Five Things, Sweetheart, Five Things
It was a difficult night. There was nothing left to say, nothing that I could say. My friend was hurting, and I the Fixer could not fix it.
I’ve had enough of people intentionally dying around me this year, and I didn’t want to let another friend lapse into an uneasy silence that would be harder to break as the hours passed. Idle chatter seemed so shallow. He was hurting too badly to talk, and I needed to keep him talking, keep him engaged, so he didn’t slip away into a dangerous quiet.
During the spring, I finished the first five audiobooks of the Game of Thrones series while doing daily cardio. Around the fourth and fifth books, young Arya Stark is in assassin training at the House of Black and White, and her teacher there has her bring him three new things she’s learned every day. It is, of course, a way for Management to learn the news and the secrets far and wide though it also serves to further Arya’s training.
Somehow on this particular night of fear–warranted or not–for my friend’s state of mind in his emotional pain, those passages about Arya recalling three new things she’d learned that day popped into my head, and I decided to tell my friend five things. Just five things. Not necessarily something new I’d learned, but five things on my mind. Something I could share that would keep my friend in connection with something outside of himself and his pain. Some way I could be his gravity and hold him to the planet.
But what to share?
“Five things, sweetheart,” I told myself. “Five things.”
That night, they were simple. He’d already withdrawn for the rest of the day, so I left him a message. I wanted him to have a connection when he ventured back out and checked his phone. Something to hang onto, however trivial.
Those five things were simple. Something eye-rolling that had happened at work. News that a foot injury wasn’t as serious as I’d thought. Finding out my bra size had been measured wrong by a lingerie pro and I’d been wearing a bra two sizes too small for the last decade. My excitement over nearing a financial goal I’d been concerned about. Discovering that the book I’ve been writing for the last two years fits into the New Adult market because it’s all about Lilah seeking her life purpose right out of grad school and Special Ops. Not quite stupid stuff, but just simple things that had stood out in my day that I knew he’d find at least slightly amusing or interesting.
But it was a connection. Words to hang onto when times were tough. You can’t give up on life and friendship in the middle of a conversation, can you?
A few hard days passed before he was up to coming up with five things of his own, and the second time he did, I knew he’d turned the corner in his misery. They weren’t happy things exactly, but four out of five were focused not on the past or on his pain but on the future. You cannot be irreparably depressed when you can see a future for yourself.
It’s since become a bit of a game to me. I may, before bedtime, drop him a line, describing five things that are on my mind. And he may answer with five things he’s eaten that day just to taunt me, but as long as the lines of communication are open, he is one less friend I am worried about losing to his own hand.