Part 2 — If this is friendship, let’s be enemies!

making amends

(Part 1 here)

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my friend, aka the debtor. Not a letter, an e-mail. He’d obviously read my letter and probably also received the unsigned legal document in the mail, with my comment at the bottom:

If this is friendship, let’s be enemies!

So, I guess he belatedly decided to explain himself. Here’s the e-mail:

Sarah,

Before saying anything I want to make sure you know I will never underestimate the value of what you have done for me. My purpose is to find a way to compensate you, which is exactly what you want, right?

However, as inconvenient as it may be, I have no choice but to handle this in the legal way. Back when I filed bankruptcy, it was a requirement to report all debts to the court. If it were discovered that any debt was not reported it could have legal ramifications. For example, if I were to make payments for an undeclared debt, other creditors would have the right to make claims against me too. And by not declaring everything I would have lost the trust of the court in protecting me against those claims.

Furthermore, if I were to make payments that were not acknowledged as voluntary for a discharged debt, it would be a violation; and, again, other creditors could claim to be made whole and have the right to seek payment in proportion to their own losses. If that happened you would not get very much and it would destroy me financially for the rest of my life.

This is contrary to the intent of the bankruptcy laws which are designed to protect the debtor from undue hardship (debt relief) and the stress of attempts to collect (discharge injunction) in getting life financially back on track.

The following is an absolute: any restitution must be acknowledged as voluntary. I cannot pay you back unless you acknowledge or it becomes a violation and can have serious legal ramifications.

At this point I don’t know what else to do. Again, I’m trying to find a way to pay you and trying to get your cooperation.

If I don’t get the letter back, then this summer I plan to open a separate savings account to set money aside and increase it over time as my situation improves. I plan to make you the beneficiary of that account in the event of my death.

The debt was already discharged so while I feel a personal obligation I do not have a legal obligation. Acknowledgement on your part doesn’t change the status of my legal obligation but does set conditions allowing me to pay you.

You’re not out of luck as you said in your letter and you didn’t trust the wrong person. I’m trying to pay you!

So, what did I feel when I read that e-mail? First thing? “Oh DANG, he’s not a total asshole after all, so I can’t just WRITE HIM OFF.” Second thing? “Oh DANG, I smeared him all over Medium and now I’m going to have to make amends.” Third thing? “Oh good, maybe I’m going to get my money back.”

I am still mad. I mean, why did he send me the messages in the order he did? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to send the explanation before all that legal stuff? As my sister said, “Didn’t he know how this was going to sound???”

I don’t even want to ask what he was thinking. Maybe he thinks I am as anal as he is and that I stay aware of all the possible ramifications of everything, including the rules governing creditors and debtors after a bankruptcy. Maybe he was mad and wanted to prevent me from ever mentioning the money again. I don’t care why he did it this way, stupid as it was. I’m going to sign the freaking form and send it back. Yes, I do want to be compensated, he got that part right.

I think he actually will pay me, and if he doesn’t, I have no recourse anyway, so what the heck? Were you moved by his plan for what he’d do if I didn’t sign the form — the separate savings account, with me as the beneficiary at his death?

I was. Even if he wouldn’t really have done that, I thought it meant that in his own heart he does not want to be a deadbeat.

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