one thing i don’t need to be forgiven for

let’s talk ancient history! oh, this will be fun.

so ten thousand years ago, i moved to boston & i lived in this highly-organized cooperative house. but i guess it was so highly-organized that i couldn’t handle it & eventually i broke away & founded my own house, upstairs from my best friend at the time. we had four bedrooms & my partner (also at the time) & i lived in one & we tried to fill the other rooms up with interesting weirdos. but a year later, my partner & i decided to split, & the lease was up, & there was a lot of turnover happening. i wound up interviewing a few people who had responded to a roommate ad i put on craig’s list (because this is when it was still possible to find roommates on craig’s list without getting axe murdered or something). one girl was okay but had an annoying haircut. i liked a different girl better & offered her the room. but she’d already accepted another offer, so the room went to the girl with the annoying haircut.

let’s call this woman jess. because that is her name. jess moved in & she was very quiet. i became fast friends with all the other new roommates & we hung out all the time, but jess kept to herself. sometimes she had friends over & they quietly played board games & looked around nervously if we tried to chat with them. mostly they just made brief appearances before they would all leave the house & go…somewhere. someplace to play more board games, i assume. not that i’m judging. i wish i had time for board games! the last time i played one, it was trivial pursuit, & not to brag or anything, but…i totally won. once i played pop culture trivial pursuit & i won the entire game on one turn & no one let me play with them after that. okay, i’m just bragging now.

once, jess’s friends brought her a bottle of whiskey for her birthday. we were a dry house (long story). people could have alcohol in their rooms or in the extra fridge in the basement but not in the main areas of the house. jess had the whiskey on the table with her stuff because she was getting ready to go…somewhere (boardgameville?) for her birthday. & i saw it, & was like, “uh oh, jess! you can’t have alcohol in common spaces!” i thought it was obvious that i was joking, but she was all, “sorry sorry sorry i’m so sorry!” like, whoa, dude, chill out. i’m not the one who kicked your puppy! though a time would come, sooner than i may have liked, that i would yearn for any kind of apology from her at all, about anything.

anyway, eventually our collective household extroversion wore her down & she started to be friendlier with us. she started chatting with us about her life, such as: where she worked. how she felt about her haircut. her friends’ names. you know. the important things in life. & one of the important things in her life at that time was what a complete asshole her ex-boyfriend was & how he should be banished from the face of the earth & how all her other friends were still friends with him & it made her so angry. this ex-boyfriend was named jared.

we heard many, many stories that we came to collectively call The Many Evils of This Jared Guy. we were like, “yeah, that guy sounds like a dick. wow, i can’t believe he did that. what an asshole.” but after a while, i sometimes found myself secretly thinking things like, “hmmm, sounds like it took two to tango on that one,” or, “this really doesn’t sound like a big deal at all.” but of course i never breathed a word of such treasonous thoughts to jess, because a) i had learned that she would brook no disagreement on the topic of Jared Sucks, & b) i was so fascinated by the whole thing, i really didn’t want to Ex-Boyfriend Gravy Train to stop.

one of my less attractive qualities is that i love to hear about other people’s dysfunctional relationships. as long as the stakes are reasonably low. i don’t like to hear about, you know, innocent children being caught in horrible custody battles or any kind of violence or anything. but your garden variety not-too-heavy crappy relationship drama? tell me more! oooh, then what happened? hold on, i need more butter for my popcorn. i LOVE that shit. so in that respect, living with jess was awesome.

so, need i spell it out for you? yes, the jared of the Many Evils is the jared that i am now dating. you know, the father of my child. it was a long & winding road to get from just hearing about this dude in goofy stories to actually meeting him & then proceeding to date him (which didn’t happen until several years after we met for the first time). by the time i started dating jared, my relationship with jess was already barely holding on by a thread. we had already had so many insane, over-the-top, ridiculous, i’m-never-speaking-to-you-again fights. & they were ALWAYS about the person that i was dating. it happened multiple times, regarding multiple different people that i dated over the years. jess always had an opinion, & the opinion was usually, “i can’t believe you are dating that person! i hate you!” so honestly, by the time i started dating jared, which i knew would be the greatest betrayal of all, perhaps worse than judas’s betrayal of jesus christ himself, it honestly felt like a foregone conclusion. withstanding jess’s completely unreasonable wrath was my superpower. might as well put it to good use & date this guy. it was like i’d been training my whole life (or at least for several years) for it.

& she did get pretty wrath-y. we no longer lived in the same town by then so i broke the news on the phone. & she flipped out. there were the usual threats of suicide, & name-calling, & crying, & the customary farewell in which she hangs up on me. i smoked a cigarette to take in the whole storm & then i just felt relieved. that’s that, i thought. she’ll certainly never want to speak to me again after this one! whew!

so imagine my surprise several years later when a mutual friend gave me a message from jess: “she says she has forgiven you & would be interested in being friends again.” i felt like i’d just turned back my covers & discovered a severed horse head. i mean, every now & again, to this day, i wonder if maybe some tiny part of my wanting to date jared in the first place was to get jess out of my life once & for all. just a very, very tiny part. 

i was like, “um. pass.” but i still have weird feelings about this offer sometimes. she’s “forgiven me”? for what? once again daring to date who i want? i never did get a satisfactory explanation for why she had so many opinions about who i was allowed to date. she had issues (screaming, crying, suicide-threatening issues) with literally every person i dated in the entire four or five years that we were friends. some people were like, “maybe she’s in love with you?” i never thought so, but that would be the only halfways reasonable explanation, right? on at least one occasion, she even started a campaign involving secret meets with the person i was dating, trying to convince him to break up with me. i don’t know. the fact that our friendship lasted as long as it did is a testament to both my generosity spirit & my inability to say, “fuck this noise.”

i hope that wherever she is, she’s doing well & is happy & feeling fulfilled by her life. i hope she realized at some point that the people her friends date are really not her business. i hope she knows that she doesn’t own her exes, even if they are Pure Evil. it’s true that i see her point & sometimes do feel that jared was a demon sent here to torment me with his insistence on putting onions in his quiches even though he knows i don’t care for cooked onions. that monster! will my suffering never end? i should have listened to jess.

sometimes i wonder if she keeps up with our news somehow, through said mutual friend. or maybe she even reads this blog. that would be weird. but not outside the realm of possibility. i wonder if she knows that jared & i have a kid now & what she thinks about that. i think most people who were standing around on the sidelines when we first started dating are stunned our relationship has lasted this long & become so serious. i remember one person sitting me down & saying, “you are the last two people on earth who should be getting romantically involved. you need to NOT DO THIS.” but despite all the sturm und drang, our relationship with each other has never been very dramatic at all. the one time i ever considered breaking up with him, it was because i was annoyed that he sent one of my phone calls to voice mail. our relationship with other people who have opinions about our relationship has been considerably more fraught.

so. cool story, huh? i guess in thinking about unfortunate things i’ve done that i’d apologize for if given the chance, it made me think about stuff people have done to me that i wouldn’t mind an apology for. this whole mess is undoubtedly in the top three. 

ps–i just reread this whole thing & i feel that i didn’t really explain what i mean by “this mess”. it’s kind of hard to explain what it’s like to try to be friends with someone who will literally just disappear into a blizzard or lock herself in a dark room & scream if you do something she disapproves of. you have to have lived it to understand how much it sucks. the way this is written, i think i kind of sound like the dick for dating this dude that i knew she’d be super-upset about. oh well, i guess?

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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