Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Consequences

His wife wants a divorce. He was not surprised by this, was expecting it, but the reality of it was still a shock. I remember when he called me that day, after they had actually had the conversation. It was maybe a month ago. He asked me for - I'm not really sure it could be called advice. Maybe just sympathy, a listener. While I'm sorry that he has yet another failed marriage to add to his list, that wasn't the first thing I thought.

My thoughts went to his current living arrangement. He is trapped in his in-laws' home. What would happen when they are no longer his in-laws? I think he understood, and was likely pleased by, my concern. He said he and his mother-in-law had talked and she was not going to abandon him even though her daughter had decided to move on. He was the father of her grandchildren, after all. It helped to know that.

Another of his friends, one of his best friends who he has known since boyhood, has all but completely written him off. He is a school teacher, and is worried about guilt by association. I like to think I understand his worry, but I am mad at him for it. Guilt by association is a real thing, I won't deny that. But, I think he thinks his life is more transparent than it really is. Seriously, how many of you would know that my friend is a felon if I did not tell you? If I didn't talk about it, how would you know it? This guy is worried that others will judge him by his friends (and people will, don't get me wrong), but I don't understand how they would know his friends if he didn't mention it. A job application requires a felon to admit that they are, it does not require a person to admit that they are friends with one. No one would know unless he said something.

I really do understand his take on it, if his association with Monty somehow got out to the wrong people, it would be devastating to his career and his life. But I just don't see how his association with Monty could get to the wrong ears unless he surrendered that detail. Those of you who follow my main blog would know that Monty is my friend, but there would be no way for you to know that he was also a criminal if I hadn't said something. I'm not worried about my association. I use aliases if I use names at all. I omit details, though some of them I simply don't know. My job runs background checks on me, not my friends. It makes me angry that this old friend thinks that way.

Monty told me he understands both points of view, both his friend's unwillingness to be judged for someone else's actions and why I am angry at him for it. He didn't try to dissuade my position. I think it's important that he allows my opinion, and always had. It's a paradox, because I do understand his friend, but I think he's overreacting.

Among these two, there are several others who want nothing to do with Monty anymore. It's their choices, of course. It means that Monty has very few people to turn to now. I know he relies on me, because I am not one of those people who treat him like a leper.

I often ask myself why that is. What I know of his crime is horrible. I know how his crime could have been different, worse, and that would force me to sever him from my life. He knows this. He told me he'd be demanding his own execution as well if that was the case. But it wasn't that, and I find myself able to focus on the friend I always had, not the part of him that he kept from me anyway. Though, I sometimes wish I wasn't all he had, that I could stand with the ranks of everyone else who moved on without him. Yet, I can somehow recognize that he needs me to be the reliable friend that he always was to me. I would have reason to write him off, but I find myself unable to do so. My friend needs me. There is no one else.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Reality

Around the time we met, completely unbeknownst to me, Monty developed dissociative identity disorder. This is what most people would know as multiple personality disorder, but it's not as simple as that term implies. It allowed him to explore something within him that no person should ever know. It manifested in his reality. That is what the FBI calls evidence.

It should be noted that I have his assurance, and no logical reason to doubt, that no person was ever in danger of direct physical or mental harm from him. His crime, which mostly for legality I will not go into, was indirect. It is a felony nonetheless, but it was never committed against another person in his physical presence. He told me this. The side of him that I knew, that I always saw of him, has no reason to lie to me. Especially since he is not denying his crime or running from it. I am, however, blissfully ignorant of many details. That is ok, I don't need them.

DID is something that has been a part of him for as long as I have known him, but I did not know that part of him. He kept it from everyone. Of course, he would. Wouldn't you? This knowledge of him that I now have has not changed him, he is not a different person from the person I knew. It was a side I didn't know.

I think that's what I'm holding on to now: the fact that my friend has always proven to be true to me. Yes, something was kept from me, but what I knew of him was true. I know this is quite a complex.

I admit that I'm no longer clear on the time-frame. So much has happened since things really began, to me, to him, to our friendship. It might have been a year and a half ago. I remember that he called me to say that the FBI had raided his home looking for evidence. They left a bag with that word on his eldest son's bed. That's when reality hit him, I think. I was prepared to support his innocence, that's what I knew of him at the time. I think it was a year after the raid when they had enough to charge him with the crime.

Being charged did not land him in jail instantly, per se, but allowed him to bargain. While the prosecutors wanted time to prepare their case, he also wanted time to prepare. He was granted that indefinite time, but the fact of his crime could not be ignored. The terms of his bargain were that he could not be in the presence of his children without another adult present, he could not have free run of a computer or the Internet, and he could not have freedom but to go to work, doctors, lawyers, and church.

