It’s a very unpleasant thing to realize that you are a villain in someone’s story. I find it even more unpleasant to know that former friends, as well as people I’ve never met, may hear this story about me, with no other perspective. Several years ago, I dated someone. It was, in my memory, at least, a good relationship. I loved this girl, even though she was too young for me to date (not legally; just, kind of, socially). It’s tempting to minimize my feelings so I don’t seem like the pathetic old guy wrapped around the young woman’s finger, but that’s probably who I was. Many people disliked the fact that we were dating. Her sister, for instance, though I never heard it from her own mouth. Her sister’s husband, with whom I had previously been friends, became cold and unfriendly, and told me more than once that he considered my pursuit of the relationship to be tantamount to a sin, or an overt act of aggression. Her parents–well. They were, perhaps, the theoretical maximum on the disapproval scale.
Despite my digressions to the contrary, this is about her sister. I liked her. I knew her sister first, actually. She was a very entertaining woman, and, well, I just thought she was fun, when she wasn’t on the opposite side of the relationship divide. She had her flaws, which were shown off in various ways in the brief time I knew her, but who doesn’t? Somewhere in the family, I came to believe (much later, after an initially amiable end to the relationship turned ugly), there was something really weird happening with information: I started to wonder, from subsequent events, whether my ex-girlfriend’s family (including her sister) had ever heard the story of our relationship as I knew it, as she and I seemed to live it, and as she narrated it to me. I started to doubt what seemed unarguable for a year: that the two of us were mutually concerned with each other’s welfare despite being beset by some well-meaning but ultimately irrational family members. Every part of that scenario seemed to come into question, after a while. I came to doubt, after a few nasty events, whether even the most fundamental things she had told me about her family’s words and actions were true at all, or whether she had represented our relationship to them in the way she told me she had. But that’s a cauterized, left-in-the-past mess, as much as such things ever are.
Back to her sister. Well. She died. I found out so recently that the time is best counted in hours, not days. She died of breast cancer and is survived by the husband mentioned above and at least two children. It seems inconceivable that I could have not known this was happening. Shoot, I still don’t even know how many children they had. Continue reading