It can be sad when a friendship ends. But when one person commits a crime in the process of ending the relationship, that transposes the situation into a betrayal.
For many years, my brother Eric was friends with a married couple named Steve and Rachel. Steve owned a local bagel store and Eric worked there as a “fish slicer.” His knife skills were so renowned that people would pre-order their nova with the stipulation that Eric carve it up.
Rachel drifted from job to job, vaguely satisfied as a mother to their young daughter, a homemaker, and an occasional day worker at her friends’ businesses during seasonal peaks.
Even after Eric took a position at a software company in Manhattan, he remained loyal to Steve. In exchange for slicing fish on Sunday mornings, Eric could buy things at a discount, for family events such as breaking fast after Yom Kippur or a Passover seder.
Eric had another friend accused of a horrific, publicized crime. Many of his peers were compelled by their parents to abandon the man. But Eric hosted him at our house (waving at undercover police who tracked his friend’s every movement). People whose families were impacted by the misdeeds descended on Steve’s store to demand that he fire Eric for “consorting” with an alleged felon. Steve kicked them out, declaring “His friendships have nothing to do with slicing fish.”
Steve and Rachel stood by Eric when his ex-boyfriend Jun regressed into drug addiction and stole medical prescription pads — a felony. They were there, as was I, when police arrested Jun and walked him out of the house in handcuffs. Rachel had to hold back Steve, who physically wanted to assault the guy. That anger should have set off a warning light, but I thought it was Steve simply acting as a concerned, protective friend.
When Jun went to prison, Eric let two coworkers stay in the spare bedrooms of his house in Queens. After Jun passed away, he became romantically involved with a man who lived in Connecticut. As the relationship blossomed, his partner asked my brother to move in with him.
In the meantime, Steve and Rachel’s daughter had grown and gone to college. Rachel decided to get a real estate license, allowing her to assist people in leasing, buying, and selling properties. She…