Cold comfort

Answering the phone in my hotel room at the Sheraton Harbor Marina.  About ten years ago…

daisyfae:  Hello?

DB:  I’m in the lobby.

daisyfae:  i’m in my pajamas.

DB: ….

daisyfae:  C’mon up.  i’ll call room service for some beer.

We’d been professional colleagues for a few years, and had grown to be friends.  Talking about vacations, grousing about life’s responsibilities, sharing pictures of our children.  Our business encounters were always pleasant – and something to look forward to in the often boring drudge of the day-to-day.

A change in his position at the company shipped him to the west coast, and we were in less frequent contact in those days.  We left it at “Hey, if i’m ever out in San Diego, i’ll look you up…”.  The week before i headed out west, i gave him a ring.  It was then that i learned that his youngest daughter was struggling.  Drugs.  Sucked into it when she entered a new high school.

As he shared a few details, i reluctantly said “Well, i’m going to be in San Diego, but if you’re not able to meet up for a beer, no worries – i certainly understand”.  But he would have none of that – and said any glimpse of normalcy in the midst of such a nightmare would be welcome… He said he’d call me after i arrived and we could meet for dinner.

Which is why i was surprised to get the call at 9:00pm at night – i had assumed that the family crisis trumped dinner with me. i’d already planned to just go to bed early.  Getting my bearings, i made a quick call to room service.  By the time i was off the phone, he was at the door.

Broken.  Tired.  And in need of a friend and a beer. 

Room service delivered, we took the ice bucket and beers out on to the hotel balcony – a gorgeous moon, shining over the harbor.  Sailboats rocking.  Lights twinkling, reflected in the water.  One of the reasons this has been a favorite hotel?  The balconies with the lounge chairs and the incredible view. 

But it was chilly…  i suggested we could go back inside, but he wanted that view.  i pulled a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around him, then sat in the chair opposite.  For over an hour,  he poured it all out.  Slowly.  Lifting each word as if they each weighed a metric ton. 

Still shivering, i brought him another blanket.  As he continued bringing up the words, he seemed so lost.  So cold. 

Listening.  Instinctively, i knew how to comfort him.  But couldn’t offer.  And he couldn’t ask.

38 thoughts on “Cold comfort

    • the human animal is just a complete mess sometimes. as vonnegut said, it’s our ‘big brains’ that have gotten us in the most trouble. would be so much cleaner in some ways if we didn’t think so much…

  1. This story touches me on so many levels. I think this is one of the reasons I loved Robert A. Heinlein so much. In his later works, especially “Time Enough For Love” and the others after that, his observations on the human condition struck me as so very wise and evolved. Why should we assume that the giving of comfort would lead to other problems and hurt? The only reason is because we have been trained by society’s “norms” totally buy into the idea that sex is NOT something we can share without strings attached.

    Anyway, I loved the concept in his books of the people, not just women, who had the passion, love, compassion and wisdom to be healers on all levels, including the nurturing and closeness that comes with sharing talk, touch, love, sex, all at once. He described them has having a vocation, rose this position of “therapist” who uses all aspects and expressions of love to heal the deep hurts that humans sustain in the course of life.

    I see in this story the real life situation where you felt the vocation to heal in this way; I have felt it my own self many times. Too bad our narrow minded society has placed such a large defensive fence around this all too human activity.

    I am glad that you found the time and compassion to spend with him; the tribe was failing him and you became that for him for that night.

    I’m glad they got through it all, and I’m glad the little girl made it through her tests as well. A whole novel exists in this little vignette

    Blessed be, daisyfae.

    • i should probably read more Heinlein. conventional wisdom is that he had a low opinion of women, but from your description, that may not be the full story… especially if one doesn’t treat the vagina as a commodity to be traded on the stock exchange.

      but we make those promises. right or wrong, we make them. in a world where we are not entangled, where such promises don’t exist, and our actions affect no one but ourselves? very different…

      • Heinlein worshipped women, I think. He seemed to hold the opinion that women were much farther evolved than men. One of his rules for raising children (found in Time Enough For Love) is that children should be placed in a barrel around the time they are five and fed through the bung hole. When they reach the age of 16, you let the girls out and drive the bung home on the boys.

        He also stated that women demanding equality with men was a step down for women.

  2. A rough period for your friends right now it seems. Hard to be able to do nothing but listen and be, but that is more huge than most people realize b/c we are so conditioned to take action. Listening and being are actions. Just quiet ones.

    • this one was 10 years ago, but there are many other friends hurting at the moment. not a good time to be an empath, apparently. your point is well-made, though. i forget that listening and being are actions…. and sometimes the most important thing you can ‘do’ is nothing.

  3. I jumped over from Unbearable’s blog and so glad I did. This was quite a powerful story; your a good friend to be there as you were and a better friend to hold strong. Sometimes it’s difficult not to cross that fine line of work and personal….pat yourself on the back in the long run I’m sure you felt better in the morning.

    • MT – welcome to ‘the park’…. anyone connected to the lovely unbearable one, is a friend here! i think it was Geddy Lee, of the band “Rush” who said “You can choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”. Likewise, deciding to do nothing is something. Sometimes. thanks… been a long month…

    • ears are good. knowing when that’s the right organ to offer is really important. i’m better at it now that i’m fucking old… when i’m angry, hurt, or crying and someone tries to hug me? i want to punch them in the face.

    • thanks for stopping by. i promise, i’m not usually this bleak. but january has been pretty ugly. i haven’t touched on all of it… can’t. but yeah… i’ve been on both sides of that invisible wall. and it exists for a damn good reason.

      • January is always bleak and we all turn into sad husks because of it. You were right to squeeze a little sad beauty and warm blood from that cold stone. The rest of winter may have nothing to offer us but depression.

        It’s the nature of things.

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