It’s the simpler sins that haunt you the most.
A few years ago I met up with someone from the past. I was horrified when he reminded me of a sin I had buried. Something simple yet horrible that my younger self had done, exhaustive in its toxic memory. A memory that some out there still hold of me. How clear that I had hidden that sin from myself. It had got away from the list I keep of the ways I have disappointed myself.
As he spoke about the people involved and their enduring dislike of me, what I did poured out of my mind and into my heart.
I liked the boy. But most importantly I had seen him as an escape route from the relationship I had found myself beached on, like a washed up piece of driftwood on an unfriendly shore.
I had known that it was going to be a bad stretch of road with my boyfriend, soon to be husband. Soon to be father of my child. So when The boy had come along, I had thought it was worth the risk and had tried to clumsily capture him like a flag.
When he turned me down and stayed with his girlfriend (they are married now and still impossibly happy decades later), I felt as small as it was possible to be without falling through the cracks of the world and into the space between fear and regret.
Was that sin enough? No, that was the kind of sin that you recounted wistfully but with the courage of a life experience. That you owned and lived with. That you SHOULD own and live with.
No, the unforgivable sin had been lying about it when I was caught.
I told everyone that he had pursued me and that I had been the one to uncomfortably refuse his advances. I was convincing. His girlfriend had been appalled and the boy had been shunned for a time. Their relationship was tested and I had no right to be the cause.
They have every right to hate me.
The shame of the person I was sits inside me now like a malignancy, added to the many sins that I have spent years trying to dissolve with alcohol.
I should make amends. Go see them or write a letter. But I can’t. I can’t see that disgust in their eyes. And I can’t bring this into their lives again. You see, much as it haunts my life in living colour, I know that they have put it away into nostalgic drawers and anecdotes. I’m not going to raise that spectre. Convenient? Perhaps. But then again, I’ve been telling you I’m bad, why not weak too?
Does it matter that I had been terrified of losing my baby’s father when he found out? That as cold and volatile as he was, he was still the father and without him I would be cast away alone? That he wouldn’t keep a string of connection with the baby was a foregone conclusion if that happened (it did). He was barely standing in place with me as it was. So I sacrificed the boy.
Does it matter that the woman I was, with her cavalier and self-obsessed destruction of lives, was the result of a learned disease born of PTSD and despair? That the things the child had experienced led her to play out over and over the capture, conquest and callousness of men? That she really didn’t know what she was doing, just pinballing around the lives of her orbit.
No, it doesn’t matter. All those reasons are never going to give back the time and love and trust I took. And this is just one story of the swathe I cut. It’s a minor one in comparison to some.
Now the loathing comes again, a dark cloud in a dark night. I have hidden a pantheon of sins from myself. Each one coming under shadows and dirty blankets, each speaking to the damaged woman beneath. A woman I wouldn’t want to be friends with.
And I wonder if I will ever look at myself in the mirror and not see all these stories and not feel that second and third and hundredth chances are for everyone else.
Not for me who crawls on her belly.