A year after my boyfriend of three and a half years and I had broken up, he left me a voicemail message telling me that I had accidentally sent him an email that contained information that he really did not want to know. Namely, that I'd been seeing someone else. He insisted that I do him the courtesy of deleting him from my email list so something like that never happened again. I hadn't thought to send him an email for months so, naturally, I found this a little strange. Then he called me at work and begged me to come see him because he had some important things to say to me before I got serious with some other guy. Given our history, I felt like maybe I owed him that.
You may only have to read that paragraph once to see all the red flags.
I showed up at his apartment, and he confessed to me that he had sent me an email that he didn't want me to get, so he logged into my email account to delete it, and while he was there had read an email exchange between me and a friend about this new mystery man. He got upset, apparently smashed the computer he was on to the ground, and then thought up this scheme to get me to come see him. "Can you ever forgive me?" he asked. I told him that he'd have to give me a minute. Then, he launched into the purpose of bringing me there, which was to ask me something that he should have asked a long time ago.
"Will you marry me?"
I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. No one had ever asked me that before. Certainly not this person, who I had at one time believed to be my future husband. Not this person who had gone out of his way to make me feel like dirt, to feel guilty for being suspicious that he'd lied to me about things on a number of occasions, not just this most recent one. He apologized some more. He said that it was okay to say no. And I did.
I don't really remember what happened after that. I know that before I left he asked if he could kiss me one more time, and I remember being so tired and befuddled that I didn't know what to do but let him. And I remember beginning to bawl as soon as I walked out his front door and being unable to stop for hours.
Several months later, I was still dating the person who inspired my first marriage proposal by virtue of his very existence. As a matter of fact, we had spent a fair amount of time arguing about when I would be healed, stable, comfortable enough to commit to a future with him. In the midst of yet another one of these fights, he asked me to marry him so that I would say no so that we would stop fighting about it. I said, "You have no idea how much that hurts me, and no, I will not marry you." And I cried and cried and cried. He apologized over and over again, and I couldn't say anything through my sobs. I didn't stop until I fell asleep.
Clearly, particularly to people who have been forced to listen to me talk about this repeatedly, I have not ever forgiven these two individuals for these incidents. What's more, they're really only snippets of what was wrong. Both of them did irretrievably stupid things, and begged (there's really no other way to put it) for forgiveness.
“Forgive” is a verb. To say, “I forgive you” is performative – an act of absolution. Granting pardon. Ceasing to feel resentment against someone. And in a lot of cases, in my experience, totally impossible.
This week, I’ve been made party to what has become a rather public, victim of the ugly tree divorce between two people that I truly love. I attended their wedding six years ago and watched as the bride, whom I’d known and gotten into trouble with for more than 10 years, wrote her wedding vows and dressed. I watched how happy they were. I watched how they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other during the ceremony, and couldn’t wait to be pronounced man and wife before kissing one another. Now I watch that fall hideously, spectacularly to pieces. I watch two people that I love do and say things that make them feel like strangers to me, and I wonder where my friends are. I hold my fiancé a little closer at night, just to make sure he’s there. And I remember that there’s nothing worse in the world than the singular moment you realize that a person you’ve given your heart to has done or said or become something that means that they’ll never occupy the same place in your heart and mind again.