For several months a year or so ago, a post started formulating in my head, but I never actually got around to posting it. Had I written it, it would have gone something like:

One of the interesting things about relationships (both of the platonic and romantic variety) is how often they are dependent on timing and circumstance. My wife and I both commented that had we met earlier in our lives there is a pretty good chance that we never would have gotten together or if we had it might have been really toxic. Julie and I were nearly perfect for one another when we got together, but then we drifted separately to the point that I’m not sure we’d even be friends if we met today. There are also times when so much has happened that the best two people perfect for one another can hope for is to split up and meet someone almost exactly like their previous soulmate.

When Evangeline made her final effort at reconciliation shortly before marrying Clancy, one of the reasons I gave for going forward with the engagement was that while it was every bit as possible for things to go poorly with Clancy as they had with Eva, I knew in painstaking detail everything that could go wrong with the latter and a part of me would never stop bracing for it, no matter how honest her intentions were.

But this post actually has more to do with friendships than relationships. Specifically, it’s about my friendship with my former roommate Hubert. When Hugh and I were roommates at Southern Tech, we got along really well the first year, not so well the second year, grudgingly the third year, and miserably the fourth.

During that time, he was going through a real rough patch. His mother and step-father were divorcing, which was causing all sorts of financial problems. His college funds were drying up and suddenly he was unexpectedly going to have to start paying for his schooling. He had to change majors. Relationship troubles. Various family members were sick. Things just weren’t going his way. Add to that, he was wearing thin on a lot of his friends even before things in his private life turned nasty.

At the same time, I was going through my breakup with Julie after nearly five years. I was deciding not to go to law school. I’d gotten into my second serious auto accident in two years. I was carrying a full-time work and classload. There have been times in my life that I would have been perfectly happy and willing to help a friend through some troubled times, but that wasn’t one of them and Hubert at the time did not accept help gracefully. Do him a favor and he’d criticize you for doing it wrong.

By the time we parted ways, I lamented the fact that our similar circles meant that I couldn’t extricate him from my life entirely. Being as unlike him as much as possible was actually somewhat important to me. In some ways this was genuinely helpful to me because it broke me out of certain behavior patterns that he and I had in common, but it’s never good to carry that kind of hostility around you all of the time. When he announced to me that he was getting married, the first feeling I had was dratting that after all was said and done he was getting married before I was. Fortunately I’d met Clancy by that point and I knew I was going to marry her, so I was at least able to accept defeat gracefully. It’s noteworthy that he is the only friend whose romantic failures I delighted in and for whom I cared about who found their life partner first.

By the time he got engaged and got married, though, he had become a different person. He started getting a handle on his temper, which was huuuuugely important. He stopped trying to be so impressive and working triple-time to fit in. He got a better sense of what was and was not important and stopped alienating people trying to dictate unimportant things. You could mention something vaguely political without a big giant political wrath coming down upon you. Heck, you could actually discuss politics with him where you disagree without everything blowing up. He stopped talking about how he was becoming more laid back and actually started becoming so.

These changes were noticeable. He actually had a serious relationship that lasted more than nine months, and then when that fell apart, he went on to meet someone else and she tolerated him for more than nine months, too. She even married him! Clancy met Hubert on the same weekend that she met Julie. With all I’d said about both, she expected to like Julie and to have to tolerate Hugh. Instead, she came away with it not sure at all what to make of Julie and with a very positive impression of Hubert. She had to ask if that was the same Hugh I’d been talking about or if there were somehow two different Hughs.

Of course, there is a rub. No matter how much I can see the changes in him, I don’t feel the changes. It’s not that he’s betraying his new-self with old-self behavior just under the veneer anymore. Rather, it’s that I have difficulty seeing him as he is without seeing him as he was. I can’t stop walking on eggshells when I’m around him. I can’t stop waiting for the old-self to make itself apparent in some subtle or unsubtle way. I can’t stop letting all of the little things that would never bother me with anyone else bother me with him.

It’s all rather unfortunate. For better and worse I lived with the guy for four years. He and I share a whole lot of the same interests and developed them together or having introduced them to one another. We have many of the same friends. If I met him today, we’d be great friends.

But I didn’t meet him today. I’ve seen his really ugly sides and I don’t know if I can really get the image of it out of my mind and since it’s all so instinctual I don’t know how to influence these unhelpful thoughts.

I never wrote the blog post because I kept procrastinating and procrastinating and now I can’t write it anymore. I’m not sure when all of the above finally changed, but it did. Though I don’t know when it happened, I do know when I realized that it had happened. Clancy and I made our way back to Delosa for a short vacation. We got together with our wives and a friend and his wife and we hung out for several hours going to see a movie and then talking about it afterwards.

When the night had come to an end, he said, “This has been great. We should really do it again next time you’re in town.”

I said, “Yeah, we should.”

And I actually meant it.


Category: Coffeehouse

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5 Responses to Overcoming The Old Friendship

  1. Spungen says:

    Being as unlike him as much as possible was actually somewhat important to me. In some ways this was genuinely helpful to me because it broke me out of certain behavior patterns that he and I had in common, but it’s never good to carry that kind of hostility around you all of the time.

    Yes, I can relate to this.

    Four years of shared close history is rare, at least in my life. It’s tough to lose, even if he relationship is, in sum, bad for me. I’m glad you and he are on better terms now.

  2. Webmaster says:

    Though I didn’t room with him until a couple years after your senior year, Hugh never struck me quite as bad. Partly it was that he was actually there to put up with some shit that I went through, partly that he was more-or-less (by the time we lived together) pretty easy to agree with on most things we needed to agree on, including a few upgrades to the house. One of my regrets is actually that, even still in the same city, he and I don’t get to spend as much time together (which is about equally a product of his married status and my schedule, since so many things seem to be “couples’ nights”).

  3. trumwill says:

    He’d already improved a lot by the time that he got the house, I just don’t think that I was in a position to appreciate it without more time and distance. It was a lot better (or less bad at any rate) when he and I lived in different apartments in the same complex. I wonder from time to time if I was toxically affecting him the way that he was me. One other big difference between your living arrangements and my living arrangements was that I had to live in the same room with him. The difference between Dennis’s relationship with Hubert when our suites were coupled compared to when they were decoupled was possible.

    In any case, I was happy that your living with him worked out. I was afraid that it would all blow up more horrendously, but it seemed to go quite well until he went and got himself married.

  4. Webmaster says:

    Heh… well, marriage does that. If anything my one complaint is that he very rarely visits my end of town… he always cites not wanting to be driving late at night, which doesn’t strike me as him not wanting to drive up, simply his old worry-wartness coming out.

  5. "Hubert" says:

    You bastards. I thought you were talking about me behind my back, but kept telling myself I was paranoid.

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