Betrayal After TBI: Moonshine Tears
There is a very important event that I have not written about, but I feel that I am now ready to share it with the world. So I am going to go back in time just before I left New York.
On the day that I saw my dog, my old apartment, and a bit of normalcy for the first time in months (on September 3rd, 2011) I also saw something that sunk my spirits and broke my heart. What I saw, or rather did not see, was a piece of furniture that had a compartment in which I had fastened a lock onto. This is where I had kept a sizable amount of cash (sizable for a Bushwick, Brooklyn dwelling 28 year old, the likes of me, anyway). It was gone!
What had happened since I had suffered a brain injury 4 months earlier was unknown to me or at least hardly understood BY me. I had been told that many “friends” had stayed at my apartment and that my basement, where my room was, had flooded. This had happened before, in fact I had just settled with my landlords a few days before I fell after taking them to court and withholding rent for months. If you live in New York City, do not rent from Mazah LLC!
My good “friend” and roommate told me that this piece of furniture had been thrown away because it was ruined from the flood. The story made no sense. It had a locked compartment, which obviously signified that it was important, so I could not see anyone just throwing it away. Would you throw away a locked safe before seeing what it contained?
I had known this “friend” since we were little kids, and I knew him well. I could see that there was something that he was not telling me. I questioned other roommates and people who had stayed in my room since I fell, but I did not badger anyone about it too much or belabor the issue at the time. I was mad, sad, and hurt as I came to the realization that someone close to me had stolen from me while I was in the hospital recovering from a brain injury. There was nothing I could do in my weak state… At the time, I did not even WANT to know which one of my “friends” would do such a thing.
I had already been through so much, and this was very close to being the straw that would break my back, but I reminded myself that it was just money, and that it could be earned again. My priority was getting well, and not getting angry or depressed about the sad state of at least one of my friendships. The money was not what really upset me, but the hard reality that someone among the people that I had surrounded myself with would steal from me while I was in a coma….and I did not want to face that hideous truth.
I took a deep breath and absorbed the fact that it was gone while trying to deny the fact that I could tell that my good friend was not being straight with me. I was in denial. I was TRYING to be in denial, and it was difficult to ignore what was clearly the case. Now was not the time to confront and try to get to the bottom of this. Now was the time for me to get well and say my goodbyes to New York and the amazing people that I knew and loved that were there. But were they amazing people? Was my relationship with some of them meaningless or worse?
I was so saddened by the fact that, despite my condition and good nature, a “friend” would not only take advantage of me, but lie to me about it. I did not want to believe that I could not trust my “friends” but, unfortunately, this was not news to me. I only trusted a few people, and I had only trusted them to a point. At this time, the point at which I had trust in my “friends” had dwindled even further.
After I left New York, I focused on my recovery and trying to find some sort of clarity within my brain fog. But by this time last year, I had begun writing my story. I had been going through medical records, text messages, and emails that my mom had sent, trying to piece together what the hell happened; And I still did not yet know what had happened with the missing money. I gathered my thoughts and wrote a long email to my old roommate and good “friend” concerning the missing money.
I explained how and why the story that I was meant to believe did not make sense. I said “The story that I was told is that you found a locked piece of furniture of mine in my room and threw it away. I don’t believe it for a second. If an item is locked, it is locked because it contains something important. Why else would it be locked? Why would you throw away something that is obviously important before opening it? You wouldn’t.”
I heard back from him and he assured me that he would never steal from me and that the lock was broken when he noticed it. I should have known right then that he was lying because suddenly his story changed, but I did not want to believe the ugly possibility that a “friend” that I had grown up with would steal from me; and I began to look at other possibilities. There were quite a few people who had stayed in my apartment since my plummet, so I began questioning some of these people. I was brought to question a “friend” that stayed in my room the majority of the time while I was in the hospital. I did not want to believe that ANY of my “friends” had stolen from me, but it was pretty obvious that someone did.
When questioning this other “friend”, I asked about who had stayed in my room, other than him, and he told me that no one had. This sounded impossible to me considering our very social lifestyle, so I asked other roommates and friends about the same thing, and they all said that several people had stayed in my room with him. I confronted him about this and he said “oh yeah, but my ex girlfriend NEVER stayed.” I checked with roommates and friends and this, too, turned out to be a lie.
While talking to him about his series of lies I said something about the lock being broken and he told me “I didn’t know that the lock was broken!” I thought back to when I had returned to my apartment for the first time since my fall. I was searching for important items in my room when this “friend” showed up. I asked him about the piece of furniture where I kept my money, and he told me that “the lock was busted, probably from the flood, and was just hanging off of it.” Now he was telling me that he “didn’t know that the lock was broken!”
All I knew is that someone had stolen from me and the person that I was speaking to had now lied to me about three circumstances surrounding it. That last lie hammered the nail in our friendships coffin. Perhaps I did not have proof that he had stolen from me, but I knew that he had tried to deceive me over and over (and over) again. As far as I was concerned, whether he took the money or not, I did not want this person in my life anymore.
My oldest friend was off the hook as I drew the conclusion that someone else had stolen from me. I thought this for months until I began dissecting the scenario further and realized that my current understanding did not make sense either. Even if my other “friend” stole the money, why wouldn’t my oldest friend have noticed and said something concerning the piece of furniture, which had a lock that was suddenly broken? Why would he not say something to me before throwing it away? I decided to write him an email explaining how this made no sense either. In this letter I wrote “you realized that something that was important to me was broken into. Wouldn’t an innocent person say something? This is very suspect.”
