Criminal Kindness 7/2/22

Memories with Richard Bleil

Some years ago, I was working at a university near a town.  I worked very long hours (11 or 12 hours a day was routine), so I would “treat” myself with lunches in which I really didn’t track time.  I don’t think that they were often longer than an hour, but I didn’t worry if they were.  So, I would walk into town, a terribly small town with few places to actually eat.  Frequently, I would end up at a bar that served, well, bar food.  Cheeseburgers, chicken strips and the like.  Although the selection was limited, they were good and relatively inexpensive, save that I would quite significantly over tip. 

I ate there so frequently that I got to know the employees very well, including the young woman who usually made the food.  I can see where some people would find her attractive, but she wasn’t my style, so I never really did.  But she was sweet, and I enjoyed talking with her.

She was, when I met her, engaged.  She had a habit of borrowing money when in need from the owner and paying him back.  She kept a journal with how much she owed, and how much she repaid every time she contributed.  My salary was honestly too much for one man, which is why I would tip too much, just to help her out. 

Through time, our friendship grew, and she worked very hard.  She had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and was superb at baking and cooking.  She wanted to do the catering for her impending marriage herself but would struggle in doing so.  Because we were friends, I decided to give her an early wedding gift, that being a very expensive large kitchen mixer, just something so she could make dough without exacerbating her condition. 

One weekend, still before the wedding, she had a rare day off, and she was talking about her fiancée.  She told him that she really wanted to take the time to go out drinking.  It’s not something I’m into myself, but she was.  Unfortunately, her fiancée is like far too many men who puts more significance on his desires than those of his partner, and he decided not to go with her.  As we were talking about this, she told me she would do it with or without him, and I didn’t want her driving drunk as she lived in the next town over.  I gave her my phone number and promised to give her a ride if she would call me when she was ready to go.

And that’s what we did, but she was very upset that her fiancée wasn’t with her.  She wasn’t ready to face him, and needed time to cool off, so I drove her around, and we talked.  I gave her the opportunity to vent, listened, and that was it.  Finally, she was ready to go home, so I dropped her off. 

The next day, I went to the bar to get a cheeseburger.  She informed me that her fiancée (whom I had met earlier) was very pissed off at me for having spent time with her, and she wouldn’t be able to invite me to the wedding.  Well, I’m not a huge fan of weddings, so it was no great loss.  But I was confused about why this man was upset that I made sure that she made it home safely when he wouldn’t.  Because of her need to talk, yes, it took longer than usual, but all we did was talk.

I kept going to the bar, but things were never really the same.  She was suddenly standoffish, and we didn’t speak so much.  The wedding wasn’t far off when I gave her a ride, and as it got closer, she would talk about her wedding with other customers, and I got to hear the excitement as they did so.  She wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence, other than giving me my order, as they all talked about the role each would play in the wedding.

It got to be too much.

Eventually, I felt like I just wasn’t welcome to the bar, so I stopped going.  The wedding day came and went, but I never saw her again.  I never did receive a wedding invitation, or even a thank-you card.  The reality is that sometimes, being kind can be emotionally expensive.  I don’t mind.  I felt like we could have been great friends, but nothing more, and if she was so willing to give me up, even to the point of failing to acknowledge my gift and actions, then she’s not the kind of friend that I need.  I’m not sure if this is a bitter post over the loss of my friend, or a happy one for having learned that she would have been a hollow friend who wouldn’t back me up if I were in need.  Today, I don’t even know if they’re still married, and if so, if they’re happy, but to be married to a man who puts his own jealousy over the well-being of his wife is not a good sign.

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