March 11, 2009

goodbye traitors

when my sister told me that she hated her teacher, i was like yeah yeah. when my sister told me she imagined holding up a gun, pulling the trigger, the mess the teacher’s head would make on the blackboard, i was like oh shit... how can we be so different? i think i’m a peaceable sort of person.

lilongwe writers' circle posited the theme of revenge but i was uninspired. i’ve been happily brainwashed into the christian ideals of forgiving. the day i caught my housemate wearing my knickers i frowned and walked away, she apologised profusely. i’d even subscribe to the cliché of ‘what goes around comes around’; the guy who made my job hell got caught adding a zero on a cheque, the guy who cheated on me got his next girlfriend unexpectedly preggers.

well peaceable or not, everyone has their limits. for most women the danger areas are money and men. you can imagine all sorts of unforgivable possibilities. cross the line and we become vindictive bitches...
mess with these areas and even your closest girls will drop you like you’re hot.

then there’s the other unforgivable sin, leaving. we all know how it goes; meet someone – click - hear all gossip - tell life stories - establish telepathic connection – drink the same drinks - become official wingman - read the same books - predict moods - socialise like siamese twins - phone compulsively - synchronise opinions - borrow clothes - suspect they are one of the few people who really ‘gets’ you - wave goodbye.

you jump on a plane and fly off to another world full of opportunities and excitement, while i drive home with an empty passenger seat and the prospect of friday night without a drinking buddy. betrayal, its unforgivable. you better believe it, i’ll drop you like its hot.

first i become mercenary, what are you worth? all those things i used to compliment could be mine! then my stories get very very short, no more gory details or juicy speculation, nah no more intimate confidences from over here.
your lack of loyalty leaves my anger thinly veiled; how dare you not invite me to that leaving lunch, i don’t care if i’ve already been to your other three leaving parties! i couldn’t be less interested in where you’re going; i don’t care what you’ll eat first or what you’re planning to watch in the cinema. but i would like to talk about the string of birthdays, club nights and lake trips that are happening – oh i’m sorry – the weekend after you’ve gone.

just in case you start thinking that i’m the bad guy (and forget that you are the traitor), i shall lie through my teeth that i’ll visit you soon and pen a sickly sweet letter full of nostalgia and best wishes for the future. masquerading as a supportive friend, i may even throw in a malawian gift, something less obvious – only for the discerning eye.

ah now you’re getting the point, don’t bother trying to ease your conscience – nothing will placate me, not your toiletries safe in my bathroom, your books beautifully lined up on my shelf, or your remaining kwachas in my purse. i don’t want to know about your layovers and i’ve never heard of the person picking you up. i stab the knife in; dry eyes at the airport, and then i twist it; delete from phone.

perhaps i’m more like my sister than i thought. you can wear my knickers, have my money, here take my man… but don’t you dare leave.

“one imagines all of us on this shore fading for them as they journey ahead towards whatever new shore may await them; but it is as if they carry something of us on their way as we assuredly carry something of them on ours.” frederick buechner

“the most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” elisabeth foley


  1. eh, what sister are you talking about???

    when it comes to friends, you gotta understand 'the inner circle' - these are the friends who KNOW you, who are going to be there twenty years from now. (probably only about 3-4). nothing comes in the way of the inner circle. but when you are removed from these friends you end up trying to form 'inner circle' friendships with people who arent suitable for the role. so who's fault is it?

    doesnt it come down to the fact that you're phoning them, hooking them up, showing them a good time, exhibiting the depth of your local knowledge blah blah blah. so you're getting the feel good factor from being needed. it's not all as one way as you might think. to put it in a more 'mercenary' way: don't invest so much in dodgy stock.

    don't be a martyr - why arent you leaving too?

    i understand where you're coming from but it's a bit too brutal.

  2. How true this rings for a TCK. I find it easier to come up with all the reasons why "we weren't actually that close" then deal with the pain that they're gone.

  3. georgia burford12 March, 2009 22:14

    Well I wont leave my toiletries with you again if this is how you repay me?!!

    I think you have a point Miss Mack, but I want you to take a moment to think how it feels to be the 'traitor', to leave the amazing friends and soulmates you made as well as your entire life that surrounded you. To return to a place where people aren't aware or even interested in where you've been, who you've been with or what you've been up to! It's not just one person who you have lost, but your entire life.

