Help! I am a misanthropist. Part 1

humor, miscellaneous, writing

I am a very curious, horridly direct, incisive sort of person, afflicted with uncontrollable truthfulness, which means that I find most people obtuse, insecure, boring and kind of namby-pamby. It also means that I frequently make these same people quite bothered or at the least uncomfortable. Being, as I am, in the minority, I realize that I am perhaps more the problem than they are. It’s a miracle really that I managed to get married, and happily, and early on, even my mother thought I would end up as a bit of a feral thing living deep in the woods up in some tree surrounded by wet man-eating koalas.

3eead2e018dc98ee533b2cfb4ac63cbbee3dd69ca217719a6a757512ae7e8768The qualities that I respond to in people are universally hailed as well as claimed by most, while being in fact possessed by almost none. Earnestness, good nature, true inner confidence, directness, decisiveness, insightfulness, self awareness, consideration of others and an agile mind are just some of the things that are necessary for me to form connections with other people or simply to find them likable. I am not just rattling off a catalog of positive human qualifications either, I take careful inventory and fastidiously measure every one of the items mentioned in all whom I meet. The list is absurdly long too, but it has organically grown inside me like a weed, regrettably I am not its gardener and haven’t the power to redact it. Trust me, I would if I could, life would be plenty easier.

If I had to sum it all up I’d say integrity is what I find to be most lacking in my species, and I mean the daily kind, the integrity of little things, small decisions, ordinary moments, minute conversations. I think this is a legitimate gripe against western peoples and something that amply justifies my burgeoning misanthropy-ism. The trouble is though, that it’s the other, much less weighty, much more superficial stuff that often informs my feelings about my fellow humans. Sometimes, before I even have the chance to examine their deeper, more substantive aptitudes, I find myself either painfully disinterested or worse, not being able to stand them at all. Therein lies what I’ve discerned to be my central (and only actually) character flaw. Intolerance.

funny_rebel_cartoon_stickers-rffdddae71bdc43df849fe2d77df2dd33_v9wf3_8byvr_324 I am intolerant. Sometimes it means that I’m short, sharp and dismissive. It also means that inside my head I am unkind, judgmental and even unjust. The side effect of my, lets call it “persnickety”, mental conformation is that I have throughout my life been sort of socially lacking, more so than my communicative, lively nature would ideally have it.

One of my resolutions for this new year, which marks the beginning of the fourth decade of my time on earth, is to better myself (where betterment still can be attained). There aren’t a lot of areas for improvement here, cus I am obviously awesome, but this intolerant thing, well I’ve started working on it. It’s time to do some changing. I’ve realized that not all friends have to be great or close or real even, some can just be friends “lite”, like the free version of the app you want with the ads and the limited functional scope. A connection does not have to be absolute and exact to warrant some level of friendship or social engagement.  I don’t know if this is progress or regress, because it certainly smacks a bit of a kind of disillusionment and settling. I am hoping though, that it’s not so much an abandonment of my exalted ideals, as it is their necessary modification and softening. Bonding being achieved not through an instant congress of souls or minds but rather through repeated physical proximity and shared social experiences? Seems like reasonable recourse.

It has not been easy. These new friends might look good, but they are trying the hell out of my patience and resolve. I do find myself having bits of legitimate fun here and there, and whereas my mental health is sometimes stretched to its limit I opt for hugging, rather than kicking or biting. I am testing the theory that negative thinking can be remedied by positive body language. I realize this might seem utterly ridiculous, but I am actually a very physically affectionate person by nature, and hugging or touching those I love is very natural to me, so I’m hoping it works similarly in reverse with those I am trying to love.  Also, going out has given me a reason to color coordinate again and that’s like totally like EVERYTHING.

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Mmmm that’s all I care to say on this subject right now…but it will be a multi-part post, detailing my experience as a newly minted social person with friends and things to do on a Saturday night.

