December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
Marina. The second one.
When I had first met her, she was different. Unlike many of my friends, she did not go to college and never graduated from high school. She was rarely interested in intellectual discourse. She was a big spender. She drank almost without apology. She was living paycheck to paycheck. She worked a menial job or was jobless. She almost never said no. She grew up in San Francisco, raised in the Mission district. She had a 6 year old son who she saw only every other week or less. She was dependable.
We had bonded because of someone we knew mutually. That friend broke ties with me because I had chosen to be friends with her. But at the time, it did not matter. I went with what seemed best, easy, and friendly. We had the same music taste. We were born in the same year.
But the splintering began as time passed. Although I would like to believe that there are no class differences in the US, there are. Expectations were different in my social circle. I was more comfortable with low-key activities…and had gotten slightly yuppie over the years. Money was not supposed to be a primary issue.
As a Christmas present last year, I told her bluntly that I would help her get her high school diploma. Whatever it took, I had said. I researched tutors. She had started studying the GED books in the library. I called a few tutors and interviewed them. Then I talked with her about the process—what it would take—the sessions she would attend. I said that I would pay for them—over $300 in goodwill and possibly more. And it wasn’t that I was trying to be a saint, I really did want to sincerely help…and in some way, help her decrease her complaints of not finding a job and being fired frequently. But when I told her what she needed to do, she immediately dropped it. And over time, I just decided to drop it too. The day that she read my Christmas present, she said nothing and closed the card. It was the last time that we spoke of my attempt to help her.
As the year wore on, I started to feel like I was being used. I was asked by her for everything. How to submit the passport application. How to apply for so-and-so. Easy things. Things that I obviously didn’t know. Granted, I was being snotty. But it wasn’t in me to be the know it all, I wanted to compel her to figure out things on her own. Inspire. But I was too selfish all the same.
One day, it ended. I remember what she said, “Friends help each other.” I didn’t see her helping me. Name the last time that you helped me I shot back and there was only silence.
Or did she? To know someone who was outside my comfort zone?
In my birthday card of last May a few weeks before the above conversation, she had apologized for being distant as of lately. She had considered me a close friend and regretted not seeing me more. It was a $5 pop-up card of a gumball machine. She knew that I had love for sweets.