More Than Ten Years : 30 Days of Truth

Part II

Day 10 (Part Three) : Someone you need to let go of, or wish you didn’t know.

Lea and Liz, the first entry, started to describe the nature of relationships I had with my three high school friends. It is the preface for this. In summation, we were a group of best friends, entangled in each others’ lives. Mistakes, grudges, and other forces created huge divides between us, leaving lingering hatreds spanning years.

Liz and the In Between, focused on my relationship with Liz.  It detailed all of the significant events within our friendship, and how it had turned ugly at times.  These were the years in between the first entry and this one.


Kat and I eventually buried the hatchet about five years later. We were both adults who had done a great deal of growing since. We did attempt reconciliation, but mutually decided that we were too different to have a friendship. We grew out of each other. That’s life.

It took Lea and I much longer.

I recall a Fourth of July party I was invited to many years after the incident. A mutual friend of many years invited me, and his sister, best friend to Lea, naturally invited her.

Before I knew it, only a large patio table separated us. We inspected each other, sizing one another up. She still had the same snow white skin, but now she donned raven hair in place of her usual highlight job. Also, she had become much larger than me, at least fifty pounds or more. It was a little more intimidating, but I didn’t care. I’d tussled with men twice my size.

I don’t know what she saw, but she looked fairly intimidated.  I was that same, fiery haired, piercing eyes girl she had known then.  I hadn’t aged yet, though many of the girls at that table already had.  The only differences were these.  I wasn’t staring her down behind a pair of Buddy Holly glasses.  I was 1/3 less than girl I was.  And, we were no longer surrounded by brick and mortar that was the all-seeing, all-knowing, completely crooked system that was our public school.

Yes, we were in the real world. Where there were real consequences to actions. If one of us did one thing out of turn, we’d face something that didn’t include losing two perfectly good school days to absolute intense boredom of a desk with blinders, essentially.

So, we were deadlocked, powerless to make each others’ lives hell. We were adults, not children thrust together in the same place at the same time. We had the freedom of escape, to be free from the tangled web of the high school social society. As much trash as we could talk, it didn’t matter. Too much space and too few connections let those words fall on indifferent, rather deaf ears.

So, it dissipated throughout years of silence. I was already married with a child. We were truly adults, lives so far separated from those emotions and the petty grudges generated from them. What did it matter anymore? Through the power of Facebook, we put it to rest through humor over the incident.


Liz and I had settled old scores. That was, until I started getting serious with C.S. I remember driving around our neighborhood, the one we grew up in, yelling at each other. I wasn’t making time for her at her demand.

“I’m engaged to a man who is really good for me, who really loves me. Can’t you even be happy for me?”

She retorted coldly, “You’ve been engaged so many times, I can’t even take you seriously anymore.”

There was no birthday reconciliation that year. Months droned on. It seemed to be over, and I was distraught, but infuriated. How dare she judge my relationship?!

I invited her to the wedding as an obligatory gesture. I knew she’d never attend. She should have been a bridesmaid, and yet, she would have rather carry on a grudge over my priorities changing.

Mid-summer, mid-pregnancy, I received a card in a letter in the mail. It contained a wedding gift and a phone number. I hesitated, but mustered up the courage to accept the olive branch. I announced my pregnancy. A boy. He even had a name.

She came to visit, and it was the first time I saw her in about a year. She seemed overjoyed, but deeply troubled. Liz, Liz, always something brewing under the surface.

She came the day after I had my son. Later in the week, she brought us dinner, on the house. And that was the last time I saw her face to face. It was almost three and a half years ago.

In that time, her relationship with Fox deteriorated.  There was always some contingency on him leaving his wife.  When you graduate college.  When you get a good job.  When…

They were fiercely fighting, and rarely seeing each other anymore.  They had opposing schedules, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for Fox to steal time away from his wife.  One day, he left his email open on his laptop, sitting on her kitchen table.  She flipped through it, and discovered a few very old, very intimate exchanges between Fox an I on the MUD.

