In the dimmed hospital room light, I hoist myself into a sitting position. The room swirls momentarily as my brain attempts to find equilibrium. Bending my elbows, the IV catheter stings in my arm. Even in my exasperated state, my heartbeat quickens as I reach for my phone. The connectivity in my mind is both lethargic and overactive, leaving me feeling unequipped to assess my actions.
Trying to hold back tears, I type out the kind of text that makes my insides quiver. This is the kind of request that can further shatter my already precarious existence. My sense of being alone in coping with the always challenging and sometimes inconceivable reality of my life burns.
I have no friends. I have nobody I can call to come and hold my hand.
I am trying to find somebody, anyway. Go big or go home. I send a message to an acquaintance, a man whose place in my life I cannot yet define. I tell him I’m in the ER, I’m feeling scared, overwhelmed, and alone. I admit that though I’ve been hedging, I’ve been sick for a long time. I confess that I have few friends to call upon and that I need somebody. Heart pounding with the fear of rejection, with the anticipation of burning whatever tremulous bridge might exist between myself and this man, I send the text.
The minutes that elapse in the silent room feel like decades. The cool liquid slides into my arm as my eyes pool. My phone remains silent. In between the absence of nurses, I allow myself to cry.
I told you so. I castigate my mind for reaching out to this person with high hopes of him arriving, a light in the swallowing dark, to hold my hand. I wish I could rescind the words that have destroyed this budding connection. Again.
By the time I arrive home, weary and drained beyond explanation, my phone is still devastatingly silent. Reaching out to a friend living on the East Coast with chronic illness, I blubber into a voice memo about my devastation. “Why can’t somebody appreciate my vulnerability and just offer to help?” I scream into the phone, feeling breathless and woozy. “Why are people incapable of showing up for one another?”
I dream of a friend who would show up, offer validation without interrogation. I wonder how marvelous it would feel for a friend to display concern without pity. How wonderful it would feel for somebody to offer to join in my chaos without platitudes, with genuine interest. I pine for somebody to accept me wholeheartedly, wanting to be in the place where I am.
In the following 48 hours, I continue to badger myself for sending that text. I feel a sinking grief, convinced that he would have already called or written, or maybe showed up at my front door if he actually cared.
“Bri, tell me you are out of the hospital now?” The sound of his voice on the other side of the line sounds urgent and insistent. Stumbling down the hall, my mind struggles to believe he has actually called. The amalgamation of the devastation I feel about my persistently compromised health seeps from me in strained yelps. He listens. He asks questions.
I am stupefied by his confession that he did not text or call until now because he did not want to say the wrong thing. He admits that he has no idea what to say to me now, that he doesn’t want to offer me false reassurances. In laconic sentences, he exposes struggles from his own life, connecting them to mine gently.
“Is any of what I’m saying good? Actions speak louder than words but I just don’t know what to do to help you.”
Allowing the perfection of his concern to wash through me, I remain silent for a moment or two. “Yes,” I tell him. “Everything you are saying is good.” So good. He reiterates that he wants to do something to help me but he doesn’t know what it could be. Smiling inwardly, I make a suggestion. I panic at the possibility of rejection. I wonder if I should just be happy about what is instead of asking for more. But I do it anyway.
In a gush of words, I ask him if he wants to come over my house to drink coffee with me. I invite him further into the pandemonium of my world, to make me laugh and share the same sunlight that glints through my windows. I shut my eyes, wondering if I’ve divulged too much too quickly, but my thoughts are quickly interrupted.
“Hell yeah I want to come over and drink coffee with you.”
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