Try a Little Tenderness

We had known each other for a long time.  I’m not sure we were ever friends – certainly not very good ones.  If I was feeling sad or lonely or depressed and needed a little compassion, she usually refused to give any.

The final straw came when I expressed my dissatisfaction with our situation, that I was looking forward to spending some quality time with a friend over dinner, and that an unwanted third wheel kind of soured the occasion.  I was disappointed, sure – but she was immediately on the defensive, first by saying it wasn’t her fault (I never said it was), and then by asking me if I was depressed.

That question was unnecessary.  Whenever she asked me this question, it was her way of saying, “hey, I don’t really want to talk to you when you’re like this.”  This time, though, it sounded more like, “hey, I don’t really want to talk to you at all – this kind of thing upsets me and I don’t want or need to be upset.”

Was it so much to ask for a bit of kindness?  Maybe she could have pretended to care about me at that moment, and maybe be uncomfortable for all of what, ten seconds?

Too many people in my life seem to like me only if I keep to myself – as long as I don’t ask anything of them, they’re more than happy to know me.  I’m not doing that anymore.  I’m done being invisible.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable for friends, at least once in a while, to put their friend’s needs before their own, especially when that friend is hurting.

Whenever I wrote her anything like this, she was dismissive – a wave of the hand, as if she couldn’t care less.  Friends don’t act like that.

I sent flowers to acknowledge the good times we had had.  I was struck by the florist’s recommended note:  “The more I know the people I love, the more I love the people I know.”

She didn’t really want me to know her, so … I’ll accept her as she is, not as I want her to be.

A Bee and a Bus – Conclusion

So of course I embark on an internal conversation, with no one in particular, asking what I ever did to deserve such a harrowing brush with mortality.  No answer.  Well, there’s a shock—it would be somewhat disturbing, wouldn’t it, if there was a response?  Probably better for all concerned that things remain silent, at least on this particular question.  I decided not to worry about the matter any further, but for some reason, I was genuinely annoyed that I had had such a run-in, and, what’s more, that no one much seemed to care.

This didn’t last.  One of the more pleasing aspects of riding the bus for fifty minutes in the morning is to look at the pretty women on board.  Chicago is a very big city, with many attractive women.  And on this particular occasion, I noticed one woman in particular.  I did not get her name; I did not talk with her.  But I made a very explicit, very conscious decision to look her in the eye, with the express idea in my head to let her know that I see her, that I wanted her to see me seeing her, and that I wanted her to see me.  And, what is most important, is the idea that I wanted to connect with someone, however fleeting, for at least that one moment—to let her know, to let the universe know, that this moment mattered, that this connection, however momentary, mattered.  That we mattered, she mattered, I mattered—that all of this makes a difference.

She smiled, and I smiled.  And I like to think that she knew what I wanted her to know, knew what I wanted the universe know.  With quiet satisfaction, I turned my attention again to the grassy park rushing by.  I noticed Elvis singing again, and I thought, to no one in particular:  “Okay, that makes up for the bee.”