    I for one hope that in this global world we live in leaving is not losing, as you so rightly put it but just watching from another island until you meet again.

  4. hannah mccauley12 March, 2009 22:14

    sorry about the cacks jesso

  5. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    Dons here
    totally disagree......
    No ones died Jess we still surround you and love you and pray for you, we may not be there physically but we are still there.
    God isnt with me physically but hes still there with me.
    Fermanagh is no bright light huge land of opportunity. People leave Fermanagh and dont come back I had to cope with that. i have no freedom here everyone is old stuck in their ways and its hard but i deal with it

  6. Well miss Jessy. I never saw this before and I'm really glad you showed me this side of things. As always you have opened my eyes.
    From my side I can talk of guilt, of feeling like i should stay in touch more with more of the people. People like you who have touched my life in a really significant way. (Even if that is due to you 'investing time in dodgy stock'!) But then i also feel that if we are spending all our time putting the energy into people who are not in our immediate life (reason/season and all that) we don't get the most out of the experience of living where we actually are and in the moment that is precious? So much of friendship is about shared experience. That's why it hurts when a close friend suddenly gets a boyfriend and leaves that way. I found it really tough coming back to the UK and not having anything in common with my long standing university and other friends and i realised after a while it was because so many of their stories and jokes that reinforced their togetherness were about things they'd done together and places they'd been or things they heard that they had shared and i had been completely out of because i'd been busy sharing all those things in a totally differnet country with totally different people. If hadn't then invested a lot of time and energy and effort in rekindling those friendships by doing things with them and sharing things with them then i'd be a sad old loner right now. And that energy (love really) is kind of a precious resource, if you spread it too thinly you get crappy useless, superficial friendships that don't mean shit. When i was in Malawi, that energy went into people i can count on my hand. And that's why, til the end of my days, those friendships will touch me a whole lot more than the 50 or so 'heroes' in my life now or choir buddies who i see once a week. The depth and quality of that experience, even if it was short will always be precious to me and I will not pretend I will write letters every day and call once a week or feel guilty/apologise for that. Cos i know that every time we do get the chance to interact or meet up it's always stimulating and/or a giggle and a great reminder that love endures and overrides all other things... that is if you can find it inyourself to forgive me and I can find it in myself to know that maybe i don't know you as well as others but not being the competitive type I'm happy knowing jsut the part that i got to know cos it impressed me so much?! ;-)

  7. I've been on both sides of the fence: the one who stayed and the one who left. In this transient community, one gets used to saying goodbye, in a sense, but then it never gets any easier. I become calloused, opening up less and less.
    Yes, a Christian should rely on God as their source of strength, and Jesus should be the closest friend we have, but somehow, those physical friendships allow us to experience love and encouragement in a more tangible way. I lose those pillars of support in my life, one by one, until eventually, I'm trying to stand up on my own.

  8. lovely blogpost; i most enjoyed
    especially the deleting from phone part - i totally do that
    i knew you had some spite in you somewhere
    i do understand the if-you-don't-love-me-this-way-then-fuck-you-entirely impulse
    it's hard to keep your face hard like that indefinitely though
    but the rage!
    i get it
    maybe we are more similar in that
    although i also don't get your sister
    that's just macabre
    but spite
    spite is the original sin i believe
    i feel it in my marrow, how spiteful i am

  9. Just reread your piece and now that i'm no longer being overly defensive it actually made me laugh out loud and I found it quite funny (actually hilarious) and refreshing how you are expressing your perfectly legitimate anger!

    I like that what you right provokes me and tells me something about myself through my reaction to it.

    And that is what friends do. help us learn about ourselves and each other.

  10. for those of you concerned, i'm not suicidal and i'm not becoming a calloused bitch!
    latest blogpost was supposed to be humorous... i'm loving your reactions... some interesting raw nerves!

  11. have too many people left... and left you behind?
    I have been here for almost 4 years now... I do notice the sadness when people leave and return to their pre-malawi almost feels as if we are forgotten...
    BUT... on the flip side... keep in mind that those who have left are also missing out on all the progress and developments here... they will miss every trip to the lake, every red sunset and all the things we all hold near and dear to our hearts about Malawi... the grass is always greener on the other side of the ocean...
    i hope your housemate bought you a new pair of knickers...

  12. intense Jess but i really like it - it hits a nerve, its like reading quentin tarantino.

