flirt and they don’t even know it.”
She narrows her eyes. “Nnnyeah, I think I’d know.”
“You’re leaving soon.”
“Pretty much now-ish.”
He reaches out. Takes her hand. “That bed looks pretty comfortable.”
She shoves him backward. Not hard enough to crack his skull against the doorframe, but enough to get the message across.
“Hey,” he says, genuinely stung. “Ow.”
“Thank your stars and garters I didn’t perform dentistry using your asshole as the entry point.”
He sighs. “Friend-zoned again. Nice guys finish last.”
The temperature in her mental thermometer pops the glass. “What did you just say? Are you seriously pulling that nice-guy friend-zone crap? You little turd, how’s that supposed to make somebody feel? That my friendship is just a way station to my pussy? Is that what my companionship is worth to you, Jace?”
“It’s not like that. I just thought–”
“You thought what? That because you’re a nice guy, my panties will just drop because you deserve to have my thighs around your ears? Fuck you, dude. Being a nice person is a thing you just do, not a price you pay for poonani. I’m not a tollbooth. A kind word and a favor don’t mean I owe you naked fun time.”
Now he’s mad. Brow stitched. Lip curled. “Oh, like you’re a nice person? Please.”
“I’m not! I’m not nice. And this is not news, dude. I’d rather be a cranky bitch who lets you know what she’s thinking than some passive-aggressive dick-weasel who thinks friendship with a girl is secondary to her putting out. You wanted to fuck me? You shoulda just said so. I would’ve at least respected that, and we wouldn’t have to do this boo-hoo woe-is-me pissy-pants guilt-fest.”
She throws on her jacket and snatches the email out of his hand and slings the bag over her shoulder. A hard elbow to the gut leaves him bent over and oof-ing.
Miriam heads to the door.
He trails after like a bad smell.
Taevon and Cherie watch, goggle-eyed.
“I’m sorry,” Jace says, rubbing his stomach.
“You are sorry,” she says, throwing open the door to the hallway.
“I’m a dick.”
“A tiny dick. An insignificant dick. Positively microbial.”
“Can I call you?”
“Can you… No, you can’t call me.”
“But you have the same phone if I wanted to?”
“I’m going to throw it in a bag and burn it.”
* * *
Miriam Black knows how you’re going to die.
All it takes is a touch — a little skin-to-skin action.
Now someone — some rich asshole from Florida — wants to pay her so he can find out how he’s going to die. But when she touches him, she receives a message sent back through time and written in blood: HELLO, MIRIAM. It’s a taunt, a warning, and the start of a dangerous and deadly game for everybody’s favorite carcinogenic psychic, Miriam Black.