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The NO that Broke the Camel’s Back

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

September, 2012

This is the NO that ended my friendship with Hanna.

Once Henry and I had put some boundaries in place, we allowed ourselves to get excited about our visit from Hanna and Niko. Truly, it would have been foolish—and negligent—to ignore the lessons we had learned in 2006.

I had told you that Hanna is humble and independent and makes very few requests of others. I should have clarified that she makes very few requests on her own behalf. Shy and unassuming, she often neglects herself. Still, Hanna can be a real tiger when it comes to the wants and needs of others. In her immense and compassionate heart, she feels with her husband all the woes of his remarkable life; and she goes out of her way to champion him.

If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then I submit to you the following: a photo taken outside my mother’s house in the summer of 2006. The pose is odd and very telling–all the more so for having been struck spontaneously, its meanings transmitted without conscious consent. It speaks of love, loyalty, advocacy, and interdependence. It tells of self-effacement, exhaustion, enmeshment, and denial. Balance—literal and symbolic, necessary and illusory—manifests itself in this image, as does sacrifice. For reasons of confidentiality, I cannot share the actual photo.

I’ll do my best to describe it to you here:

Niko is the focal point. Thick and solid as an oak and dressed completely in black, he stands on the brick sidewalk in front of the day lily patch and offers an understated smile. He stands flat on his feet, which are firmly planted a short distance apart. He leans ever so slightly towards Hanna. His right arm dangles at his side. His left hand reaches down to rest on Hanna’s left shoulder, as she is has made herself very small in comparison.

Hanna, dressed all in white, is in a low crouch. She rests awkwardly on the ball of her right foot while her left foot extends forward for balance. Her pose is unnatural, as though she might topple at any moment. The top of her head reaches barely to Niko’s waist. In her left hand, she holds some sort of figurine, which she balances on her left knee. Her right arm reaches under the edge of Niko’s shorts and hugs his thigh just above his knee. She smiles broadly, the side of her face pressed up against his side.

Returning to the ill-fated denial…

I think our friendship might have survived if not for this.

Shortly after their arrival from Germany, Niko asked to use the computer. I explained that our desktop had broken down, and I had only my old laptop.

I told him, “I’m not comfortable letting you use it. It’s a really cheap old thing, and it’s on its way out. All sorts of error messages are starting to pop up. And it overheats and shuts down. I can’t afford to replace it, and I can’t do my work without it. Plus, if it died on your watch, I wouldn’t want you to wonder if you had done something wrong.”

I thought this was a kind and soft “No,” and I hoped it would suffice.

I was wrong. So very wrong.

This is the tenth installment in The Story of Hanna. Please click on the tab of the same name to read other segments.
Installment nine is here. Installment eleven is here.

18 responses »

  1. This passage certainly made me curious to see the photo with the odd pose.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Me too but great description….I could picture it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I just couldn’t do it. But I’m glad you could understand the description. I can just imagine how violated and hurt she would feel if she ever came across it.

      I felt brave (and sort of terrible) even writing about her at all even though I am pretty sure she will never know I have done so. As badly as things ended, I still love her lots. The writing is a good way of processing my own pain. I have felt kind of compelled to do so. I think (hope) I can share it in good conscience if I am careful to point out my own mistakes and am not gratuitous in ways which could cause her to feel violated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So sad that something that small can crack open such a rift. I feel for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. moylomenterprises

    Um, just about everyone has a laptop these days. How come they didn’t have one?

    I totally get not wanting to lend a laptop. Mine is old too, had it since 2008, error messages are popping up like crazy. I can go through the ordeal of upgrading the OS but it also needs a new battery and cooling fan so for all that I rather just get a new one but it’s not in the budget now so no one uses this but me. (Unless that person is a computer tech expert)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a really good question! Well, they had one at their apartment in Germany. One thing I will discuss in an upcoming post is my failure to tell them AHEAD of time that they would not have use of a computer. I am assuming they could have used theirs here but I am not sure. In any case, maybe some arrangement could have been made in advance and we might have avoided things progressing the way they did….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the title, Jane, and I understand it completely. Now I want to see the photo with it’s pose, but even if I don’t, I “feel” the essence of your situation. You have described it so well that it brings back vivid and painful memories of the friend I wrote you about on an earlier post. We remember the painful visits so much more profoundly than the joyous visits.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The No-No | Family Rules

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