Mug from Oxford Dictionaries:
Mug from Wiktionary:
When I first moved to the Washington, DC, area in the summer of 1993, I made a friend I’ll call Brittle Bird. I was still a lesbian at the time, and was single, as was Brittle. The initial thought was that we might find some romantic involvement, but Brittle was not my “type,” and I was not Brittle’s type (I don’t think). I prefer my women huggable, but that’s just me. And it’s just the superficial part, because honestly, I prefer the indefinables like kindness, compassion, and integrity. I believed that Brittle had those qualities, but she still wasn’t quite my type.
But Brittle and I had some good conversations, lots of fun, and we became fast friends. Around 1995, I’d hit the first turning point where I realized I needed to transition from female to male. I was living on Social Security Disability Income after an endless string of eye surgeries. I was ready to transition, but lacked the funds. So my first order of business was to turn my bachelor’s degree in computer science into a remunerative career. I talked to Brittle about these things, and she supported me 100%, though she didn’t understand why I was anguished at having to put off transitioning.
In 1996, I met my former partner, Kim. I was keen to not let the new romance interfere with my friendship with Brittle, and so she was included in most things that Kim and I did, and I still spent one-on-one time with her. We went to movies, out to eat, and we played Scrabble games regularly.
Brittle Bird was “brittle,” a little too sensitive. At some point, Kim and I had not heard from Brittle in a couple of weeks, which was unusual. So I telephoned her, and she said, “Oh, I’ve moved! I’m in the middle of unpacking, and I’ll call you right back.” We waited, but she never called. When I tried her number again, it had changed with no new number given, and we had no idea where she’d moved to — so I “lost touch” with Brittle.
One day, I was riding the subway, and there she sat on my same train car!! What are the odds in a major metropolitan area like Washington, DC? Brittle said something about being sad we had lost touch, papering over the fact that we hadn’t “lost touch” — she’d gone missing. But like a “mug,” I let her back in my life.
Many memories. Brittle, Kim, and I went to protest the inauguration of George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential re-election, dressed in black and carrying black balloons. First time ever Pennsylvania Avenue was fenced off and the bags of on-lookers were searched. Brittle had bought a can of gourmet coffee on her way to our condo, and the can of coffee was confiscated as a “weapon” by security guards at the inaugural parade. Me thinks, “If someone was going to lob a can of coffee at Bush’s bomb-proof shielded limousine, surely one would use the cheapest brand of coffee?”
When Kim and I took vacations or trips, we always, always took our dogs with us. However, on one longer foray, we asked Brittle to dog-sit for us, as we trusted her. We had a whiteboard hanging on the wall, and when we returned, we found that Brittle had carefully noted all the times she’d taken the dogs on walks, and the type of “business” they did! But then she mentioned something she’d never told us before — how a dog of hers had escaped, and she hadn’t gone looking for it immediately, and it was killed by being run over by a car.
Brittle lived in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of DC, which was sketchy, at least back then. We lived in the much more upscale Cleveland Park neighborhood because I was working and making good money. When Brittle visited us to watch movies on Netflix or to play Scrabble, I made sure to suggest that Kim give her a ride home in our car so she wouldn’t have to walk the streets of Adams-Morgan after dark.
One day, Brittle was supposed to come to our home at a certain time, but she was late. Kim and I were getting worried. Then Brittle breathlessly arrived, explaining that she’d “seen a bust.” We all stood silent, each puzzled. How could “seeing a bust” make one late? We’d all recently visited the Library of Congress where there are many metal busts of historical figures on display. As we worked out our confusion, Kim admitted that when Brittle said “bust,” Kim thought she was somehow referring to the type of busts on display at the library. Me, with a bit of a gutter-mind, when I heard “bust,” I thought boobs, breasts… Still not comprehending how even the most luscious set of boobs could make one late. Brittle clarified that she’d seen someone being arrested outside her apartment building for sale of illegal drugs. And so we all laughed.
As I was saying, Brittle was “brittle.” Her feelings were hurt by a supervisor, and so she resigned her job without having another job lined up. I felt bad for her, and so I got her a good job doing quality assurance software testing at the company I worked for. This would have been about 1998, give or take. She lasted 6 months, and then resigned after hurt feelings again, and in truth, her supervisor was a bit harsh, but the computer field isn’t for the faint of heart.
I started formally transitioning in 2000, and Brittle and I were still friends. Times were rough, and Kim and I were still together. But then Kim and I broke up, I moved to Greenbelt and completed transitioning. Brittle and I now lived too far apart to see each other except sporadically, when we contributed equally to her renting a Zipcar for a trip to the suburbs. We talked on the telephone multiple times a week, though. Brittle still had not found a job, and her savings was almost exhausted and she was on the brink of losing her home. I wasn’t working either, now back on disability after various complications.
I told Brittle, “I don’t have enough money to support you, but as long as we are friends, you don’t have to worry about being homeless. You can stay with me rent-free until you get your feet on the ground, no matter how long it takes.” Brittle thanked me, but then her brother gave her enough money to tide her over for a long while. I crossed paths with Paula, and when Paula came to the US and we got married, I made sure that Brittle was one of the people Paula met. I was worried about how the two would get on. Brittle was polite, but she was also one of the voices that warned me against Paula. Brittle, like Kitt and all the others, was right.
In fact, when I was pushed to the point of overdose in November 2011, and was on life-support, Brittle was the person Paula called to find out about my last will, was Brittle aware of it, did she know where it was located? (And then Paula went to an attorney to find out if our marriage would supersede my last will.) Brittle and I emailed as much as possible while I was in England, but I had to be careful what I said because I was always monitored by Paula.
Brittle was one of two people I thought might take me in before I reached the point of overdose. My other friend, R, had aging cats, and so even if I could have gotten my dog over, staying with him was not a good option. But Brittle had a dog of her own, and our dogs got along well, and so if I could have gotten me and Otis back across the ocean, things would have been fine in the canine world. But Thanksgiving was imminent, and R was going to Jamaica for his son’s wedding, and Brittle… well, she had another guest coming on December 1st, so I could only have stayed with her for a few days. Thus, the overdose was the only “way out” I saw….
Once I got back to the US in a state of trauma in May 2012, after the overdose, the death of my mother, the death of my dog in Paula’s care, and the domestic violence, I reached out to Brittle. Brittle had had an interview, and it looked like she might finally be getting a job. But out of the blue, she told me she had something “personal” going on, and she couldn’t talk to me for at least a year. I was hurt and puzzled, and thinking, “Again???” But I didn’t question and honored her wishes. A year later, in 2013, I emailed Brittle to ask if things had gotten better for her. She never replied, though I can see she is still active on social networks. A 20-year friendship, vanished, without explanation.
I really don’t understand why people are the way they are. The ones you think are true are not and the ones you’re not sure about sometimes turn out to be the best. I’ve never “disappeared” on anyone without explanation, and I’ve stuck by friends in hard times. I sometimes wonder what “friendship” is… But I’m not a mug any more, and if someone fails to honor the promises they have made to me, I do not feel obliged to honor the promises I’ve made to them. Fair is fair, and there will be a post forthcoming unless I hear something mitigating…. Trust is precious, but it goes both ways. I now trust in myself more than I trust in anyone else.
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