Posted by Kelli Joan Bennett
Day 13. I wake up with a soggy cloak of funky fog over my head like from a hangover. But it isn’t acquired from some super fun, wild night in Vegas involving Wayne Newton, Carrot Top, Mike Tyson and a bevy of exotic dancers, although I am missing a tooth—long story. I didn’t drink any alcohol, take any drugs or create any meth from the ingredients in cold medicine. No, I ingested too much sadness last night and it’s lingering today. “That call is inevitable,” I say as I fry a pan of life-extending bacon and pull out the butter for the pancakes, “especially when you get beyond 40.” It can come at anytime. And whether it comes from a delicate chime, a rap song or a good old fashioned land line ring, the news will still be the same: a parent has died. I dread that phone call.
I’ve always been abnormally empathetic. Which is actually awesome when you’re an actor and need to cry on cue. Give me five minutes and I’ll be bawling like a baby. But it can be a real downer when trying to function off the stage or screen, watch commercials or read your Facebook messages. I get one of the latter that really throws me for a loop. I plan to write about it immediately but the grim reaper shows up, overshadows all and pulls rank. In his wake, I decide to examine it.
I see a little red “1” above my message icon. I presume it’s my friend writing me back regarding the message I sent her about having to miss the Broadway show her husband’s in. I just can’t get back out to NYC before it closes at the end of this month. It breaks my heart to miss his Broadway debut. I click on the message. I see the name and face of a woman who is not the friend I expect. In fact, I’m not sure who she is. She looks extremely familiar to me but I’m not exactly sure how I know her. The message begins with, “I may be the last person you’d like to hear from.” Huh? The woman goes on to say how awful she feels about getting involved with an old boyfriend of mine before he and I were officially over. I think, okay, I recognize the ex-boyfriend’s name. I must have gone to college with her because that’s when I dated him. She explains how her behavior still mortifies her and she offers me her sincerest apologies. She ends with, “I’m hoping that terribly late is better than never.”
My empathetic reflexes fly from zero to sixty in a nanosecond. My face flushes with embarrassment for her because I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about—at all. Not an ounce of grey matter perks up at this heartfelt, conscience-clearing request for forgiveness, not even an ember of a feeling or a snap shot of the past. This particular ex-boyfriend slept with half of the girls on campus when we were breaking up. I only remember the stripper who drove the Mazda RX-7, a blonde girl I was in make-up class with and the ex-female friend who probably should write me a message like this. I panic. Do I lie and write I’ll forgive you when hell freezes over? Do I tell the truth? Who are you again? Do I ignore it? I despise being ignored, so no, not an option. I decide to use a lifeline. I call one of my best friends from college who didn’t sleep with this ex. She helps me dig up recollections of this woman. I place her and feel confident I remember her and our time together at school. But unfortunately, no memory is dislodged from my booze filled college days of having any ill will towards her or that she ever crossed a line with my wayward ex, so, still, I got nothin’. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Crap. I feel awful. To think she’s been carrying this around with her for two decades and I don’t even remember, well, it makes me cry. I feel like the asshole.
We’ve all been there before. My friend and I share our own stories of holding onto our bad behavior moments only to later find out the recipient wasn’t doing the same, or in this case, didn’t even remember. We decide it is best to be honest but gentle and kind. My heart is the size of Detroit when I finally write her back.
I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been carrying that around! I hope you feel better getting it off your chest. I do appreciate the gesture and certainly, your apology is accepted but, I do have to be honest with you, I have no recollection…at all. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse, but please don’t give it another thought from this day forward. Okay? Friend me and we’ll start from scratch!
She felt silly, but she shouldn’t have. I wish she had of called me years ago. I still wouldn’t have remembered then and she could have cleared some space in her shame bank way sooner. My college days feel more like a fuzzy dream than a real memory anyway. Maybe that has to do with the amount of alcohol I consumed or my helmeted head slamming into the pavement knocking me silly two years ago, or maybe, just maybe, it’s more likely that 20 years later, regardless of who did what to whom and with whom or who remembers or doesn’t, we’re not the same people anymore. We’ve grown up. We’ve evolved. We’re new. She friended me. I accepted. We’re starting from scratch.
I want to reset the sadness meter, too. Death happens. That’s never going to change—Ray and Aubrey, please prove me wrong. I do dumb shit. I hope that changes but it probably won’t. I forget things that matter to others. I hurt people. They hurt me. I forgive and, hopefully, I am forgiven. Yes, we all have a past—sordid, skeleton filled and mortifying. Our past is a part us. No changing that either. But, it doesn’t define who we are right now. We’re still growing up. We’re still evolving. We’re still new every day that we are lucky enough to wake up. Life is too short and history is too heavy, let’s put it down. Instead of the past punishing us, let’s use it, let’s create from it and let’s start from scratch. So, in honor of all those who have passed away recently, those I know personally, those I know about and those I don’t, I forgive anyone who ever did anything hurtful, wrong or mean to me whether I remember it or not—Mazda RX7 driving strippers, cheating mates and back-stabbing friends included—and I hope they forgive me.
Until tomorrow, create from what you have…the sordid, skeleton filled and mortifying past included.