We talked.  “I know it was years ago, but why would he even save this?” she ranted.

Time passed, things changed.  That was pretty much the end of their relationship.  Well, that, and when she got a confirmation that he and his wife just got a new lease on their house. It wasn’t my fault.  She jumped into bed with their mutual married boss and ditched Fox.

I’ve actually searched and searched for the goodbye letter I wrote her in one of my journals.  I’m thinking our biggest falling out was in 2010.  Liz was always one of those people who insisted that she came first.  She randomly called and announced that she was back in town.  She wanted for me and her to go out.  I explained to her that a person couldn’t just drop by on me.  I have obligations to my family, plans that I’ve made, and things that just need done.  She was furious, insisting that I never made time for her.  All of these years, she made time for me, and the least I could do was see her during the few days in the year that she was in town.

Finally, I fought back.

“In all of this time, I listened to you prattle for hours about a miserable relationship with a married man, the same one that I urged you not to turn your life upside down for.  You defiled his marriage, and he still didn’t leave his wife for you.  Then, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, you jumped into bed with his married boss, your boss too. 

Meanwhile, I am being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my marriage – to a man who fathered my son, is falling apart, and my son is showing signs of developmental delay.  The moment I tried to open up my mouth to share my troubles, was always the moment you had to go.  I’m tired of being on standby and being expected to be here at your beckon.  I’m tired of you leading me around by the nose.  So, if you’re going to get pissed off and walk out of my life, it better be for good this time.  Because I’m not taking you back.”

We didn’t speak for about a year or so.  That was, until a random birthday card for my son appeared in the mail, containing a gift card.  I let it sit in my nightstand for a month, pondering what I should do with it.  And finally, I broke down and emailed her.

Back to the status that rubbed me the wrong way. Lea is pregnant, after several years of marriage. And Liz, who I haven’t heard a word from in at least six months, made a comment. “I’ll definitely be there! I’m so excited to see you!” I know she’ll be in town; she lives far away. And I also know that she won’t make any attempt to stop by, or even contact me.

I invited her, holiday after holiday, to stop by the house.  She always said she’d try, but there was so much going on.  I never did see her, not once.

I stumbled upon what may be one of the most heartbreaking revelations I’ve ever had. Liz and I were never friends. We were frienemies. Not from my end, but from hers.

I was a pace car. I was not a concept to admire, but envy. When I actually married the man she truly desired, and had the family she secretly longed for, I had unknowingly won. She couldn’t come around, because she couldn’t bear the sight of it.  I had become her superior in every way, and that is a fact she can never reconcile, nor bring to the surface. It’s too juvenile. But wasn’t all of it?

Clearly, she’s not an active part of my life. Her absence has not made a bit of difference. In a way, I wish I could have ignored that birthday card. She would simply no longer exist, and I could retain all of our funny, powerful, intimate, and warm moments. Instead, I am in some friend limbo.

So, instead, I think I’m going to start hiding both Lea and Liz’s feeds. I don’t need it. Sometimes a friendship is beyond salvageable. The remnants are too few. I don’t want to remain friends for nostalgia’s sake. I am not a keepsake. I am a human. If we really remained friends, wouldn’t she at least message me from time to time.

I place this in the sea and wave goodbye. For the last time.

Lea and Liz : 30 Days of Truth

(Originally dated January 31, 2012)

Day 10: Someone you need to let go of or wish you didn’t know.

Originally, I read this prompt and blanked. It wasn’t until I read Gypsy’s Day 10 Post that I came to this realization.

Facebook is toxic. Cosmo did an article in the December issue about a study revealing just that. That article confirmed certain suspicions, so I started taking statuses with a grain of salt. Yeah, I bet you’re happy about your drunken single life in your late 20’s, since you brag about it so much.

But, a couple of nights ago, a status rubbed me the wrong way.

Bear with me. This gets a little complicated.

I had a huge group of best friends in middle school. One by one, they dropped off for various petty reasons. Kat and I were inseparable. Until a boy came between us. Of course, that left a huge schism between them and me. Lea took on the grudge personally. But, Liz stayed neutral.

