In response to a young student

Hello, I saw your Engineering notes and I am thoroughly fascinated. Woah man, those problems involving porosity in rocks seem so alien and complicated. Are you a genius? How does one even understand and pursue this field? It appears to be very rigorous and math intensive. As a young student, do you have any advice for me sir? What discipline do I choose sir? Also, we are both (redacted) I noticed! Fascinating.

(message dated Sunday, August 10, 2014)

I’m really glad that you wrote, and I hope that you won’t feel offended if I post your letter in a more public forum. I desire to share my thoughts more broadly, so please understand my decision in responding to you here. Additionally, I thank you for your patience in awaiting my response: I am probably the biggest wash-up out of all the petroleum engineering graduates that I know of (the only one in my graduating class to not land a full-time position in my field of study!), but that doesn’t excuse me from writing a half-hearted letter.

I am no genius, though I have always been a strong test taker. This ability to gloss through materials and to quickly commit the necessary parts to memory has served me well, though it has gained me unwanted attention in the past. There is an incident that stands out in particular.

During my time at the International School of Kuala Lumpur, I dedicated two years to the pursuit of the International Baccalaureate. This course of study requires initiates to select three courses to take at a standard level, and three at a higher level. I won’t bore you with the details, though you may read up about the IB Diploma on Wikipedia if you wish. I had not decided on a particular career for myself, but I knew that I was drawn towards the sciences. I took both Physics and Chemistry at the higher level.

There were two sections of IB Higher Level Physics: I was enrolled in a section of IBHL Physics with some friends who’d taken on a couple of new students into their group. One of the new students was in the other section of IBHL Physics, and he managed to sneak out a copy of a pop quiz to be held later in the day. I happened to find them circulating this quiz amongst themselves during the lunch hour, and I was miffed that they hadn’t included me. Before our section of Physics started, I went to class before anyone else, where I approached the teacher and let him know that some members of the class had prior knowledge of the quiz.

The teacher took this in stride and changed the quiz question for our section, announcing this on the whiteboard. The modification tripped up the would-be cheaters. Confounded by the change, they were subsequently caught because their answers didn’t reflect the new circumstances.

Afterwards, my friend approached me and confronted me for turning him and his comrades in. He and I took an introductory Chemistry class together in the previous year, and I used to help him study. He accused me of telling on them. I told him that I hadn’t given the teacher any information on who had gotten advance knowledge of the pop quiz, but he didn’t believe me. When asked why they’d tried to cheat, he said, “You study for just a few minutes, and you are able to get 100% on the tests. Some of us have to spend hours, and we don’t get the same result.”

After this incident, I was further alienated from their group. They felt that I wasn’t trustworthy. Worse yet, they had me pinned for a rat.

What can you learn from this situation as a potential student of the hard sciences?

Any problems that appear alien to you now can be understood through careful study. There is no way around this. The good news is this: the more experience that you have dealing with problems, the sharper your intuition come the end result. Developing your intuition is essential, because it can alert you to problems that you made along the way to the solution. This is also why it is of paramount importance to show every step that you take towards a possible solution.

Any engineering discipline will require a solid grasp of mathematics, but don’t be deterred by this alone. I was never a strong mathematician, as evidenced by the great difficulty that I faced in IBHL Math and in my college Calculus III class. Yet I was able to complete the bulk of my undergraduate petroleum engineering courses without a problem.

The truth is that most engineering problems (at least in school) do not hinge upon a very strong understanding of mathematics. You can see it in the formulae used to arrive at the solutions that you see in the vast majority of my petroleum engineering notes. Very rarely did we have to rely on our knowledge of calculus to present a test solution. Oftentimes, a strong grasp of algebra was sufficient. The calculus and differential equations came into play as we copied down derivations from the professor’s notes.

