A few weeks ago, I heard from someone I hadn’t thought of in years. It was kind of funny in that “the huge guy in charge of the universe is watching me with creepy eyes” kind of way. A couple days before, I’d been randomly surfing The Facebook and found a comment she’d left in a place that neither of us should’ve been visiting–online or off–unless our intention was to throw flaming bags of shit, cackle maniacally, and then run rapidly in the other direction.
But there we were anyhow: she, being way too nice and I being uncharacteristically silent. The whole thing left a nasty taste in my mouth…as though–just by visiting–I was once again eating the very shit I should’ve been throwing. You know how smart people are always saying that if you could only “forgive and forget,” you’d be a happier person? Well, in my case–and certainly I’m not presuming to speak for anyone else–that old adage has proved to be a bunch of malarky. Indeed, I’ve forgotten what and who I should be mad at so many times in the past thirty years, that at this point, I have no choice but to label it a sickness. I may be happier in the short term for my lack of remembering, but I have no doubt that I’d be much healthier if I could hold the big, horrible wrongs that have been done to me fresh in my mind.
At least that way, I could walk down another street.
So anyway, I was forgiving and forgetting when I shouldn’t be. Again. Granted, it was only a small forgiveness, and one I’m sure no one else noticed since I was barely aware of it myself. Nevertheless, there was a certain amount of shame in the aftermath of that brief and clandestine internet drive-by of my former life. I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t wonder. I should let it go, immediately and forever. But obviously I haven’t. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand myself enough to explain why in hell I can’t seem to let some things (or some people) go, but I think the important thing is that I keep trying to be self-aware and more than willing to admit when I’ve done something (or someone) wrong. I can only do my best.
And then, I guess, also be willing to give myself a break when my best is not nearly good enough.
But anyway. the person I hadn’t thought of in years (who was visiting the same webpage as I was)–we talked on the phone for an hour or so, tried to fill one another in on the years since the last time we spoke. She knew a lot more about me than I did about her, which is the price I pay for telling my stories and keeping a lot of my life online. But her life wasn’t so much of a surprise to me, even though I didn’t have the CliffsNotes version at my fingertips. She was married to the guy I knew she’d marry. She was living in the state I knew she’d move to. She was a nurse. She had grandkids.
I don’t know if she was happy, though I’m certain that she would say she was.
Over the years, there have been a couple other people like her in my life. When they aren’t there anymore, I find myself wondering why they were ever there in the first place. There was never anything there for me, though sometimes I might have temporarily convinced myself that there was. In the longevity of things, those people brought me no great love or friendship, no unbelievable humor or wisdom, no big lesson I needed to learn. When they were gone, they didn’t leave a hole in my life, they just weren’t there anymore.
I could hear in her voice (and in a few of the things she said) that she thought I bore her some ill will. I don’t, though given the unreliability of my memory, it’s possible that I should. In any case, I can’t bring myself to search my vague remembrances of our time as roommates to suss out the truth. I’m 44 years old, and I’m wise enough to know that we won’t be having another conversation like that for a while, and probably not ever. Our ties to one were situational and tenuous from the start, and while I certainly wish her well and would never treat her with anything but kindness, it seems like our paths have surely diverged once and for all.
Here’s hoping that in the future, both of us manage to steer clear of the poisonous people and situations that once threw us together as co-sufferers. And if we can’t circumnavigate them all, may we become more willing to get our hands dirty so we can throw the necessary flaming bags of shit at those who deserve them. After all, no one should have to spend time doing internet drive-bys of their former lives simply because they regret the bags of shit they never threw.