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Part 5: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Plz find Parts 1234 by clicking on the numbers. 🙂

A few days passed since my exodus and yet I hadn’t heard from him at all. It was the biggest break we had to date in terms of communication. Eventually I called him but he didn’t pick up and didn’t call me back. I called again, nothing. I left a couple of concerned voice mails. Nothing. It was all around confounding. I didn’t know what to think. I’d never been an alarmist but I started to worry for him, as he was now marooned up in that house quite alone, not counting the wine. I texted him a few times too requesting a confirmation of life, still there was no reply. Finally, right when I was ready to drive over to check on him, he shot me back a short text, casually letting me know that he was fine, but busy. This was followed by another period of radio silence. I remember feeling very confused and anxious and finally penning a heartfelt message which questioned the state of our relationship, while reminding him of my friendship and love. He did respond then, denying the validity of my concerns and reassuring me that nothing in fact had changed between us. That exchange I, for some reason, remember in its entirety. He insisted that our friendship, despite evidence to the contrary, had undergone no change at all and that I was still “singularly unique and special” to him. This was, as i had shortly learned, a flat out lie, as he was in fact done with me for good, but putting me out of my misery would have required too great a generosity on his part, it was no 4$ latte or DVD after all. To be clear, the crux of my injury wasn’t that he had a sudden change of heart, demoralizing as this was, the real hurt emanated from his not caring or respecting me enough to simply take my call and tell me something-anything real. If he had, I would undoubtedly still have been hurt, but I would also walk away with as high an opinion of him as ever and a mind to healing.

No measure of wariness towards J could have prepared me for this turn of events. I was, in all honesty, soul-crushed and for a long time thereafter truly, deeply sad. If his disappearance from my world seems innocuous as far as transgressions go, let me assure you it was not; it was acutely, painfully felt. Sure, dropping the proverbial curtain and exiting stage left is every person’s prerogative, but sneaking out under cover of night is not. To this day abandonment ranks on my list of painful experiences as one of the worst and most contemptible. I hate to be dramatic, but I think he could have just as well punched me in the stomach. It felt in every way like a violence and a theft. Had he indicated his intentions to disengage, extended any, and I do mean any, courtesy explanation aimed towards closure, or even just a stock Good Bye, I would have been able to process it differently. It was his silence, evasion and complete lack of basic human regard for me that shocked my system, and although it mostly bruised my heart, it was also a blow to my pride and my self-esteem. (Admittedly, the latter was struck the least)

It boggles my mind even now that this seemingly earnest, tender hearted boy (..or man I guess) with his love of dogs and his rare gift for words could be so inexplicably thoughtless (cruel). Though obviously, I misunderstood completely the degree of his attachment and care for me, what surprised me most was how sorely I misjudged his character. He was in regards to me indecent, an utter failure. At the time I would have bet my arm that underneath the charm and the words, there was a conscientious person of substance and heart. I would have lost that bet (and the arm) as words proved to be ALL he was.

Before now I never talked about any of this, because, in part, I was ashamed of having let myself fall into it as I did. After all I was and always will be the only one responsible for my own feelings, the fact that I got hurt was, as they say, on me. Victim girl or Foolish girl were not monikers I cared to take up and “vulnerable” is perhaps a word I detest most and in general, god forbid it be spoken in reference to me. Pride and unresolved confusion further conflated into a kind of secretiveness. On some level too, I think I hoped that the story still had a chance of finding a better conclusion, so I kept it tucked away in a cognitive limbo. That’s the trouble with hope, enduring as it is, it doesn’t fall within the purview of good judgment or reason.

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A few years later, with hope finally abandoned, I wrote J an email outlining how I felt. It was a way of self-generating the closure he couldn’t give me. I wanted it to be finite, so I asked that he not respond, even if by some chance he felt inclined to do so. I don’t remember what exactly was in it, I imagine it was some version of all this, and I don’t know that he read it, but if he did, he heeded my request obliging me with his continued silence.

The overall experience marked me indelibly, but it did not change or callus me. In all fairness the universe did make ample karmic recompense to me shortly thereafter, turning Lonely girl into a decidedly Lucky girl (so lucky). I am still genuinely concerned for J’s happiness and still only wish him the best. I think I’ll never stop rooting for him, and that is something I don’t dislike about myself. The most significant thing I carried out from it all, besides a purple heart bruise, was a lesson in accountability. From that point forward I was always painstakingly careful not to lead anyone on whom I did not intend to keep.