His shackle became a literal one, a cuff around his ankle that will alert authorities if he leaves his home at any time other than what had been previously agreed. Since he could no longer live in his home with his wife and children, he was forced to move in with his in-laws. That tiny, very old home, and the curtained-off area of the basement has been his prison for months.

As part of his bargain, he has been getting medical help for his DID during that time. He sees a therapist regularly, takes medication to keep things in balance. He also meets with a lawyer, preparing his side of things. This is not to deny the charges against him or try to get out of paying for his crime, but to prepare. He wants to show that he is working on getting better, he wants to go before the judge with progress. It will show that people can reform. This may reduce his time in prison, which is the hope. It is not to say he is trying to get out of his punishment, but that maybe there can be some of his life left when he is through. It's a fair thing to want.

Just the other day, he asked me what he is teaching his children. Is he showing them that he is running, or delaying the inevitable? I don't think so. I think it is showing them the value of being prepared, so there is something left of his life and his sanity when he has served his time. It shows that he is facing the penalties for what he did, but the process of delay is only to prepare. His life as he knows it has to be put on hold for the time he is incarcerated, that's no easy feat for anyone. I hope he knows how lucky he is to have the chance to do it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The True Friend

No matter how I look at it, it started about 11 years ago. I met a young man who I will call Monty. He was a friend of several friends who attended the local community college while I was at university. If my memory serves, it was the high school graduation of a mutual friend when we met in Juneish of 1998.

My best friend wanted us to meet because she thought Monty and I would have glorious debates. Not in so many words, she described him as a conversation dominator. Not always right, but always with something to say and always having the last word. None of their little circle of friends had the mental capacity to put Monty in his place, as it were. But she was sure I did.

I don't really know what my friend was hoping I would do. I do remember that Monty drove me home that night, and we sat, parked in the driveway in his great blue van that smelled of grass he called Goliath, talking for a good hour. It was about good conversation.

Our friendship developed from there. I'm not sure exactly how it turned into what it did. We started going to scary movies, and would take the dark, unlit, less-traveled back roads on the way home. "Because we're stupid," we started to say of our crazy ritual. Some of the movies we saw were really frightening, and we would grasp each other's hands to help us through. I remember, some time into our friendship, when he asked me to be his girlfriend. "Just, to hold hands when the movie is over," he said. I refused him. I never once, in 11 years, thought of him more than a very close friend.

He turned his attention to someone else, and they had a son, my first godson. They married, subsequently divorced, and he went through a painful period of getting custody of his son. He won. Then, our outings sometimes included trips to the zoo, or to the Potomac Celtic Festival. I fondly remember my friend picking his young son up and placing him on his shoulders in the parking lot. The child gleefully pointed towards the festival and said, "alright, daddy, MARCH!" It was priceless.

Through the years, he had a fiancé who understood our friendship and, later, a new wife who didn't. She said she did, but her behavior towards me is another subject altogether. They would have two children, giving Monty another son and a daughter. He was always great with his kids.

A year ago Sunday, he helped me move out of my parents' house to a condo in Virginia. He was the only friend who was available to do so. His help was invaluable. If nothing else, I will always remember Monty as my reliable, dependable friend. I could trust him to give me honest answers, as he expected the same from me and knew he would get them. When I needed a mental break, he was there, and I learned to be there for him. Despite his many annoyances, he has always shown he is a true friend to me. That is the part of him that I saw, the part I could count on.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Story

This is a story of a friendship.

This friendship has been through ups and downs like all of them do. Even when one was ready to give up, the other would not allow it. I've never known anyone to fight for me like this friend has done.

My friend committed a crime. It was horrendous, unforgivable. He will be spending time behind bars for it. He's not running from what he did, but incorporating it into his plans. That is commendable.

He tells me that he has a book to help him prepare. He seems to have realistic views of what to expect, and the book he has is helping him plan. I am glad that he still has things to hold on to.

He has a book that's helping him learn what to expect, how to deal with it. I've searched. There is no such book for me. Where do I turn when I need help to deal with it, to deal with the reality that my friend is a criminal? How do I prepare for him, who I could always count on to be there when I needed him, to spend the next decade or so behind bars?

And, how do I deal with myself? I know a little of his crime, that it was unspeakably horrid. I know the villagers demand a hanging. I am with the villagers. Many people in his life are. Still, he relies on me, and I don't know exactly what is causing me to not write him off now.

But, I'm not. In the vast world of knowledge that is out there, I'm finding nothing to help me deal with this. There is no guidebook for the families and friends of people who are going to prison.

I'm hoping this story will help me, and maybe others who find themselves in the same conundrum, deal with this turn of life that no one on either side should ever have to deal with. But, people do. My friend does. I do.

The crime was not against me. It may well have been. So close is this friend to me, what happens to him affects me, as it affects everyone he knows. We share his Shackled Life.