How strange that one would live at all, in life outside my own
How strange this world exists for others and not my eyes alone
How vast the journeys some will take and never coincide
How small the number of those who look back truly satisfied
How cruel are you to love another
How crazy am I to care
How shallow and how narcissistic to need you here and there
How’s the weather, and how are the kids
How’s your addiction to the pain that you’re in
The open ended questions and pauses and the forced listening
How am I doing so far with this thing called empathy?
When I started writing this, I wanted to describe what she looked like. I wanted my thoughts on her hair and her skin and her body to be known…And then I realized the details of her appearance would only reinforce the problems unnecessarily created by girls and how we view each other. I would be the hypocrite recreating my own problem. So for all you know, she was beautiful or hideous, large or small, perfect or flawed.
I was sixteen years old and had started my first “real job” at a custard shop just a couple of miles from my house. This girl was outspoken, always in your face with her stories and elaborate plans. Her behavior screamed, “look at me, hear me, know me.”
Our first week of working together, she came into the shop that day and started talking about her boyfriend. She told me she had showed him my picture on Facebook. He thought I would be really pretty, if it weren’t for my nose.
This stranger put me on display for an even more distant stranger, someone I had never met and actually would never meet. This stranger decided this was information I should hear or be broken by or be changed by…or have no idea how to respond to.
Ten years later, I don’t remember this girl’s name. I don’t remember where she went or what happened to her, or if we said goodbye or said we would keep in touch. Two things I do remember: she used pureology shampoo, and one day for no apparent reason, she took her chisel and aimed her hammer at my great insecurity, nicking off another tiny piece of my spirit.
Remember my twin bed with the white iron bed frame, the one with the the bars that scrolled and curved to form hearts and swirls, and the golden capped globes on each corner? Remember the peach quilt my aunt pieced together, at a time when silly questions and inquiries into each other’s thoughts had no relevance. I was sitting and he was laying, his head in my lap. I asked him what he was thinking, and he responded by pointing to my nose.
“You’re thinking about my nose?” He nodded. I didn’t press for further questions, because I knew. My nose is big and misshapen, and it stands as a point of distraction or a point of demanding attention. I learned at that moment that I didn’t truly want to know what he was thinking. I learned at that moment that sometimes love means lying. Sometimes love means staying silent. Sometimes the least loving thing you can do is speak the truth….and the ones who respond with cold honesty, without hesitation, don’t love you at all.
The most defeating thing about death in hospitals is when the world keeps spinning. Teams come by to work with your dead patient, unaware of the past couple hours they spent fighting or surrendering. Doctors from other specialties come by to assess your dead patient, and housekeeping comes to clean your dead patient’s room and empty your dead patient’s sharps container. All the while you must calmly, quietly scream STOP. PAY ATTENTION. This person was here, and now they’re not.