WOE

Some evening, quite soon, you are sitting with a friend, perhaps having a great cup of coffee, or a glass of wine. It is one of those times where twilight plays with a summer day and the mix of humidity and delicious warmth is ushering in an evening that feels like lush velvet gown.

You are settled back into a slowly rocking chair…pillows cushion your back and cradle your neck like a mother’s love.

The night unfolds with the soft cries of waterfowl on the pond not far away as they settle in for their nightly repose. All is well.

This is an old friend — not old as in chronological years, but old and wonderfully time worn into friendship…and wise beyond the accumulation of her years.

She knows you. She knows your ups and downs, those ins and outs that you sometimes share and most-times hide from the rest of the human race…some even from yourself. She knows these things.

She is the only one you trust with your confidence. The one whose steps fall in line with yours as you navigate the crust of those deepest molten parts that keep threatening to be shattered open, neon red raw by the violence of the activity underneath. She knows those parts.

And so, when in the silence of the sweetly forming evening, she turns to you and her eyes say, “Tell me the story,” you comfortably comply.

It is the same story she has heard 100 times, perhaps 1000 times before. If your confidante ever tires of it, she doesn’t show it. It is wonderfully rehearsed. You have told it and retold it over and over, devising and revising it again and again. Its forms are legion, it seems, different words but its conclusion always turns out to be the same, fashioned from decades of sweeping attention moving across it like polishing grit. An eons old river stone story, its edges understandably smooth.

“Why do you want to hear that same old story again?” you ask her. “Maybe I want to tell you a new one!”

She smiles in her special way. She knows how well you love to tell it. And she loves you. She is kith.

Sometimes it is hard to find where to begin, the story has had so many drafts. Then there are the revisions, expertly performed by a hired editor in an attempt to parse the material and trigger plot changes that may make the story more interesting. And less lonely.

Those edits, lost in translation, lay discarded on the floor of a house barely lived in, now forgotten.

She waits as you begin to find the words. She won’t be listening to them, regardless of their eloquence and perfect metre. It is the untold story that she hears and appreciates.

This version begins, as always, as a tale of woe. This time it is a man…who finds himself running but never getting far enough away from the acid breath on his neck and the champing teeth at his heels. He runs, wild with fear, all day and all night. He takes refuge in the highest peak he can find while battling the earth under his feet, the water that splashes in him and around him…consumed by a fire that burns hotter and brighter with each step, with each anguished gasp for air that gives life as it kills. Above his head, suspended, is a double-edged blade that cuts to the bone.

This woe he battles with all his strength. He cannot run away from what is always looming, smugly present and accounted for. It seems to arrive before his eyes, always.

And so, he yells to himself from behind the wheel of his car, and “flips the bird” at stupid, ignorant drivers. He shouts, “They are all idiots and maniacs!” He straightens books upon the shelf, organized by category and size, enjoying the symmetry and logic of the exercise. He asks himself why nobody sees what seems profoundly obvious to him…the painting, hanging on the wall, is 2.2 millimetres out of square.

And he believes, this time, it is time to become a vegetarian.

Is he all alone in this crazy world?

Your friend smiles patiently. She knows the story of stories.

She knows how they begin and how they end. She knows why the blade cuts so deeply, when it does.

She understands that silence is the only way the story goes untold.

She sits, waiting for you to tire of telling it and understand that, too.