The music was loud and he sat close, telling me stories and catching up. His friend suggested that we all go play pool. My friends were tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. They got in a tuk tuk. I would catch up with them later. Just as they were out of sight, he turned to me and asked, suddenly so irritated, why I hadn't left with them? I should've left with them. But wait...what? Aware of my unresolved feelings for him but still entirely guileless, I stammered that I thought we were going to play pool...? We were not, he said, as if all this was obvious and I was that willfully obtuse. We are fighting on the street of a foreign city half a world away from our homes. I am alone in a tuk tuk, sobbing, embarrassed and confused.
A month or so passes before I reach out to him. I am in Cambodia and have decided to forgive everyone of everything ever. I know him better than this. He is not cruel. He would not gaslight me. Surely, surely, something else must've happened. I reach out with equanimity, grace, love. I extend a line of credit to an account that is already severely overdrawn. I get no response.
Weeks later I am on Bali. It is Nyepi, the new year, a day of silent prayer, meditation, atonement. Again I reach out. I apologize for anything I might've done wrong.
Weeks later, I am back in the states and apologize again, this time remind him that we have mutual friends, we will see each other again. We have to work this out.
It will be months until I see him, and only because those friends are in town.
It will be months until I see him, and hear whispers about his relationship with cocaine.
It will be months until I see him, and finally understand his behavior in context.
But I will still reach out, twice more. Once, I offer my friendship for healthy things, for walks with my dog and meditation class. Once, I check to see if, perhaps, we're ready for some heart mending. I will get no response. He does not want to mend.
In 2013, I began developing a relationship principle that one might use to assess the relative health of their relating. Are you and the person you're in relationship with both willing contributors to the relating? Do you both, more often than not, make more deposits into than withdrawals from your joint emotional back account? Are you both, more often than not, able to meet each other's normal, human need for healthy attachment?
Yes? Super! No? Ruhoh...
Had I followed my own principle, I would have long ago cut off the guy in the story. He had, on more than one occasion, actually told me that "All I can offer you is tonight." Come ooonnnnn. Seriously? Let's tune into some Maya Angelou real talk:
"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."
He literally told me that he was not a sound investment for anything but the short term, and I offered him high value, long term loans. I extended him one line of credit after another, hoping that he would experience a radical shift and show up at the Bank of My Heart with deposits enough to fill our account, cover overdraft fees, shore it all up. I hounded him for awhile, full of righteous anger about what I was owed. I tried to collect on the debt.
As Sallie Mae will eventually have to do for the whole Millennial generation, I will have to write this debt off as a loss. He does not want to mend. If he ever did, I'd be happy to do that work with him, but I have to assume that he will never make this right. He will never humble himself on the altar of I'm Sorry for leaving me alone on the street in Bangkok. I have nothing left to give; no apologies or equanimity or righteous demands, and certainly no credit.
I am not a debt collector.
I am an artist.
I am here to create more beauty.
I am here to tell the truth.
Stop extending lines of credit to accounts that are already overdrawn.
Find a better place to invest your love.
And so are you.