I used to have a friend who I will call Chuck. I loved Chuck like a man might love a brother. In the prime of our love, I would have given the shirt off my back for Chuck. Because he was my brother and I loved him.
I met Chuck when I was living in squalor in the University District. He worked at the convenient store up the street and he was my neighbor in an apartment house.
When I decided to begin the long struggle of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and go to school at Seattle University, Chuck remained where I left him. I didn't speak to him for two years.
Then, a phone call out of the blue. He needed help.
He slept on my dorm room floor for a lengthy period. My love life suffered. Understandably so, my partner did not want to sleep over when I had a strange man sleeping under my bed.
Chuck was kind of like a pet. I could not make him a key to my dorm so I would have to be there to let him in at night. Often I would come home and he would still be there, waiting for me.
Once, I came home and I caught him attempting to enter in coitus with a friend of mine. At that point, I was tempted to get Chuck neutered and reduce his natural urge to breed.
At this point I start asking myself about the value Chuck brought to my dorm room. Chuck was an expensive pet. I paid with my wallet to keep my fridge stocked so we wouldn't starve. I paid with my sex life. I paid with the risk of being caught breaking the rules of my housing agreement. What did I get in return?
A friend of mine one congratulated me on being kind enough to help the homeless, one man at a time. Of course, this was the same friend who I later found grooming a cross class romance under my bed so her opinion of my generosity was a bit biased.
The irony of sacrificing my love life for the benefit of his is not beyond me.
If Chuck and I started an epic scale rock band of such artistic genius of MGMT proportions, the price to pay might have been diminished by the infinite rewards of the riches and fame that come from being MGMT.
If I was able to support Chuck on a journey of self fulfillment, I could justify the physical expenditures by the non-material benefits. If I could have helped Chuck perfect his resume and watch him get his first stable job. If our late night conversations about our true inner selves resulted in a life changing decision, to join the military or commit to a life of religious piety, I could justify my sacrifices.
My partner rather wisely suggested to me that I did this for Chuck out of guilt. She could not explain it to be, but with growth and hindsight I am able to see what she was trying to tell me.
When I struggled in the University District, my parents supported me in the same way that I later supported Chuck. They helped me pay the bills when day labour was not enough. They helped me pay for food so I would not starve and they waited patiently for the moment to come when I would decide to change and choose to engage.
Chuck was not lucky enough to have parents like mine so I felt guilty. And from this guilt, I was able to reap nothing but dependency.
Providing for Chuck with what little provisions I was able to acquire for myself was out of a shameful kinship based on an inability to own up to my own responsibility to myself to further my own destiny. My negligence to own my responsibility turned into an unjustified feeling of responsibility for my friend Chuck.
I do not want to say that I am not my brother's keeper but I am compelled to amend all notions of brotherly love with an explanation of personal growth and co-development rather than co-dependancy. Friendship can be a beautiful thing but without notions of friendly competition and challenging each other to grow, I am afraid to say that the bonds of love can just as easily turn destructive.