One of the hardest periods of my adult employed life was September to December 2005. The period was the immediate period post failure of the entity known as The Firm, a real estate business I and my friend Himself had founded.
The Firm had been in business for around 17 months, starting in April of the previous year when I had cast aside my former employment in the Biopharmaceutical industry on what then amounted to a dream and a prayer, neither of which was terribly well thought out at the time. My reasons were, at the time, rational - a 120 mile a day round trip to work, exhaustion, and a friend who was obviously successful - but as with many (most) businesses, reasons to do something are not reasons things succeed.
And so, on August 2nd 2005, the company was dissolved.
I had to scramble after that, as I had a family, an increased mortgage payment from when I started at the Firm, a month's worth of health care, and almost no savings. Fortunately 2005 was not later in my life and a job was procured within a month of my firing of myself. In what was perhaps some of the best evidence I had of God's sense of humor, I went back to work at slightly less salary and a lower title, doing the same job. Literally in 1.5 years, I was back where I had started or even a little behind.
But there still were "The Deals".
The Deals were those remaining ongoing projects that we had when we had dissolved the company. Himself had kept them as he was going to continue on in real estate. The agreement was that anything resulting from those deals would be split between the three of us that had been at the company, since we had all worked to get them to that point.
And so, outside of the trying to reconcile myself to going back to something I thought I had left forever, I continued to follow up on The Deals.
We could have used the money, of course. Draining one's savings and then starting over is nerve wracking (and I do not recommend it at all). And so I kept checking in with the energy of a chipmunk wrangling an acorn.
Once upon a time Himself and I had spoken literally every day. We had, at one time, a deep relationship that had spanned 12 years prior to starting The Firm - our wives were best friends, and thus so were we. All of that had been reduced to this, periodic phone calls checking in, couched in the language that we had used to use - "How are you doing? How are things going now?" but always with background of "And how are the deals going?"
It was not my best moment by a long shot.
In December, the one deal that had survived closed. True to his word, Himself brought the check by to the house, dropping it off with The Ravishing Mrs. TB while I was away at work. The money, as I recall, was used to pay a periodic recurring bill immediately.
The following January we spoke again.
I can remember scene well: it was overcast and I was crossing the bridge over the river before driving through the fields on the way to work. This was a drive I had made for 5 months now and had become familiar; I would often talk on the phone to pass the time.
We caught up that last time on the phone. The Deals were no longer part of the conversation of course, other than a thanks for dropping the check off. We chatted a bit about how our lives were going; he was, as he had always been, confident about the future and what was to come. We said our goodbyes and hung up. I remember this because I can recall to this day the precise geographic place where he told me that "things were going fine".
And that, as it turned out, was the last time we ever spoke to each other.
I can go over any number of ways I failed in this last part of the relationship, but the single biggest thing that comes to mind was simply my interest only in the fact of the money. Yes, the need was there and yes, the need was great - but there was a level of trust which for many years before I had simply given that I now suddenly withdrew when the money was involved. I had no evidence he would not keep his word, yet acted as if he would not. His situation was no better than mine in terms of finances, yet I acted as if I was the only one that was suffering and had needs.
The silence that followed those years that ended, 4 years later, in me sitting in a coffee shop for a meeting that never happened (another story, of course), should not have surprised me at the time. I had laid the groundwork for that moment carefully, emphasizing the only aspect of the relationship that was temporal and would pass and ignoring the larger realities of what had been a deep friend and the realities of his own need as well.
The bitterness I felt at that moment was really a brew of my own making.