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Part 4: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Our friendship rebooted itself with pronounced enthusiasm. Although I found myself quite busy with school and work, there wasn’t a singular occasion when I could resist his call. Many evenings we were together, and if, by some chance, I wasn’t able to immediately confirm or otherwise respond to his summons, I would find on my phone beckoning pictures of steaming coffee cups with my name scribbled on them,  valiantly pre-purchased  and sitting somewhere next to him, in wait of me. I, in truth, was quite transfixed by the entire ordeal, revived and whirlwind as it was. A long time Lonely girl, I found myself relieved for a time of my cumbersome Bête noire and with it my moniker. It wasn’t merely that I no longer felt as alone, or that he wooed me in that obsequiously sweet and wordy way of his; there was also the beguiling lure of innocence to the whole affair. The combination was irresistible and so singularly unique that, against my better judgment, I started to believe we had the makings of something special or at least something that would keep.

Often, at close of evening, we would return to my humble Santa Monica abode and watch together some respectable television programming. I think, somewhat amusingly, the program we watched most of was HBO’s Big Love. My couch wasn’t exactly petit but it necessitated the sort of proximity that, in all honesty, was best suited to romantic entanglements. Said proximity though did, after a while, contribute to a blurring of those proverbial lines which govern physical appropriateness and its limitations. One night he held my arm across his lap and my hand in his, some random other I rested against his shoulder, eventually, on all the rest, we laid together, perfectly melded, without an iota of space left between us. Sadly, I do not think I had ever before been so close to another human being, or so at home. With my head cradled against his chest I listened to the alien mutterings of his heart and was, to my own surprise , conspicuously, completely satisfied. It went on this way for a while turning into a kind of ritual between us.

The obvious observation here would be that the relationship was transforming into something more than a friendship, but truly it was not. Our prelapsarian entanglement was for both of us a kind of experiment in intimacy and diversion. It was this alchemy too that drove us to the climactic eventuality of touching lips. Although the sacrilege of this act, conducted as it were between mere friends, was satisfying, I’ll admit, we both considered it a bit of a fall from grace. Of all the moments we shared, our kissing is not one I remember. I don’t remember it what so ever. I only know that it happened because I recall my subsequent thoughts and our discussion of it. I couldn’t even say if it happened more than once, although my guess would be that it did.

At some point he invited me out to dinner with his family, the patrimonial half of it anyways, as his parents were long divorced. I got the sense that it had more to do with paternal approval than the advance of our friendship. I think he needed a prop to reassure Father of his red blooded American maleness, however counterfeit it was. I didn’t mind, the night was warm and the situation interesting, albeit seasoned perhaps with a subtle pinch of dysfunction. I was by every definition as obliging an actor in that theater as I was an unwitting one in the other.

J treated me always with exceeding care and gentlemanly regard. He had no money, but still insisted on buying my lattes. When he wanted me to watch Pan’s Labyrinth, he got it for me on DVD. His enduring attentions along with many small acts of kindness relieved me eventually and completely of all my reservations. If it wasn’t a seduction, it was a markedly assiduous and well executed persuasion. Admiration grew to a kind of lonely girl love and friendship transformed into a kinship, for me anyways. When fumigation rendered my house uninhabitable, I was all set to move for a short while into my aunt’s home, but J interceded, inviting me to stay with him at his father’s domicile in the Palisades. The rest of his clan was at the time traveling elsewhere, so the house sat empty but for him. I occupied his little sister’s room the very next day, it was a perfect fir, Goldilocks would have turned green with envy.

I believe we cohabitated for about a week or maybe a little longer. A charming little vignette, we were like two odd peas marinating in their special pod. We were, by my estimation, closer than ever. He didn’t talk much about San Francisco or this mysterious crisis that sent him scurrying back to LA, but the one person from his previous circumstance that he seemed to yearn for was a certain Berkeley professor. As I understood, they shared a singularly special intellectual kinship. One night he showed me their online exchanges and emails, his reaction while he reviewed them was more telling than their actual content, which frankly was somewhat beyond my humble comprehension. To say that he admired the man would be an understatement. I considered that this professor was to him, what he/J was to me, or perhaps more. It seemed possible that their relationship was not entirely or even at all platonic.

