• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Sousaphone Sugar Mouse | Main | Vital Conversation »

Of the Heart

There are some people in my life who aren't in a romantic relationship and they don't know why.  There are others who are in a romantic relationship and I don't know why.  Others don't have a steady +1, and they don't care.  And a few pay the bills on their own, and they hate it.  Some of them suffer.  Some of them wonder.  All underestimate.  None are alone.

Did you ever thank another human being for doing a job well?  Not just "kthnxby" but one of these:  "I appreciate that, and you, and here's why."  If you did, you stirred the spirits of another human being.  You validated his or her work.  You affirmed a life's calling or you made the eight hours at the cash register shorter.  You made him or her feel useful and competent and clever.  Because of that, you're not alone.

Maybe you've been responsible for placing a hand beneath another's as he carried this wearisome burden of being human, and you did it by brushing that part of the soul which responds to the eternal ethereal nature of art.  Doesn't matter how. You sang, plucked or blew one glorious note, you trailed beauty across the canvas, you spoke life into another's world with a single properly placed adjective, you snapped a photograph that made the subject think "Well, I'm not all that bad, am I?"  Because of that, you're not alone.

Oh, you're left brained?  Then you're the cake which made that icing of an adjective possible.  You're the grammar producing the understandable sentiment.  You're the marvelously, evenly lined bristles of the brush.  You're the structure, the ladder, the framework, the foundation.  You adjust the insurance policies, complete the boxes of the tax returns, square the corners of the TPS reports, and without you nobody can hear our poetry reading over the mad chaos of bouncing checks.  The rest of us totter about on your shoulders.  Because of that, you're not alone.

Or you're a parent.  This little life was held out to you and you opened your arms.  The little life got a runny nose and an attitude.  You braced your back against the wall at 3 AM and closed your eyes and just... pushed... through.  Tangled hair and scattered heaps of Matchbox cars and vacation days given over to rivers of snot in some pediatrician's waiting room.  Sometimes, for all this, there is the wrenching backhand--far, far worse than any physical blow-- of sullen silence or "I hate you."  But it is the most important job any human being can take on.  And because of that, you are not alone.

Are you lost?  All these job interviews, then that's always that-- no second call, no emails.  Or, all these classes and nothing, nothing that strikes at your heart, makes you fizz inside and say "For the rest of my life... this."  Or you're on a path which you thought was all fizz, and now you're there and it's just syrupy, room temperature, and flat.  Or that path is suddenly obscured by brick walls and brambles and not a single soft place to rest. 

But this is not a cul de sac.  This is a highway, with exits, and truck stops with aisles of candy.  And it is within your power to alter the route, or, at the very least, change the radio station to clear tones instead of staticy, muddled dreariness.  You have all you need, your fingertips on the dial, your hand on the wheel.  And because of that, you are not alone.

If you have ever, out of absolutely nowhere, tapped the text icon or clicked the "Message" menu or opened a new email to say something, anything, even just "Hi!" or "We haven't talked in too long" or "That thing... I forgive you, " then... oh, you are not alone.  You are not alone because you have reached across this great void, not just the physical or technical space which ever more separates us, and you have said, "I am making this pronouncement with a computer or a cellphone, but the human that is you, the one operating this device, I remember that you exist and I love you, I miss you, I wonder about you."  It's not a matter of skywriting or laser lights or the penthouse suite. 

One of the dearest gifts my best friend ever gave me was to sit beside me and braid my hair as I lay weak and in exhausted pain in the hospital.  It cost her five minutes, and zero dollars, and it made me well again inside.  One of the most cherished, most rescuing Facebook messages I ever got arrived in the middle of the night, as I baked Christmas cookies far from dawn, missing my father and my innocence.  And this is what it said:  "Hey."  It cost him two seconds, and zero dollars, and as we typed at one another about absolutely nothing it made me smile, touch my hands to my cheeks in the darkness. 

If you are of these, if you pick up that phone and type that name and hold out those arms, you are never, never alone.

Even when all the world is foil-wrapped and awash in thorn-clipped roses and you fear that you are.

EmailEmail Article to Friend