Monday, April 03, 2006

I Had A Friend...

...who I trusted deeply, who I literally spent much of my young adult days growing up around. Someone who was so fundamentally different from who I was, yet with enough mutual respect that these differences turned out to be some of the strongest bonds I had ever forged with another human being.

I use the past tense because I no longer consider this person a friend.

This friend came upon hard times. He had to take a break from his education because he could not pay his school fees. His father approached me, asking me to help him out. I did.

One loan became two, two became four, and four became many more. I've lost count of the number of times his father approached me for money, all the time promising that he would have it returned before I got married.

Then my wedding came, and the money wasn't returned.

My friend's father spoke to me, told me what a hard time my friend and his family were going through. He told me that if one, just one, of his ideas would work out, he would have enough to pay me many times over. When I put my foot down on not extending any more loans, the requests changed. Ideas. Questions. Advice. Anything my mind could lend itself to his cause.

One request became two, two became for, and four became many more. I've lost count of the number of times his father approached me for advice, all the time promising me that he would have my money returned to me soon.

Then came time for me to leave for the States. I'd long since given up on seeing any of the money. For an experienced businessman my friend's father displayed a shocking naivete about the way business works now. As I sighed at yet another heavy-handed, over-reaching, money-making scheme, I made my preparations to leave.

Before I left, I asked for help, contacts, anyone my friend and his father could put me in touch with. They did, and gladly. They promised me that I would have a warm welcome there, in the States. They promised that I would get the help I needed to get settled in.

I went to the States. I waited. I tried to get in touch with this contact. No response. Not a peep. I waited some more. Finally, I got on with my life, disappointed, but far from beaten.

And then came the request for help again. More questions. More thinking. More advice. By this time, I had been in the States for so long that whatever help he could give in helping me settle in was long overdue, and probably not needed.

It was during this time I found out my friend had been borrowing money off another mutual friend of ours. My friend lent him the money he had been saving for his honeymoon. When came time to repay, he couldn't. Except, this time, it wasn't for his school fees.

It was for an Apple Powerbook. When I found out, I recall staring bitterly at my 100-page, looseleaf notepad, which I had relied on to take my notes for the longest time in the States, because I couldn't afford a laptop with the little money I brought along.

I sent him a short, terse reply about exactly what I thought of his actions. I should have told him exactly where to shove that Apple Powerbook. I haven't spoken to him since.

I found out a short time back that he still wonders if our friendship would recover if I had time away. Perhaps he doesn't understand me well enough after all those years - my trust, once betrayed, is almost impossible to regain. Making restitution would only be the beginning, not an end in itself. Perhaps if he doesn't understand why I am so deeply disappointed with him and his family, then maybe, just maybe, I was the fool. I will not be fooled twice.

Why do I write about this now?

Because I looked at my account yesterday, and the money I lent him was the approximate amount I needed to remain here in the States.


And because no good deed deserves to be unpunished, let me now say....

...this might as well have been my story about Singapore.


A.Ball.of.Yarn said...

very poignant story...

i hope that in this lifetime, you wouldn't have to deal with another 'friend' in the ways you've described again.

Anthony said...


Apart from the broken promises and the monetary loss, I don't regret one bit of our friendship before it went south. Not one bit.

That, of course, may mean that I'm exactly the kind of sucker that gets taken advantage of.

kein said...

Trust and friendship can only be stretched so far before it breaks, isn't it?

Not about being a sucker IMO, you've done far more than what a friend should've done. Protect yourself next time : )

Frederic, Marshal of the East said...

Wah lau eh... if I had known, I give you interest-free loan anytime. I only lending money I can live without, which surprisingly, isn't as much as you might thinking. And if it disappears, that's life, wat!

Anthony said...


Sadly, trust is the one thing that I cannot bring myself to do, hence, the end of the friendship and some consequent regret.


Much appreciated thought, and I'll take it in the spirit in which it is given.

bostongradstudent said...

Hey there,

I'm so terribly sorry to read about this (but also really happy that you got in touch!).

You know, the really difficult thing to do, after all this, is to remain the same generous and loving person you were when you made those loans. After all, it wouldn't be right to inflict this person on the next friend, who might genuinely be needy. Of course, you could be wiser about it, like check why he/she needs the money. But otherwise, the bad deeds just ricochet around.

Anthony said...

Holly Q,

Well, it's not like I didn't know why he needed the money. And sadly enough, even if I am still inclined to, I'm in a position to, thanks to the financial damage done.

I'll take what you said to heart though. And I'm glad you dropped by.

frederic, marshal of the east said...

You can always counting on me until estate no steam lah. Passive financial control reap big reward one. Leaving alone make big tree at local branch you know. Haha!

-ben said...

The father of one of my ex-housemates once said never to ever lend money to your friends--once you do, you take on their problems.

I used to think that was incredibly callous, but now I realise it is sound advice.

Take care, Anthony.

Anthony said...




Your dad is a wise man.

alchemist said...

we make money/like bees make honey/this is funny/as long as sunny

Zachary Drake said...

Ouch. What an awful story. I'm sorry your generosity was used in this way.

There are many admonitions against lending in the Western Canon. One from Shakespeare comes to mind:

Polonius to Laertes (Hamlet I.iii):
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend

Sounds like the Bard hit home, as he often does. How sad that people can be like this.

gecko said...

based on what you described, this 'friend' does not deserve to be called one.

i can relate because i've had my fair share of 'friends' borrowing money from me, only to give excuses when i am the one in need.

if we want to lend money at all, we must be prepared for it never to come back. we can only hope we're attuned enough to the warning signs before we lend at all.

brendywendy said...

that is so sad.

i did not know that we were so alike in that aspect.

bri says it's bad for me to be that way. u know? the point of no return mentality i have.

oh well. if every1 was as wonderful and patient as bri i doubt we'd have had 2 world wars.

israphale said...

oh no! that's a horrible story. Has your friemd never heard of a bank loan? If if he was such a bad credit risk maybe it should have sounded lots of warning bells... I guess it's a good lesson for us to learn where to draw the lines on friendship.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you rock, but...

There are friends who do wake up from digging further into their hole, and there are friends who don't.

But I do agree it seems better to let people learn lessons the hard way.

Anonymous said...

you are a lawyer aren't you?

unfortunately you only became a lawyer after you lent him money.

this explains why now that you have a law degree, you will not lend him any more money .... law makes you a wiser man.

There is a Chinese proverb which I will remember for life:

ren(2) bu(4) wei(4)
zi(3) tian(1) zhu(4) di(4) mie(4)

a friend that I had known for more than a decade approached me for money not much, but I said I had no money.

Sounds hard hearted? Some of my relatives always borrowed money the same way like your friend, and guess what, as usual they never returned a cent and there were days we had no money to even buy fruits while one of them used the money fucking prostitutes and the other pursued his dream of riches building business in the air!

Every one should learn to earn every cent that they wish to spend. Otherwise, they should just go eat bananas!

If at all, every cent should go into helping the sick and the paralysed.

As for the born debtors, and those who borrow, never try to lend, just give or don't give.

I learnt that lending them money is like spoiling a kid who loves to steal.

Anyway, this is something I believe you already know.

But in life you have to go through all types of experience to become wiser .... so this is not to rub it in, just sharing.

That friend is a real lousy bastard and has accumulated a lot of negative Karma points!


you are a sweet guy!