Of all the unusual individuals I have encountered on the internet, there are none I knew better, nor were closer to, than Mr. Pink.
This column, the second one in a three-part series on my experiences in the social media platform Discord, was by far the most difficult one for me to compose.
My interactions with Mr. Pink, a name chosen to reference the movie “Reservoir Dogs,” have proven to be very impactful. Even though we first met nearly a year ago, I now find myself reflecting on my exchanges with him as I immortalize these thoughts in digital clay.
No doubt, Mr. Pink has changed my life forever.
Self-loathing, suicide and reincarnation
Our first meeting was one of dumb chance. The week before he joined Mr. Purple’s server in August 2020, I changed my profile picture and name in Discord to a meme from Warhammer, a popular war game.
Mr. Pink was interested in the lore of Warhammer and direct-messaged me to see if I could tell him more about it. He was very friendly, and I suppose he noticed a kindness in me as well; our conversation that day was brief, but he contacted me the next day to chat more.
I soon realized that Mr. Pink was odd, one of those timid, shy and mocked people, much like myself, but to a much greater degree. I began to take an interest in him and sought more conversations.
Through DMs and Mr. Purple’s server, we talked mainly about music, video games and art, but he often remarked that his preferred source of relief from daily life was to cry.
He described how great it was to open the waterworks in the shower or his room.
My preferred remedy to daily stresses is listening to slow and heavy Gregorian chants or militaristic marches filled with the furious beating of drums and roaring of brass. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
Needless to say, and surely easy to understand, I felt pity and sadness for Mr. Pink.
How pathetic and pained must one be?
This revelation occurred hours before my virtual school orientation around 12:30 a.m. Aug. 25, 2021. What began as a fairly average conversation eventually deteriorated into a discussion about the meaning of life and the subsequent favorability of death.
He asked me, after suggesting God is real, why would he force people to suffer on earth?
Perhaps, God doesn’t exist because of all the suffering in the world and therefore, reincarnation might be possible, he added.
His self-loathing and contemplation of suicide made reincarnation seem better, less pathetic and painful. Maybe if he ended everything, he could be reincarnated as something better.
He said people had told him that he was worthless, that he should do the right thing and end his life. Being a young man, insecure and openly gay, suicide made sense to him.
I was the one he shared these confidences with, and I felt bound to console him, a young teenager whose mother had abandoned them and who apparently had only three friends in the entire world, including me.
“You have family and friends who love you. You have a father, people who care and another friend you can add to the list.”
Such a weight should fall on no one, neither him nor myself. I simply did what I thought was best: I comforted him in his time of need.
Sometime between 2 and 3 a.m., I decided I had to leave the Discord chatroom and go to sleep, but I felt good about being there for him and helping him.
Shift in our friendship
Before I signed off, Mr. Pink thanked me for my consolations and then changed the topic.
He asked me about my sexual orientation.
Mr. Pink let me know he was not in a relationship but was looking, and he liked masculine men.
Feeling a bit uncomfortable, I told him I was straight.
He then asked me if he could talk with me later that day in voice chat, so he could hear what I sounded like, but I found this idea to be extremely uncomfortable.
I had scarcely ever dealt with homosexuals before, let alone people who were clearly coming onto me. I was wary of the possibility that he was a predator and thought that should he not be, he was lucky I wasn’t. He was incredibly naive. Regardless of these oddities, I made time to speak to him.
Our first voice chat, where my first words were “I’m just a person, no need to be nervous,” was cut short, so I could make the steak mentioned in a previous column, but I had other opportunities to talk with him that day.
During those initial chats, I focused on his voice, which was nothing like the old man I assumed it would be. It was like that of a woman and a man speaking together from one mouth.
In other words, Mr. Pink’s voice was that of a teenager, my age, but his voice was far more effeminate than me or anyone else I had ever heard.
I spoke with him several more times in September and I enjoyed myself — except for his odd flirting with me.
Even though I don’t swing that way, I learned things about him and the gay lifestyle he knew, but I also learned things about myself. Mainly, it was nice to have another person to play games with and hang out with during the pandemic, so I was happy.