Kat pretended like I didn’t exist. Lea campaigned for my social public execution, setting up shop right across the hall from me, and Liz ghosted between.

For thirteen years, we are encased in hallways and lockers

Eventually, Kat and Lea started dating brothers, one who I dated years ago (of course, that was Lea’s boyfriend). I had my first public scrap happened with Lea in that very hallway.

Moe and I were still really good friends. Of course we were! I was the only one who stood by him and spent countless hours on the phone with him when he was in the hospital for chemo treatment. I stayed with him, even though I knew that it was incredibly possible that he could die. But, it was too late to turn back then.

We walked through the hall talking, cutting up as usual. As he met her in the hallway, I passed him and said to him, ignoring her, “Later whore!” A whole fourty-one minutes passed, and my head was filled with Biology before 10AM. I walked down the stairs and met with my gay guy friend to head to the music wing. Lea passed me and snarled, “Fuck you, you white trash slutbag. You’ll regret fucking with me.”

It was only audible to the immediate vicinity, all music kids. I flew, screaming after her, “Are you threatening me, you fat fucking bitch!?”

“What if I am?” she turned and sneered, “What are you going to do about it? Cry and cut yourself?” She continued walking, headed up the stairs.

I lunged at her, screaming, “Get your prissy fat ass back here! I will pull you by your scraggly bleached hair down these stairs and stomp your fucking face in!”

Check had already grabbed me, and held me in a full nelson as I raged at her. A teacher from the third floor came down at that point and lambasted me without even asking what happened. I spouted off, “Fuck you too, Pistol Pete.” And Check had to drag me away. We were unbelievably late and it was still a walk to the music wing.

I told him, “Go in before me. I don’t want you getting mixed up in this.” I stood outside the room for a couple of minutes, listening to the melodies and harmonies of warm-ups bounce off of the tiled halls and wooden doors.

Calmly, I walked in. I turned the corner, and the whole room rose to applaud me! I was beyond shocked, and no words could come. I expected a slow, painful, icy death by silence. Instead, I was congratulated for my absolutely outrageous outburst! By everyone except Liz, who gave me this disgusted and pained look.

It was no surprise when I was called to the principals office by noon. She was coming out as I was headed in. Lea glared and mouthed, “Fuck you, whore,” as we passed one another. I growled under my breath. If we weren’t surrounded by a room full of elderly secretaries, I would’ve jumped on her and ripped her face off.

I sat across the desk from the principal in her little interrogation room. This wasn’t the first time. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time in that school year! But, I had never been in there for fighting. I knew protocol for a search. “Let’s dump your bookbag here, and we’ll have the constable walk you to your locker to watch you dump that all over the hall.” But I didn’t care. I was actually pretty satisfied with myself.

“So Em, would you like to tell me what happened between you and Lea?”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“Why should I? Lea already told you what you’ll believe anyway. I won’t waste our time.”

“Fine.”

And that was it. No, “I want to hear your side.” What was there to say in my defense? The tattletale always wins. And I already had a record.

I knew only hell awaited me at home. It always did after there was an incident at school. Going home and facing the wrath of my parents was worse than any punishment they could deal me at school.

My mother’s head was poking out to look down the street as I approached. I considered turning and running. No, that would make it worse. Then she’d send my father after me, who would literally drag me kicking and screaming back up the street.

Fighting had been the worst offense I had ever committed. And the worst part is that I didn’t even actually hit her. I only threatened it, while verbally assaulting her in front of about half of the student body.

“So, the principal called today,” my mother announced in front of my father. She must have meant business. Usually, she at least attempted to break the news gently to my father.

“Yep, what did you talk about?” I asked candidly.

“You tell me.”

Shit.

I sighed, and recounted the tale, uncensored, complete with swears and acts.

There was a long pause. I wondered how long it was going to take before she slapped me in the face for using that language, berated me for embarrassing the whole family, and let my father actually kill me. Dad stood in the background and just started clapping. My mother smiled. Was this some sort of sick torture? Get on with it!

