I found out last night that the girl with whom I had a relationship just before I met Mrs. Mondo was arrested a couple of months ago for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. It seems like a no-doubter; police were investigating the shooting of her current boyfriend, and found weed and cash in her purse, which led them to search the apartment, where they found more than a pound of marijuana, over 23 grand in cash, scales, and a ledger. (The shooter and boyfriend have also been arrested.) Some quick research indicates that she could be going away for about five or six years, and that’s if the Feds don’t get involved.
I find myself thoroughly disturbed by the whole business — perhaps even more than I would be if I had learned she had died. After all, I know that people die, even people who are my age or younger. But now, I have to think of her as leading a sort of life-in-death, because I can’t foresee a lot of good options for (by the time this might be over) 50-year-old convicted dope dealers.
I think what’s bothering me is what must have been the series of bad choices she has made over the past two decades and change, the decisions that took her away from being bright, funny, caring, and affectionate and brought her to headlines and mugshots, the decisions that brought her life to circle the bowl the way it now must. It’s a process I’ve seen elsewhere, and I suspect I’m only too aware of the pain those decisions must have brought the people who still know and love her. And there’s also a part of me that wonders if the illegality of what some of her choices must have been in turn led to further bad choices. As Frost observed, way leads on to way. But this isn’t a post about the War on Drugs, a subject about which I have mixed feelings, because I may try to think as a philosopher, but I must live as a man.
A friend of mine was telling me recently about someone in her life with whom she is forced to maintain a connection, but who has also made decisions that have harmed too many people around him (including my friend) for no reason other than his own gratifications. What she had to say has reverberated through my head since she said it:
In my mind I buried him a long time ago, stood over the grave of a man his age and told him I felt like it was he in there[…] When I see him, I don’t let him pull any chains; I think of him as the shell of a creature acting like [the person she once knew…] I think it is my duty as a human being to be polite and considerate toward him, but also not to believe any of his words or affect. If he cries […] I pity the hell he is in without entering it with him. If he is nasty, I think the real [person she knew] wouldn’t be that way.
I’m grateful to my friend for telling me those things, and I value that friendship all the more for the wisdom in them. In the case of my old girlfriend, I’m spared some of those horrors, and I’m glad of that — I’ve come to realize that life can provide more than enough horrors for every customer, and there’s not much merit in seeking out extra ones. Sufficient unto the day and all that.
Still, I ache for what was wasted, what was squandered, and for the unhappiness that led someone I cared for to pile misery on misery. We’ve all heard that “living well is the best revenge,” and I do live quite well, with a wife and daughter who have taught me what love is in ways I could never have imagined 22 years ago, and with a career that brings me both a living and a genuine fulfillment. But as I sit here tonight, I think seeing someone else live badly may be the worst revenge, especially if you never really wanted revenge at all.