Friendship question...
July 30, 2012 3:28 PM   Subscribe

I lost a close friend a week ago. Help me understand why and if it's salvageable.

I've known "Joe" for 10 years. I met him at community service ordered by a judge as a punishment for crimes I committed. He is 10 years older than me. He's been in jail for 16 years and I haven't spent a day in jail. The thing is we were on the same wavelength with twisted minds and we easily entertain each other. I used to fix his and his mothers computer and she loved me. Joe even said he loved me, whenever we'd finish talking on the phone he'd finish with "love ya buddy". I used to see him every few weeks and we'd drink together (halves in a 1.2 liter bottle of bourbon).

I went to his house last week and I was wearing a jacket because I felt cold. When we were sitting on the couch he said "I want to tell you something so lift you're jacket up so I know if you've got a wire on you". I was really offended and angry by that and I refused to lift my jacket and I said "I've known you for 10 years, why would I want to screw you over..??". He thought I was bugged and he said well "Leave then!" and I got up and left. I was really emotional at how that turned out and I changed my number so he can't ring. I didn't want to see him again after that because he really believes I was bugged.

What would you do if you were me now?
posted by Bacillus to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If Joe was willing to ask you something like that, do you really think you would've wanted to hear what he had to tell you?
posted by Nomyte at 3:35 PM on July 30, 2012 [30 favorites]

Best answer: I'd look up the phrase "accessory after the fact" and keep on not being in touch.
posted by griphus at 3:36 PM on July 30, 2012 [48 favorites]

Best answer: Cut off contact with someone who is involved in illegal activity and obviously wanted to involve you. No good can come of that.
posted by IanMorr at 3:37 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You say he's done time and you haven't. Do you want to join him next time? If he's worried you're wearing a wire, it's because he wants to tell you something that the authorities would probably want to know about.
posted by xingcat at 3:37 PM on July 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I think that if I had spent 16 years in jail, I would probably have had my basic faith in other people -- and more importantly, my faith in my own judgement of other people -- pretty severely shaken up. He may very well have had people in his life that he loved who later turned around and betrayed his trust in them.

I completely understand why you were angry and offended by his implication that he might not be able to trust you, and if you were that angry it was probably best that you got out of there and had a chance to cool down. But I think, in this case, it might be good to put aside your own offense and try to see things from where he sits. I know that this feels personal, but it isn't. It has much more to do with him and his experiences than it has to do with you, and it would be kind of you to forgive him for it, particularly if his friendship is important to you.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:39 PM on July 30, 2012 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I would find some friends who weren't currently in crisis. If and when Joe gets back on track, presumably he has some way to contact you?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:43 PM on July 30, 2012

Previously you wrote Two years after high school, I got involved with the wrong people for the wrong reasons and ended up in jail...
Upon finishing the Drug Court I separated all ties with my previous mates


What would you do if you were me now?

I would avoid drama in any form.
posted by kmennie at 3:44 PM on July 30, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Joe's reaction was really immature - not so much in terms of thinking you might have a wire (I assume anything I say can be repeated) - but in the fact that he told you to leave simply because you didn't want to hear his confessing to something (which was even more irresponsible because it would make you an accessory). For example, he could have simply changed the subject to something that wouldn't require such secretive paranoia.

You may feel like you have a special emotional connection to Joe - and I'm not trivializing that - but the man's irrationality makes him a liability, and if you stay friends with him there's almost certainly going to be an associated cost that you should be prepared for.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:49 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You're offended because you think only a terrible friend would wear a wire.

But close friends and honorable people may wind up wearing wires too, if they get caught in a situation without good options. Listen, for example, to this radio segment.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:24 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would move on with my life and not look back.

It's too bad that Joe has trouble. Either he's doing something illegal or he's paranoid or something. However, his troubles are not your troubles. Your job is keeping your own self out of the pokey. Hopefully Joe gets his life in order, but until he does there's no reason to have any contact.
posted by 26.2 at 4:40 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hi. It's not only criminals who have concerns about informants. Activists, some types of political types, etc. So I'm speaking to this from a basis of experience.