Things went swimmingly it seemed, until one day I literally went swimming. The first and possibly only time he treated me with sternness and irritation was over his laptop. I had dragged it off with me towards the pool, and the discovery of its proximity to water agitated him completely. While it was a perfectly reasonable reaction, as computers and pools are in fact an ill advised pairing, for the first time he was towards me not very patient or kind, and it sorely surprised me. In retrospect it might have been the beginning of the end, but I don’t know, it certainly seemed like nothing at the time.

In the interest of factuality and not because I think the event was significant or consequential, I must add that during my stay with him we did haphazardly take up our alchemic experiment again. It was a coital effort as anticlimactic in its commencement as it was in its near instantaneous termination. Without getting into details too graphic for my blushing brain, we suffered technical difficulties, amongst perhaps some others, which resulted in hasty and permanent abandonment of the whole ill conceived scheme. It was the most awkward undertaking of my entire sexual history, especially as neither one of us was particularly interested in it to begin with. Regrettably, since you’re wondering, we were at the time stone cold sober. Did we technically have sex, in the strictest and most reductionist definition of the act, I suppose we did. Did we in fact HAVE sex, no, absolutely not. And again, although this piece of the puzzle might seem of note, because so often the involvement of sex is, in our case and in my opinion, it was in fact completely meaningless and changed none of the implied terms of our friendship.

After the laptop incident, there was perhaps a small but perceptible shift in J, I felt like he withdrew some tiny part of himself from me, the warmest part. I was never a daft person, especially in terms of interpersonal relationships, so I quickly noticed a subsequent change in his mood. Although there were no obvious signs, I could feel that he didn’t want me there with him anymore. I tested the water and determined that my suspicions were correct, he wasn’t exactly asking me to stay. Marked by his sudden disengagement, I could feel for the first time between us a kind of ocean. Although it was unexpected, I wasn’t worried about it because I understood well the prevailing urgency of solitude, being quite prone to it myself. I didn’t take it personally either and, in the interest of friendly consideration, packed with great urgency. I am a huge proponent of giving the soul exactly what it wants when it wants it, and so I did my darnest to oblige his.

In the moments before my departure I was more worried about J, than myself, I wanted to relieve him of my company and all of its supplemental obligations as quickly as possible. I had no reason to believe that something was wrong, but my heart did bounce around a bit. I remember how it beat erratically inside my chest for no evident reason when he was ushering me outside, and how I tried to will it into abject submission. Still it sank some, it really it did. Once outside, we embraced briefly exchanging sweet goodbyes. It was as normal a parting as any, except that I could tell he was a million miles away. I had no way of knowing that I would never see him again.

Go to——->Part 5: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Part 3: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Read Part 1 & Part 2 here

How do I squeeze into conventional terms a completely unconventional love. It feels a bit like trying to explain to an orange what it’s like to be a shrimp. Regardless, one important note I’d like to make is that I’ll be using the word “love” in this story differently from its usual application. The love I’ll be talking about is not amorous in nature; it is not fraught with romance, physical attraction, sex, vows, obligations, promises, valentines, commitments or hopes of some future together. It is a different kind of love, irreverent, somewhat indescribable and quite punishing in its end.

I ran into J again years later, completely at random. I was around 23 by then. To my Mother’s extreme jubilation I ventured north for a second date with a plastic surgeon, a Jewish one at that. Following our first lackluster outing conducted in my neck of the woods over a salmon kale salad and a hefty serving of decidedly bad jokes, the doctor invited me to join him on a yacht in his lovely homestead of Santa Barbara. It was a kind of a sailing fete hosted by some of his fancy doctor friends and, if nothing more, it meant for me an exceedingly picturesque drive up the coast. Scantily clad in my nautical best; stripes, shorts and of course top-siders, with Mother cheering at my back, I set out on my adventure into proper maritime society with an optimistic hope of, at the very least, a very merry time.

Two hours later I was almost there, driving into town. A car cruising in the apposite direction caught my attention and I spun my head around trying to get a better look at its driver. Although I barely caught a glance of his profile, instant pangs of nostalgia filled my stomach. I thought I saw J. But what were the odds really? It couldn’t have been him, so I shooed the idea away and moseyed on. A few minutes later, I finally arrived at the designated address, parked, hung my feet out of the car door and, as per my custom, surveyed my surroundings. Once again, my heart jumped, this time, unbelievably and indisputably, J was getting out of a car right across the street from me. I yelled out, he turned his head, our excitement to discover one another in this way was palpable. Laughter, hugs and all around gaiety were quick to follow. Our reunion was rousing but brief as we were both en route to other appointments. I scorned him a bit for falling out of touch, he protested, I gave him my email address and we dispersed, filling the air between us with promises of fast reunion.

