I have had, I think, the most interesting couple of days—days that taught me about relationship, and about connection. I’ve witnessed desperation, depravity, sadness, hopelessness, all in the span of 48 hours. To say I am emotionally exhausted is, perhaps, a perfectly understated description…hence the coffee. I’ve always argued that you never have to travel far to experience something new—something entirely original. So far, I’ve proved myself right.
At the homeless shelter last night, I sat with a man named Del. Or Dell. I asked him how to spell it and he said however I wanted to, which endeared me to him off the bat. I say the same thing. What’s in a name, anyway?
A rose by any other, he answers. And then he cried. He cried a lot and he said he cried both because he hated himself and because he was inspired by the beauty of a home cooked meal, made just for him. It was very hot, and he smelled very much like a homeless person in the heat. I didn’t mind it, though.
He told me that once, he had been in the military. He built bombs or, as he so phrased it, he “engineered the end of the world.” He says he carries that burden with him always. He strikes his hand against his forehead once or twice and even then a third time because he’s angry at himself. For the things he did for money. For the humanity that he forsook. I remind him, gently, that no one is so good that they cannot understand a sadness such as that. We are, each of us, quite wicked when we want to be.
He didn’t eat. He says he never eats and I tried to fill his plate for him but he declined and when I stepped away, for just a moment, he was gone. Like a whisper. I suppose that he felt restored enough to wander on.
I sat with John, in his silly Donald Trump hat, as he laid out upon the table a list of government conspiracies that all seemed pretty viable to me. He wore sunglasses, and so I couldn’t see his eyes when we spoke across the table. I think a man like that does a thing like that on purpose. John likes to be a mystery. But when I shook his hand and introduced myself and asked his name he startled just a bit. Surprised. And then kindness began oozing forth from the hard shell of the man because I suppose he thought that I would never ask. That I wouldn’t want the sound of his name across my lips. That he wasn’t worthy of such things and to watch a face brighten is a beautiful thing to behold.
Today, I have to write about today because my mind still reels with the strangeness of it. A regular at my workplace had a seizure. He’s a diabetic and I know this because I collect the stories of the people in my bar. I’m nosy. I want to feel what the world does and so I ask a few too many questions. Or so my mother always said.
Because I just finished my EMT course I knew what to do and I held my hands around the crown of his head and rolled him to his side. Sat there with him. I’m wearing this dumb little skirt and all I keep thinking every few moments is I hope it hasn’t ridden too far up my ass but his cheek is resting on my thigh and so I just sit still. He’s bitten his tongue, and for a moment I think that he is dying in my arms and a thing like that confuses a person. It will make you want to cry. And then you realize that you’re far too dramatic for your own good and so you get to work and do the thing that every human must must must do—be there. Just be there.
I’ve been there for a lot of people over the last couple of days because a lot of people have been there for me. Because I think, not only that we ought to, but that we must. You don’t have to travel far for adventure. You only need to reach out to the ones nearest to you—their stories hold entire lifetimes of brilliant accolades and, yes, so much sadness. We all do. Again, what is life without connection? I drive that point to death upon this blog but I will hold to it for many years to come. I relish every person I have collected—I savor their stories, I let them sit upon my tongue like lozenges or sweet lemon drop candies, the ones that never melt. I do so love this world. And loving, above all else, is the greatest of adventures.