Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Favorite Mistake

I had one of those post-workout epiphanies today, which came at a good time.

I had a phone call from B last night as we made plans to get together to handle some unfinished business. I know that I should handle everything through email or attorneys or some other arms' length interaction, but it honestly feels so unnatural. Contrived. Phony. Maybe that isn't a bad thing, given the circumstances. Hell, it probably isn't. Maybe I take some perverse delight in knowing he still needs me. I truly hope that isn't it, as his needs are many and never-ending and, of course, he doesn't generally offer up assistance when I need it (not that I ever ask). But I would be swimming in de Nile if I didn't acknowledge that was probably part of it.

As I was kicking myself for this, I realized that there is closely related reason that I continue to take his calls and help him out. B's ongoing need for my advice and counsel shows me that he still very much respects me and values my opinion. That matters to me. It just does. Right or wrong, that respect honors our relationship, at least as far as I am concerned. So perhaps it isn't as much as that he still needs me but that he still respects and trusts me, notwithstanding the end of our marriage.

Truth is, I don't need or want daily or even regular affirmation of his respect, which explains why I am so irritated when the calls come in. I am still astounded at the hubris of whatever request he has. Thinking about it this morning, I came to a realization that is at once obvious and curious: I think of B as family. In a nutshell, that is it. I met him when I was 21 and grew into an adult while with him. In the early years of our marriage, my family was mostly overseas and his folks were out of state, so we were a family of two. We were young and learning our way around the city and finishing educations and waiting tables and hustling and struggling for cash, like most 20-somethings. We lived on a boat, for fuck's sake, and you can't very well hide out in the bathroom and avoid conflict on a boat. We were in each other's faces and business and did everything together. I'm not saying it was healthy, but it was what it was. It is history, literally and figuratively.

He isn't my family, but he still feels that way. When he calls with a favor, I feel the same obligation that I feel with my brothers or sister. Enough time has passed between our breakup and the present where I can honestly say that I don't have any romantic feelings for him. How could I? My respect and admiration for him is quite nearly gone and I certainly don't miss being with him physically. Every now and then, I see a flash of the man I shared my life with for over a decade and that? Feels like home. Familiar. Known. Family.

He called tonight with his biggest favor yet and I was yet again gobsmacked. The nerve, the hubris, the clueless brass balls on this one. He is in a fight with his HOA and needs legal and practical advice. He ostensibly called for a recommendation for an attorney, but then said if he could hire anyone, it would be me. He has been a royal jackass of a homeowner (I believe his exact words were "K, I have been a complete fucking asshole to them") and again is looking for me to get him out of it.

I asked him if he ever felt like I was his protective helmet for the past ten plus years and that now, he is running into everything headfirst like a toddler on sugar. He laughed and said "pretty much everyday, K." I told him that these ongoing requests were truly unfair to me, as I am not calling him with requests for favors. I also told him that it was transparently manipulative to play upon, what I am sure he knows, is my reluctance to tell a former friend that I didn't want to help them. I told him that I still think of him as family and only some extended time apart will change that. I explained that he (we) needed to stop thinking of each other as friends and recognize that any prayer of a future friendship requires a new foundation that cannot be poured for a long time.

He agreed and apologized and thanked me for listening. An hour later, I called him with a recommendation for an attorney.

Then I agreed to help him out. He is, at least for now, still family to me.

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