I spoke to him on Thursday night, after handing him a jar of handcrafted soup. The note attached articulated that I hoped it nourished he and his son’s bodies as well as their souls.
His eyes clouded with tears, and he began to speak to me. To catch me up on his life. The words came out in torrents. I just listened. It usually is so difficult for me to keep my mouth shut. I always want to inject words of advice into conversations with friends. To ease the pain in some way.
He told me of recent happenings. The sadness. The grief. The loss of a good friend to suicide. And coming to the realization that he was a good man. I kept listening. And smiling. I wanted to hold him close to me, but I didn’t think he’d welcome the contact.
For some reason, he went back to the beginning of his life and shared everything. This man that has pierced me with his needle made sure to pierce my heart too.
We spoke of his art. The drawing, painting, and tattooing. We spoke of writing. He said I was good. I told him he was better. I announced that he was a reincarnation of Jack Kerouac. He chuckled and grinned like a little kid and announced that his grammar was awful. I assured him that a writer is only as good as their editor. He snickered again.
I inquired about Christmas Day. He told me he’d be spending it alone. The nurturer in me wanted to invite him to dinner on the 25th. Wouldn’t that be something, my friend, covered with tats, ears gauged, sitting at the dinner table with my family? But I didn’t ask. I should have.
Our words began to lessen and it was time for me to take my leave. He came around the counter and hugged me tightly to him. I took in his scent, divine and manly. I whispered in his ear, ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” He smiled boyishly and I departed from his shop.
His smile stayed on my mind while I drove to my little apartment, just 10 minutes away. The fact that he would be alone on Christmas Day did also. When I got home, I extended an invitation for Christmas dinner. His reply was noncommittal but thankful all the same.
He let me into his life on Thursday night, and I didn’t worry about what time it was. Or the other things I had to do, I just listened.
And I learned.