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Granta 129: Fate was published in Autumn 2014. Buy this issue
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First, I must preempt my definition with a general assumption. When asked to define ‘betrayal,’ I assume that most would look back to the experience that most affected them, a memory which evokes the strongest opinions. Under that assumption, I can objectively say that my understanding of the word is more dramatic, more extreme than betrayal on a simpler, more reasonable scale.
Betrayal involves neither trust nor expectation without the other. There comes a certain amount of safety and contentment, a mutual understanding of what to expect when someone has earned your trust. It is when this person has subverted your expectations when betrayal occurs. By this definition, it is always unexpected, unforeseeable in the eye of the beholder.
The more profound the bond, the more torturous the betrayal. The fact is that there is no way to know anyone in their entirety, particularly not in a way to predict their every action and reaction. There are just too many factors, environmental or otherwise. Yet, somehow we (or I) let ourselves believe that human nature is, in essence, unselfish. That, when the choice presents itself, the other may not choose self-preservation as is instinctual in animals, but may choose the preservation of said bond/relationship.
It is not always an incident or an action that provokes this feeling of betrayal. It is when the veil is removed, the rosy veil of happiness that you so carefully constructed on your own. No one else does this for you; it is a personal realization, a moment of enlightenment and truth, that allows the betrayal to creep in. As painful as it is, it is a necessity to prevent continued foolishness. You can blame someone else for making you the fool, but only for so long. When it becomes painfully evident that you are, indeed a fool, that is a burden only a masochist would keep.
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