The situation is very different if one attempts to pursue an advanced degree. I had the opportunity to audit Dr. Ovadia Shoham’s Two Phase Flow Modeling course during my junior year of college. The mastery of mathematics required there was on an entirely different plane from that needed in my regularly scheduled classes.

To answer your questions on how one chooses petroleum engineering and how you can best go about choosing your discipline of study, I provide a brief introduction to my personal choice, and thoughts on how to narrow the field. Petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa felt like a natural fit for me because:

  1. I was born in Tulsa
  2. My father had made a successful career for himself as a graduate of the University of Tulsa

When I finished high school, I had two attractive college options. I could commit to either the Electrical Engineering program at the University of Texas at Austin or the Petroleum Engineering program at the University of Tulsa. I reasoned that the field of electrical engineering, being closely linked to computers, might evolve too quickly. Both of my father’s brothers hold Bachelor’s of Science in electrical engineering, and I balked at the large number of computer texts that my xiao shushu (“little uncle”) maintained on his bookshelf. It seemed that the rapid pace at which computers evolved would necessitate more study than I cared to sign up for at the age of 18.

My little uncle’s career had taken some twists and turns throughout the time that I’d cared to know about it. My big uncle went back to school to earn his MBA, and he pivoted out of engineering altogether. By comparison, my father’s career was luminous. I knew from the time that I was five that being a petroleum engineer could translate into international assignments in the world’s major metropolitan centers.

Finally, I decided that I would go back to Tulsa on merit of the fact that I had a history with that city. I was born there, left at the age of two, and had only gone back on a couple of occasions. It felt like the right thing to do: a true homecoming, and an opportunity to forge my own path as a world citizen upon graduation. It helped that the University of Tulsa was offering me substantial scholarships to study there, and that they waived enough credit hours for me to earn my degree in three and a half years. Furthermore, petroleum engineering ranks amongst the best undergraduate degrees for return on tuition and time invested. Few other fields, outside of computer science, will see young graduates entering the working world to salaries of $80K USD.

I recognize that my situation may have been more loaded than the one that you will face, so consider these fundamental questions:

  1. What do you like to do?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What will people pay you to do?

(Borrowed loosely from Alan Watts, amongst others)

All three are important, though the last one is a controversial one. Money should not be your prime motivation for pursuing anything: it is an unstable foundation upon which to build a career. The truth is that one needs very little money in order to enjoy a good life. It is of far greater importance to focus on building a system that will have you waking up, eager to approach each new day. That being said, even the best budget can’t correct for insufficient income.

In my studies at the University of Tulsa, I quickly found that I was a minority. Few of my peers had any tangential link to the oil and gas industry. I learned that most of the international students who were there on scholarship were given these opportunities because they had excelled in their studies. The oil and gas industry is important to every nation on this planet, so national oil companies pick from the brightest scholars to sponsor. I held great respect for those who were lending their minds to the development of their home countries.

Untold scores of young people will choose a field like petroleum engineering because it offers the potential to make bank. Can you imagine how grueling it is to go to class when this is your prime motivation?

My background and desire to apply myself in the engineering discipline helped ease my tortuous journey through my college years. When asked by recruiters why I had chosen to pursue petroleum engineering, I sometimes leaned too heavily on the extrinsic benefits of being a petroleum engineering that I mentioned earlier: the generous salary and opportunities to work across the globe. At my most honest, I would tell them that I wanted to work on major projects that would impact many scores of people. Why be a doctor and touch the lives of a few when you can work as a petroleum engineer and power every aspect of modern industry?

I believe that the best engineers are the ones who really want to contribute in a meaningful way to the world. I wanted to work with the best and brightest minds and to see the fruits of my labor stand the test of time. It would never be enough to leave behind a pretty headstone as my only lasting legacy. I wanted my work to power cities, to literally grease the machinery of global commerce.

Don’t choose something unless you can really, truly grok it.

