Tuesday, August 08, 2006

River Tam

Holli was my best friend in High School. She was one of those girls that had it all: intuitively smart, well liked, talented as hell, caring, funny, aptly voted "Most Likely To Succeed"...the total package. She approached me on the first day of American Studies class and made me swear that we'd do every project together, "because between the two of us, we can't go wrong," she said. And she was, as usual, right. Our project score was a consistent 99 -- because the teachers had theoretical objections to giving out 100s.

I worked with Carla in those high school days in the uber-glamorous world of fast food. We studied for tests together at the drive through counter and quizzed each other while cleaning out ketchup bins. She worked hard for the things she achieved, but she achieved plenty. Our friendship may have been a bit tertiary, but we were definitely friends.

I don't remember which of us had to work the night after the Junior Miss pageant (probably me), but I remember we were both there, Carla and I...sitting together at a fast-food booth in tears. I'd been in the audience earlier that evening when Holli was crowned. Carla watched from the stage with a "Runner up" banner draped across her. I was thrilled for my best friend...and utterly devastated for Carla.

I cried for Carla that night (she was too graceful and too proud to shed more than a few of her own). And she didn't need to. I cried for her long after we both went home.

I don't know how a sense of empathy develops. I don't know how we learn to understand others by actually feeling. Jonny said the other day that perhaps it's related to personality types...and he speculated that mine might be dubbed "the world's kidney"... Maybe that's true. However it develops, I have more than I'd like sometimes. I swell with joy at the accomplishments of my friends...and I crumple with their pain. I don't watch the evening news.

Last night a friend told me to listen to a song to understand his situation. And I did. And I felt every outcry of grief from the heart that chose it. And I cried myself to sleep for a relationship I never even witnessed. But I felt its loss.

And it makes me crazy...every time...that I can do no more for these hurting people than sort of hover nearby with puffy eyes and open heart... I can't fix it. I can't take the pain away. All I can do is feel with them...

...which just doesn't feel like it's enough.

No comments: