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7:29 p.m. - October 29, 2003
Theme, rheme, counter
To what degree is one responsible for another beyond throwing a couple bucks into the hat passed around to raise funds for starving children or the environment or any of the million-plus causes out there? Or to rephrase and potentially articulate better: Must a kindness that can be done for another at a cost of personal (my own) discomfort be done? In a world of competing ideologies to whom does the greater loyalty lay? The easy response would be to myself but I donít believe that, and neither do I ascribe to codependency; so surely there is a middle ground, a penumbra, between the two.

For a brief period, I talked almost daily with a younger guy about nothing, literally. The weather. Landscaping. Travel. The capital of Suriname. Cars. Relationships in the abstract, each of us preferring not to bring up the concrete. Facile, superficial, non-demanding. Perhaps safe. A commonality: His boyfriend hits him, my boyfriend hits me. We didnít talk about that, only alluded, except once. He read my journal Ė Non-Descript and Bigsky Ė and took notes, asked me about particular entries, certain themes. Dangerous territory but I obliged, partly out of relief to talk about these issues with someone who wanted to know, partly because I thought he had his own reasons to inquire. He told me that he maintained a journal and I wasnít interested in reading it, enjoyed Ė looked forward to Ė learning about him directly. Began considering him a friend and if you know me only slightly, you know the appellation is stingy and careful. Kept talking. Then one night I asked if I could read his journal for uncertain reasons, mostly bordering on my fear of people knowing me too well, of knowing my weaknesses and fears, of the dictum Information is power. Rather than saying no, he ignored me, didnít respond. And I was offended. Someone can know my secrets, bringing them up freely in conversation, and I cannot know your own? Realized being open comes at the cost of bargaining, holding your cards close.

So I shut down, retreated to the polite me, the distant me, the you-donít-get-to-get-too-close-to-me. Quaffed self-righteousness: You canít take and not give. Delimiting ex parte security worked well until it was applied to me and I felt the injustice of such a medium (spurring in part, Iím sure, my own desire to open up more these past few months). We donít talk any longer but out of sight is not out of mind.

That last mot libre remains, obviously. Without engaging concepts of mercy or pop-psychology, I wonder if I acted in the wrong: If he derived some benefit of association from me at the cost (to me) of nothing, should I have sublimated my own desire to know him better since doing so would be extraneous to the primary interest? What small consideration would it have been to realize and accept an ex parte inquiry despite my misgivings due to an uncomfortable imbalance? Maybe he just needed someone to talk to for a while and then had enough Ė ah, see, the spiral begins. But I wonder if I could have been engaged by him on his particular schema and found contentment or a sense of understanding, much less satisfaction of purpose, rather than insisting on my own communicative structure, the one within which I feel safest (insulated?). And to echo Portia and mercy, how free to give and at such little cost.

Then there is the flip-side: Weíre in it for ourselves, damn everybody else. Unfortunately despite how often I tell myself to believe this, I donít.

I am distrustful of those who would be my friends, of myself.

 

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