There are two things that I want to leave you with, if nothing else. The first is a favorite saying of Dr. Frank S. Manning, a long-time professor at the University of Tulsa (50+ years!), who taught Thermodynamics to both me and my mother:

Anyone can be an engineer. You just have to know how to read.

Secondly, believe in yourself and in your ability to do good in the world. You must commit yourself to success in your chosen field of study. I risk sounding trite here: it will not be easy, but you can truly accomplish anything that you set your mind upon.

Alex Zheng

Minor edits made post-publication, courtesy of the learned Justin Zheng

To Dr. Sorochty

Dear Dr. Sorochty,

I am writing this letter to follow up with my appeal sent to you on August 9 regarding the decision made by the Office of Student Affairs in their letter dated August 2 in the case involving the student complaint filed by Ying Li.

The Office of Student Affairs has misruled in this case, imposing punishment on me when it is Ying Li who is a danger to others at the University. You will understand that Ying Li has not suffered any real negative consequences through this ordeal, and that she desires to see me receive undue punishment through her abuse of procedures ordinarily reserved for true threats. I am on the receiving end of insult upon insult, forced into a position where I must defend my good name until Ying Li is brought to proper justice.

The ruling followed a long and twisted hearing that no one could reasonably have followed. This hearing took place on July 28, almost a week after the Tulsa District Court dismissed Ying Li’s petition for Protective Order. At the University hearing, Ying Li raised allegations that I had sexually assaulted her, claiming that she was held down against her will. She presented evidence from the hospital claiming that she had been the victim of sexual assault, though in her court filing she made it clear that we had engaged in consensual sex. If she had truly been the victim of sexual assault, why wouldn’t she have made this claim to the Tulsa Police and to the Court?

Ying Li has a vengeful attitude – she surprised me by declaring to Dean Taylor in the Office of Student Affairs that she would have me dismissed from the University, and I humbly submitted that all I wanted was the gifts I had given her returned to me. The time I have spent to help Ying Li since her coming to Tulsa should not be reasonably repaid by these drastic measures. Among the gifts that I want returned are a diamond pendant and a handbag, both given out of love. Had we parted under more reasonable terms, I would not have raised complaint, but her course of action has been hurtful beyond measure, and it is not right that these objects of my affection remain with her.

Ying Li has received no harassment from me. The text messaging incident of July 3 was one that was settled between the two of us that very evening, long before the complaint was raised at the University level. It was decided between us that I would be responsible for the costs associated with the text messages, $26 of additional service charges, this being the only negative consequence that Ying Li has realized thus far. When I sent the text messages, there was no thought of foul intention; the only desire of mine was to get in contact with her so I might understand why she had suddenly distanced herself from me though we had been intimate that afternoon.

Ying Li has abused procedures for emergency relief before, and it is clear that she will not hesitate to do so again. I have had much difficulty in understanding her reasons behind going to the police, then her raising complaint with the University. To me, these actions represented those of an unhappy woman who felt that she had been in some way wronged. When we broke up she suddenly found herself back where she had started from, though slightly more experienced and arguably in a better place. The one offense she suffered was that she no longer held a place in my heart, and it is for this reason that she sought to seek redress. Still, it makes no sense that she would immediately call for help from a higher power to judge our conflict instead of settling the ordeal directly with me. By filing for Protective Order again, she is only signaling her unwillingness to allow this conflict to go to rest.

Dr. Sorochty, it is important that I complete my final semester at TU and move on past these events, and I am fully prepared to defend myself in court this second time should I have to. However, I am concerned that Ying Li will continue to abuse the procedures set in place unless she realizes that such actions can and will have negative consequences towards her. As a rational being, she should understand that conflicts between individuals over private matters ought to be resolved between individuals, and that a higher authority exists to help only when all viable options have been considered. To this end, I request that the University advise Ying Li to immediately withdraw the pending court case, otherwise I will have no choice but to seek compensation for the lost time, work, and damage to my reputation that she has caused me during the court hearing.