“We are so proud of you!” she exclaimed.

“She got what was comin’ to her,” he noted.

I was so confused that I was terrified that I had actually lost my mind. “What?”

My mother explained, “That girl has been torturing you for three years now. I’ve wanted to kick her ass myself. And you finally stood up to her.”

“I don’t care what that idiot principal has to say. You did right today,” my father confirmed.

“Next time be a little more subtle and don’t get caught,” my mother mentioned.

“You’re serious?” I questioned. She nodded.

I almost died. If I was caught smoking, I’d get grounded for a month. If I was admittedly fighting, I’d get rewarded? What the hell kind of backwards world was this?

After that, it returned to the cold war. The lines had clearly been drawn, with a no-man’s-land in between. Moe made his decision – all men led around by their second head. Kat had already made hers. But Liz still had to chutzpah to traverse the DMZ.

It wasn’t until Moe and Lea had broken up that more lines were drawn. Lea thought it was insensitive that Kat was still dating Moe’s brother. Kat wasn’t about to give up a good relationship because her friend was too petty to get over it. And it was over in less than a summer.

Lea League, Club Kat, and Team Em. And somewhere where those borders met, Liz sat and slowly seethed.

To be continued. . .

Fighting Back : A Bus Story

This bus. This is the same bus I take to and from work all of the time. Same routes, same drivers, and generally the same people.

Not a whole lot changes in my life. Steady job, happily married, a resident of my neighborhood for more than two cumulative decades. It is not monotonous in the slightest. It is stable.

Because, regardless of the things that remain concrete, I am always evolving, always flowing, and fluctuating. I am up; I am down. I do not have the luxury of having a constant mental state, where everything is perceived exactly as is was yesterday, and the day before that. Also, I do not have consistency within myself and my emotions to risk tipping the scales.  The cost is too great. 

I am more than content to go on living my life in the same way, unlike many others.  Why?  Because I have endured so much and worked so hard to get to this point.  Right here, where I undoubtedly believe that there are concrete things to grab onto when I’m sliding, and I have at least a modicum of clarity about myself, my present, and my future.

It’s this clarity that keeps me intact.

The predictability that I am going to wake up next to my husband, poke around on WordPress, play with my son, feed us, walk down the street, and hop on the same bus, at the same time, with the same driver to go to the same place I went the day before.

I do that backward in the evening.

I wrote this to a friend, soon after I wrote Pause. Skip. Fast-Forward.

“My mind feels like it fell from a skyscraper and shattered on the ground, 100 stories below. That’s the kind of wreckage we’re talking about. Not only did I leave an impact crater, I’m practically dust at the bottom of it. I can’t think, and I’m overwhelmed by this horrid, damaged feeling.

. . . I was handling it pretty well from moment to moment because they were pretty pronounced from one another, and rather short. Now, I’m pretty sure something tipped me off of my precarious ledge. It doesn’t matter what the causation was, because it’s not going to act as an antidote.

It was coming anyway. Three months in the making.

. . . I can’t trust anything I say, think, or do right now . . .

A few nights ago, I found myself standing at my same stop, waiting for my same bus, having a conversation with C.S. about our respective days.  They had been rough ones.  C.S. was dealing with a defaulted loan, and several accounts that were flaming turds at work.  I had bombed an observation at work, and was dealing with a potential denial from unemployment regarding my lack of work over the summer.  Everything was off kilter, and I had been for several weeks prior to these events.

My way home.

In the 99 Quirks of Lulu, in #2 and #5, I describe certain phobias I have.  So, when I board a bus, I naturally take the seat right in front of the backdoor.  On these buses, there is a plexiglass barrier between that seat and the door.  I am positioned properly, and it alleviates claustrophobia.  I can see everyone who can get to me.  I am close enough to the front of the bus, near the driver, without occupying a disabled seat, and I have an easily accessible exit.

