15 April 2007
Metro Tale: Three
They were so damned annoying. How can you be in love and bicker like that all the time?
I lived in the same dorm hall as Neenef during my freshman year of college. He was a quiet guy, yet somehow we became great friends. For a while he and I were inseparable. That was, of course, until he met Maggie. I rarely saw him after that… except when they needed my car to take them to the grocery store. Even so, they were both good friends of mine, whom, to this day, I miss dearly.
After a few months of dating, the two experienced problems, as all couples do. It had as much to do with them as it had to do with their respective groups of friends. Maggie had a set of girlfriends, the normal type--ditzy, gossipy, inconsiderate--that belied her intelligent and caring nature. Neenef had me. And that was it. I was his only friend at school, really. Of course, as mentioned above, that relationship slowly evaporated to make way for Maggie.
I understood. I wasn't hurting for friends. I've never been the most popular guy, but I'm extroverted and genial enough that I could move between several "cliques." Neenef: not so much. He was a bit of a recluse. He was an intelligent, funny guy, but not particularly outgoing. So, in his battle-of-the-friends with Maggie, we was certainly the underdog.
It didn't help that I was (or at least tried to be) friends with Maggie's girlfriends as well. And, I can't even remember what the conflict was about. I think it was as trivial as Maggie's friends complaining that Neenef was not as respectful to them as he could be. For some reason--some insipid, naïve reason--I believed that I could act as an impartial interlocutor between Maggie's friends and Neenef. I just wanted my friends to be at peace--a noble purpose to excuse interference in the personal disputes of others.
I do remember, amidst my discussions with Maggie's friends, that I let slip that Neenef had a very poor opinion of them. I was of impression that his distaste for those girls was readily apparent. I was, of course, wrong. As such, the grapevine being what it is, my alleged perfidy found its way to Neenef, who was none too pleased. In fact, he threatened to kill me if I ever again revealed his opinions to others like that.
He threatened to kill me. His friend. Because of gossip.
And, yes, I was threatened. We stopped talking after that. I cut him off, and let him wallow in his hatred. This was not such a simple task because he lived in the adjoining dorm room. We shared the same bathroom. The situation became unbearable for me, and I asked both Maggie--who had also shunned me--and Neenef, by email, to sit down and talk about the situation like adults. I assumed that Maggie was the more reasonable of the pair, but her response suggested otherwise: "No, we will not have a business meeting with you to discuss our emotions." She, of course, misconstrued the entire purpose of my invitation (I never once mentioned negotiations in commerce when asking to meet with them).
The situation became traumatic enough for me that I felt I had to see the campus counselor. The counseling staff specifically scheduled me to talk to their newest counselor, because they thought he'd be best suited to handle my problem.
I bet this counselor is black… I bet they put me with this counselor because he's black and I'm black.
My suspicions were affirmed: the counselor was a Black man. Nevertheless, I explained the circumstances of the falling out between Maggie, Neenef and myself. The counselor was incredulous and even suggested that I was mostly at fault for the ordeal. That would have been fine if he were a judge with the mandate to assess liability. But, he was a counselor, and he breached the duty of his profession that day by placing blame instead of trying to find a dénouement. At the end of the session, he requested that I schedule an appointment to see him again. I declined.
So, with all my options exhausted, I pulled, from within myself, the strength to ignore the storm around me. Thankfully the quarter was ending soon and people would be off to their separate corners of the world for the summer. Sadly, none of us foresaw the tragedy that would befall Neenef and Maggie upon their return to school in the fall.
To be continued...