Friday, August 21, 2009

Small Gestures, Small Flowers

Mark Dixon's "Two Friends"

Clint came over for coffee yesterday morning.

I had just returned from a brief trip back to my hometown to see some old friends. Emotionally fragile, I tried my best to engage in conversation with them and listen to their stories, though my heart wasn’t in it. I’d become too accustomed to living on an island, where my emotional sores fester in peace, alone. Social interaction feels foreign and pained at times. 

When I returned, the house was a mess. My brother and my roommate had trashed it resoundingly in the few days I was gone. The tired Cinderella motif played out in my head, as I rushed around in the sweltering heat, cleaning up, trying to make my habitat feel like a home, even just a little.

Clint came over for coffee yesterday and my house smelled of rotten food. No one had taken out the trash while I was gone because apparently you need a fucking PhD to figure out how to perform this Herculean task. Putrefying bodies after a mass suicide in the tropics smelled better than my kitchen yesterday.

Clint came over for coffee yesterday and I knew he would. He looks forward to our talks and we're friends with similar "issues." Once he saw my truck pull into the driveway from my trip, I knew his arrival was imminent. I rushed around, trying to clean up. I want my friends to feel good when they enter my house, not nauseated.

But he got there too early and the scent was unbearable. I apologized, my face red with anger and mild humiliation. He tried to help but had to leave the kitchen at one point because the smell was so bad. Finally, trash was removed, coffee brewed and sanity restored.

(But was it? There's a price for constantly having to make things right when you're already busting at the seams. Needless caretaking is backbreaking and taxing. Nobody talks about the price-tag.)

Over coffee, Clint told me of a woman he had hooked up with the night before. This was a big deal. Neither of us have seen much action as of late. I gave him a high five for “taking one for the team” and asked for details.

He said it was awkward a bit, actually. He felt a little unskilled, “rusty.” His mind was whirring with a million thoughts the whole time.

“I used to be able to seduce a woman much easier. I used to stick my tongue in someone’s ear with confidence. Now…”

He trailed off and looked thoughtfully into the freshly Windexed table.

“Now my has a life of its own. I can’t control it anymore.”

His last words punched me in the gut, resonating with me too deeply. My paper-thin veneer began ripping. Tears filled my eyes as he continued his story. He looked up at some point. “Are you alright?”

I burst into tears. "No, no I’m not" I laughed, in that undoing sort of way. "I’m not even close to alright. What you said about your mind having a mind of its own. I don’t know what to do. I’m...falling down. I have been for a while.”

He reached out and held my hand on the newly Windexed table, the smell of deathrot slowly fading away with the summer breeze.

“It’s going to be alright. We’re going to be alright.”

His hand felt so warm and firm and good. All that was good was in our hands. Warmth and love and connection and friendship. Nothing felt better. He held my hand and let go of it at just the right moment, not a second too early.

Isn't it amazing, what a small gesture can do? Even old embedded pain or anger can dissipate in the soft breath of an instant. It's funny - you’re so sure those wounds are a permanent splinter in your soul - and yet one kind word or gesture can yank it out in a flash. It's almost a miracle.

I'm always waiting for flowers. Flowers from people who hurt me. A note or a box of candy. Or a word of love. A wise explanation. A touch of acknowledgment. Then I'll feel released. Then my spirit will rise again.

I'm always waiting for flowers. From the people who left me, who didn’t apologize, who disregarded my feelings, who didn't show up, who may have used me, who didn't honor me.

I don’t even like flowers that much. It’s the symbol of flowers I always await. But they don't come.
Clint came over for coffee yesterday and saved my life a little. He gave me the symbol of a flower. With a touch of his hand. It was that simple.

Clint and Beth, Long Beach Island, Summer 2009
Clint with small flower, Summer 2009

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