Friday, August 15, 2008

Helen and Cliffy

I mentioned in yesterday's post that Amy's circle of friends had little, if any overlap with my circle. That explains why it took until college to talk to her despite having attended the same high school for three years. We never even shared a single class the whole time we were at Dorsey.

One of her friends was someone I absolutely detested. But now she was constantly calling Amy because she needed an ear for her personal problems, of which there seemed to be many. Amy was the kind of person who couldn't refuse a friend (or even enemy) in need and so despite my protests, she spent a lot of time discussing Helen's situation with her.

I knew Helen only slightly in high school, partly by choice and partly not by choice. She was so standoffish and arrogant that I didn't rate in her book and I wanted nothing to do with her. But it did bug me that she paid so little attention to me that she would never know how I felt about her.

It started out with phone calls, after which I'd ask Amy why she wasted so much time talking to Helen, i.e., why didn't she pay more attention to me. Helen was the "I know I shouldn't act that way, but.." type of person. She knew, but she did it anyway, and kept asking Amy for advice that she didn't follow. I acquired a Pavlovian habit of cringing whenever her phone rang.

"Why does she bother asking you what to do when she doesn't listen to you?" I would growl in frustration.

Then one day Amy dropped the bomb. "She wants to meet you," she said.

"Huh? Why does she want to meet me??" I replied indignantly. "I want nothing to do with her. She's so fake."

"She wants to get your opinion about things."

"My opinion? Does she really want to hear what I think? I don't think so. She wouldn't like it very much!"

"She's going through a lot," Amy said calmly. "Won't you please talk to her?"

Grudgingly I agreed. But for just a short get-together. I didn't want to spend all day dealing with her and her problems. My impression of Helen had been formed and solidified in high school and further reinforced because she now had a baby out of wedlock. My mind was filled with the worst of thoughts for someone I considered the worst of people.

Finally the wonderful day arrived. Helen was staying with her parents, and Amy and I drove over there with me grumbling the entire way. "Let's not stay too long now," I kept repeating.

"We won't, we won't."

I don't know if it is a flaw or a blessing but I find it near impossible to be mean or rude to someone in person no matter how much I dislike them. That was the case when we visited Helen as all of my threats and disparaging remarks melted away and we sat there having a cordial conversation.

Accompanying her was Cliffy, just a baby. This was so long ago I don't remember how old he was but there's one distinctive thing I do remember. He had a tube lodged in the middle of front of his neck to help him breathe. Cliff, or Cliffy as everyone called him, had some sort of birth defect that necessitated a tracheal tube that had to be in place 24/7 except for when Helen cleaned it out.

It made me queasy. The gurgling noise he made because of the tube didn't help, either. Cliffy looked so helpless and I thought how terrible it was to be saddled with such a handicap.

Like a Las Vegas lounge act, Helen went through the same old routine again, rehashing her various life problems. We listened to her and offered our two cents and the time went by and eventually it was time to leave and she thanked us and said what she always said to Amy, that she would take the advice.

"Man does she have problems," I sneered as Amy and I drove back to her place. "But she brings it all on herself. Over and over, she keeps bringing up the same old stuff that you already talked about with her. And that poor kid - that's terrible what he has to have in his neck. I feel sorry for him having two handicaps - that tube and his mom."

"That's mean," Amy scolded.

"Mean but true. She's all messed up." I shook my head, glad we had made our exit.

(looks like another one of my long posts.. to be continued..)






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