It was one of those moments when one is forcibly reminded of the subjectivity of human experience.
“Jeez, I never thought you’d say that,” I told him, the line crackling briefly with static. “You were always in such a black mood. It was like I couldn’t say anything right, it would just piss you off more. I wondered why you kept meeting me; it didn’t seem like you enjoyed it. It seemed like immunizations for you–something painful and annoying, but necessary.”
“Nope.” Slight shift of fabric as he moved. “No, everything you said was perfect. It was at the exact right time.”
We talked about other things, and after we hung up, I found myself reappraising those conversations a decade ago. All this time I’d felt bad, because I could never seem to say anything to calm, to soothe, or to help with his pain. But now, ten years later, I find out that those words, even though they didn’t seem to matter much at the time, were kept and cherished as a line thrown to the drowning. I find out that the kindness that cost me nothing helped far, far more than I ever would have dreamed.
We never know, as we go about our daily lives, the moments when we are the grace that saves, or when ours is the smile that gives hope. Our actions have effects we can never fully understand. This humbles me. Paradoxically, it also makes me proud to be human, and glad to be muddling along with everyone else.
Because we are all alone, but sometimes we can help each other be less lonely. And when we do, we are all saved by just a tiny increment. It might be less than an inch, less than a centimeter.
But I’ll take it.