History with Richard Bleil
Honestly, there will probably be no point to this blog. It’s something that happened many years ago, something that still sometimes weighs heavy on my mind. I’m sure I was wrong, and I guess it will be your decision just how egregious my error truly was.
I was a postdoctoral research assistant in New York City, long before the advent of the cellular telephone, as was Regina. She worked in the same department but in a different office. She was married, and I respected that, but our friendship grew quickly. She shared with me that her marriage was struggling, though. He was an older man, an established professor at a university somewhere, but I don’t know how they came to be together. I guess at the time the notion that he might have been her adviser or professor never crossed my mind, but it’s irrelevant. Post-doc positions are basically like apprenticeships. Once you’ve completed your doctorate, you do research to gather publications and begin building your portfolio while working with somebody already established in academia.
The kind of research Regina and I did does not really lend itself well to the kind of bench work that keeps you tied in a lab. In fact, sometimes it helps to get out of the office to clear your mind. Regina and I did this together, and she was probably the only friend I had in New York City. For a time, anyway.
I had met her husband once when he came to visit. Regina had arranged for the three of us to meet over a meal, and he seemed like a nice guy. I did not know the problem they were having, especially if he came out to visit her. When her birthday rolled around some months later, she had even made the comment that she didn’t know if she would get a gift or divorce papers.
Walking home, I saw someone outside of the door to her apartment building holding a gift box, and in a few moments recognized that it was him. I greeted him and we chatted long enough for him to ask if I knew where she was. I didn’t. In the time since I had met him, she began expanding her social network and, although we were still friends, she seemed to have much less time for me. He asked if I would give her the gift, and I agreed that I would. It was still a few days before her birthday, and I was sure I would see her.
In my due diligence, I did call, and (for those who know what an answering machine is) I left a message asking her to call me. She never did. A day before her birthday, I called and again asked her to call telling her that it was important, but not wanting to spoil her husband’s surprise for her over a message. She didn’t respond to my calls until the day of her birthday, when she told me we could talk at her party at a pier restaurant where she and her friends would be celebrating. (Did you catch that?)
So, I showed up. She had been missing for several days, and it became pretty clear. Knowing the troubles she had been having with her marriage, I didn’t know how she would respond to knowing that he had left a gift for her. Her friends were typical New York snobs, and I clearly didn’t belong, a fact they were sure to let me know that somebody like me just didn’t rate. They pretty much kept me away from her, and when I did get close enough, I asked her to speak in private, something I wanted to do in case she became emotional and didn’t want others to see. She said she would, but never did. The way the man she was with was hanging around her, I feared I knew the reason.
Around one AM, the phone rang. Regina called, and said she was sorry, but wanted to know what I wanted to talk with her about.
Okay, frankly, I was exhausted, upset, and just really didn’t want to run the gift over to her. Instead of telling her that he had left her the gift, I simply told her to ask me tomorrow.
She became livid when she learned that I had her gift. It’s not like I didn’t try, but she blamed me for not telling her. I suspect she slept with that guy, thinking that her husband had forgotten her birthday and blamed me for the affair. On the walk from where we worked to our apartments (just two doors away from each other), she screamed at me the entire way in the downpour. She refused my offer of my umbrella and screamed at me for not using it because I didn’t want to look like a jerk using one when she would refuse to share. I threw the umbrella away, and she screamed at me for that saying it was a jerk move.
Ultimately, I’m stuck. I feel guilty in that I suspect she had an affair for which she blamed me, even though it was her decision to do it. I feel guilty for not getting her the gift, although I made multiple attempts to tell her I had it. At night, I relive these events over and over, wondering if I could have done something different. Maybe I should have let her destroy my night’s sleep. I could have told her then, I guess, but she had ignored me for so long, and her friends were so rude to me that I just couldn’t see a reason to stay up to tell her. So, what are your thoughts? Just how big of a piece of crap am I?