For some people, and in some groups, you check on everyone. It doesn't mean Joe doesn't love you, it doesn't mean you're not close. Especially if Joe has done 16 years in jail, it may just be his habit to kind of casually check.

Wearing a jacket in the middle of summer is one of those things that's hugely suspicious. If I saw someone wearing a jacket right now, I'd assume they were concealing a gun. A mike would not be completely out of the picture, but it shows he's old school - people don't wear wires the way they used to, bugs are much more concealable now.

He wanted to tell you something, and he wanted to open up to you. You, in addition to uncharacteristically wearing a jacket, refused to lift your jacket - moving you from average suspicion to high suspicion.

Dude probably does still love you. If you want to redeem the friendship, it's totally salvageable. Unblock your number, call him up. Tell him, "I'm sorry I freaked out. I was really hurt that you would think I was working for the cops after all we've been through, but I understand why you were pissed too. If you want to talk, I'm here to listen." And I think you've got it.

That said, other posters have made some good points above as to why you might not want to resume the relationship. Jailbirds are imprinted with habits of their time, and it's not going to help you move in good directions for you to imprint on a father-figure of a jailbird who just hangs out with you and drinks with you all the time.
posted by corb at 5:01 PM on July 30, 2012 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Just throwing this out there, but sudden and irrational paranoia can also be a medical issue. Which is not to say you should immediately rush back in and get really involved - but if it was more a medical thing than a personality thing it sounds like it might change your interpretation of what happened.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:21 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: i'm not much of a criminal but i have a couple of friends who are. if one of them asked me to verify i wasn't wearing a wire, i would. also even if i didn't i would know the next time i saw them they would have forgotten about it. especially after a lot of drinking/drugs.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:49 PM on July 30, 2012

Best answer: It wouldn't bother me at all if someone asked if I was wearing a wire. But as soon as they asked (and I showed them), I'd tell them real quick to think twice about telling me anything that would put my ass on the line. And I'd tell them that if someone was about to get hurt or if someone had been murdered, I'd be taking it to the cops. Too big for me to handle!

But otherwise, corb is right. There are lots of reasons to worry about the authorities taping you. I have no idea how you search for bugs. If an old friend was worried about it, I'd show him I wasn't, and then, by god he'd owe me an apology and a beer! for even suspecting such a thing. That's about as far as my hurt feelings would go.

People betray friends for all sorts of reasons when they, their job, or their loved ones are threatened by the authorities.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:20 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Or, yeah, when their meds are all screwed up (or missing).
posted by small_ruminant at 8:21 PM on July 30, 2012

Best answer: It sounds like you both overreacted but, as others have said, if Joe is up to things that would be incriminating if overheard, the misunderstanding is a gift of sorts, and you should steer clear. It's not apparent if that is actually the case or there is some PTSD, paranoia, trust issues, or something else going on with Joe, but maybe this friendship has just reached its expiration date. Like any breakup, it sucks a whole lot, but it happens.

Also, while I can understand being mildly offended or miffed if someone who I was close to asked me to prove I wasn't wearing a wire, I think I just would have proved I wasn't wearing a wire, mention that I was offended by the implication, but understand that someone with a criminal past has probably been betrayed by all sorts of people, including those he loved and trusted. I don't know how helpful that is after the fact, but it might make you feel a bit better about what happened and you might want to examine why you reacted so strongly. No one likes having his or her integrity questioned, but as a one-off, I don't know that I would cut someone off, not to mention a decade-old friend, just because they had doubts or concerns about my trustworthiness, especially when I was exhibiting behavior that could easily be associated with informant shiftiness. Not that I'm encouraging you to make amends with Joe. It's possible this is all for the best, but it may be something you can learn from, too.
posted by katemcd at 8:47 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for the mixed responses people.
posted by Bacillus at 11:40 PM on July 30, 2012

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