In which we are introduced to our hero’s childhood friend, Micah.
In college Micah had date-raped a girl. It wasn’t intentional, he’d claimed, but someone had roofied the girl’s drink during a party. Micah met her shortly after and as they were kissing in some person’s bedroom the girl passed out. Micah had sex and then left her there naked on the bed.
When Micah confessed this to him it was years after the fact. They were walking home one night after a bender celebrating one of Micah’s promotions. It was a cold night, just after a blizzard, and there were piles of snow by the sidewalk. Extremely drunk, Micah stumbled into one of these piles and lay there. He tried to force Micah to get up, but, exhausted and a little drunk himself, he eventually just collapsed in the snow beside Micah. It was then that Micah confessed.
For a long while after that night Micah didn’t call him as he usually did around the first of the month. Two months went by with out a word. This silence, he’d thought, was indicative of the shame Micah felt for the confession. The implicit statement of the silence was that Micah was waiting for him to get in touch. If he didn’t call then that would be the end of their friendship. Either way what Micah had been saying was that it was his move.
After a lot of deliberation, he decided to call Micah. During the call, Micah played the whole thing off as though he’d just been very busy and had forgotten to call. They never talked about the confession. And after that it was too awkward to bring up again.
Every time he’d seen Micah since then he’d wondered whether he should have called. At the time, he thought it was a noble gesture, showing forgiveness and acceptance of his childhood friend. At the time, he felt that he couldn’t hate Micah for something he’d done a long time ago while young and drunk. Micah had changed since then: he’d had a meteoric rise in his company, married an heiress to a large fortune, had a baby; all things that pointed to the fact that Micah had grown out of his college personality. Was more mature and adult.
But as he went over that night again and again, he realized that there was another possible interpretation. Namely, that Micah hadn’t felt any guilt about the rape. As best as he could remember it, when Micah delivered his confession it was said without any signs of remorse or sadness, no sympathy for the girl or regret. What might have happened that night was that Micah had been confessing himself that night: showing who he was first time in their entire friendship.
Hearing, over the years, Micah’s stories of crushing other people at work or about all the women he cheats on Isoline with, he began to believe that this second possibility might have more truth to it, although, short of asking Micah (and getting an honest reply) there was no way to be sure. Frankly, and more problematically, there was no way to even be sure the confession had actually even happened. The more time that passed the more the texture of the whole confession felt more like dream than a memory. Still, something about it, whether it’d happened or not, and, if it had, whether there was or wasn’t remorse in the confession, gradually changed the way he felt about Micah.
Believing this, though, he couldn’t feel a moral superiority to Micah. Part of this was that he couldn’t really be sure it’d ever happened and the deeply rooted childhood belief that Micah was superior to him at everything, girls, grades, guitar, kept him from doubting the possibility that Micah could act so terribly. Another part of the reason, though, is that, if Micah did remorselessly rape the girl, he felt somewhat complicit in the rape. By calling Micah and by continuing his friendship with him without even a sober discussion about it, he had implicitly condoned Micah’s actions and accepted Micah’s lack of guilt for it. This made him feel responsible in some way, as though he were an accessory to the crime. As though, even without having acted, he shouldered all the guilt and responsibility for it.
The majority of the reason he couldn’t feel superior, though, is something that he only partly understands. That is, since childhood, Micah had felt less and less real to him. Now Micah was more like the leading character in a movie or TV show: someone who you can watch and judge, but whose actions ultimately don’t have any real weight to them. That is, Micah could do any horrible thing and his actions were always forgivable, or at least tolerable, because he didn’t exist in the same universe as him, the witness of those acts. And, paradoxically, no matter what he did, Micah would always be superior for the mere fact that Micah was always the one being watched and he was always the one watching.