I suppose almost everyone who writes is afflicted some of the time by the suspicion that nobody out there is listening ~Joan Didion
Its like this: You get on the bus, you get off, you get on. Its red. Its blue. It doesn’t matter what color it is.
It’s trudging along down the Putney High Street in London. Its speeding down the expressway in New Jersey. You’re on it. That’s the point.
You’re on it and you are always getting on and getting off and taking bags unless you have none but the day you have none hasn’t happened yet, so you get off or on with your bags and you find a seat and you go where the bus takes you. Again and again.
You didn’t know when you got on (not at first, anyway) where the bus was going. But when you see the other passengers, when the lady next to you tells you she talks more, I talk a lot, since my husband died. He was 82- you know. You know exactly where this bus is going.
You tell her: It’s ok. That you will listen.
So you listen.
Here’s what she says: We were married a long time, four kids, nine grandkids. He had an affair, twice. I forgave him. You ever forgive someone like that? Do you know what it’s like just to outright forgive someone like that?
There was the time in ninth grade when you walked in and your best friend was kissing the guy you were sort of dating (but totally loved!) and you forgave her. That same guy, whom you reunited with ten years later, after seeing a video camera on his desk the whole two weeks you stayed with him in Philadelphia, you nervously suggested: Why don’t we, you know, video ourselves the last night I’m here? Then watching the tape he sent in the mail (in the mail!) and Oh My God I can’t believe I’m watching this and then realizing that the last night wasn’t the last night at all, but the first and the second night and every night thereafter.
He’d recorded the entire two weeks without your knowledge. A fluke that you happened suggested it that last night. But what if you hadn’t suggested it? He would have still been recording you those other nights and what then? A betrayal you don’t know about- a betrayal nonetheless. Or is it?
If a betrayal falls in the forest and no one knows, does it make a sound? If he records you having sex without your knowledge and you never find out, not when you are thirty, or forty, or say, even on your death bed- does it affect the natural order of things? Have you been betrayed if you know not of it? Does the betrayal still exist?
It was your idea he’d said, you wanted to do this, when you confronted him with all the gumption you possessed in your late twenties. And you forgave him, but you didn’t really, you didn’t know what else to do, you’d never done anything like this before and maybe this is the punishment you got for wanting to be intimate with someone you thought you (totally!) loved by fucking in front of a video camera. Maybe this is what you got? All your kisses and blow jobs recorded without your knowledge and maybe you didn’t forgive at all but rather, stuck that little VHS tape in your back pocket so you could throw out the window of the bus, down into the river? Maybe you didn’t think you had a right to be angry, or that you deserved to have a voice? Maybe you thought you were the one that had to say I’m sorry? So many maybes when we look down the barrel of the past.
Watching yourself on that dumb mailed VHS tape and thinking: That is me.
That is me and that is me, and right there? That is me, without me knowing its me.
What an asshole, you think.
You have permission to throw him down the river, although with time the asshole-ness will fade and you will shake your head at the outrageousness of it all, and the I can’t believe I got that upset-ness of it all. He will still be an asshole although he may be less of an asshole now that he has kids and has grown up a bit, but that is neither here nor there, is it? He betrayed you and you forgave him, but not really. Not fully, not until you throw him from the bus in the rain and watch the stupid VHS tape drown in the dirty river while people watch and wonder what did that chick chuck from the bus window?
And you think that if they knew you were throwing away anger and resentment and betrayal and not speaking up for yourself and drunken sex that they would understand and clap there on the sidewalk but the truth is that there are no people- no one really cares, they are all too busy fussing over their own scandalous sex tapes and lies and misgivings, and in fact, you threw nothing from the window at all. You just stuck your head out for a little air.
Then there was the woman your father was screwing. Before he died. She’d done it with other men as well. You knew. So young, seven years old, and you knew. You know her name (but you won’t say it, not so many years later, not here,) because she probably has her own grandkids now, it was so long ago. She could be like the woman sitting next to you on the bus, for all you know. She could be chatting up a stranger on a bus, trying to talk to anyone who would pay attention. Isn’t that what most of us spend our lives doing anyway? Someone please listen to me? Pay attention.
She started like a cold. No big deal. Then all of a sudden, a full blown flu, like a I think I need to leave my wife and kids flu except that isn’t how you and your mom and sister are left. You are left in the he dropped-dead-in-the-middle-of-the-night-by-choking-on-his own-vomit kind of left.
You forgave that. At least his death.
The woman, the affair, and let’s face it, his death- they’re still with you on the bus with all your other shit.
On the way to London my suitcase cracked. The airline damaged it and claimed responsibility. They offered to replace it and send over a new suitcase. I was tempted to say: No, I don’t want to take anything back. Let me leave it all. Every last thing. All my dirty underwear and sweaters and mismatched socks. Who needs it anyway?
My husband: Babe, you need it. You need a case.
Literal, logical, loving husband.
I told the woman all of this on the bus. The beautiful black woman who was 80 but looked 50. The woman whose husband had been with her all of her life (but cheated twice that we know of) and had just died. And now she was left talking and talking and who was listening to me now? she often asked no one in particular, in bank lines and bus stops.
New suitcase came. Black with purple satin inside. Like I was royalty. My old case was orange and plastic with wine stains from when a bottle of red wine cracked in it in Paris. It was ugly and stained. And broken. But hell, if I wasn’t sad to see it go. How I wanted to fix it, salvage it, and drag it on and off every bus for the rest of my life.
The old woman on the bus says: Take your shit back with you. Take what you need. Leave the rest.
I lean over and touch her nonchalantly. She’s real.
She says: Get off.
This is your stop.