I end with a plea for help from the University as this case continues. My request is twofold: first, I feel it is fair that Ying Li be asked to apologize in person for the trouble she has caused me; and secondly, that the University advise her that our conflict is over, and that further action on her part could lead to my filing of a counter-suit that will result in negative consequences to her.

You will find attached a document that gives a timeline of events relevant to this case. Please consider it in your decision.

Faithfully yours,

Alex Zheng

Event Log

(the following log of events accompanied my message to Dr. Sorochty)

Event Log

The text messages of July 3rd (…) were sent without ill intention, designed only to get Ying Li’s attention.  She had distanced herself unexpectedly even though we had been intimate on the afternoon of the 3rd, ignoring my calls and not providing details of her whereabouts.  That afternoon she invited me to attend a party with her, an offer that I declined because I had already made plans.  I called her that evening and her attitude had changed.  I sent the messages because I was concerned about her and wanted to know what had happened to make her suddenly distant.  We settled the issue that evening when she called me late at night, 11:45PM.

We decided that I would be held responsible for those service charges, and this behind us now, she called me on the morning of the 4th.  That afternoon after I returned from church, Ying Li willingly accepted my invitation to visit with me in my apartment.  We discussed the events of the past day and engaged in consensual sex; I ended our final sexual encounter by doing something I had never done before – ejaculating on her face.  Immediately afterwards, she became strangely detached, and she shut down to any attempt of mine to ask how she was doing.  She walked out of my apartment without a word, then proceeded back home, where she called for Tulsa Police and went to the hospital for a sexual assault screening.  The results of the screening, I learned at the time of the University hearing, were positive, without a doubt because of consensual sex.

Following two days of no word from Ying Li, she called me at 3AM on July 6.  She was mostly quiet, and I used the opportunity to apologize again for my actions that prompted her to leave my apartment without a word on the afternoon of July 4.  I also shared that I knew about her going to the police and to the hospital.  I asked her why she would do such a thing, being as she knew there was never a threat of physical harm from me, and she was not forthcoming with an answer.  We spoke for some thirty minutes, and that day she went to the Tulsa District Court to file for Protective Order.

I was served with court papers at my workplace on July 7.  The deputy from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office called me and arranged to meet with me outside.  I took the papers, and asked questions to understand what were the implications behind the court filing.

On the afternoon of July 13, I was studying in my apartment following the conclusion of class, and there came an urgent knocking on my door.  I opened the door to find a Tulsa Police Department officer accompanied by three or four TU Security personnel.  Also present was a woman who identified herself as being associated with TU Housing.  They requested to come into my apartment, saying that they had been sent by TU Security Dispatch under the impression that I was suicidal and a danger to myself.  The TPD officer ascertained that I was not in a state of distress, and I informed those present that I did not own any weapons.  I did make known the pending court case when they mentioned Ying Li was responsible for their coming.

On the morning of July 14, I received a message from Dean Taylor stating that Ying Li had filed a student complaint against me, claiming harassment and sexual assault.  I called the Dean’s office to schedule a meeting for that afternoon, to take place after class.  During the meeting I was able to present my testimony.  I gave a complete account of events that had taken place in Houston leading up to my return to Tulsa, and a record of events taking place in Tulsa.  I was told that the Office of Student Affairs would take some time to determine whether a hearing was appropriate and returned to my apartment.

I had just returned when another urgent knock came on my door.  I opened the door to find five TU Security officers followed by a TPD officer.  The officers informed me that they were coming to search my apartment for weapons.  I invited them in and waited in the living room as they conducted a sweep of my room and the rest of the apartment.  Finding nothing, they further requested to search my vehicle.  I again consented, even though I believe they had no legal grounds to make that search.  The officers found nothing and left.

I took the day off work on July 19th, the day of our court hearing.  As I walked into the courtroom I did not see Ying Li.  As our case was called from the docket, I became aware that not only was Ying Li there, she had also brought along four others who now sat surrounding her on the bench.  Among them were two TU students, one a mutual friend of ours who had visited with me just over the weekend.  Ying Li continued her petition for Protective Order and I announced my intention to defend myself against it.  The judge took her testimony first – she made known many private facts that went far beyond the claim of harassment that she had originally noted.  I was surprised but came prepared, and defended myself to the best of my ability.  Ying Li took the opportunity to invite our mutual friend to serve as a witness for her.  The judge dismissed our case seeing that I was not a threat to Ying Li’s safety, and that there were no grounds for a Protective Order.  He asked that we go back to the University, finish our studies, and leave each other alone.

That afternoon a mutual friend called me.  He informed me that Ying Li was not satisfied with the outcome of the court case.  She was upset by the judge’s ruling and wanted immediately to pursue the case.  He had advised her against doing so because it was likely that the case would be thrown out again.

I wrote to Dean Taylor following Judge Hogshead’s dismissal of Ying Li’s case, but she wrote back saying that the University would continue its hearing in spite of the outcome at the District Court.

On July 21st, I went to Ying Li’s office and knocked on the closed door.  One of her officemates answered, and he let up after I informed him that the judge had dismissed Ying Li’s court case.  I spoke with Ying through the open door and implored that we go somewhere to settle matters between us now that the court case was over.  When she refused, I asked that she kindly drop the investigation on the University level so that we could go back to our regular lives, and I also requested she return to me the gifts I had given her.  She reacted very negatively, yelling that I had slept with another girl and that I was not to speak with her, and then said that she would call TU Security.  At least two other students were present in her office.  One of them, acknowledging the scene, asked that I leave because Ying did not want to speak with me.

I left after that and bumped into TU Security later after they had finished taking a report from Ying Li.  One of the officers kindly suggested that I write back the belongings that I wanted returned, and that he would give the list over to the Office of Student Affairs.  I wrote down that I wanted the return of a portable hard drive that Ying Li had left my apartment with.  I hesitated to ask for the return of the gifts then.

On July 26th, I tried again to speak with Ying Li.  I approached her and asked again that we go somewhere where we could discuss matters.  She again refused and locked herself in her office.  I left a note with the department secretary and asked that she deliver it to Ying Li.  In the note I pleaded for Ying Li to call for an end to the University level investigation, if she had ever cared for me.  Ying Li took that note to Dean Taylor to use as evidence against me.

July 28th marked the date of the University hearing.  Dean Taylor and Dean Mills were both present.  Ying Li claimed that I had harassed and sexually assaulted her.  I defended myself again.  When asked what we hoped the outcome of the investigation would be, Ying Li stated she would have me dismissed from the University.  I asked for the gifts I had given Ying Li back.  There was some discussion about those gifts, but Dean Taylor made the decision that they were not to be returned after talk wore on.  Ying Li expressed that there was no emotional value for her in these objects.  Dean Taylor stated that Ying Li and I were not to have any contact with one another.  I left after the hearing and did not make contact with Ying Li again.

I had just returned back to Tulsa on August 2nd, and was in the airport when I received a call from an unknown number.  I answered my phone to find Ying Li on the other end.  She said that she was not my ‘opponent’ and said that there was still much she could do to destroy me if she wanted to.  She asked me if I hated her.  I responded that I did not feel anything towards her, and that I did not want to speak with her.  Ying Li seemed like she had more she wanted to say, but I told her that she was better off writing to me, I did not want to speak with her then.  She hung up.

I received a call from my roommate on the evening of August 3rd informing me that there was a police officer at my apartment requesting to see me.  I met with the officer, who handed me the court papers.  I asked no questions this time and drove back home.  Ying Li had filed for a second Protective Order, the court date which was set for August 17th would mean I would be out of the country.  My failure to appear would automatically grant her a Permanent Protective Order, that very thing I had fought against so hard from the beginning.  I immediately informed my parents – my father wrote an email to Dean Taylor.

My grievances with Ying Li go back further, however.  There were very public incidents that occurred at TU that made me question our being together.  She once made a scene when I waved at a girl I knew from church the night of the Chinese New Year festival at TU.  When I left for Houston, she wanted to come with me, but I told her this was not possible as I had to concentrate on work.  She made a fuss of wanting to visit, and I eventually consented.  In the weeks that I had been away from Tulsa, she had called me so many times to express that she wanted to be with me in Houston, I had long grown tired of reassuring her that all was well even during the work day.

Infernal Affair

Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2010 01:04:13 -0500

Ma and Ba,

I do not want to alarm you. I understand that the tone of my last message may have made it out to be that I was very depressed, but I can assure you that I am past this phase. Please allow me to recount as best I can the events that unfurled over the weekend leading me to where I am now.

The scene is set following our late family conversation time on Saturday evening. After you guys left Alice, Justin, and I to talk, my old friend [DC] tried to call me, and I requested that he send me a message instead. He said that he was in Sugar Land with his girlfriend, that he would like very much to hang out, and I thought it best to give him some of my time as I hadn’t seen him since last year. So I told him that I was okay with his coming to visit me and [V] at my hotel. He said that he would come by and mentioned that he would bring some beers of my choice. When he did arrive, I went to the front of the hotel to usher him and his girlfriend, Sarah, in.

After [V] had spoken to you guys on Skype, she told me that she was leaving the room to walk outside. At the time that [DC] and Sarah came over to my hotel, [V] had not yet returned from her walk, and the two of them were puzzled by her absence. They chided me for letting her go out alone so late at night, telling me that it was unsafe around here, especially in the night. I agreed, and told them that I had tried to call her phone, which was off. I later learned that [V] had walked over to Jamba Juice, just round the corner on Westheimer. I had taken her there earlier during the day, the two of us walking hand in hand in the afternoon air before we went swimming at the Sheraton hotel’s pool.

[DC], Sarah, and I left my room to go to the side of the hotel, where we stood and chatted a while before heading back in. When we returned to my door, I found that it was locked from the inside, and that [V] had returned in our absence. She opened the door and at first did not recognize [DC], so she sought to introduce herself again, much to my amusement. We all three entered the room and sat down.

[DC] and Sarah again launched into their discussion about the dangers of walking outside alone at night, and [V] agreed to what they had to say. She didn’t know any better and we left it at that. Then [V] began to recount some of the things that had occurred over the past day – that situation involving my taking her with me to go pick up my friend [IG], who I went to school with at ISKL, and asked their opinion on this. And then she brought up my taking pictures for [LL], something that [V] had found it very difficult to settle in her mind. I for the most part remained silent while the three of them (mostly [DC] and [V]) discussed..

I felt it growing late, what with the passing of beers as I tried to keep up with [DC]. As it grew closer to midnight, Sarah grew tired and began to nap, and what had begun as a discussion amongst friends developed into a therapy session with [DC] serving to mediate or rather to control the play. He walked outside with me a number of times, and we talked about the events that had transpired between [LL] and I, and whether there was anything that I was hiding from [V]. [V], of course, had been very upset over the pictures that I had taken, and she had thought it possible that I had been conducting an affair behind her back. This I had settled with her before her arrival in Houston. I had told her that nothing had occurred between [LL] and I, which was true at the time I said it.

So what with all of this? From the onset of the questioning I knew that I was hiding something, and that I probably did owe it to [V] to let her know the truth. Sarah left at some point, leaving [DC] on my hands to take care of, to drive back to Sugar Land at some point or other in the night. He had me leave the room a couple of times while he talked with [V]. Now there is an important detail that I am leaving out, that is where I tell [DC] that yes, I have done something terribly wrong, and that yes, I think that [V] should know. He takes it upon himself to tell [V] this, and I agree that it is the truth.

