Lately I have been thinking about revenge versus karma, the timing of events and the meaning of why people enter your life for brief moments. I am trying to understand what I am supposed to learn from these short and disastrous unions.
When I was 24 I had a boyfriend named Lou. He was the type of boyfriend that you have when you are young and don’t really know any better. I wasn’t looking to settle down, just practice what it was like to have a boyfriend. He was good looking in that, bad boy, dumb as a pile of rocks, really honey, we’re not here to have deep talks, you’ll hurt yourself, let’s just have fun with each other in New York City, kinda way.
We even took off on a cross-country trip. Together, we bought a bunch of camping gear, including an ultra-deluxe LL Bean tent, plus the ugliest banana yellow 1979 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, complete with faux wood-paneling. I think it got 10 miles to the gallon and we drove all over this country. I had a once in a lifetime experience, but at some point while we were driving through Tennessee I knew that the shelf-life on this relationship had expired.
We got back to New York and sadly had a very ugly break-up. I remember being devastated by the fact that in one moment this person who I spent nearly every day with for two years was completely erased from my life. True, we needed to end it, but it still hurt and cut deep. There were no follow-up phone calls after, no running into each other at the same bars we used to frequent – nothing.
I kept imagining what I would say when I finally did see him. I practiced many witty quips and bitchy remarks and eat your heart out outfits. But our paths never crossed.
Until one day, nearly a year after we broke up. By then, I was well over him. But I wasn’t over the fact that he owed me about two thousand dollars from the trip we took.
I couldn’t have planned the moment any better. I looked good and I was with friends. We said hi and talked in an easy, nearly flirty way. In all of my imagined scenarios leading up to this moment, I never practiced what I said next. I told Lou that I was going camping in a few days with my girlfriends. I said, “Hey, isn’t this the greatest coincidence that we ran into each other, because don’t you still have the camping gear? “ I continued, “I have a great idea! Can you meet me tomorrow with the equipment and tent so I can borrow it?” “Well, sure.” Said Lou. “But I really need it back soon – it’s so funny that you are going camping, because I’m taking my brother camping the day after you get back.” I smiled and replied, “ I promise, I’ll give it back.“
As we walked away my friend Fred turned to me and said, “Steph – you’re not going camping.” “No I’m not Freddie.” We laughed and rubbed our hands like cartoon characters with vengeful glee.
I was shocked that Lou actually met me. He was standing at the entrance of Central Park, at Columbus Circle with this massive amount of gear, stuffed into an army surplus duffel nearly the length of my body. We agreed that he would call me the coming Sunday and meet that day so I could return the gear. He was going camping early Monday morning.
Lou called when I ‘got back from camping’. I politely explained to him that I would be happy to meet and give him the camping gear, as long as he gave me a check for at least half of what he owed me from the trip. It seemed like a fair deal to me.
He didn’t get the tent. And I knew that he would never give me the money. I needed to get in that last killing blow. I also took particular satisfaction in the fact that I have never used the tent – I don’t really like camping. Right now it’s in the same spot I left it back in 1995 - in my parents attic.
This time last year I went through a similar break-up with a friendship and I’m amazed at the parallels between the two. We were friends for the same duration as Lou and I were together. Our friendship had its limitations as did my relationship with Lou. The friendship ended ugly and we eviscerated each other from our lives. And over the course of a year we never ran into each other. It will happen when the timing is right – just like with Lou.
Lou and I were never meant to see each other until that exact moment. I didn’t know this at the time, but my twenty something self needed time to heal and recover from a nasty break-up. Maybe it prepared me for what I have gone through with this grown-up version of Lou. There is a reason we have never run into each other - we have been like opposite magnets, repelling each other, staying out of each other’s way.
I know I can’t really act in the same youth-fueled vengeful way – although I’d like to sometimes. Maybe that is where Karma comes in to play. I’ve stopped preparing what I would say to this ex-friend should we run into each other face to face in the produce isle. My experience with Lou taught me that I really can’t plan these moments.
Both of these shallow relationships have truly taught me a great deal – about the distrustful nature of some people, that everything, every relationship runs its natural course, and we can’t always predict when it will end. Some last a lifetime, some exist in perfection in grade school. And some only last two years.