Call me Midiane.
I had met her through mutual friends about a year ago. She was an attractive British girl with a sense of humour that I missed here in South Africa, and we had hit it off and kept in regular touch. Soon, she was a part of my daily IM marathon conversations during work. And she became privy to the details of my romantic quests, failed attempts at dating, and thought experiments of love. She knew about the former fiancee-to-be. She had helped me navigate the difficult road through recovery and rehabilitation.
We didn't see each other much, as she was married and I was busy with my own life. But that changed when I moved out of my family home and into my own flat. We were suddenly neighbours, if separated by a few more roads than usual. We talked more. We laughed more. And then she confided in me about some concerns she was having in her own life. She confided. I listened. She talked some more. I made more tea and more time online to listen.
I knew about her concerns at her last job and the daily struggles she had to get through. I was glad to help in any way. She was a good friend, who understood my own troubles at home at the time. She had listened and then some.
It seemed only natural that we could now work together on a professional level. And that we could do. But she knew of my recent fiascos in my film business and how I had failed to manage the client relationships in any constructive way. She knew.
I completed the first part of her brief. She was happy about it, she actually loved it. Her eyes lit up with visions of opportunity and success. It was sublime seeing a client happy.
But I choked on the next part. I had missed a few deadlines for this part and she was understanding, yet not afraid to give me a quiet, firm warning. I handled it, she moved on. We were still friends.
But I did say I choked. I woke up, my eyes crumbling from fatigue and anxiety, and I went to work. And I didn't attend the most important meeting, where I was to present the deliverable. And I didn't pick up the calls. And I didn't answer the text message.
I knew she would be angry, fuming, bilious. But I had a naive, presumptuous hope that it would blow over after a long time and we could pick up the friendship again, however difficult and awkward it would inevitably be. That hope compelled me to write her an email a few days ago. I made sure it wasn't dramatic or preachy or self-effacing. Just an "I messed up" email, an "I wanna work it out" email.
I didn't hear back from her and prepared myself for the beginnings of loss: the silence, the unknown, and the suspended sense of resolution. But yesterday, the email came. A sparse creation at twelve words, it echoed more than loss. It echoed: you screwed me over and now I'm cold.
How do I know that it echoed all that? Because the email used the same seven words I had used on a unprofessional freelancer in my film company. I had told her about it, him, and the email, and she had commented on how cold it must have felt to receive.
I had never used those words on her and never planned on doing so. She was a friend I had seriously planned on carrying into my future, regardless of how uncertain that is. So, I could never say that I got what I deserved, or what goes around comes around. Doesn't that apply when you screw that person over – in this case She?
But on another level of human interaction, no situation is isolated from another, in that people will borrow language and use it in their own way to communicate their most hurt states. In a twist, her borrowing my line is humbling. But it is also doubly painful for me. When your own words are used on you, not in revenge or out of spite, but in the exact same vein as you had used them, you hurt. You know exactly where it comes from and you know exactly where it's supposed to be lodged.
So, what started out as the hallmark signs of loss – I the innocent, they the inscrutable offender – ended up as me the guilty, them the vocal innocent. I've lost friends through the end of romantic relationships, but this is different. This is me becoming someone I never wanted to be, but ultimately would have become anyway because I never mitigated the possibility.
Years ago, when I was wasting away in loneliness and depression in Oxford, I struggled with God and the Christian idea of the Incarnation. I raged for days and nights, feeling sorry for myself about people who screwed me over for no reason, wondering why Christ wanted those self-righteous fucks in his fold. I was the ruined byproduct of church politics. I am the very embodiment of the Incarnation in that I accept people the way they are and I go down to their level.
Having never vocalized these sentiments, it's pure horror reading them.
But you know what? Given the same conditions, I am really no different than those people I despised back then. I'm no longer a broken mess. I'm a fairly successful guy in my late 20s with a lot going on. I couldn't take the heat on the day of the meeting with Her, so I did the normal thing and ducked. And hid. And stayed away until I got myself in a state to be able to confront Her and the situation again. This is the new loss for me, loss where I'm the perpetrator against well-meaning people who end up wanting to have nothing to do with me. This is not me. I'm the one people screw over. I'm the one people leave for no reason. This is not how it's supposed to be, but this is the new loss. Loss only for me because in society's terms, this is you the asshole, Midiane.
But life doesn't work like that, especially with people who already have reservations about you. I got an email from Her business partner within a day or two of the missed meeting. I didn't read it until two or three weeks later. But it said what would be expected: the project is off and you will be paid for whatever you completed. You were unprofessional and rude, and treated us like garbage.
It's another horror as I grow up and as I come to terms with the fact that I will never speak to Her again in any semblance of friendship. I lost a friend yesterday, but really I lost her on the day I didn't show up for the meeting and the days after, when I escaped from her.
You can't really end a post like this in any shade of positivity. So here…it ends.