The larger story isn’t mine to tell. This is my personal experience, shared not for sympathy but to give some sense of where I’m coming from. I’m not defending anyone.
I met K. through mutual friends on Twitter. We bonded pretty quickly, as is often the case with people I get to know on the internet. When you put two neurotic, self-involved individuals together, they will never run out of things to talk about. We love finding out that we’re crazy in all the same ways! For a while, we chatted every day — first on Gchat, then via text. I had a friendcrush, and if I’m being honest, a crush-crush, too. Can you blame me? He was a musician. And even though he was straight, he liked to flirt, sometimes almost dangling the possibility of a tryst in front of me. I’m not saying I fell hard or anything. I’m just saying he was cute.
We made plans to meet up in person. He was going to stay with me for a whole weekend, and I was kind of thrilled. I felt like we’d really gotten to know each other at that point, but I was eager to see how we connected IRL. We talked about watching The Simpsons and staying up all night talking about our feelings. It sounded pretty ideal. The night before he was supposed to fly out to LA, he called me. It was the first time we’d ever spoken on the phone, and yes, I was enough of a dork to make note of that. I was panicked that he was going to cancel. Instead, he’d called because he wanted to tell me how excited he was about hanging out.
And then came the next day: the frantic early morning text, the cancellation, the tough-to-swallow story, the promise to make it up to me. I’m ashamed to say this happened three weekends in a row. Seriously. Each time, the excuse was harder to believe, but always too serious to call his bluff. Was he lying about a sick parent, a suicidal friend, a medical emergency? The second time he flaked I realized there was something not right, but he assured me that he was on the level. He knew how it looked, but it was just a case of really bad timing, and the universe being a colossal piece of shit. That was something I could get behind. I had an easier time accepting that the fates were conspiring against us than that someone I considered a good friend was a compulsive liar.
Over time, I began to suspect that the problem was him. His stories didn’t line up. He would contradict himself mid-conversation. It all came to a head when I learned about the lies he was telling other people. I won’t go into that: like I said, it’s not my story to tell. Suffice it to say, others had it way worse than I did. I tried to intervene on a couple occasions. The first time, he was able to talk himself out of it. I pointed out how unlikely it was that he was really a victim on all this — where there’s smoke… But he was very convincing. I let it go for a while. When it came up again, I confronted him more assertively. That’s when he told me to stop getting involved in other people’s business.
I was livid. I was hurt, too, but that seemed secondary. I tried to tell people that he was full of shit, that I’d seen through his lies, but I had little evidence. Worse, I worried about the repercussions of waging a full-on campaign against him. As outraged as I was by what he was doing to people I cared about, I feared that when the dust settled, I’d look like the asshole. He’d turn it all against me, and I’d just be some whiny asshole who got jealous and tried to make life difficult for someone cooler than he was. Even when I felt justified in my cause, I also kind of felt like a dick. And there was always this stupid doubt gnawing at me: what if he really was telling the truth? Maybe I didn’t have the whole story.
I know what I said about K. got to him eventually. That’s OK — I heard some of the awful things he said about me. It stung, but I felt some need to keep up appearances. We tweeted at each other, sometimes with slight hostility but always under the guise of friendship. It seems dumb in retrospect, but it was part my being taken in by his lies, and part my fear of consequences. Once when I did unfollow him after a particularly heated exchange, he sent me an apology email. The apology email is my greatest weakness: I probably shouldn’t admit this, but it’s the easiest way to end a conflict with me. I will always accept your apology. I will always feel crappy that I was ever angry.
When I first heard that his life was falling apart, I thought, “Fucking finally.” I’m not exactly proud of that reaction. On the one hand, I wanted him to suffer for what he’d put my friends through. On the other, I was reveling in the misfortune of someone else. There was so much about his behavior that never made sense — it was fucked-up and terrible, but it was also pathological. That’s a word I used often when trying to explain him. (Is it even the right one? What do I know.) This guy was a womanizer and a dickbag and a shitty friend, but he was also like me: a person whose brain didn’t function properly, a tremendously insecure narcissist, a drug addict.
And so, eventually, the anger faded. It’s not hard to forgive him for what he did to me, because it really wasn’t much. If I let him take me in, that’s my fault, too. But I can’t forgive him for what he did to anyone else — that’s not my place. And I want to reiterate that I’m not defending anyone: your actions may be reprehensible because of bad wiring in your brain, but they’re still reprehensible. I’m not making excuses — I’m looking for compassion. I hope that distinction makes sense. Maybe it seems silly that I’m writing all of this. If you only knew how long I’ve been waiting to get it out. It’s still such a small fraction of the bigger picture: it’s inconsequential in the long run.
For what it’s worth, though, I feel a little better.