From day one I knew in my gut exactly who J was. I knew to dispense with all expectations in regards to him, unless I wanted my heart broken and scattered in his wake, along with all the others.  I knew this because he was to me what I had on plenty of occasions been to others. He was aloof and inconstant and there was a part of him that few, if anyone, could reach; a kind of karmic taste of my own medicine. Years ago I had taken the necessary, conscious steps of steeling myself against him. Although I wasn’t completely successful at wrangling my attachment, I did manage to will my heart into a formidable check, so his departure didn’t much affect me then. Now i had to once again remind myself, that although he could mean everything to me on one day, he would as easily be gone the next. This had already been lightly confirmed by our history. Furthermore, I had to consider that despite the numerous, excited promises made on that sidewalk, I wouldn’t hear from him again.

But I did, I heard from him right away. Here is an excerpt from that email, it is the only correspondence of ours that I was able to find, luckily it’s just right. It set the tone for J & M version 2.0, our ill fated reboot.

“I’m living in LA and YOU are officially my only friend there— this entails for you a number of abject responsibilities, like hanging out with me regularly and pretending to adore me.  My old email address got overrun with vaguely pornographic adverts re: enlarging the penis, shrinking the dating pool, so I abandoned it years ago– guess I threw the M out with the bathwater. I traveled, then I went to Berkeley, then I lived in San Francisco and worked as the definitively MALE host at a transgender restaurant/bar, spent my time preening and flirting and being pretty obnoxious I suppose, indulging in different forms of wickedness… this stint eventuated in something crisis-like and I left the bar and city and scampered back to Father in the Pacific Palisades to be an innocuous, aerobically inclined non-smoker who doesn’t pay rent and eats well… I work for dad flexibly as a verbally adept pseudo-para-paralegal with almost no responsibilities and vast groves of free time. I have been reading more than writing but always with a view to writing– I’m going to take some writing classes at our paltry Santa Monican Alma-Mater this summer, one in fiction, one poetry workshop.  In the Fall I’ll apply to PhD programs in literature and, depending on my productivity this summer, maybe MFA programs. Most importantly, I’m in L.A. indefinitely and you simply must be my friend– I’ve missed you (you who stands out from and over a boggled vastness of less resonant memories and persons from my earliest twenties).  Anyways, i have to insist that less time separate our last meeting from our next, less time than our custom would have it– if you’re exceedingly busy, too busy for idle socializing, I’ll commission some tennis lessons.  Warmly, moi ”   

The quickest way to a lonely girl’s heart is through a perfectly crafted sentence that tells her how significant and singularly special she is, how she is not to be forgotten. This knowledge is not to be misused, as lonely girls are an endangered species, and playing with their surprisingly squishy hearts is not only ill advised but also strictly against regulation. To be fair though, no heart should be played with, as most are quite breakable and none, in fact, are toys.

J and I met that very night for coffee, the fire flickered from its artificial coffee house pit, words swam in streams, more fervent than before; we had both grown some and not at all. It was as if no time had passed between us, and once again, against my better judgment, I found myself teetering dangerously close to his edge.

To be continued in  Part 4..…….

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Part 1: On lonely girls and broken hearts

writing

This is not a story about romance or young love, although in a way it is a story about a kind of love at a time when I was young. Recently I read a blog by Erin. J. Bernard, where she described a past romantic dalliance of unique nature, and a brand of rejection usually reserved for the weirder, lonelier segment of humanity; writers, artists and misfits. I found myself reminiscing about a person and a time in my own life which to my mind mimicked her experience. It was not a lasting or, in the grand scheme of things, a terribly significant event, but it was singular and it left an indelible mark on me. Like all of life’s harder lessons it was necessary and dutifully learned.