She is upset. I am in the room now, and this is where it gets interesting. All of [DC]’s rehabilitation and therapy had left him with a model of how discussions ought to be, and he told [V] that it was her decision whether to forgive me or not, and whether she wanted to remain with me or not. She said then that this news was something too big for her to accept, and with that our relationship came to a close in her mind. What follows is the most distasteful part of the night for me. It has grown very late, and this time [DC] has been touching [V] in ways that I would not deem appropriate, that I should have stopped had I been in the right mind to do so, and that I am angry with myself for failing to prevent. See, I had given him so much control, granted it to him, so he caressed her feet and inched closer to [V].

We had made some sort of twisted agreement during one of our short talks outside, and now the plan was in motion, and as I sat on a chair in my room, [DC] asked me if he could kiss [V], and I told him yes, and that was all. She initially refused him, and I moved to the bed where I lay down and pretended to fall asleep. I don’t know if what I was thinking was right, and I lay there thinking that this would serve as the greatest test to [V]’s loyalty to me.

She failed my test, reciprocating to [DC]’s kisses, and I witnessed things through my stealthily closed eyes that I felt were intolerable, heard noises of content from her that made me sick to my stomach. I felt my heart grow cold, but for some time I told myself to lay still, yet I couldn’t stand to allow things to go any further than they had already gone. Just as the worst was about to happen, I bolted upright from the bed, and opened the drawer of my nightstand to retrieve a wicked pocketknife given to me by a friend in Tulsa, something that I knew was there in the event that I would need it. On my clumsy feet now, I opened the blade and grabbed [DC], pulling the knife towards his neck while [V] moved forward to stop my hand.

I cut her, cut [DC], both ever so slightly. It was not my desire to cause anyone else greater pain than I had caused myself for allowing these events to unfold, and I grew so consumed by my rage. I, sick to my stomach, went to the wall in my room and pounded the blade into it a number of times. The first time it went clean through, the second perhaps it began to glance off, and on the third thrust the knife, which was not locked, came down and sliced into my own hand. Somewhere before this took place I had succeeded in breaking the pane of glass separating my room from the outside parking lot, and it had come crashing down in so many broken fragments. My hand pounding, blood dripping freely from the wound, I picked up a chair and threw it towards the already broken window, and it clattered to the floor.

We were all still for a moment. I examined my bleeding hand and saw the blood, the open wound. The tip of the knife was twisted now and I discarded it in the trash can. Still angry, I went to the kitchen drawer and extracted my large chef’s knife, and plunged it several times into the mattress of the bed. I hated so much that I had allowed these things to happen, all of it a result of my own infidelity.

We went outside all three of us together and climbed into my car. I had wrapped my hand with a towel from the bathroom so as to slow the bleeding and we drove towards the Memorial Hermann emergency room. I was again for the most part silent, [V] as well, and [DC] spoke, asking if I knew how close I had come to killing him. Later he would remind me that I had told him it was okay to do what he did. In fact he told this many times, and I regretted it deeply because none of this would have happened had I told him simply “No”, that he was not to even touch [V], but instead I allowed this situation to play out and to escalate to the point where I felt like death itself.

By the time I got out of the emergency room, wound fixed with two stitches, I had calmed down slightly and so I drove us to Sugar Land, where we ate breakfast at Denny’s and then I sent [DC] home and wished him well and ignored [V] the rest of the way.

At the end of that traumatic night I had paid for the beers that we drank, the cigarettes smoked, but the greatest price was paid for in my own blood. I felt heartbroken about what I had done and what it had meant for my relationship with [V]. I do care for her deeply, and to trade this valuable relationship for a moment with anyone else was all folly. I had exposed her to a grave threat presented by my friend, and then hated her because she gave in to his exterior kindness. And I don’t blame her, knowing what it must have felt like for her to have received news of my actions. In that moment she would have accepted any scraps of kindness offered to her, and it was then that I thought I could test her.