Thursday, November 18, 2010

criminal history

I have not had a lot of involvement in the phenomena that is Facebook. I joined because my grandchildren’s photos were posted there. Some old friends have contacted me and I them. We have exchanged a few notes, caught up on our lives but after a while go back to ignoring each other as we have for the past couple of decades. I came to the realization there is a reason I don’t keep in touch with this person or that one.
Early in his career, one of my cousins, I’ll call Bill, robbed a service station. He broke in through high rear windows. Inside, a mountain of used tires piled against the wall slowed his descent to the floor.
Billy found his way through the dark building to the front office and emptied the cash register. It was just loose coins. He filled his pants and jacket pockets.
Making his escape, Bill discovered that climbing the ‘tire mountain’ was hard work, and work was what he was avoiding when he went into the “criminal” business. The weight of the change in his pockets made it a daunting task.
Bill sat down to rest on the tires. In the morning, the owner followed a trail of coins from the office and found Billy gently snoring on the tires. As bad as he was at it, Bill continued his career as a criminal, whenever he wasn’t in jail.
Several years later, when he was fresh out of lockup, he moved in with his grandmother, who lived next door to me. Bill stayed with her while, “getting back on his feet”. One evening he asked to borrow my car to run to the store. Having more faith in the face value of what people said back then I gave him a chance to prove himself to be a trustworthy, upstanding citizen. Bill said he would have my car back in 15 minutes.
He staggered home the next morning on foot, didn’t know where my car was. Later in the week, the police found it on the side of the road in a popular late night racing spot, its distributor cap broken from the efforts of a person trying to advance the spark to use my car for drag racing.
Bill swore he never knew what happened to the car, and had no explanation as to when or where he lost possession of it. He didn’t assume much responsibility for the loss, and didn’t say so but seemed to think, like everyone else, I should have known better than to lend it to him in the first place.
In the decades since that incident I’ve never spoken to Bill nor actually seem him again, it’s been an easy thing to do; he’s been in jail most of those years and doesn’t seek my companionship when he is released. I have been aware, through the family grapevine, of when he gets out and they usually greet his homecoming with some sort of small celebration as though he were a returning hero. I never attend.
I keep up with a lot of what is going on with my relatives quietly from a distance, on Facebook.
My cousin Billy is out of his most recent confinement, and gotten his hands on a computer. He joined Facebook. Relatives post things like ‘good to see you Billy’, or ‘welcome to Facebook’. Closer friends and relatives post pictures of themselves and Billy in photos much like those we used to see in ‘arcade’ type photo booths.
Even though it’s been decades since Billy stole my car, I have no urge to be his friend on Facebook or otherwise.
I don’t think Bill would ask to be my friend, but if he did, what would I post on his Facebook page anyway? “Glad to see you back in society”, (I’m not), “hope you don’t steal my car again”. When are you going back to jail?
I know this all sounds kind of harsh but, it’s a flaw in my nature I’ll have to live with.

2 comments:

Peruby said...

My sister is in and out of prison. She has hurt many people - most of all her children.

She has had her ups and downs. Some family do not speak to her, some barely tolerate her.

She has mellowed a bit with age. She is different I think than "Bill" because she tries really hard to make up for her messes. She is very giving, very helpful and on occasion will send money to other family members when she can.

Still though.... there is always that dark cloud hanging over her head.

Facebook. I read it. I post very little - if any. I accept friends from way back when, but I don't encourage any conversation. Like you say. There is a reason we didn't talk for decades.

Karen Siddiqi said...

It sounds more deserving than harsh to me! I have a similar cousin: released from a 4.5-year prison sentence only a month before my wedding which he attended uninvited, got drunk, showed off prison tattoos to my thankfully-very-gracious in-laws and got in a fight in the parking lot to which the police responded. Like you, I have no trust and no desire to be Facebook or any other kind of friend with him, though I do wish him the best and hope he turns a new leaf!