It was 1999 when it started. I was in Australia and once again riding some wave of wanting to escape everything. I started by locking myself in my room and turning to internet friendships to the exclusion of everything in my "real" life. That worked for a while, but the compulsion to escape just kept getting stronger, it was like i couldn't deal with anything, anyone. I was also terribly paranoid at the time. I decided to change my sex because that seemed like as good a way as any to erase my old life. But something was different because for the first time, even though i completely disappeared on almost everyone, even as i tried to destroy every trace of what went before, a tiny bit of my memory stayed connected to the people who mattered. And even as i let everything slip away i secretly checked in over the next year to see if things were still okay with everyone. Eventually i did get back in contact with a few people and a couple remain in my life today.
But i never really learned the lesson. I know i shouldn't blame my illness (or some other uncontrollable natural impulse) for my continuing distance and need to disappear. It still happens, though. I don't let myself get close to people because i feel like nothing is going to last anyway, and then when i do get close or it does last i ultimately get swept up in another rush of ideas that leads me away, cutting ties all over again. But since 99 i have learned to at least keep a thread of what was before, and i've managed to sustain a few battered friendships in spite of it all. And yeah, those friendships - for whatever they're worth - also include my exes. The group that has stayed with me through the years is very, very small. I can't just delete people any more, not everyone.
I look back now at other people who were important in my life, and i realize how little foresight i had. I've rarely bothered to learn my friends' surnames, learn their phone numbers or addresses by heart, remember any identifying clues. People talk about finding old friends on social networking websites but i wouldn't even know where to start. Probably my closest friend from my high school years (another ex), i don't even know her full name. I never thought to keep those things in my head. When i inevitably left it always became wasted space, you know? Why remember things that aren't necessary? I had to laugh when i was photocopying my passport in case i got mugged in Boston and i played out this scenario in my head of okay i get mugged and i hit the guy back and i get taken in by the cops and they give me a phone call and then the only phone number i know in the US is the one i called almost every day for years. What a sucky call that would be to get. But it's there, it's in my head. Maybe practically it's wasting space but emotionally it means something. It's a little connection, a spark of sentimentality that shows i'm not a robot, i'm not fucking dead. If i had kept more of those little things in my mind over the years maybe i would have more friends now, or at least more contact with people who meant something to me.