Of course, I always survey my surroundings, without making eye contact.  There were five other people on the bus with me.  A larger, middle-aged man in jeans, who sat two seats in front of me.  A 50-something year old woman, with short poofy hair, dyed auburn, with grey roots coming in, seated a seat behind and across the aisle.  A man occupying a disabled seat in the front, and a male and a female in the very back.

I chatted with C.S., upset by the events that were simultaneously occurring.  It is the same ritual that occurs every night, usually minus the serious conversation.  And everything was in it’s right place.

I take notice of when anyone moves around on the bus.  I have been accosted more than once while en route, so I am always cautious.  The man had been casting me glances, obviously unaware that I had noticed.  The woman got up, and leaned across the aisle to speak with the man.  I continued on with C.S., still perfectly aware of what was going on around me.

She leaned in toward me, close enough for my eyes to focus in on her greyish, crooked front teeth, and scolded loudly, growling, “You know, there are other people on this bus.”

Seeing red again, seeing red again…

Typically, I go unprovoked. I would ignore such a person and prattle louder, in the attempt to defy the other person. But, something triggered. I could feel it in the millisecond before my response. It was like the click of hammer when a gun is fired. And the projectile came out.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be off soon enough,” I replied bitingly, knowing my stop was just a few minutes away.

She snarled, sinking back into her seat, “You know, you don’t have to talk so loudly.”  Funny thing was, I was not talking loudly.  I was speaking in my normal voice, on a bus quiet enough to rival a library.

“Actually, this is me talking loudly.  Just so you can tell,”  I retorted, even louder this time.  I did not swear, threaten, or get up.

“As if it’s all that important.”  Clearly, she was regarding me as some teenage idiot prattling idly to her boyfriend on her cell phone, gossiping nonsensically about this and that.  Looks are deceiving.  She should have learned already in her long life to never take anything at face value.

And I raged, speaking to her as if I were scolding a student for extraordinary misconduct, “Yeah, actually it is important.  This is about my life.  Not your life.  And if you were actually listening as you clearly indicated you could have been by the volume of my voice, you would know what I was talking about.  But no, you don’t, because it’s all about you.”  She didn’t have anything else to say.  Her body language indicated she was terrified, as she became smaller, and smaller in the corner of her seat.

Meanwhile, C.S. was in my earpiece talking me off the ledge.  “Stop talking.  Ignore her.  Just stop talking to her,”  he repeated.

I got home, and we were fixing dinner.  He said to me, “I didn’t tell you to back off because I thought it was the right thing to do.  I was sitting there, listening to this, thinking to myself, ‘What would I do if someone fired their mouth off to me after a bad day?’  And I thought, ‘I’d probably punch her in the face.’  Or at least, I’d want to.  I wasn’t about to bail you out of jail tonight.”

The thing was, physical violence didn’t occur to me until I was already home, ranting about that scene with C.S.  I said to him, “Her posture indicated that she was actually afraid of me.  She should have been.  She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with.

I continued, “I’m going to go ahead and assume that she is near retirement age, by the greys in her hair, and likely had to stay late at work, in a job she hates, because I’ve never seen her on that bus before.  She had a bad day, was irritated, and was looking for someone to take it out on.  So, she is irritated by what looks like easy prey.  I hope she learned her lesson.”

After a few days of mulling this over, I realized what the click was.  I perceived her as a bully.  She matched multiple descriptions of my personal definition of a bully.  Clearly, she didn’t live in my lower-class neighborhood, because she was not even close to gathering her belongings for departure.  In all likelihood, she was riding to the Park N Ride two townships over, so she could drive the hill to the well-to-do part of town.  Match number one, someone with higher socioeconomic standing.  Match number two, she was older than me.  She had a sense of entitlement, as if I had to do what she said, just because she felt a certain way.  Match number three, some kind of social standing, or concept of authority.

Three strikes, you’re out.  I fought back.  Like I’ve been wanting to do my whole life.  And guess what?  I won.

Unfortunately, it took being severely unhinged to do it.