Truth and Reconciliation

Got a supremely annoying phone call from a former old friend.  I don’t know what the point of the call was, except to do the hideous dance one last time.  

In the course of an aggravating conversation he continually justified his unreliability, made oblique references to my over-sensitivity, laughed at one point when I was sputtering slightly to finish a point he’d interrupted a couple of times for shows of peevishness.  He was angry that I wouldn’t grant him it had been nervous laughter and not the passive aggressive enjoyment of a weak and angry person who had succeeded in making his antagonist mad.  How dare I presume he was being passive aggressive, how dare I not let him tell me why he was laughing while I was trying to control my anger!  

He told me I’d been vicious, in writing of his unreliability, characterizing it and him so uncharitably, no matter how hurt or angry I might have been.    “Sometimes writing can be much more vicious than speech,” he pointed out, “and the attempts to sublimate and refine the pain and anger are more damaging than just having out with it.  How hurtful do you suppose those things on the blahg were to me?”

I grant him the truth of that, as I grant him most things.  One thing I don’t grant is being shouted down when I am making a point.

“The first precondition of a meaningful apology is the recognition that the person apologizing has hurt the person he is apologizing to.  It is an acknowledgment of why the other person was hurt, a demonstration of empathy, followed by an admission that the behavior was wrong and some assurance of not repeating the hurtful behavior.   It’s like the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa…”  suddenly I’m cut off by a loud voice.

“That was about murder and a system of brutality!  Nobody was killed or brutalized here!  You have this overblown tendency to make everything like that, everything is Hitler to you,” he thundered pre-emptively dismissing any point I may have been about to make.

I managed to finish my point anyway, though my lungs hurt by the time I was through, and not because I’d been shouting for more than a few seconds to break back in to finish my point.  

It is a funny thing about experiences that smell similar to the childhood abuse I experienced– I feel a certain burning in my lungs whenever I’m near it.

“If you won’t acknowledge how hurtful what you did was, intentionally or not, how important the thing you promised to help me with was to me, how many hours, literally days, elapsed before you even got back to me….”

“I called you seven and a half hours later, how is it my fault you never got that missed call?  Why didn’t you keep calling me when you didn’t hear back?  I had bronchitis!  You wrote vicious things about me on the blahg.  You…”

An imaginary friend winks, tilts his long necked beer bottle to me.

“You would have been much better off forgetting the Ahimsa shit for a minute and just calling this clown and saying what you had to say originally, when he started calling you a couple of days too late, and leaving wheedling voice mails, and calling your girl friend when he couldn’t get an immediate call back from you … it’s kind of funny that he kept referring to your ‘nine days of enraged silence’ toward him, that master of enraged silence.  I like when you counted off that it had actually been more like four or five days.  But you should have just said what you had to say, Dude, in as few words as originally would have sufficed.”

“We’re done.  You’re a cunt.  Been nice.”  

“Clean,” he said, and took a drink.

It’s true, that’s what this call amounted to anyway, with a residing pain in the lungs to show for my sad attempt to stay on the high road, give a stubborn former friend a chance to state his insufficient case for the hundredth time.

“You hanging up on me?  You’re going to fucking hang up on me now?  Hello?  hello?”  I can still hear the peevish fellow justifying himself, clucking about how vicious and unfair I am.  “After all, you’re not the only one with problems, I’m not the only one who doesn’t help you, your constant references to Hitler, no matter the context, are inapt, and what about…’bon voyage’?  ‘bon voyage’?  oh, nice…. hello, hello?”


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