As I take inventory of my past, I find that, as usual, memory is at best a precarious mechanism, disorganized and not at all trustworthy. I wish I was the journaling type then, as to have at my disposal some authentic reference material, but no such luck. Trying to commit to an honest account of a time long gone is admittedly a bit more difficult, than I originally anticipated. If science is correct in its assertion that all cells in the body, including brain cells, renew themselves completely every 7 years, then I can say that none of what I was then remains in what I am now. Except of course for these scattered memories, but don’t get me wrong,  they are nothing to scoff at. Memories are, to my heathen mind, one and the same as soul. And so, for lack of journals, I guess I will have to prod at my soul.

I was always that weird, introspective kid clutching a book. From the very get go I knew that I understood things differently from others. When I was little I tried to explain certain truths to other five year olds, like the rate of seconds as they tick on the clock, they laughed at me, absolutely rejecting my completely correct take on time. This was just one occasion amongst many to come when I was completely right about something only to be rejected and ridiculed by the ignorant majority or by the uppish adults. I am not and never was by any means a saint, but I knew I was different, in some ways I knew I was better. I understand how it sounds, it’s quite wrong to say and vexing to hear, but I am not afflicted with false modesty. I never experienced jealousy or envy, if someone was more beautiful than me, received more praise, had nicer things, better toys, I was happy for them. To my mother’s relief I did not covet, so she never had to explain to me why I couldn’t have something that was had by someone else. I didn’t lord my advantages, whatever they might have been, over others; I couldn’t understand the pleasure of being boastful or the point of being popular. I couldn’t understand why winning mattered, how putting someone down or leaving someone out could be fun. It baffled me that while I lived comfortably so many others in the world suffered. When I was 8 I wrote a letter to God, who had not yet at this time disproved himself to me. I asked that he take some of my food and clothes to the children in Ethiopia, and packed it all up nicely into a suitcase. My mom was not amused. In short, I wasn’t motivated by the same things that motivated my peers.

The only reason I wasn’t ostracized or actively mocked for my obvious deviation from the norm, was that I was attractive and hailed from marginal privilege. The latter seemed to eclipse all of my more divergent qualifications. It was very clear to me from a very young age that the lottery of good genetics and favorable economic circumstances was responsible for my good standing in the world. Who I was on the inside didn’t much factor in.

I had a hard time connecting with people and subsequently a very hard time making friends. I wasn’t much different from that really weird girl with greasy hair and bad skin, who made everyone uncomfortable. She sat in the back of class, got made fun of, ate lunch alone and was left out of everything. I knew I was more like her than anyone else, yet I was treated differently, I was welcome at most tables, into most groups and at all sleepovers. I was offered regard and consideration, merely because my packaging was more advantageous. I became aware of this unjust truth first when I was 10, and although it undoubtedly made my life easier, it also mostly made me sad. As it followed I didn’t value that acceptance and didn’t try to maintain it. I became a unique kind of outcast. I didn’t fit in with the cool kids, even though I was welcome, because in reality we had nothing in common, but I didn’t fit in the with the weird kids either, because I was externally too well adjusted to share in their experience of the world. 

I am offering this lengthy prologue to explain the precise kind of loneliness with which I was afflicted for the majority of my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find friends, as in bodies to surround myself with, I just couldn’t find any I wanted to be surrounded by. In high school I spent most lunch periods in the home room, in the company of a book and Miss Ellis, the English teacher. I went to the movies mostly alone but sometimes with my grandmother, who was in fact one of the greatest friends I ever had. I carried out no connections at all from any of my school years. If I went to a high school reunion I wouldn’t know anyone, and I doubt anyone would know me, except maybe for a handful of boys who were, reportedly, sweet on me. I cultivated a few random friendships during college years, these friendships were seldom and short lived, mostly because of me, but not always. Unfortunately, if I was very drawn to someone, then most likely there had to have been something wrong with them, more wrong than there was with me. And I don’t mean something obvious or nefarious, like a hidden tail where there ought not be one or a penchant for squirrel dissection. No. I am talking about subtle inadequacies mostly related to the function or rather dysfunction of their proverbial hearts. Out of those few I can think of only a couple that mattered. One such that mattered is the subject of this narrative, if ever I can stop talking about my lonesome childhood and get to it.

….To Be Continued in Part 2

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