I continued to say “The money is hardly the issue. In fact, I do not intend to collect from whoever stole from me. The issue is the truth. This was obviously done by someone close to me. I need clarity and evidence to back up any assumptions that I have to make with the lack of information that I have… otherwise I need to draw other conclusions.” The loss of the money is nothing compared to the loss of a friendship, and the series of lies upon lies that had eaten away at one friendship already, was now eating away at another… And it hurt. He told me that he had to sleep on it.
The next day, he called and we chatted about this and that for a while as if things were fine; and then he told me to sit down. I told him that I was sitting and he said “this is the hardest thing that I have ever done…” and he finally told me the truth: He told me that he took the money!
He told me that he originally took it to keep it safe while he allowed others to stay in my room, but ended up using it like his own piggy bank. He ended up self medicating his feelings of losing his best friend because I was in a coma and was probably going to die. He told me that, as I got better, he intended to replenish it, but the money continued to dwindle and soon he realized that he could not repay it. So he lied about it in order to not have to own up to his irresponsible behavior. He lied because he was ashamed.
My limbs were shaking as he told me this. Betrayal enveloped me. This was the hardest that I have ever been hit with the hard truth that someone that I loved had betrayed me. Betrayal summoned a rage that boiled within me and created so much pressure until I was on the verge of exploding. I have never felt so hurt and angry.
What he told me was what I knew, and had known, but did not know that I knew. I did not want to believe what I knew. I had already assumed a superficial friendship with him, because, while I did not know that he had stolen from me until he admitted to it, I knew that he was not telling me something. Now I KNEW what had happened, and while it was my expectation, the pain, anger, sadness, and rage came like a tsunami and was overwhelming.
I took in a deep breath in an attempt to collect my thoughts and feelings. I had been developing techniques in order to control my short fuse since my accident, and this was certainly the hardest test that I had yet experienced. There was a long pause while I could hear his winded breath on the other end of the phone. He was panting as if he had just ran a marathon. “Cavin, I am so sorry!” Trembled from his lips over the phone. And then I heard nothing. Not a breath.
I wrote this song about betrayal before this event. This is a recording of me playing the song just before I had found out what happened. I had a weak voice and was very uncoordinated in this recording. It is painful to hear.
I had been preparing a reaction to the only possibility that made sense to me for a while, but I never expected it to feel the way that it did. It was not easy to hear, on one hand, but it was exactly what I needed to hear, on the other. I was relieved and angry at the same time.
It was a cripplingly painful admission under the extraordinary circumstances of my brain injury. By now I had lost and somewhat regained my ability to walk, talk, play guitar, make music, sing and, most importantly, to eat! I had already lost my life as I knew it… What was a chunk of cash at that point? But losing a life long friendship was quite possibly the most painful feeling out of all of the pain and frustration that I had felt!
People screw up in their lives. I do not know a single person who has not wronged someone else, either intentionally or unintentionally. I had certainly been betrayed before, and I had ridded myself of those that had betrayed me. I had even strategically planted temptations to test my friends because knowing who was a friend was more valuable to me than whatever was planted that would be stolen from me.
This friend, my oldest friend, had always passed these “tests”, but while I was in a coma that I would most likely either not live through or have serious mental deficits from, he may have talked himself into betraying me because the chances were that I would not remember or would not live to catch him. Perhaps the emotional toll of losing his best friend weighed heavy enough to bring him to act unbelievably selfishly. Maybe he tried to emotionally escape from the very difficult reality that he was faced with.
He stayed silent on the phone. He must have been holding his breath this entire time, and I was still not ready to respond. I sat quietly for a bit longer and in a airy and slow voice, I said “Thank you.”
“Thank you for salvaging what is left of our friendship.” I knew that he had been lying to me and I had been preparing myself to have a superficial and distant relationship with him as long as I did not know what happened surrounding this situation.
I realized that I could forgive him if he could own up and work to improve the person that he is. I can forgive, but I do not forget (even with a brain injury). I told him that I am willing to rebuild our friendship, but I will not kid myself: rebuilding would have to take place on the rocky terrain upon the rubble of our demolished relationship. Even though it is hard if not impossible to build something strong upon a rugged foundation, I was and am willing to work with him to do that. Where I was not willing as long as I was being lied to.
I do not collect any money from him, but he sends me some every now and then. He has a desire to improve the person that he is and the relationship that he has with me. I am writing this because it is a part of my story that must be told. I am not writing this to embarrass my friends or family (and he is family and will always be part of my life), but to further heal in the actuality of our lives. This is why I am not mentioning his name. I do not want to make this extremely personal story a piece of his internet reputation that may effect future employment or anything of the sort. I would appreciate it if people could respect that and not harm him either. I have received his blessing in posting this piece because he understands that this is an important part of my story, but it scares the hell out of him. It is embarrassing. He is not proud of what he has done, but I am proud of him for how he has changed. I love him. We have managed to construct a little shack upon the shambles of our dilapidated friendship, and perhaps, one day, something stronger will be built; but I do not intend to work any harder than he does to do so.
Despite the horrific events that I have endured in the past year, I choose to believe that acceptance is one of the greatest gifts that I have implicitly received from my brain injury. I have accepted the fact that, due to my brain injury, I am in less control of my limbs, my emotions; and my ability to play music has diminished and may never return to its previous level. I have also accepted the fact that I have been wronged by someone close to me.
My current reality is concrete. It cannot change at any given moment, but, at the same time, my reaction to my reality is malleable and is within my control if I posses the ability to change my reactions. I will not sit and think that this is all just a series of unfortunate events. My brain injury does not define me, but it is indeed a part of my story. Some people have asked me if I believe that there was a reason that my life took this sharp and painful turn, implying that my brain injury and the events that followed were predestined. I do not know, but I know that I will put forth the effort in order to help others and to give this entire ordeal, and the subsequent trials that came with it, a purpose.