Or maybe she didn’t say that. Maybe she didn’t say any of that. Maybe it was just time.
I never know what to say in my comments to your delicious writing. Should I just say how great it is, how great & wonderfully rich with growing self love because I know everyone will agree anyway, so no one will think my words stand out? So no one will know how sometimes your words help me heal? Or should I try to be funny? It’s been hard for me to be funny these past two years & before that I wasn’t all that funny anyway.
I once had a British editor who had a sign on his desk that said, “I’m not a funny man.” Ask someone to say that in a veddy British accent the emphasis on the word ‘not.’ It sounds funnier than a comedy routine … but he was dead serious. When he’d get all agitated & terse about an assignment he’d give me, I’d sometimes point out his gruffness & try to get him to lighten up. When I did, he’d say out loud, “I’m NOT a funny man!” haha…
So this forgiveness thing. I’m glad you’ve written about this subject today. My first wife who I caught cheating on me over 30 years ago, whom I forgave the same night I caught her, phone me earlier this week. I’d not heard from her in 15 years. I didn’t feel anything other than a simple & easy familiarity. As nice as it was to hear from someone I knew so long ago, it was a simple conversation but no emotions, no drama.
Then today, a woman I’m pretty sure I loved more than any other so far, posted her new wedding picture with an official FB announcement, one of those “Got Married” things. A confirmation of so many things but mostly of how much I’ve grown. How forgiveness to myself in my own heart is real. I sent her my congratulations & wished her happiness & joy.
I think when we truly forgive, we can tell there, in our heart. It doesn’t beat any faster or harder, it can still love & remember the goodness inside ourselves.
ps… your writing is effing great. Truly.
pps … I’d like to add, it seems forgiveness is a funny thing, maybe it’s the funniest thing if we do it well enough to laugh a bit & still have room in our heart to love, to allow room for new & better things we thought we’d never see or feel.
thanks. Your writing is spectacular.
[…] Full story at: Journey To Forgiveness.. […]
Trust is bigger than forgiveness. I subscribe to your page on FB & saw the caption: “the kind of cold where you leave your wife & kids” etc. which intrigued me because yesterday I posted about putting my husband on a plane back to Milwaukee while we are on vacation in Florida because he had a cold/allergies/flue. (Exact words) but this was NOT TRUE at all. I made it up to protect my family.
And today I saw this in the feed. So, I clicked on this reading.
We all know cheating occurs, it happens so much, it’s sad. I know that women typically think something is wrong with them & blame themselves but it saddened me that young people and many people for that matter don’t believe in marriage. In fact, when you have a strong marriage, a strong family it is the woman who will do anything for the sake of her family & not herself which is totally what you write about and empowering to women.
Yesterday, when I posted on my fb account that I was putting my husband on a plane back to Milwaukee because of “cold/allergies/flu” it was because I am worried about some of the people on FB in my area who know that we are out of town and they are relatives with partners who have other issues like abuse of alcohol, drugs and who knows what.
There are lots of people who can’t be trusted on Facebook or the internet and sometimes it’s friends of our own family, etc.
For me then, I have to disengage myself from these people so that I don’t have to worry about such, whether or not my home and belongings could be robbed while I am away.
I also just feel sad for the younger woman who grew up amid divorce and broken families, over the 90’s era and somehow believe that everyone is a cheater, that people divorce and are never happy or that big fat women who don’t do yoga will have men that cheat on them.
I don’t believe everything I read,
I don’t get things twisted.
I am learning to focus on self & goals for my life & family, all of which does include better health because I do have issues; but as I said:
Trust is bigger than forgiveness.
I am in agreement and also a bit struck by what you said, as of course, relating words to our own situations is immediate. Being one of those younger women who grew up amid a broken family, I have come to learn that my fear of being cheated on (which ultimately, I believe, was the start of the manifestation of that fear, many times) did not come from the belief that everyone is a cheater. You see, my abandonment fear stems from being abandoned by a parent. I spent years living with a parent who made me feel like spending time with me was only good until the new boyfriend came home, and I therefore grew to believe that anyone I cared about would eventually leave me for someone else. THAT is where my “not good enough” belief stemmed from – as many peoples do.
The point of all this is that I would not be breaking through that pattern or that fear without forgiving myself for having those fears in the first place. And also, forgiving my parent who was only functioning from the best place she could at the time.
You may not be able to trust someone again, but you can always forgive them. Sending love and light to you and everyone on this site, especially Jen – because damn, all we need is more stuff like this!
When people wrong us we have to forgive them, else we ingest the poison of their transgression and expect them to die as a result. Have always loved and will continue to love your honesty. Your words are like spiritual surgery, they open up hearts so people can get healed.
Wow. This blog left me speechless. Its so raw, so real and honest and moving. I’ve read and reread it and still can’t find the right words to express how moved I was by this. But thank you once again for making me think, and feel. Even if I’m not sure what I think or feel yet. It will come I’m sure.
Reblogged this on The Manifest-Station and commented:
A piece I wrote a year and a half ago. Are you ready to get off the bus?
I really wish there was a door on the bus sometimes. But, there is no door on this bus. Perhaps my eyes are still cloudy and I will find it someday. Maybe even when I find that door I won’t want to get off anymore. Maybe the ride will be right at that point. Maybe the bus will have slowed down and with it my breath and mind, too. Maybe. and I can’t see
I loved your piece. It is beautifully written. I love that you write in such a vivid way, yet it doesn’t become some long drawn out scene where I end up skipping sentences and blah, blah, blahing to myself. I love that your soul is in there. I love that they are like short little dosing of medicine for my own soul.
Thank you for writing
Thanks for sharing again.