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  • After describing how easy it was to find and then download the CHIPs opening sequence-- you know-- the one where Poncho flashes a swarmy smile and looks straight at the camera while making a questionable hand signal, Darren explained to me that he had a theory about what was going on with me.
    That was six days ago.

    Earlier in the week, I had confided in him that I had been experiencing an unprecedented run as a psychoceramacist, giving Josiah Stickney Carberry a real run for his money. As of late, I had been meeting random people who were either straight up kooks or had some tendencies that didn't quite qualify them for a bona-fide diagnosis, but rather, made for interesting stories. "Too many cracked pots", I told him.

    Now mind you, I hadn't even yet mentioned last night's first and only date with that import rug salesman who thought I would, somehow, appreciate hearing about the encounter in which he accidentally "bumped into" some clients of his having a hot time at the swinger's club on South Street. Apparently he missed the look of horror on my face. My favorite part was when he huddled in closer, lowered his voice, and reassured me that they were only into being watched. After pulling the cheese off a tortilla chip in long, greasy strands, he whispered with nacho breath, "That's how come it didn't bother me that they said "no" when I asked if I could join in."

    In his email, Darren mentioned something about like attracting like.

    He said that people with obsessive or eccentric tendencies seem to find one another with the precision of high-powered neodymium.

    Ha! What's this, I mused, as the blood rushed to my ears.

    I guess I *did* mention that I had been thinking about all the kooky encounters lately. Alot. I wrote back, trying to maintain one of those neutral tones that belies defense and keeps things on an even keel.

    "Well, there is the difference between enthusiasm, passion and obsession, with the latter being at the farthest end of the spectrum. I am not obsessed. I just like what I like. Period. Besides, I don't have any rituals. I don't feel compelled to have to go and do anything, you know, strange. It's not like I am checking the damned stove every six minutes. What do you mean anyway? EXPLAIN yourself!"

    Hit send.

    I glared back at the screen, repeatedly pressing the "check mail" tab for Darren's reply.


    An eternity of five minutes passed. More nothing.

    "How can there be more than nothing", I thought? "What's more than zero?" In math, zero may or may not be considered a natural number, but it is a whole, rational and real number. Proof, indeed, that nothing is very real.

    Why did it feel like more of something then? Maybe just more of something else. What was the else? After pondering the maybe mores, I picked up the phone to ask just what it was that he meant.

    You know, regarding the accusation.

    After exactly four rings, I heard him sigh in to the mouthpiece, like he knew just what was coming. The first fully-formed words out of his mouth were:

    How are you?"

    "What do you mean? I'm fine", I fired back. Too quick, too late, I coached myself.

    Forever going back for seconds, I sputtered: "What makes you think I'm obsessed?" One question, one thought spiraled, throwing the mental horseshoe while fully expecting the dull, clamorous ring when it hit the pole. I just couldn't help it but I knew I'd ask anyway.

    Slowly, Darren tells me that he's putting together some Ikea furniture at his brother's house. "Another time, in person," he suggests.

    "I have a theory about you, about this," he repeats.

    That vein, the one above my right eye, begins to pulse.

    "What do you mean you can't tell me now? Why not?" I retort.

    Delicately, he asks, "Why, are you bothered?"

    "No," I posed, "It's just that, well, I'm curious about what you have to say."

    Figuring that being curious sounded better than being bothered, I launched into my deception wholeheartedly. Evidence would back up my assertion that I was merely curious, and not bothered, and so I decided to prove just that.

    I explained how I used to secretly unwrap and then retape my Christmas presents as a kid, as more proof of my eternally curious and unbothered nature.

    Confirmation. Evidence.

    I told him that I had to know what was in those decorated boxes under the tree, and that the only way to do that, was to actually open them. I offered that this took handiwork and stealth, not only in making sure that you peeled the tape off just enough so as to not rip the thin wrapping paper, but to also slide the box out of the resulting paper shell so as to not add any new folds to the existing ones.

    Those folds could give you away.

    The real testament to said skills happened when one miraculously, meticulously slid the box back into the paper after it had been opened. This feat, I explained, could take some time. I even offered the bonus fact that once my clandestine unwrapping activities had been discovered, I had to wait, as a punishment, until everyone else in the family had opened their gifts before I could (re)open mine that year. I told him that particular Christmas was tough, but no matter, since I already knew what I had gotten that year and Andy would have to wait.

    I wondered if my frequent and spontaneous humming of "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" had aroused suspicion, leading to the discovery of my covert activities.

    I was on a roll. You could not meet a more curious and unbothered soul.

    And that was when I was in the third grade when I got caught.

    And that I almost wet my jammies in excitement when I first found the red, portable 8-track tape player among the pile of presents.

    And the reason that I even got caught in the first place was because of Andy.

    You know, the solo Gibb brother-- the cute one-- with the tufts of hair poking out of his silky crimson shirt.

    I almost described the too-tight pajamas that I wore that morning when I noticed what I was doing.

    Barely stayin' alive.

    Darren just stared at me.

    As the words came out of my mouth, I realized how the details seemed, well, excessive. Just like the flourishes offered by those intending to cognitively deceive, a fancy term used to describe plain old fibbers, as my Grandma called 'em. I once saw that TV show where the cops said that liars add too many details to their stories in an attempt to sound credible, but ironically, all their bonus recollections gave them away. I wondered if the bad guys hummed too.

    Hung by a thread in the fabric of the aforementioned, almost-mentioned pjs.

    Crap. I imagined that Darren would see through this ruse of mine. And what was worse was that I knew that he knew damned well that I was bothered and not merely curious.

    But instead, he acted like he accepted my curious and not bothered nonsense, like he was humoring, or worse, pitying me.

    Why did I even bother with that story anyway? The man downloads CHIPs videos, for crissakes.
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