  13. Wow that's really deep Jess. It's really a hilarious and thoughful piece. I feel u... Goodbye is the saddest word to hear especially if it comes from someone whose closeness you treasure. But then it really hurts when you don't get to hear the word at all...when friends just board that plane without saying goodbye as if you worth nothing...and all the the good times you had meant nothing...when you hear about their farewell parties from a third party and you feel like you were just an error in their bibliography and had to be deleted ASAP...leaving you wondering why? how? what if?... You may really find it hard to forgive such 'traitors'. But you have to find it in you to forgive them...let go and move on. True friends will always be there for you no matter the distance and of course they will miss all the good things they left behind...wishing they were seating on that empty passenger seat! Hope you didn't delete my number gal!

  14. eesh you. chill man. go to bed or something. seriously. anyway just for the record i would never imagine pulling a trigger on a teacher... and i know abi wouldn't so donno who your talking about. don't shit on your sisters like that man. not cool at all. x

  15. killing a teacher, how could you beth! haha

  16. there something we should know about jess? that was some intense stuff u were talking about. is lilongwe treating you alright?
    I guess we all just move on in our lives so that we can live the best lives for ourselves. I guess the older you get the more selfish you become since you can only blame yourself for the choices we make in life now. That is why we chose to go to the places where we are. not so that we can leave our friends, but make something of ourselves. It works both ways jess, you chose to go back to Malawi and left us in UK too.
    people will always come and go in our lives and they will all have an impact on one way or the other. you just have to know which ones are for keeps. We know we will always be friends and that is what keeps us going at times. You are always on the top of my list of people to meet when im back home :)

  17. JK:

    Quite explosive stuff. Surely inspired by short-term emotions on the way from the airport,train-station etc. The intensity portrayed compels the reader to assume the writer had only just gone through or was in the process of going through the emotions explored. Quite clearly, this is not for the reader to excercise judgement but rather to relate and appreciate the context and especially short-term nature of the reasoning. These thoughts are justifiable in the short time-period between saying good bye and having the presence of mind to rationalize. Again, it is not in the place of the reader to call a judgement especially given that in the long term when emotions are taken over by sound mind, rational realization and clear judgement, the emotions here-expressed including revenge, forgiveness karma etc recede into obsolescence. All these are associated with sin however there's nothing sinful about leaving. Being aware of this however, does not mean one becomes insentive to the feeling of betrayal that follows a goodbye.

    It is foolhardy to make the dubious assumption that the writer is not full aware of the reality that is we are all caught up in a desperate bid to make in this expensive world and "goodbye" is a part of life. Again, being aware of all these rational arguments does not necessarily make every goodbye pleasant and justifiable. The rationale helps coping in the long-term, but short-term emotions still need an outlet. This is a good reason to explore these emotions.

  18. I m mos def listening.

    Question: Its ok for a friend/over to fudge(the obvious latin word was edited out) u up many times over as long as they dont leave?

    Love me or hate me just dont ignore me kinda issue?

  19. Do we love "friends" for who they are or how they make us feel/see ourselves or for what they do/give us? Do we value people based on history (What they did, who they were once upon a time) or for the future (What they will/could be and what they will/could do for/with us)?

    The underlying assumptions are that;
    1. You never leave anyone no matter how hurtful, boring, pain-in-the-asphalt, inconsiderate blah blah blah....blah blah...blah
    2. There is never a good-enough reason to leave
    3. There are somethings that are immune to the mortality that comes with time, when what was in is no longer in, what was Wow-Some becomes ordinary, when one/both people change and the old bond loses its glue, and many other reasons

    School me

  20. I just read this for the first time, why have I not seen this before now?!!

    Anyway, I think it is quite an amusing bit of writing.

    Reading the first few reactions confirms what i said to you earlier; I think that a lot of people dont know when you're revealing something that has happened to you, and when you are being a (very observant) social commentator!

    What this seems to say to me (and everyone reading it will, as always, see something different in the piece) is that when the person leaves THEY almost delete YOU from their phone/ life BY leaving in the first place... you become a memory, someone, something, that once happened to them when they were on their 'adventure'.

    Yep, I've felt this before... and no doubt will continue doing so in this ever changing society that we live in. The beauty of that society tho, is that there will always be a new 'temporary best buddy' to fill that space. As long as you can distinguish the 'permanent' best friends from the 'temporary' i don't think its a problem. Love them all the same way, and just accept that some people move on without you. Who knows, "maybe some day" ;-) !!


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