Today I’m supposed to talk on forgiveness. The plain fact is I don’t really know a thing on it. I’m working on forgiving the man who tried to kill me. I don’t know how to know where I am on that.
Two of my family members, who I still love dearly, were killed many years ago. The person who caused their deaths is still walking the earth. I hated her for a long time. I hated her family. I hated her children, who I would see around town sometimes. Whenever I saw them I would just stop and stare. I wouldn’t accuse them of anything. I didn’t have to. As soon as they’d see me, they would look away and immediately get as far from me as they could.
I fantasized about growing up to be a spy like Sydney Bristow on the show Alias. I would learn everything I could about the woman and destroy her. Years after Alias was canceled, my fantasies were replaced when Revenge aired. The woman I’d spent my childhood despising became the Victoria Grayson to my Emily Thorne. I realize now these fantasies were more about my feelings of helplessness at the deaths of my loved ones, and also my anger that the woman seemed not to suffer at all for what she’d done.
Whenever my mother chose to descend into her drunken and drugged madness, railing against this woman was her favorite excuse. She would cry, and moan, wailing on how it was so unfair this woman still had her children, still had her marriage, still had her life to live.
One evening, when my mother was in her madness, my grandmother happened to be visiting. Annoyed at my mother’s unladylike behavior, my grandmother told me to put on a sweater so we could go for a drive. I was twenty and home from college for the summer. I wasn’t close to this grandmother, the mother of my mother, but I’d always admired her for her style and wit.
We got into her pearl white Cadillac and she drove us through dark, lonely country roads as she spoke on forgiveness. She told me things her own grandmother had suffered through before she’d left Ireland. She told me how she felt my mother’s addiction and madness was caused by her inability to forgive herself and others. I told her all my fantasies on becoming Sydney Bristow and getting my revenge on the woman who’d taken my family members from me.
My grandmother just looked at me with a sly smile and then turned back towards town. She pulled up to a seedy bar on a side street. It was the kind of place a woman wasn’t safe to be in alone. I asked her what we were doing. She said there was something I needed to see inside.
The place was a dark, dirty bar with bad country music playing way too loud. My grandmother looked around and then took a corner booth that had a good view of the bar up front. I slid in across from her and she told me to come sit next to her instead. When I did, I could see why she’d brought me there.
At the bar was the woman I’d hated for so long. She was wearing a dress that showed way too much of her legs and cleavage. She was laughing at something so loudly even the music couldn’t drown her out. She was so inebriated, she could barely hang onto the stool and kept grabbing one or both of the men who sat on either side of her.
We sat in our booth, drinking our cokes, watching as the woman eventually got into a fight with one of the men after the bartender cut her off. They yelled at each other like junkyard dogs and the woman started crying and tried to walk out. The other man stopped her, reminding her she wasn’t allowed to drive. We watched as she yelled that no one cared about her and the people in the bar weren’t her friends.
When she turned to leave she saw us. I know she recognized my grandmother immediately, but I wonder if she realized who I was. She was already an emotional mess, but when she saw us she broke down even more. She came apart and kept saying she was sorry over, and over, as one of the men led her out of the bar.
It was shocking to watch. I still have all kinds of mixed-up feelings on it. It was so sad seeing another person in such a pitiful state, but when I think of all the pain she caused me and my family, I can’t help still being angry sometimes. If she wasn’t so pathetic, so weak, I might still have the people she killed with me. I think on what my grandmother told me after the woman left the bar. There’s nothing to revenge on. There’s no life left to destroy. How can you hurt a person already so low?
I wonder how my grandmother knew the woman would be at that seedy bar. I realize now she’d had her own fantasies of hometown justice. She must have had information on the woman somehow and I know now she brought me there that night so I could have some of the satisfaction she’d found in seeing that woman in such a state.
I didn’t feel satisfied. I just felt sad for her. It was ugly to watch how she threw herself at the men, twisting on her barstool to the music, and reaching across the bar to get the bartender’s attention. By the time she’d left her hair was looking wild and her makeup was smeared. I will never forget the look on her face when she recognized my grandmother and realized we’d just witnessed her humiliation. It was a mixture of surprise, anger, and shame.
I’m continuing to research forgiveness. What does it really mean? Why is it important? How do you know when you’ve achieved it? I feel like my grandmother was right in some ways. She said that forgiveness meant giving the pain back to the one who caused it. How, though? I have no idea, but I will not stop until I’ve got this sorted.