I've had three people I used to work with in Kettering reject Facebook friend requests I sent them in the last year. And in 09 someone else I once felt particularly close to treated me like a complete stranger when I got her number (by fair means) and sent her a friendly text, trying to re-establish some form of communication.
Why do I want to, you might ask? Am I trying to fill in tremendous gaps in my life? Am I looking for a girlfriend? Am I dying and as in some as-yet-unmade (I presume)American weepie trying to atone for all my past mistakes? No to all of those questions, as far as I'm aware.
I am actually happier than I've ever been, with a woman who "meets me in cafeterias and loves me", as Ginsberg would say, and so much going on in my life I don't have time to keep up with it all.
But my recent illness probably has given me a different perspective on life. So has turning 45. (So has being happy.) I hope I may be finally maturing. And part of that maturing process has involved looking backwards and realising I had much that should have made me happy before, but didn't because I didn't know how to respond to it then. I have realised that I disregarded too much. Overlooked other things. That I was, to borrow someone else's phrase, "an indifferent caretaker" of the gifts life had given me because my distorted thinking about the world and myself had made me angry and egotistical.
I just wanted, by talking to the people I knew then (and before that, when the time came), to acknowledge that I could have been a better friend or work colleague or family member (we all have so many different roles to play in the lives of others), thereby restoring the value of the trust or affection they gave and saw trampled in the dirt, I suppose, and releasing me a little further from my unfounded bitterness and self-delusion.
But the people I knew back then have either moved on, or they can't forgive me for the things I did and didn't do, and have no wish to make contact again. That's fine. One can't go back, not really. All we can do is understand the mistakes we've made and resolve not to make them in the future. It's a fundamental of Buddhist practise and the only way to be a decent human being who somebody might shed a tear over, in the grave.
I wish I had told them, though, in the old days, about the crazy person I had at home, who was screwing up my head by telling me stories about rape and incest, who was stealing my money, writing reams and reams of abuse directed at me on A4 paper and tacking it all around the house for me to find on the rare occasions when she went out. Who wrapped things in bubble wrap for no reason I could fathom and then became highly disturbed when I asked her about it. She was sliding rapidly into madness and I didn't feel I could tell anybody about it because of family loyalty. I was an egotistical man before that, with much less regard for other people than I should have had, so I'm not blaming my shabby treatment of my friends entirely on the situation at home. But it can't have helped. And it might have helped them understand me a little, if I'd shared even a little of it. "Candour ends paranoia," as someone, I think it was Ginsberg again, said.
I know my relationship with Ruth was divisive, but I'm saying that six years after the joy went out of it and four years after it ended. At the time there was an illicit thrill in it that anybody who's been in the same sort of situation will understand. And anybody who wanted to know if the stories were true could have asked, I think. I wasn't such an ogre then; I was just a narcissist pretending to be sweet and humble (pretending to myself as well, as I may be right now). Whether I would have told them the truth or not is another matter, but I hope I would.
"If time were like a passage of music," Joyce Johnson wrote in 'Minor Characters',"you could keep going back till you got it right."
I had to look death in the face and really, truly, fall in love, just once, before I even started to grow up.