Friday, February 19, 2010

Magical thinking

We all engage in magical thinking from time to time. I was aware of it just this week while watching the Olympics. . . . like somehow my holding my breath or yelling "look out!" will help a downhill skier who's about to crash or the figure skater whose landing looks wobbly.

This afternoon, I have been engaging in another type of magical thinking. . . . thinking that I somehow caused something bad to happen to someone, simply by thinking about it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a message I'd like to send to my "first" (I will call him "E") on Fac.eb.ook about hoping that what he did to me didn't happen to his daughter, who is now the same age I was then. The post spurred comments about whether I had been raped, and I was quick to point out that what happened between this guy and me, while reprehensible on his part, due to his older age and greater experience, was not criminal.

I had lunch today with E's sister. We were in the same high school class and were friends (notwithstanding her brother's mistreatment of me). During the planning for our 20th high school reunion a couple of years ago, we learned that we both live in the Phoenix metro area, though at opposite ends. We work around 30 minutes from one another and have had lunch twice since then.

I hadn't seen her in over a year. She had alluded to 2009 being "a tough year for our family" in her email to schedule lunch, so I knew she had some bad news to impart. She told me first about her financial struggles and her other brother's impending divorce, which has been a long time coming. (They were having marital problems when I saw her last, and they weren't new then.)

Then she told me something that gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. After telling me about her younger brother's divorce, she said "But that's nothing compared to what happened to E" and proceeded to tell me how his 15-year-old daughter was basically raped by the two older brothers of one of her friends. E and his daughter live in a small town--even smaller than our hometown--and the parents of these guys are friends of E and his wife, people they have known since childhood.

Apparently while E's daughter was sleeping over at her friend's house, after the parents went to bed, the four teenagers started playing drinking games. E's daughter--who my friend describes as "a good girl" and her favorite niece--was unaccustomed to alcohol and soon passed out. While she was semi-conscious, each of the guys, her friend's brothers, "took advantage of her."

The girl didn't tell her parents for a few days out of fear of being punished for drinking, but E finally found out what had happened when he noticed significant changes in his daughter's behavior and probed further. The police are involved, and prosecution of the assailants is being pursued.

Once he learned about what had happened to his daughter, E fell into a deep depression. My friend said he would keep her and his mom on the phone for hours, talking about all the "bad things" he had done in his life and how G-d was punishing him. She believed he was suicidal at one point and had their father force him to seek help.

E is now on antidepressants and doing OK, but their ordeal is far from over. The case is still making its way through the courts, and E's daughter may have to testify at trial. Meanwhile, one of the guys apologized to the girl for his behavior and the other has been sending her hateful text messages calling her a "slut."

I know that my thought of "I hope no guy does to her what you did to me at her age" did not cause this--it happened before I even wrote that post, in fact--but I couldn't help the eerie feeling I had while hearing about this. I think anyone would be horrified to find that a 15-year-old had been raped, but my feelings went beyond that. I felt guilty, even though I did nothing to cause this.

Given the tenor of my previous post, one might think I would take some perverse pleasure in knowing that E had to go through something like this, but I don't. Maybe I don't really hate him as much as I thought I did.

Maybe I just find it impossible to take any pleasure in something so awful happening to an old friend's favorite niece.


TUWABVB said...

NO ONE could think that you would wish this upon someone....please don't ever think that! I'm so sorry she had to go through this, but I am happy to hear that perhaps he is reconsidering some of his own choices. Perhaps some good will come from this for that family once they go through and survive - and I hope they will.

Flying Monkeys said...

I would have never thought those things about you. I think it's natural for people to want karma to come around when we're wronged by others. I also thought you post had more to do with him seeing his daughter and realizing what he had done now that he had a daughter.
How awful for her, I hope she's getting her emotional needs cared for. What a commentary on human behavior that the 2 brothers have had opposite reactions to the fall out of their actions.