I was talking to a friend today. I have not mentioned her often in these pages, and certainly you have never read a comment by her. She is there, nonetheless. She is loud and brash but if you know where to point the x-ray gogs you will see the sadness.

When we part, I don’t say goodbye. We have our own ritual, and some nights I can see what it means to her. Tonight she needed a boost. I haven’t been around lately, so tonight I elaborated a little bit, cluttering our parting with words, until it came down to the key transaction. I dropped to sign language, swish, bang, and she smiled at me.
You Rock.
Thanks. I needed that.
I wish I could do things so right more often.

We share a sadness, a feeling you have to have to see. She is loud and happy; I am reserved but optimistic. Under it all, for both of us, is a dark desperate solitude, a certainty that we cannot be known. A gut-wrenching fear that we might be known. We don’t even know ourselves.

But there is something we have. Some time ago I was sitting at a bar after a softball game with Melinda and Kelly, and my inept love life became the topic of conversation. It came out that I had a soft spot for bartenders. Kelly asked why. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I suppose they have to listen to me. My way with women is to wear them down over time.” Kelly thought that was hilarious. Fine. She had a girlfriend at the time. I think Kelly has the sadness too. That’s why she laughed at my jokes.

When it comes down to it, everyone I know has the sadness. Different people show it differently, but somewhere in every soul I’ve met is a terrible yearning, a tiny chamber deep inside reserved for thoughts of what might be, but will not be. Thus we are separated from the brutes of the field. No other animal has the ability to ask “What if…?” and no other animal knows sadness.

But “what if” fills my life. It is a constant reminder of things I could have done, could have said, but didn’t. And every day I create new what-ifs, more questions than I will ever be able to answer.

What if, tonight, I had not signed you rock? After all these years it could have become a meaningless phrase, but it hasn’t. There has never been any doubt that I am completely sincere when I tell her she rocks. Some nights, like tonight, she really needed to hear it. Could I have said something more? No. Not without breaking what we have. Not without changing the meaning of “you rock” forevermore. How could I do that, when I’ve seen what it can mean to her? So instead I will stand resolutely proud to be her friend, and I will be sad, for I have the imagination to know what could be, and the intelligence to know it cannot be.

I will taste the sadness, and embrace it, and in my quiet heat I will savor it.

17 thoughts on “Sadness

  1. Yes, there are times when I wonder “what if.”

    What if I’d ended up marrying that foreign guy I once thought I would? Oceans were wider back then, and as a starving college student I couldn’t afford the $1.25 a minute that even a place as close as England cost, so that relationship ended.

    What if I’d decided not to work but to write that novel that I thought was in me? Would I not be the obscure community-college developmental English teacher and instead be a household name?

    OK, so marrying a romantic foreigner has been precluded by circumstances. But maybe, just maybe, the novel is within reach. Anyhow, I can watch my brothers living my dreams.

    And, much maligned as the movie line is, I can paraphrase it for my own circumstances: “We will always have Didcot.”

  2. When I am felling that “sadness” I usually stop and realize that this is all part of one great experiment that I have no control over. I could spend a lifetime thinking about what if…and never live the …IS. Why is it that people always think about the “positve” what ifs? What about the what if I swerved into oncoming traffic? What about the what if I had a disease? It can go both ways…

    And that goes for how we tend to remember the past with fondness when, back then, a lot of it sucked too.

  3. What if there was no beer! AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG










    The horror! What if’s =worry and doubt…It’s just a waste of valuable brain processing speed.Edited By Siteowner

  4. In heaven there is no beer,

    That’s why we drink it here.

    And when we’re gone from here,

    Our friends will be drinking all our beer.

    An eternal, beerless afterlife.

    Now *that* makes me sad.

  5. May as well put the brain cells to some use before I kill ’em.

    I don’t mean to present sadness as a bad thing. Au contraire! It’s part of being human, and a result of knowing the difference between desire and entitlement.

    And why shouldn’t we dwell on happy what-if’s? Isn’t that part of the drive to always improve out lots in life? If I get to Gallup, NM and say, “Boy, it sure is a good thing I didn’t die on the highway today,” sure, that’s a valid thought. Similar to that and a bigger stretch of imagination is “Boy, I sure am glad I wasn’t born in Bangladesh.” No offense to Bangladeshis, but I like it fat, dumb and happy right here, buddy.

    But what if I had got Roshni’s phone number (she is not the subject of this episode)? Maybe nothing, maybe something great, but the fact is I didn’t, so I’ll never know. Does this make the what-if a downer or not worthwhile? No. maybe it will help me get the next phone number. maybe I’ll run into Roshni again some day and be prepared. Maybe it’ll just give me something to write about.

    A wise man wrote in an excellent book “Regrets are lessons you haven’t learned yet.” So when I think of what could have been, what could someday be, I feel wistful, but I don’t feel regret. Much.

  6. There is always a sad what-if in those movies that put tears in your eyes at the end, but those what-ifs aren’t necessarily bad either. If it’s a good movie (or a good novel or whatever for that matter), the sadness is accompanied by a feeling of satisfaction, rather the way a good beer has its bitterness, or the good Scotch its smokiness, but the overall experience leaves one feeling full.

    So it also goes with life.

  7. And Kris is certainly notable for her availability. Did you give her my blog address?

    What does Kris think of Prague?

    Wait a minute. I went to my people in bars album to make sure I was thinking of the right person (you know how my brain gets), but Kris isn’t in there. It’s up to you, John, to fix this problem.

  8. Speaking of Roshni, I do see her sometimes, and if you ever do meet up with her again, you’ll know I kept your memory alive. I hope I didn’t bring out the sadness/regret/stifled hopefullness by telling you how often I meet up with her. And.. how long it takes me to remember who she is each time. Or maybe I do.

  9. OK, at some point, somebody is supposed to ask what’s so special about Didcot, so I can then expound upon it. Or at least anybody but Keith, who may well know what’s so special about Didcot, even if he’s never been there.

  10. hmmmm, my unreliable memory seems to unreliably recall Jerry talking about living in Didcot, or something, when you guys spent junior year in sunny (merry) ole england. Actually, when Jerry claimed to have lived in Britian, I accused, “Didcot!” to which he replied, “Didtoo!” And so it went,





    And doesn’t Sam say something similar in Casablanca?

    Expoundations are breathlessly awaited upon.

  11. The photo of jojo dynamite looks like her alterego, the Shadow, to me. Its nothing but black. It might be my machine, but the other photos are coming through. Anybody else having problems?

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