This week I lost the worst neighbors I've ever had. I don't mean the worst human beings who have ever lived next door to me; that honor goes to someone else. I used to live in this weird house thing that was all under one roof but divided in half by an alleyway, and one half was divided into two apartments top to bottom and the other half was divided side by side. I lived in one side of one half and these people lived in the other, and when it was cold outside they sat on the steps at their end of the alleyway and filled the entire thing with carcinogenic smoke. They knew as well as I did that the couple living across from me had a little girl probably about three years old who played in the alleyway with her toys. That didn't stop them. I did get them to stop by leaving a passive-aggressive note and then by complaining to the landlord, but I feel like I shouldn't actually have to ask people not to poison children, or me for that matter. So they were the worst humans. But in terms of psychological scarring inflicted on me personally, the people who just moved out of the place where I am now were the worst to have next door.
I have, of course, already written about what "C and T" did to me in mind-numbing detail and subsequently referenced it at least eight times, along with my growing realization that they weren't accountable for their actions because one is delusional and the other is stupid, and nobody need feel obligated to continue reading what I'm only writing for myself and maybe my future children so they can learn about the adversity that almost prevented them from existing. I can't promise this will be my last time writing about it either. I managed to forgive and even love my neighbors some time ago and it no longer constantly weighs on me and sucks every ounce of happiness from my life like it did for a while, but it will continue to affect me for some time. A friend suggested I would need to treat it like a breakup. I don't know what a breakup feels like but to me this feels more like a car accident where the car rolls over several times and the person next to you dies. And then the paramedics show up and start screaming and spitting on you.
I didn't particularly want to speak to the pathological liar ever again, but I would have liked to reconcile and get some closure with the other who was as much a victim as me. But no. C only became even more awkward over time, not less. T, previously very obvious in her refusal to even look at me, started speaking to me a little bit when I went outside and was accosted by her little dog, no longer confined to a leash and obviously missing me as much as I missed her. The dog, by the way, was yet another victim, surely confused at why she never got to see me anymore. She was a nice little dog, not one of those awful little dogs that yips all the time or attacks people and doesn't get punished because her owner thinks it's cute. Sometimes when they left her home alone on Friday evenings she howled non-stop and it was annoying but I understood where she was coming from. Her cuteness actually backfires on me because she overdoes it and activates my "stop trying to manipulate my emotions" mental barrier, but even so, how could I not love one who loves me so unconditionally?
I was intrigued by the change in T and decided that if I had to reconcile with her first to reconcile with the other, I could live with that. But it never went anywhere. I thought she might at some point try to get back the book she loaned me in December, at which point I would have to tell her that I already burned it in May because I didn't want it in my home and she should have thought of that before she decided to bar me from returning it, but she didn't. I didn't much care how she would respond to that and wasn't worried. As they prepared to leave, though, I started to worry about another book, the one I gave C for her birthday. She loved it when I gave it to her. I want it to bring her joy for years to come and not be something that brings up bad memories whenever she sees it. For all I know, she threw it away months ago. But now it occurred to me that maybe she would give it back before she left and that would be even worse and I would break on the spot. That didn't happen either. I held onto a vain, foolish hope that at the last minute one of them would say in person or in writing something along the lines of "Sorry for being hellspawn". Of course they didn't.
In all seriousness, though, I wish the best for them. I feel genuinely bad for T because the brain damage inflicted on her by someone else's mistake has probably decimated whatever potential for success she had in this life. C is a teacher, so my concern for her is a large reason for my difficulty in mustering up a shred of Christian charity toward anti-maskers and people pushing to reopen schools long before it's safe just so someone they think is expendable will watch their children for them. I don't want her to die or have permanent health complications because of someone else's selfishness and stupidity. Fortunately Utah listened to the backlash and has implemented a few tweaks to its reopening strategy, like the brilliant maneuver of no longer allowing children to keep going to school immediately following prolonged exposure to known infected individuals. Yes, this was a thing that had to be changed. I'm not kidding. (I'm going to be a teacher too, but it's at the university level and all online so I'm not being treated like a disposable babysitter and I'm not outraged for myself.)
