Twenty years ago when I was a year or so out of college and living without responsibility, running from commitments and running towards "adventures" and kicks, I had an affair with a friend's mother. It started as a friendship where we would talk on the porch of their amazing beach house and after I went back home 5 hours away she wrote me letters and called (I think) and I sheepishly participated. I don't recall my part in it but at some point she decided to come visit me and flew up and I picked her up at the airport and brought her back to my apartment. All the details are missing in my memory except for the shocking moment when after a very, very brief moment of sex I realized the horror of what we had done! From that moment of clarity the reprecussions of what we had done just overwhelmed me. Her husband, my friend's dad who I was also friends with for many years, found out and called me. I admitted the affair and met him back in his state and remember being a pathetic apologizing mess trying to just throw myself at his feet for being such a piece of **** and betraying him. Anyway, we agreed to not tell his son - my old friend - and I even went and stayed at his house one time when he had a big party of old high school friends. I was torn up in side and so remorseful but didn't tell even my best friend and kept the whole thing bottled up. I pulled away from all the old friends and pretty much gave up those relationships because I didn't want to socialize with them and the friend I had betrayed knowing that it would eventually come out.
Years went by and as I grew up and finally became an adult, the guilt over what I did and the sadness of losing friendships with all the old friends was with me all the time. Even in my happiest moments I would remember that I had deceived my old friend and his family and even all of my old friends who at 40 years old I longed to reconnect with but felt I couldn't.
Anyway, a few years ago an old friend was turning 40 and a bunch of guys were meeting in NYC to celebrate. I decided to make the trip knowing full well that the old friend who I had betrayed would be there - knowing somehow that this would be the moment of truth. When I arrived in Penn Station, that friend was alone at the bar and he immediately said something to the effect of "I can't believe you would come here" which let me know that it was all out in the open. I started to apologize, started to explain that I thought it might come to this but other people showed up. A dozen of us went to dinner together and I kept my distance but felt the tremendous tension growing. We went to a really loud bowling alley and everyone was drinking really hard - except me. As we began to leave another old friend (with a strong allegiance to the guy I had decieved) took me aside to tell me what a piece of **** I was and ask me how I could have ever done anything so bad. I tried to somehow explain but that wasn't what he wanted to hear - he just wanted me to know that I was a lowlife and always had been (not true, I've lived a good and responsible life). I left the bar and walked out on the street where another old friend revealed that he knew about the history. All the guys were on their way to another bar but I checked out and wandered the city for hours because my train wasn't until the middle of the night.
When I got back to Penn Station and walked into the area beneath the big departure board, there was the friend I had deceived! He was drunk, angry, sad, confused - overwhelmed and I tried to explain, tried to apologize until the very moment that my train was called and I had to run to catch it. The hours on the train were torture as I fully accepted the pain I had caused and how these friends all knowing had now slammed the door on the connection with a good part of my past.
Since then, I've wanted to reach out to this guy and apologize in a letter a million times. Every day I wrote that letter in my head - everyday I admonished myself for my past - for my lack of values and moral judgement 20 years ago and how the decisions then had been so wrong. At one point my wife wrote out Christmas cards and i volunteered to mail them so I could discard the ones to the friend I had wronged and other friends who knew about it. More deception.
A few weeks ago an old friend from that same group called to say his father had passed away. His dad was my favorite and I spent a lot of time at their house growing up. In the next few hours I decided I would make the 5 hour drive each way to go to the funeral despite knowing that the friend I had decieved would be there too. I finally sat down and wrote the apology letter. I brought it with me and the whole drive down thought about how I could give it to him without making a scene but I also thought about how I could hide out at this funeral and not be seen. Ultimately, the funeral was huge and I was able to slink in and tuck myself in a corner. I saw him but he didn't see me. i went to the gravesite and when I saw that he wasn't there I spoke to some other old friends trying to gauge who knew and who didn't. Upon request of one who didn't I agreed to go back to the home of the deceased. The friend I had deceived didn't come to the gravesite or the house so i was o.k. for the moment but other friends were at the house who clearly knew and either kept me at a distance or avoided me. I thought about giving the one from the bowling alley who had chastised me the letter I had brought but it didn't feel right.
On the ride home I had an awakening - I remembered how we had lived 20 years ago - most of us and especially the friend I had deceived - were middle class kids who didn't want to grow up and were just living for a good time. We had learned in high school and college we could get away with drugs, drinking, partying and doing mostly whatever we wanted including sleeping with lots of girls. Somehow, remembering the context of all those years ago gave me a little time to forgive myself for what now seemed like behavior that had become a joke in movies like American Pie where everyone is into Stiffler's mom. I laughed in the car and almost felt proud of the past.
Back home I've gotten back to feeling bad about the past - and I've still got the letter I never sent. I've thought about revising it to somehow move it in a direction that doesn't seem like a pathetic apology but subtly reminds the old friend that he, more than everyone else, was out of control back then and living wild and loose. I'm sure he made some really bad decisions but probably not in his eyes as bad as mine.
So, that's it - that's my confession. I've never shared it with anyone and I'm interested in hearing what people think both about the past and about what they suggest I should do now. Do I send the letter? Can I ever be forgiven by that guy and somehow regain any connection to the old friends who rallied around him?