I was driving when he texted again. I glanced at the solid block of words, got the gist, kept going.
My mind was made up. There it was. I could practically see my mind and its certainty. The answer was no. You cannot have your money back. I don’t believe you. You’re bullshitting. No.
He wanted his $500 by noon. Otherwise, he said, “my ass is grass,” meaning that he’d be in trouble with his new landlord.
So why did he come asking for the money only last night, why had there been no response to our letter last week saying that we would not return his security deposit? To at least partially compensate for the FedEx package he had lost that contained Fred’s newly repaired hearing aid.
Fred wanted to just hand the money over and be done with it. And the night before I had finally grudgingly agreed though the idea of giving that man $500 threw me into the kind of extreme emotional turmoil that reminded me of how I used to feel 35 years ago during fights with Jeffrey.
I had said ok, had driven to the ATM, taken out the $500, brought it back, put it in an envelope, placed it on the table, held in place by the small solid ivory Buddha that is always so handy for holding things in place. Then I’d gone into the bathroom and cried for a moment as though my heart were breaking. Fred was doing the dishes, letting me be in my world while he was in his.
I sat down to my computer, came upon an email offering a workshop. I read the description, my interest growing. Everything was fitting into place – the teacher, the subject, the date, the price. I hadn’t signed up for a course in anything for years and years. The prospect gave me joy, gave me a feeling of moving forward, away from this struggle over $500, over what was fair.
On the wave of this surge I signed up, clicking the keys all the way through.
And in the morning, driving to work, when one more text came from our ex-tenant I ignored it. I had promised Fred that if Christian wrote to me again I’d refer him to Fred who would give him the money, but yesterday morning I did not want to. I had thought I could but I could not. “You need the money, my ass,” I thought, thinking of this child-like man, playing the part of a poor man, playing innocent. I didn’t want to contribute to his theater production.
And all day I hardly thought about it. Things with Christian often disappeared of their own accord. He forgets from one day to the next what he has said. Maybe he would storm our house that evening. Just having the money there, should I change my mind in his presence, felt like enough of a conciliatory move.
He did not come last night. His dramatic noon deadline came and went. Good, I thought. Perhaps it’s done. And we didn’t have to give in to him.
I lay in bed.
New thoughts came into my mind. I watched them. Nothing really to do with me. New thoughts arriving, like mail.
He believes he is entitled to that money. He’s not trying to fool us, steal from us, he sincerely believes it. Money is filthy. I am fighting over money. It is polluting. Better to give the money than run the risk of being wrong over this. He is a child, a middle-aged child. He should be willing and eager to compensate us for the hearing aid, but guess what, he’s not. Losing the package was an honest mistake, not something he did on purpose.
I get up. I find Fred. “I’m having new thoughts,” I say. Fred is eager to follow this path. It’s what he has wanted essentially from the start, though his reasons feel a little different than mine. I don’t argue these fine points.
I text Christian that he can come the next day for the money. I don’t apologize. Part of me wants to, wants to be present when we return the money, wants to do full penance, but I follow the natural pacing that I feel is almost being dictated to me. And there is too a sense that I can only wash myself as clean as the circumstances I have created will allow.