“You’re not my friend,” he said dismissively. “I mean, don’t get my wrong, you are a cool girl and all, but I don’t have friends.” He said this defiantly, as a matter of pride, as if to create more of a safe barrier between himself and me.
“Well, I’m you’re friend, and my friendship is available to you should you want it.” Just then, Willard breezed into the kiosk area.
“Hello Foster. How are you?” Foster didn’t so much as turn to look at him. With a grunt of frustration and an ounce of sarcasm, Willard elaborately turned to him. “The proper response is, ‘I’m fine, Willard, thanks for asking.” Foster’s face twitched imperceptibly, a flicker of annoyance or anger, I wasn’t sure. The awkwardness hung heavy around us, although in truth it was probably just myself who was internally writhing in the agony of how wrong things felt. True to form, I became obsessed by the need to do something, anything to relieve the tension that crept through my shoulder blades and made my heart hammer insistently on my rib cage.
To my surprise, Foster didn’t leave, but stayed there making the occasional quip. Was it his need for the leftover pastries? Or was it to taunt Willard? Or was it an inherent need for some kind of connection with humanity? I wasn’t sure, and I was convinced Foster wasn’t sure either.
That incident, although awkward and tense, proved to be enough of a small fuse to incite a bigger fire. The next day I received a call from Willard. “The situation has escalated, ” he informed me calmly. As he related the fact that Foster had asked security that Willard never speak to him again because he wasn’t sure what he might do, I felt an anger build inside of me. “So security has made a deal with him, ” Willard concluded. “He is not to come out to the kiosk and get anything free, nor speak with you during your work shift. That his end of the bargain, and in return I will never acknowledge him or speak to him.”
What kind of insanity lurked beneath Foster’s hostile exterior that convinced him Willard was something of a threat? What was the real issue? It was at this point I realized that Foster’s issues went beyond “wounds from his childhood”. Other people had a lifetime of rejection and little love, but did not end up hovering on the edge of social paranoia like this. Oh, how I desperately wanted this story to have a Hollywood ending. I longed for an epiphanic moment where love would break through Foster’s steel fence of suspicion and isolation, and he would step forward into further healing. I pictured him becoming a successful screenwriter and playwright, and we would keep in touch, him telling people that my care and compassion during those dark days “was a lifeline” to him.
But that seemed to be a Hollywood fantasy, and instead I was locked into a dark drama that was growing darker by the day. I forced myself to look at the truth that had stayed quietly in the back of my mind, content to wait until I found the courage to examine it. I had to come to terms with the fact that Foster was using me, using me for my phone, for my connection to the coffee kiosk, using me as his payment plan, his Target. He saw people in terms of a one way bank account, withdrawing whenever he could, but never depositing.
And yet, there were glimmers of something else, but something very small. When I saw him reading the paper, I went over and asked him if I could borrow the front page. “Take it, it’s yours.” he said. That “thank you”, he uttered softly when we came back from his court hearing. Perhaps these said nothing else but that he was a human being, capable of giving a little. So, how does compassion fit into all this?