This may come as a shock to those who read this site, but I hold on to grudges for a long time. Even when they don’t directly involve me. Scratch that: especially when they don’t directly involve me. I’m still furious at Chuck Klosterman for something he wrote in The New York Times year-end “The Lives They Lived” back in 2002. Ask me about it some time if you’d like to hear me rant for 45 minutes.
This is why it may be unwise for me to live in New York City. Conventional wisdom says people get lost in such a large metropolis, but that’s not true. You actually run into people you know all the time, because with so many people in such a relatively small space, there’s a greater likelihood of meeting an acquaintance (math!). Running into random folks can be a wondrous thing. Back when I was younger and childless, a chance encounter on a weekend could turn into an odyssey of awesomeness. “Hey, we’re gonna go to this bar and then check out this band and then we’re gonna barbecue on somebody’s rooftop at 3 in the morning. Wanna come with?”
Then there’s the alternative. Last week, I was exiting the West 4th Street station on my way to work. Some days I’m already in a bad mood before I even arrive at the office. This was not one of those days. I wasn’t whistling and twirling a cane and doffing my cap to young ladies, but I wasn’t predisposed to be angry or grizzled, either. I was simply wondering what the day might bring me.
As I got to street level, I saw a few paces ahead of me, heading toward the subway I’d just left, an old boss. I’ve had good, civil relationships with most of the bosses in my life. This was not one of them. Although truth be told, it wasn’t the work relationship that was strained. It was more the laying me off when I had a toddler that bugged me.
I saw this man trudging up the sidewalk, hands thrust into the pockets of his khakis, head slumped downward, his thinning hair sloping toward the sidewalk, and I felt all this rage bubble up within me. Did I still wish I had the job from which he laid me off? No. Am I happy where I am now? Yes. Did everything ultimately work out? I suppose it did. Still, I had this intense, fist-clenching fury at the sight of him for putting me through the worry and self-doubt and pain and struggle of looking for a new job when I had a tiny life to care for. Fuck this guy forever for doing that to me, I thought. I don’t care if he donates his entire salary to the Red Cross, this guy’s a monster.
And as I’m thinking all these things, he must sense my eyes on him, since they’re trying to bore a hole in his pasty head. He looks up, locks eyes with me, and gives me this quizzical look, like Why is this person staring at me? He clearly has no idea who I am. I’d like to think I don’t look all that different from the last time I saw him, and that’s probably true. But my face has been lost in the mists of time for him. He hasn’t a clue who this scowling weirdo is, and picks up his pace a bit, proceeding as quickly as he can into the underground.
I hadn’t thought about this person in years, and all it took was one second to make me furious at him all over again. Meanwhile, Ex-Boss has clearly given me even less thought, since he hadn’t even recognized me. There’s very few things worse in this world than unrequited hate.