I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I remember him leaning her up against his red Ford Escort that he had bought himself from working at his father’s restaurant. She was tall, blonde, and in a white crop top that I knew, even at the age of eight was a little too revealing. He had a mustache and muscles. He wore his football jersey when he washed his car in the driveway and he smoked in front of his parents. I thought he was the coolest. Mostly because he exuded this kind of macho behavior that screamed, “I got my shit together,” but not being so old as to be out of touch with us kids.
She was crying and he was gently brushing the tears away from her face. It was sweet and vulnerable to watch this neighborhood tough guy be so delicate and caring. We stood across the street, as did the rest of the families in the neighborhood, while we watched their moving truck pull away for the last time. They were a respected family of our little community and all of us were sad to watch them go. But as the adults exchanged hugs and handshakes, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. There was something so calm and cool about his demeanor. Just watching him take care of her as her shoulders jerked up and down along with the sobbing. He breathed in his cigarette, slowly took a look around, exhaled and held her while saying nothing. His touch seemed to instantly calm her and when he let go say goodbye to a neighbor she would fall back apart. It was fascinating to me.
As I grew into an adult and began dating, I never forgot that scene. Me, standing at the bottom of my driveway on my BMX bike watching this beautiful woman fall apart in front of everyone. I guess I never had the chance to forget it because it seemed to happen with each of my own relationships. At first I thought it was just the high school kind of mentality. You know, to be irrational and just fly off the handle. It lent itself to an almost childish behavior so I was certain that it would fade as I got older. But it didn’t. It never wavered. Older, professional women with advanced degrees and expensive cars would fall apart at my feet. And it wasn’t just me, it was a behavior I continued to see at bars and shows and clubs and in the hallways of my apartment buildings. I guess I just thought that people would have their shit together when I turned into an adult.
I don’t know what’s going on in your life. I don’t know what you have suppressed or recently uncovered. I went a full three decades repressing a memory of sleeping on the floor in the dark bathroom every night for months at a time because of the trauma I experienced as a child. A solid 30 years it took to uncover that memory that only emerged back into my conscious after my mother causally reminded me of that “weird” time in my life as a little kid. So I don’t know what’s burning away inside your brain and keeping you up at night. I don’t know the secrets you tell your therapist or words you cry into a keyboard of a secret journal in the middle of the night. But I do know that all of us need someone. Whether that is someone to listen, someone to tell it to us like it is, or someone to simply hold us a few times a year – we all need someone to trust.
And as I stood at the bottom of my driveway, I envied my neighbor. His touch made a physical difference and it left a heavy memory in the back of my brain. That regardless of what was going on around you, to always focus on what matters the most and the most fragile things we will ever come across are the hearts people intrust to our care.
I know it’s cool to brag about how much we don’t give a shit about anything. But just to let you know, absolutely no one has ever been impressed with you posting how much you don’t give a shit on your social media. Because no one respects a childish ass adult. But what people DO respond well to is the example you set. And again, you are under no obligation to be anyone’s role model, but that doesn’t change the fact that someone out there looks up to you and wouldn’t it be amazing if you made things a little easier for another human being in this world. Because it IS cool to help another person. It IS cool to help someone make sense out of the pain and confusion of this world, and it IS cool to take the time to ask someone about their day or sit with them over coffee and listen their stories and not make it about you or just hold them for a few seconds longer than they expect. Because yeah, that kind of shit does make a difference.