What Can You Do?

This evening I went to train at Gracie Barra Lincoln Park, aka Chicago Martial Arts Academy.  After training, it was late, and I was super hungry.  Didn’t each much today at all.  Was just looking for something quick.  So, I dropped off my bag, and headed right out the door, and just started walking.  Was thinking of going to Bite Cafe, which is right up the block.  As I walked by, I saw that every single table in the place was full.

I just continued walking.  There’s a pizza place not far from there.  Certainly not the healthiest choice, but quick, and it was pretty empty. So I stepped in with my book, “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.”  And so I ate.

As I was leaving, the only other person there who  wasn’t working was a woman sitting across the very small business.  I walked up to the counter to put my tray down, as I didn’t see anywhere else to put it, and she said “Hey, how are ya?”

“I’m good, and how are you?”

“Shitty.  People are assholes”

“They surely can be” I said.

“And family are even bigger assholes.”

“Well yeah, that can often be true too.”

And at that point, the woman began to tell me that her father is in the hospital.  From what I could tell, something happened that resulted in him needing knee surgery.  Her three brothers, one of which lives right outside of the city, the other that lives an hour or so outside of the city, and then one that is out of state, don’t seem to care about their father’s condition, and the ones who live near the city haven’t bothered to visit.

I listened to her as she shared the details of this situation, standing by the door, preparing to walk out at any given moment.  And then…

“Oh, have a seat.”

“I really must be on my way.”

“Oh please, just sit and talk with me for a few?”

Wow.  What do you say to that?  If someone wholeheartedly asks you to just sit down and talk with them for a bit? Do you say no?  I know there are times when I simply want someone to listen to me. Listen to me express my feelings, thoughts, angers.  I suppose those things are easier said to a stranger than someone who knows you.

So I had a seat.

As I look back on the conversation, I can’t quite decide whether the woman was crazy, or simply a very unfortunate soul.  I sat for the next 30 minutes listening to what I can only describe now as an unfortunate tell of sadness and tragedy.

It’s hard now to piece together all of the information.  I simply sat quietly and let her speak.  Nodding and quietly affirming that I was understanding the things she told me.  As I think about it, I’m not going to share any of those details.  Despite the anonymity, I just don’t feel right about sharing.

However, I can say that there were tears shed.  On her end.  I simply sat and listened.  No judgements.  Just open ears.  After about 30 minutes, a quietness fell over the woman.  She’d mentioned during the discussion that talking with people made her feel better, and while it might appear she was getting worked up with her crying, it actually made her feel like she was being unburdened.

I suppose what that women needed was simply someone to listen.  Maybe she just needed a fresh ear.  If I weren’t so tired, perhaps I could have stayed longer.  Perhaps 30 minutes was perfect.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am so very guarded with my feelings.  People can be truly shitty, and it’s hard to open up one’s emotions.  As I look back, I don’t think I could have said no.  How do you say no when someone asks permission to bare their emotions in front of you?

Yet another strange moment in my life.


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