I’ve tried for days to move past my emotional reaction to things that have happened recently in the m/m community. I’ve thought a lot about feelings and how anger bubbles forth and breaks down communications. Rather than write in anger, I thought I’d post a story of my own humiliation. It is not a good story. It probably won’t cast me in a good light. But it is an event that stayed with me, something I can never change and never make right. Something that altered my outlook 180 degrees on how I talk to people. As you’ll see, I wasn’t even young enough to use the perils of youth excuse. There was no excuse for my behavior.
In Denver there’s a huge movie complex (or there used to be) where the parking lots were built underground. I think there are 3-4 decks of parking underneath. The elevator there is slower than molasses. I mean 30 seconds between each floor kind of slow. Possibly they built that thing to be sturdy and safe, but whatever they did, it is at least a 4-minute ride to the top floor.
My ex-husband, for this story I’ll call him Derek, and I parked our car on P2–parking level 2. At the time I was 29 and he was 21(iirc) and both of us very caught up in each other, making goo-goo eyes, being ridiculous for that 30 seconds to P1-parking level 1. At that point a man in a Rascal (mobile wheelchair) came on, as well as another young couple. In my usual attempt to start a conversation, I said the following, “Wow thats pretty cool. How can i get one of those?”
The man, whose face is indelibly imprinted in my head, turned to me, his eyes jittering with anger, his voice loud. “Jump off the top of the building and if you don’t die, you’ll probably get one of these.” I can’t even describe the absolute hatred he had for me at that moment. It screamed off him in the spittle on his beard and the wrinkles around his eyes.
Everyone in the elevator seemed to stiffen. My face heated. I drew back, indignant denial just ready to be spouted about how it was an innocent comment. But then I concentrated on this man in the 30 seconds to the next floor.
Sit and wait 30 seconds. It doesn’t seem that long when I write those words, but just sit for 30 seconds. Imagine now, your husband/wife/partner/friend and another couple fidgeting nervously next to you.
In that 30 seconds I realized how fucking awful my words had been. How flippant and how disgusting they were. Whether I meant to be horrible or not is not an excuse. I hurt him. I was cruel.
What I should have done next, what I regret forever not doing, was apologize. Heartily. But the elevator doors opened and he jerked a little button and off he went. I never got to say sorry. What came next, and the only redeeming moment of this whole thing, was what I finally said when the doors closed again. In that final 30 seconds of elevator ride, Derek and the couple next to us breathed out and chuckled. “What a jackass,” Derek said. The other couple laughed again. “No,” I said. “He was right.” Derek was just trying to defend me, to make me feel better. But I didn’t deserve it and that man didn’t deserve to have his anger diminished.
In the end, I did something right. A small thing. I don’t pat myself on the back. I can never take back those words to that man. He is still out there, hopefully having forgotten a young man’s awful, terrible words to him. I can’t fix it, but I can learn from it. Since that day, I’ve always been afraid of what I’d say to someone. I’m overly deferential. Yes, sometimes even sounding like I’m kowtowing/brownnosing or being overly contrite. I say thank you way too much. I’m quick to apologize. But that’s okay with me. I’m okay with being conciliatory or deferential. I’d much rather be that than ever be cruel again. Even by accident.