It's Over And Done, But The Heartache Lives On Inside, And Who Is The One You're Clinging To, Instead Of Me Tonight
continued from "It Turns Out Freedom Ain't Nothing But Missing You, Wishing I'd Realized What I Had When You Were Mine, I'd Go Back To December"...
When I was younger, as some of you may know, I was a "hellion sent from heaven," as one of my teachers said to my mother one. I was by turns caring and sweet, as well as vain and mischievous. These personality traits, aside from the obvious headaches caused by never being able to predict what I'd do next, also leant itself to some fairly horrendous behavior to people who happened to travel in my sphere in influence. Now, I always hitched my wagon to the idea that I was considerate and kind foremost and that everything else I was was a secondary impulse. Yet there was some credence that the need to do what was right for myself overrode any need to be thought of as graceful.
While I could never have been termed a bully, there were plenty of instances where the devil inside me couldn't help but coming out. I remember there was one kid in my fourth grade class named Max that Torry and I used to tease incessantly. He was terribly awkward. As my daddy says, "that boy was two sandwiches short of a picnic." But he was sweet in his own way. He was earnest and polite. I don't think he ever had a cross word for anyone who crossed his path. Yet Torry and I took it upon ourselves more than once to take advantage of his good nature. We would tease him by asking all sorts of personal questions (what kind of underwear he was wearing, if he had ever kissed a girl, if there was a girl he liked in our class, &c...), which flustered him to no end. To us, it was a hoot-and-a-half, since no other boy in our class was so easily taken in by our ruse of asking innocent questions. To him I can only imagine the nightmare it must have been.
This went on for awhile--a few months, at the very least--till Torry and I were moved away from him in class for excessive talking. At the time I didn't think much about it. We had had our fun and now it was over. That was the extent of my feelings on the matter. It wasn't like we had tanned his backside emotionally. I reckon what we did to him had been altogether harmless. At the time I thought he had gotten something out of the exchanges since he seemed to enjoy the attention of the two admitted prettiest girls in the class.
Yet the more I think about it, the more we might have pushed the boundaries of simple teasing somewhat. I never thought of myself as a bully, but I might have twisted that boy's knots too far.
The next year his family moved away from the area I hear up to Alabama. I never got to ascertain what damage, if any, my gentle mocking had done. While I don't reckon I scarred him for a life, there's a little 'ole part of me that wishes I could see him and apologize some for what I had put him through. At the very least I wish I could explain to him that it was in good fun and that I had never meant to make him believe I disliked him for one reason or other. I was a kid and that's what kids did. I never once held it my duty to torment those I saw beneath me. I only wish I could see for myself if he understood that or if he held me contemptible for anything I'd ever said.
That's the thing with actions or words. You always believe that you'll get a chance to clarify them at some point. You always believe that you'll get to the point where misunderstandings might be cleared up. But sometimes, circumstances being what they are, those opportunities just fade away. Whether it's because people move away or time just goes by, the things we do sometimes are left hanging out there in the universe without any follow-up. That's when we have to ask God if all the decisions we've made were the right decisions, and if all the words we said to others were words they would have liked to heard. Because, as I see it, you never know when you'll lose the chance to put things right with someone. You never know when the last words you say to someone really will be the last words you say to someone.
By the time December came around I'd almost forgotten what I was fighting for. I remember why the fight had started between Patrick and I. I had just forgotten why it was so important for me to stay mad at him. My mother calls grudges the anger that becomes a thing of itself. You just go on being angry at a person, so much so that fairly soon you're angry at the person for keeping you in this continuous state of anger. That's what our fight had felt like at that moment, an anger that existed because it had always existed.
Much like I had never thought of myself as a bully, I had never thought of myself as someone who delights in being angry. Hell's bells, I do have my moments, but on the whole I have never taken pleasure at keeping ire stoked in my soul for all the world to see. I would much rather be on good terms with the people in my life than consider myself irate with any one person. But, Patrick, by his lack of attendance at my wedding had let me down in a way that I never considered possible. Here was one person I thought would be by my side whenever I called, both for the worst of reasons and, of course, the best of reasons. By his not showing up, it exposed a side to our friendship I hadn't seen before. It showed me that even the best of friends can let you down in a way that can be devastating.
