The phone rings. The cheesy default melody pierces through the smoke, the hushed voices and the background music. It’s a bit embarrassing but the surprise of the call mutes it. My sister never calls. Just by the way she says hello, it’s obvious that something is wrong, again.
Her voice trembles. She was probably crying or is about to. The bar now looks cozy from the outside, much more than it is, once you are in. The fourth cigarette slowly burns between the freezing fingers, but there is no going in. The conversation goes on forever but in the end she feels better. Her mood lightens a bit, but it probably won’t last for long. This depression runs in the family.
Going inside seems like a burden now. The night is over. There is no turning back to the mundane conversation at the table, because there is so much that can’t be said, so much to be hidden. All those feelings pouring through the telephone went straight into the heart.
People inside ask if everything is o.k. but mostly they don’t want the truth. They want to hear some reassurance that will relieve them from asking further. But that is better than when they try to be helpful, or give some encouraging advice. They try to be nice but it’ just annoying because, happy people never truly understand. Sure sympathy is nice but no one truly needs it. Not in this case.
It can never replace understanding. That sacred bond everyone wishes for – to be truly understood without having to say too much, without having to reveal the soft parts or the ugly parts.
Maybe it isn’t fair to think this way. How could they know? Going about their lives, drinking wine and beer and smiling, trying hard to impress. They don’t really care about these things, sure they know it exists but, like watching the news, they don’t need to participate. There is always the option to switch the channel or turn the damn thing off. So sometimes all there is, is just to smile at them and pretend everything is fine until the night ends and all that is left is a long walk home, alone in the night, with a head full of dark things.
But then, there are the others, like Jack was. Because he has been there, or rather here, he knows.
The thing is once it gets better, when the darkness is over, you can always sense it on others. Like a member’s only perfume that smells of fear and guilt and all the things in between.
At the end of the path there is relief, and wisdom and strength, but never judgement. That’s what he understood. That kind of empathy comes only from someone who knows exactly how it feels to be in the middle of it. Or later, how the newfound happiness seems so fragile because it can crumble, so fast. The way he helped me I now try to help my sister. And I never tell her how hard it is for me. To feel all these things, to carry her burden with me, in hope it will ease her pains. I wonder if he felt the same, all those times when I was the one that needed help.
And then it’s already 3AM and the kitchen is quiet. And it’s raining, because it always is in these stories. Here comes another sleepless night full of worries and second thoughts, insecurities and old demons with a thousand voices. But that’s just another battle in a never ending war. And after a while things will be good again.
And the next time it will be easier and there will be more people, in need of help, smelling the perfume, attracted to the soft look of the understanding eyes that say more than a self-help book. There will be strangers on the train in need of a hug and late night calls from friends and family. There will be understanding and love and patience and warm embraces and long text messages and links (lots of links), and wine.
There will also be smug half laughs and pats on the back and pep talks and high fives and free rounds and worried glances and nervous excuses and all that. But time and experience will make that part easier. I know that. And my sister now knows it too. And Jack seems to have known it forever.
Maybe that is the way it goes, everybody helps everybody until everyone is better. So I ask you, because you know what I’m talking about. I ask you to listen, and not to judge, and never pretend everything is fine. Find that someone who needs you more than you know and help them, or ask for help. Sometimes it’s the same thing.
Anonymously submitted to ArtParasites