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.