Forgiveness

I met Marc three years ago when we moved to Oakland. It was during a difficult time in my life. We’d moved a mere 10 miles from our urban tribe in San Francisco, but a body of water separated us, and although there were any number of bridges and a variety of methods of public transportation that could easily reunite us at a moment’s notice, you would have thought there were piranha and electric eels in the water for how isolated I felt from them.

Many of them gave birth, literally, right around the time we moved, so they were busy learning the ropes of motherhood. No fan of crotchfruit, I, this made me feel even more isolated and remote from them, for I knew I was losing my drinking buddies. I knew I was saying farewell to a way of life that we’d all enjoyed for the last decade. Granted, it was a way of life we’d all drawn out a lot longer than we’d probably should have, but at the time I didn’t want to hear any of that nonsense. All I could see was that my 2:00 a.m. days were disappearing in my rearview faster than a dead armadillo on a West Texas highway.

And then I met Marc, who lived with his girlfriend across the street from our new house. The Wife and I had spent the last decade-and-a-half living in various apartment buildings in the city where the only time you might talk to your neighbors was when they accidentally opened their front door as you were leaving them a passive-aggressive note to tell them to stop fucking so loudly at 4:00 a.m. for chrissakes and did their girlfriend have to sound like she was being chopped up with a pickaxe when she was climaxing. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover this new environment called a “neighborhood,” where people came over with pies and cookies and wine and got to know us.

We were also delighted to discover Marc was a contractor, so we hired him to do a bunch of work on the new house. It became apparent pretty quickly that Marc and I were cut from the same cloth. We were both rough around the edges, but had soft, chewy centers that we didn’t like showing too often. We were both fiercely loyal to our partners. We were both crass as fuck. We were both inveterate shit-talkers. It wasn’t long before we became fast friends. He had a habit of stopping by our front porch for a beer after he’d get done with a long day’s work. Not every day, mind you, maybe once or twice a week. We sit on the front porch, legs dangling off the front balcony, me with my Jack and Coke and cigarette, him with his watery piss-beer. We’d chew the fat in the waning light of the day and grouse about stupid people we’d dealt with that day—two peas in a pod.

It was a dark time for me. I was missing my friends. I was having problems with The Wife. I hated my job more than ever. My pain levels were through the roof. My dad had just died. My depression was all-consuming. In short, I was not Living The Dream. Our Porch Time had become something I looked forward to enormously. What’s more, he seemed to need it too. He and the girlfriend didn’t seem to have a lot of friends. They didn’t go out much and didn’t entertain much that we could see. He was a construction foreman, which meant he was the boss of a crew of Latino dudes with whom he didn’t socialize outside of work. I think he was a little lonely and relished the unlikely companion he’d found in me. Over the next two years, we developed a tight bond. We were givers and takers of shit betwixt each other. He was the big brother I’d never had.

And then, Porch Time stopped happening. Slowly at first, around the holidays, so we excused it, as in “Well, maybe they just have a lot going on for the holidays…” The Wife thought it was personal, something I shrugged off for a few weeks. “It’s not all about us, honey.” Then I saw them have a very public fight on their front porch that ended with her peeling off down the street. I texted him to ask if he needed to talk. His reply was a curt “No.” A couple more texts to him in the following weeks were also rebuffed, until finally I was giving into my wife’s paranoia, and I texted and point-blank asked him if it was something we’d done.

And then came The Day. He came over to our house, sat, literally, with his hat in his hand and told us he couldn’t be our friend anymore because his girlfriend was batshit crazy and hated us and was currently blaming us for all of the problems in her life—her failing relationship with him, the fact that her home business was in the shitter, and the fact that she was generally unhappy. And yes, it made no sense, but wasn’t that the definition of batshit crazy? And look, he knew this made him a horrible person, he said, as he stared at the floor with tears in his eyes, but he was getting up there in years, he just discovered he needed a heart operation and yet another hip surgery, he wasn’t getting any younger, and he was too tired to start this process again with someone else. And so, for now anyway, this was his last-ditch attempt to try and keep the peace.

And so we let him go.

I mean, what could we do? It’s not like I couldn’t empathize with what he was saying. Being 62 facing heart surgery and mortality alone has got to be daunting. Hell, being 62 and facing fucking dating again has got to be daunting. But just because I understood his motives didn’t mean I agreed with them. Yes, he was aging and didn’t want to face that alone. But Jesus, you’re gonna subject yourself to those levels of fucking insanity just to avoid the prospect of having to come up with a match.com profile?! Damn. Part of my heartbreak wasn’t just losing my friend, but how much respect I lost for him too.