One last chat with Mr. Pink
However, everything eventually ended. It was a slow atrophy and decay, worse than an abrupt schism or immediate separation.
In the first month, I enjoyed chatting with him often, but for the entirety of October, we didn’t speak once. He brushed me off, replied only with “no” to my “hello” or didn’t respond at all.
I became frustrated and began preparing myself to end our friendship.
But by Nov. 1, he reached out to talk to me one last time.
It was unexpected in the extreme; the day before was one of the more blatant brush-offs he had done, but he told me he was on damage control for a group of friends.
This was the reason why he had been cold for the past month.
I suppose it made sense.
Mr. Pink seemed overwhelmed, broken and incapable of social maintenance, at least with me.
Unfortunately, I do not easily suffer the company of those who are weak. I have had to confront and overcome a great deal of suffering in my own, young life. People who succumb to their weakness and don’t fight frustrate me, bore me, and waste my time and energy.
Our last voice call, even though I looked to it as a point of revival, was nothing of the sort. I knew then that we simply were no longer friends.
Perhaps, I could have salvaged our friendship, made something more of it, but the amount of mental and emotional resources this relationship had exacted from me made me realize it was all pointless.
Then, a booming, familiar voice, that of my grandfather, reoriented me.
“What is your job?”
And my answer to him was, as it will always be:
And so, I had learned everything I could from this friendship.
I saw the rise, the fall and everything in between.
School was now my primary goal, and it was simply too complicated to chat around with teenage boys on the internet who had crushes on me.
Cutting each other off
Towards the end of our relationship, I thought of Mr. Pink often. He had been the topic of several self-talks on walks I have taken, but enough was enough.
He was now a cancer in my thoughts, keeping me from what truly mattered, so I found it within myself to make the killing blow. I unadded him as a friend on Discord with the full intention of never speaking to him again, but make no mistake, it was out of self-preservation more than anything else.
I never wanted the friendship to end as it did. I might have even, in an alternate timeline, found it within myself to keep everything going, but I did not.
Mr. Pink eventually left the server, and with that, the door was forever shut.
Eventually, he became a distant memory until now. In other words, I regret writing this column.
A fish is a fish
I know all I had done in the friendship was good and true. I had brought him back from the depths of pain, been his company and been a friend.
However, in the days before he left the server, I saw that he had found what he was looking for: the eyes and embrace of some long-sought hero and lover. He now had his match.
My role became clear: Get him to a safe harbor and leave or be left. There was no goodbye.
I began to realize that even though an action may be right, that does not mean it is good, nor will its doer be rewarded.
I had tormented myself for weeks and changed the course of my life forever just because I had to be a kind man.
Was this magnitude of frustration and confusion worth enduring?
Of course, I will never know, but I tell myself it was not.
What is relief from one cut out of a million?
People like Mr. Pink will never cease to suffer, just as fish never cease to swim but for fleeting moments. That is their lot in life, chosen or otherwise, and being that I am not God, I can do little to help them.
I should have left him as he was that morning in late August, ignoring the belief that what is right is always good. Though I saw the weight and satisfaction that comes with doing a good deed, I also saw its harm, just as I will now see it always.
The experience confused me to no end.
Through everything, I realize I have no true quarrels with Mr. Pink. I cannot expect someone as pained as him to be a good friend like those I hold so dear, just as one cannot expect an animal to be good at table conversation.
Mr. Pink is no Mr. Orange or Mr. Purple or Mr. Brown.
There is a reason he only speaks to those he cannot see; there is a reason he is as lonely as he is. It’s just the natural order.
My kindness broke that order, and for that I suppose, the ending was fitting for me.
Yet, I will not leave you with the sad side of this relationship.
Instead, I will leave you with my favorite quote from Mr. Pink, one that I have grown to fully appreciate. I remember I brought up love songs once, making fun of them and the things I didn’t yet understand, to which he said:
“I was once like you. I never understood love songs until I finally felt it. Love. Then, they all sort of made sense. I understood what they were singing about, and now they comfort me.”
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent.
Starting the summer of 2021, my son, Joseph, is writing a monthly column titled In My Son’s Words where he describes his experiences as a teenager and as a child of a single parent.
Twice a month, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.