Julian is, without a doubt, impossible to read. To use a tired quote, he is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. When you hang out with him in person, he treats you exactly like he treats everyone else around him. His easygoing attitude seems at odds with his seeming indifference, an unlikely juxtaposition between feeling at peace and friendly while also giving everyone the cold shoulder.
There are very few people with whom this is not the case, and who get to know Julian fully and well. I feel I am not one of these people, but I’d like to try to share what I know.
Even though it’s noon, the basement is dark and somber. Shafts of light from the small windows nearby break through the gloom, floating dust statically staying still as if the beams of day had frozen them in place. A futon lies in the middle of the floor. Someone is curled up in a ball, their head buried in the covers. Julian.
Soft music plays from his computer nearby. I don’t know the band, but I like the sound; it takes a minute for me to register it’s indie rock. Honest, earnest music, like a good friend in a bad time.
I ask him if he’s alright.
I leave. Not much else to do; trying to talk to him right now would be like talking to a stone.
It’s fact that Julian feels quite deeply. Despite this, and I have no idea where he learned how, the man has a poker face that’s hard to beat. Talking to someone he likes and to a person he hates, you would barely be able to tell the difference. Most people would be passive aggressive, sarcastic, something. Julian? Nothing.
Even when you’re alone with him, the most he has to say about anyone in private is that they’re some expletive or another, and that’s that. Thing is, Julian is incredibly good at walls. He’s all the tougher and tenacious for it, sure; but sometimes I wonder what else is going on in that head of his.
My nails are chewed down to a stub, two of them are bleeding. It stings a little, but I don’t care. I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack, but I’ll have no idea that’s what it is until 4 years later.
“Yo.” Julian walks in through the doorway, carrying his laptop. He sets up across the table from me, plugs in Jimmers (his computer), and boots up Heroes of Newerth.
“Hey. You playing HoN?”
He grabs a handful of jelly beans from a Costco sized bag of Jelly Bellies.
He knows something is up, but as per usual, he doesn’t talk. The voices of strangers blare from his speakers; apparently, someone else had called a character and is calling them a little bitch. Charming.
“Hey man, chill,” Julian says through a mouthful of candy, “it’s just a game. Let’s settle down, take it easy.”
The jerk on the other end calls Julian a couple of colourful words not fit for print, and leaves the game.
“How does this not piss you off?” I ask.
Shaking his head, he tells me that it does piss him off.
“But what the hell am I gonna do about it,” he adds, “It’s not like bitching about it will change much.” He grabs another jelly bean, and tells the rest of his team to get their shit together.
An hour later, he ends up winning.
Julian joined the Navy a couple of years ago now. His practical nature and quick wit made him some easy friends and were instrumental in successfully passing his officer training; either through study, or through convincing the people training him that their test was hot trash.
I know my own brother half as well as I’d like, but I know the important stuff. He’s kind, brave, and practical. He’ll do anything for someone he cares about, and is quick to defend those he deems worthy. Rolling with the punches comes naturally to the man, and he’s just as quick to dish it out when it does something useful.
More importantly than all that, Julian is a good man. I suppose that’s all that I need to know, and knowing more wouldn’t change a thing.
A chill wind blows past me, a bitter English February evening in London, as I walk down the street towards home.
I’d just lost my teaching position at the primary school I’d been working at for six weeks. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to my class; just a quick meeting with the head teacher and bam. Out on my ass, looking for more supply work.
A gust whips at my face, but through the comfortable numbness of oncoming depression and my very scruffy beard, I barely feel a thing. My iPhone plays away, the music turning from the game remix I’d been listening to for the past few minutes into something I’d forgotten about.
It takes me a minute to realize it’s indie rock. I instantly think of Julian, and I recognize the tune from the basement. It had been at least half a decade since then. Since then, Julian had recovered from a terrible memory. Since then, Julian had become an officer in the Navy. Since then, Julian had started seeing a wonderful girl, and was now happier than I’d ever seen him.
I whisper under my breath, “Slow Show.” It’s a song by the National, a group I know Julian liked a lot. I’ve no idea if he still likes them, or anything, but I know he listened to this song once, when he needed a good friend in a bad time.
Thinking about Julian fills me with a sigh, and I start walking with renewed energy. I smile, and think: it’s not like bitching will change much, right?