And her? Don’t even. Her bony ass I confronted in the middle of the street like a scene straight outta Desperate Housewives. Christ on a rolling bagel, I wish someone had been there to videotape that shit: both of us in our giant sunglasses, her sitting at the wheel of her car, her entire body tight as a nun’s twat; me standing at her window in the middle of the street, hands on my hips, all like “Bitch, you best get to explainin’!” In the end I asked her what gave her the right to unilaterally and singlehandedly destroy two friendships based on her own hysterical paranoia, and she couldn’t give me an answer. I said “That’s what I thought,” and I called her a crazy, woman-hating cunt.

And it was with no small amount of schadenfreude that we peered through our front curtains and watched their inevitable breakup shortly thereafter. They had been together over a decade, so it was a drawn-out process, but at last, he finally seemed to have removed every trace of himself from her abode across the street. And her crazy ass holed up in her House of Sad, and we stopped seeing him altogether. The wounds started to close up, and Wisteria Lane started to get back to normal.

Except that I missed my friend.

***

Forgiveness is a funny thing, y’all. There are so many things that stand in the way of it: pride, stubbornness, bravado, martyrdom, genuine rage, fear, the desire to protect oneself. In general, I find that I’m bad at it. That ex-girlfriend I told y’all about a few entries back? She wrote me an email a couple of years ago asking for my forgiveness for the way she’d treated me all those years ago. My reply? “Are you on Step 6 or something? Fuck off.” No mercy.

He wanted to meet for coffee to see whether there could be some chance of reconciliation. His text came one day as I was sitting on my front porch having a smoke, staring across the street, and wondering for the umpteenth time how much a graffiti artist would charge me to come spray paint CUNT in an artistic, flowery manner across the ex-girlfriend’s front fence so the entire world would know just what a horrible person she was as well. My other plan had been to leave two lumps of coal on her front porch at Christmas with the note “From Santa: one for each friendship you destroyed this year.” But now Christmas was long past, and my mind had moved on to other devious, less seasonal modes of revenge. It wasn’t that I didn’t hold him just as accountable in taking our friendship away; it’s just that her house across the street was a daily reminder of what I’d lost. But make no mistake: he was a grown-ass man. He made his decision; he had been just as culpable in the termination of our relationship as she had. And now here he was, alone, and asking to be accepted into my good graces again.

***

I recently watched the video where the relatives of the victims of the Charleston massacre got to speak to Dylann Roof and, to the person, each member of the slain members’ families told that racist little shitbag that they forgave him for what he’d done to them, forgave him for the unbelievable grief and torment he’d caused them. Not days after he’d taken their loved ones from them in a violent and unspeakable manner, they stood in that room and told him they forgave him and that he’d be judged by a higher authority, but that it wasn’t their place to judge him. And I was just thunderstruck by the sheer grace of those people who opened up their hearts in the middle of their unimaginable grief and let go of their anger and despair and were able to say “I forgive you.”

***

I am currently sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for a doctor to tell me Marc came through a minor surgery with flying colors. And I’m thinking about those family members and what they’ve given up and the futures they’ll never get with the loved ones they lost. And I think about how I’ve gone from “fuck you, Marc” to “sure, take that crazy bitch ex off your hospital forms and make me your emergency contact” and how small that is compared to the levels of charity those families summoned up in their hearts to forgive. Marc has asked for my forgiveness earnestly and sincerely and has repeatedly said that doing what he did to The Wife and me was one of the shittiest things he’s ever done. I am choosing to take him at his word and open my heart to him again. I was sick of being furious at someone I loved. My heart and head were weary at having to be so hardened against him. Plus, I just missed my big brother.

Life is short, people. And while it’s unlikely a murderous asshole with racist delusions of grandeur will take away someone special to you, it is undeniable that we’re all here on this spinning blue dot for but a minute. Is carrying around your rage and anger really the way you wanna spend that brief minute? If someone gives you the opportunity to let your rage and anger go—hell, even if they don’t—find a way to bridge that gap and release that shit because listen up: the world needs more forgiveness right now. Use those beautiful people in Charleston as a shining example of what is possible. This society we’ve created has become a very unforgiving place; don’t let your soul be unforgiving as well. Be better than that.