Tuesday, June 24, 2008


In beginning of The Good Apprentice by Iris Murdoch, Edward gives a friend a psychedelic drug hidden in a sandwich because he thinks his friend will enjoy the experience. He takes nothing so that he can watch out for his friend. After some time the friend is relaxed and smiling. Edward gets a call from a woman and leaves for an hour. When he comes back his friend has apparently walked out of the window. He is dead.

The rest of the book is Edward's search for redemption. He wants to be forgiven, to pay for what he has done, to make up for it somehow.

In the end, as I read the book anyway, he realizes that none of that is possible. He killed his friend. Wallowing in guilt is self-indulgent, forgetting what happened in unacceptable. All he can do is live the best life he can, knowing that he has done what he has done.

I told that story to a friend of mine after she asked what Gary had done. I told her that as a way of explaining why I wasn't answering her question. I told her that Gary like Edward had to find his own path to peace. He has recently learned, or re-learned, that you can't share a secret with just one or two people. People talk. If you tell three people you trust, a week later someone who has not met you you will know. Secrecy is probably still an option for Gary, as he does not know many people in Our Small Town High. He could go and not tell. It might work.

Or he could tell. Lord knows there are dozens of kids there who have done worse and done it more recently. Perhaps that is the better thing to do. It would mean no fear of being found out.

I cannot help him with this. I can provide him a safe place, where he is loved and accepted, where people are not afraid of him and he feels like he is genuinely being given a fresh start, but I cannot help him negotiate social reality.

Though it is very different, it sometimes feels very like parenting gay kids. I cannot tell someone else whether or to what degree they should be out. I have no advice to give on who to tell, whether to tell. I do not know what is required for his sanity. I want for him to have the new beginning that he can really only have if no one knows, but that might not be the right choice.

So often parenting teenagers is a practice in restraint, in not doing, not speaking, allowing them to figure it out on their own.


  1. Anonymous10:27 PM


    I found this post very moving.

  2. You're doing the right thing. It's Gary's story to tell. I obviously don't know the details, but I hope he gets to a point in his life when he can tell the story without shame. Whatever it was happened. My guess is there were mitigating factors and that Gary made a rash/angry/bad choice. But he hasn't continued to make rash/angry/bad choices and that's something to be proud of.


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