I spent a couple of months hating him for ruining what should have been my perfect day. There I was at my own wedding, getting married to the man I love, and my closest friend in the world, not to mention my oldest friend in the world, wasn't there to see it? Who does that, you know? It's one can of beans to not agree with the choices I made in my life, but to abandon me altogether is a whole other headache. Not only did I consider it bad manners, but I considered it the hugest mistake Patrick's ever made in the course of my knowing him. It took me a long time to look past the injury I had suffered. Even then to this day it's still a sore subject with me--as well it should be.
But by December, a full five months after the wedding, most of the ire I felt towards him had faded. I can't begin to tell you that I understood why he did what he did, but by that point it didn't matter so much to me. It wasn't like it was the first time he had done something to upset me or cause me to spew forth a litany of epithets. It wasn't like it was the first time I had stopped speaking to him in the name of preserving my sense of self-respect. And it wasn't like it was the first time I had professed to everyone within earshot how much I hated him. It was, however, the first time we had gone that long without any semblance of communication at all. It was the first time where I felt there was a decent chance that the friendship we had forged in the fires of nine years' time was on the verge of breaking. That was a thought I didn't cling to at all. I've thought of Eeyore in a lot of ways over the years--friend, big brother, boyfriend--but one way I hadn't thought of him up until that point is gone. Not really. Not ever in a million years.
There was one December morning, not around Christmas but a few weeks before, where I was sitting around with Greg at breakfast. I don't know how he knew. I suppose he could tell by the altogether unpleasant countenance on my face, but he asked me what was wrong. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was thinking about the whole mess with Patrick. After all, he'd been up with me the nights where I cursed Patrick's name. He had heard the vows of erasing Patrick from my phone, my computer, my address book, and from my life. He had heard all the times where I had forcefully hung up the phone inexplicably in those first few months. To admit that a little 'ole piece of my mind was changing now would be humbling. I just didn't have the heart to tell him that I might have been wrong, especially if it meant that I was considering inviting the one person who had instigated this whole mess in the first place back into my life. I couldn't do that to him.
Yet there was that part of me that clearly did not want to believe that our friendship had run its course. The lesson with Max came roaring its way back into my head. If our friendship did have to end I began to think that I didn't want it to end with those words being the last words we said to one another. More than that, I didn't want his last thought of me being that I would hate him for the rest of my life. If we truly weren't going to speak again, I at least wanted him to know that I had set aside my personal feelings on the matter and had forgiven him somewhat, if not completely.
There's too much hatred in the world already. A part of me has always believed that if you have love in your life, real love, then it's your duty to keep it strong and healthy for as long as possible.
That's why I never once closed the door to our friendship despite the advice I had been given to do just that. Even if I was too stubborn to make the call at that point, I knew that the next time Patrick called I wouldn't be hanging up the phone. I've gone through the pain of missing people immensely from my life. Torry. Shelly. Even Max, to a lesser degree. I've learned the hard way that there is nothing worse than the debilitating feeling of wanting someone back in your life and not being able to bring them back into the fold. I dare say that's a worse fate than having someone you don't want in your life and not being able to get rid of them. It's like I always say, "you can't unbake a cake." Sometimes you can't get back a friendship once it's gone either.
It may have taken two more months for Eeyore to gather up the nerve to call me. At that point, though, there's a fair assumption that it wouldn't have taken another two months for me to have done the same thing if he hadn't stepped up. And even though the first words out of his mouth may have come in the form of an apology, part of me believes that even if he had chosen to drag the same old chestnut out that had started the fight in the first place I would have still been glad to hear from him. The words in that case may have been difficult to hear, but the fact I was hearing them at all would have given me an immense sense of bliss that their meaning could never have diminished.
Our friendship may have taken many forms over the years, but it pleases me to no end to see that it still lives and breathes as long as we continue to do the same.