“Today is not the day for breaking promises.”
Today, I do not want to write. I got up early this morning to go for a hike with my uncle. He works on a team that marks trails through the Lebanese mountains, and today we went to check out some charted areas, to map them out and find paths for regular hikers. It was a lot of steep inclines and slipping on loose limestone. I want nothing more than to bury myself in blankets, and sleep until the bruises fade from my feet. I imagine I’ll fall straight to sleep, even though we can still hear the bombs and machine guns firing in Tripoli. To be fair, it’s not nearly as bad as it was last night.
But today is not the day for breaking promises. I will write something, though the only thing on my mind has been an old friend who’ve I’ve done terribly wrong—so the writing won’t be quick. I’ve been thinking about him lately because in a few weeks, our paths will cross again, and I feel that now, after four years, I should attempt to make amends. But I don’t know how.
I’ll start by giving him a pseudonym. This entry will be too confusing if I don’t. Let’s call him Jack, because that’s what you call you’re morally ambiguous everyman, right?
Jack was my boyfriend in high school. I loved him in a way that’s totally normal for high-schoolers, but completely insane for normal human beings. We had applied to college at different ends of the Eastern coast, and at the beginning of the summer, he went to work at a church camp that was an hour or so away. The relationship, in the formal sense, was over. We both agreed on that, formally. But emotionally, we assured each other we were still in love, and that we’d still see each other whenever we could—and when we did, we’d still be perfectly in love. We were naive like that—the way only kids can be.
Basically, he almost completely stopped talking to me. He didn’t have a cell phone, and could only call me once a week or so from the camp phone. The calls came less and less as the months wore on. I was sad, but trusting. And for a while, I was true to my love for him. Until I heard through the grape vine that he had been coming back to our hometown to see his other friends—our mutual friends, actually—without seeing me. He made them promise to keep it a secret from me, which they admitted later made them feel guilty.
The person I found out through was my best friend, who I wrote about in an earlier post. I have to give her a name too, for clarity. Let’s call her Molly, because a girl named Molly has a beautiful song written about her, and my best friend’s true name also is a beautiful song. Molly, being the good friend that she was, told me that Jack had come back to see her. A few months earlier, she had confessed to me that before Jack and I started dated, Jack had told Molly he had feelings for her, and tried to kiss her. Molly didn’t reciprocate these feelings, but when Jack and I got together, she naturally felt guilty about the incident. This was, I have come to realize, the pivotal moment in our friendship. Instead of being more skeptical of Jack’s feelings for me, I began to feel an intense suspicion of Molly, and admittedly began distancing myself from her.
When she told me Jack had come to see her, I lost it. Not at Molly directly—not at first. I thanked her, of course, and told her (and myself) that I appreciated her being honest with me. I didn’t know—not for years—how my actions were giving lie to those words. If I regret anything in this life, it’s the way I treated Molly for being, at the time, my only true friend.
As I said, I lost it. After a series of very unfortunate hook-ups, I ended up in a very tumultuous relationship with Jack’s best friend, and cousin—let’s call him Noam, because I’ve always liked the name Noam, and I’m going to be talking about him a lot. It was tumultuous for one reason—we both felt guilty about what we were doing. As mad as I was at Jack, I knew I was crossing a line here—a line I honestly had no intention of crossing. Noam and I were friends—had been for years. Better friends, I think, than Jack and I ever were.
If I’m going to be perfectly honest, Jack and I were an unlikely couple from the get-go. Our relationship started the day he kissed me after getting a concussion. I was a budding feminist, and he—well he was the kind of guy who believed most girls didn’t know how a hammer worked. But he viewed me as a kind of exception—and I kind of liked feeling exceptional. That was the basis of our short-lived relationship.
Noam and I liked the same music, recommended books to each other, engaged each other in political debates. We taught each other. We still do.
Now might be a good time to mention Noam and I are still together. Our relationship started that summer before I went away to college. And some how, defying all college-dating logic, we’re still together. Sure, we broke up for a few months (at most) during my junior year, when I felt a brief urge to do some soul-searching. But during that time, I realized that Noam makes me search my soul more than anyone I’ve ever met. So now, even though I’m seven-time-zones away, we’re still going strong. Probably, because the basis of our relationship has anyways been intellectual—and not surprisingly, a relationship like that can be effectively sustained, a least for a few months at a time, over Skype. Though I have been counting the days until we’re together again (seventeen to go!).
But as you can imagine, your ex-girlfriend dating your best friend, who’s also someone you have to see at every major holiday, is an emotional hurdle everyone hopes they never have to jump. I know Jack has done more than his part in trying to bad mouth me out of my relationship with Noam. But what could I say in return? I can’t make someone chose between me and their family. And even now, if we ever happen to be in our hometown together (which is rare), Jack will avoid gatherings of old friends if someone informs him I’m there.
It used to make me upset. I used to say he was immature, acting this way. But after what happened with Molly, I realized that there is no indefinite period of time over which things will blow over. Sometimes, people die before you get the chance to say you’re sorry—taking the wounds you left with them to the grave.
It’s one thing to feel guilty over things lefts unsaid with a friend who’s passed away. Making amends with the ones who are still around, is quite a different story.
The thing is, I’ve said I’m sorry a dozen times. It’s never been enough—I’ve never understood, Jack said. The apologizes were hollow. It’s possible that he was right. I wanted forgiveness for what I had done—I needed it from him, because my own personal guilt was so strong. I felt like if he told me he forgave me, I could start forgiving myself. He must have known that before I knew it myself, because he never did say, “I forgive you.”
And as a result, I resolved to be a better person—to never make this mistake—to never hurt someone like that again. Sure, my self-esteem was in the dirt, and I had some hiccups along the way—but today I do actually think that horrible mess back in those formative years helped to shape my sense of right and wrong in the relationship world. It wasn’t the only thing, but it was singularly the most significant—it was the moment I realized that there are somethings you will never be able to take back.
I forgive myself—only because I understand that I was a dumb kid learning how not to be asshole—and I have no intention of ever acting so selfishly again. But now my intentions for wanting his forgiveness are different. He’s had it rough the passed few years. I heard from a mutual friend that a girl he had been dating died from an overdosed—I did not hear whether it was intentional or not. School, I heard, did not go exceptionally well for him, and neither is post-grad life so far. And of course, we had both lost Molly—only he was too far away to make it to the funeral, which I imagine must still trouble him.
I want his forgiveness, only because I know the weight that lays on your consciousness from not being able to forgive. If I could give him just that little relief, maybe it would help.
But I don’t know how. I don’t even know where to start.