It just seems such a waste that this thing happened and created this permanent rift and now they're just gone. Was there any point to it? Could I not have gotten along just as well without ever meeting them? I think of the principle expressed by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "Within each of our circles of friendship there lie so many unused opportunities to love, to serve, and to be taught. Indeed, one could apply the scriptural phrase about there being 'enough and to spare' (D&C 104:17). None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings 'coincidence.' This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by 'coincidence' but instead by 'divine design.'
"I am one who likes to know of happy ironies and happy intersectings. There are many intersectings, of course, that are not happy. I will mention an episode to you now of which you probably do not know, nor did I until recently.
"In 1855 Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer in Illinois, was asked to participate in a patent infringement case involving McCormick, of reaper fame. Lincoln had been given a $400 retainer and was told he might actually argue the case, so he studied and went to Cincinnati for the trial. A lead lawyer in the case was a man named Edwin M. Stanton — a brilliant Pittsburgh lawyer — who said when Lincoln arrived, 'Why did you bring that . . . long armed Ape here . . . ; he does not know any thing and can do you no good' (David Herbert Donald, Lincoln [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995], pp. 185–187). Lincoln stayed at the same hotel as Stanton and the other attorneys, but he was never even asked to eat or to confer with them. Lincoln went home feeling insulted and 'roughly handled by that man Stanton' (Donald, Lincoln, p. 187).
"The years tumbled on, and later Stanton was to join the cabinet of the newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln. There were differences of views, of course, but Stanton came to deeply admire Abraham Lincoln. After the shooting of Lincoln, a few, including Stanton, stood mournfully by his bed as Lincoln was in the process of dying. When Lincoln died, Stanton, who had once described Lincoln as 'an Ape,' paid tribute to his fallen chief:
"With a slow and measured movement, [Stanton’s] right arm fully extended as if in a salute, he raised his hat and placed it for an instant on his head and then in the same deliberate manner removed it. 'Now,' he said, 'he belongs to the ages.' [Donald, Lincoln, p. 599]
"Would that all rough relationships could have that kind of resolution and generous ending."
One hopes Stanton at least had the spine to apologize at some point instead of just pretending nothing had happened.
I suppose it was another of those damned learning experiences I didn't ask for. I learned all the positive, uplifting lessons you would expect, like don't love, don't hope, don't be yourself, don't trust, don't give mentally ill people the benefit of the doubt, don't face your fears, and don't step outside your comfort zone. I learned that Luna Lovegood, at least as portrayed in the movies, is not just charmingly eccentric but actually delusional. I always got the vibe that she wasn't really crazy but everyone just thought she was crazy because they were judgmental hypocrites. "No, Luna, I don't have time to listen to your stupid nonsense about invisible pixies. I have to go fly my broomstick and practice turning things into frogs with my magic wand." But after meeting someone with the exact same vibe, demeanor, soothing cadence and charming eccentricity who turned out to be delusional, I've realized that Evanna Lynch meant for her to be delusional. I'm not sure of J.K. Rowling's original intent with the character but she said some politically incorrect things on Twitter so who cares what she thinks anyway? I'm sure this knowledge will be of great use to me someday.
Sarcasm aside, the one remotely positive outcome I can see so far is that the experience instilled me with a profound contempt for the police, which I was able to channel constructively when we as a nation finally decided we'd had enough of their corruption, lying, and murder. I feel bad, but truth be told, I directly benefited from George Floyd's death because the catharsis I experienced at witnessing law enforcement be put in its place was exquisite. I'm sure I would have jumped on the bandwagon anyway but if I hadn't personally been traumatized by a mindless swaggering jackass in a blue uniform who was nothing but belligerent while I was nothing but cooperative, I wouldn't likely have had the same passion for the cause or the same determination to continue after its popularity has waned. Of course, the amount of actual influence I have on this issue or anything else is far from proportionate to the suffering I endured to get to this point, but who said life is fair?
Maybe the actual reason for everything, though, is found in the words of Paul, who recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.