Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bi-Polar Eye Dances

I walk to work. It's about three blocks. It's a convenience I never take for granted when I recall my former commutes; the Boston to Salem drive or the Hollywood to Santa Monica crawl. This morning on the way into town I encountered an atypical sequence of people and wondered how I had managed to leave home just in time for all this. The first; a man and a woman walking toward me. I quietly noticed that he was missing an eye. The socket just had skin healed over it. I pondered that for a bit. Car accident? Knife fight? I closed one eye as I turned the corner by Roz's place, imagining a 2D world; learning how to judge distance without the usual double lens. Depth perception; granted but fragile.

As I passed Dynamite I saw the second, a woman walking toward me who at first looked like she was winking at me, but it turned out one eye was just firmly closed. It was just closed, like one door of a two-car garage. The open one was very blue and I caught it and attempted a smile. I hoped she didn't think it was a nervous "what's wrong with your eye smile" which I guess it had been, and I also hoped that she hadn't seen me doing my 2D-3D experiment and think it had something to do with her. She smiled back in any case.

Then, walking towards me with a dog, appeared a woman who has sadly though necessarily become an ex-friend. She owes me a decent sum of money that I had lent her during a financial mess she was in (I should have seen the red flag) when we were still friends. When our differences, which had nothing to do with money, became irreconcilable, I suggested we clear up the debt. After three small installments, she stopped, and seems now to prefer avoiding me rather than working it out. This seems a poor plan in a small town where we have common friends. After a valiant effort of friendly attempts to resolve the matter, met with no response at all, I'm taking her to small claims court. I've never done this before. It sucks. She's also bi-polar, self-described, which I have respected and often been in awe of throughout, and I wonder what factor this plays. Maybe it's a reality that I cannot even fathom where she sees me as a threat rather than the amicable creditor I am trying to be. I've heard she is out of work again, and I'm not trying to shake her down, but I can ill afford to be stiffed and I just want to know she's good for it. I am not reassured and I hope she will eventually be an adult about this. Waiting me out is not going to work because yes, it has become personal. There is the trusting, generous, compassionate part of me, and there's the part of me that catches on a little too slowly when the first part is being taken advantage of. I have forgiven many a debt, but don't take kindly to having the decision made for me by the debtor.

So we both saw each other coming and unlike other times when I've seen her duck out of bars or avoid me in public, we were on a collision course. She averted her gaze completely and tensed up. I tensed up too but I didn't avert my gaze. I felt like I should say something like, "Hey, can we talk?" or even "Seeya in court!" But I didn't. I'm not much for confrontation, as much as I might prepare myself, even when it's something that could alleviate stress and logistics and be solved in short order face to face. It begins with eye contact, a crucial barrier to re-humanizing each other, which I tried to establish, and which she did not allow; head bowed, her pace quickened. In hindsight, the eye-challenged people now behind me seemed harbingers of this odd encounter. And so we passed each other, and my mouth felt dry and my day was ruined for a little while.


Mary E.Carey said...

Another great post! You really bring life in Northampton to life.

Anonymous said...

Wow! you ARE in the flow!
all about eyes , eye contact AND blindnesses of different sorts
Wish the universe would speak to me so clearly!
Must be all of that dream life, art life,music, poetry you are in.
You are an exceptional being.

Anonymous said...

Small towns are full of poor plans, that's what makes life there so entertaining. Today's lesson: eye contact is bad, mmmkay?

Jim Neill said...

True, poor plans in small towns make for meaty blogs. There is a saying that if God made the country, and man the city, the devil made the small town. I intend no lessons by the way. Just noticing things.

Anonymous said...

Nice use of the word harbinger.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not excoriating him.

Caty said...

Bipolarity, which is a diagnosis created by a committee (have you ever heard of other diseases being created by committee? Very scientific) is not why she didn't pay you back. I'd venture to say she stopped paying you back b/c she's irresponsible & insensitive, & prob. this was exacerbated by financial difficulties. I'm sure @ different points in your life you could have been diagnosed w/bipolar disorder or some other "mental illness", too.
(For a more comprehensive view of a non Big Pharma influenced approach to understanding emotional extremes & mental illness, go Full disclosure--I'm on the board of this organization...)

Jim Neill said...

Sure,I hear you. In fact, yes, I experienced audio and visual hallucinations brought on by lack of sleep (along with other outside...errr...factors) that resembled descriptions I've heard of a bi-polar experience. This person describes herself with the term bi-polar. Disease by committee is obviously tricky when it comes to mental "illness" and motives are not always pure. Thanks for the link.