Friday
July 13, 2007
V 35 Issue 28

 
 
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Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
A million things I couldn't say
by Beau Burriola - SGN Contributing Writer

The bright orange of the mountainous sky was swallowed up by a light pink, which was swallowed in turn by a light blue, casting the colors of the setting day onto our bench, which sat facing out over Puget Sound. I knew this would be the last time I'd see you for a long time, another goodbye dinner set against a perfect evening. I had a lot I wanted to say to you, but whether it was the timing or the weight of my own tongue, I couldn't form any of the words right.

"It's a planet," you said, pointing to the brightest star in the sky, directly over a mountain to the Northwest. "See, it's flickering."

The stars look just like planets to me, they always have. To me, they all flicker. I watched a seagull fly up to it, as if trying to snatch it from the pink sky. I was stalling.

Focusing on the details around us took my mind off of the big topic at hand: your monumentally unhealthy relationship with your current live-in boyfriend and all the things I felt I needed to say about it. It's probably the fact that I'm leaving that puts me in a big rush to get all I have to say in, but I bit my tongue wondering whether I should be the one to say anything at all.

"He's crossed a few lines," you confided earlier in the evening, recounting the bruises and the screaming matches, "but I love him. He's my best friend."

My heart screamed with the million things that needed to be said, but instead my mind dwelled on the range of best friends I've had and how I haven't gotten into regular fistfights with any of them, especially boyfriends. The look on your face in the sunset seemed heavy, but it could have just been my mood. I didn't feel like much help. I felt like someone else was better qualified to tell you what needed to be said. I didn't feel wise. I felt useless, an imposter masquerading in the place of a friend.

"This is the only non-abusive relationship he's ever had," you tell me with a forgiving tone after my long silence. Perhaps you didn't realize that just because you are the one receiving the abuse doesn't mean it's non-abusive for him. It amazes me how two men always fighting with one another can be so allied in defense of their fighting against the world.

I still said nothing. I was trying to pick from the million things I should say, but I kept thinking of why you, so confident and smart about all your decisions, would justify everything he does, thereby illustrating perfectly how you know that what he's doing just isn't right. I'm not the expert in love. I'm an expert on precious few things that don't have to do with me, but the experts weren't here - I was.

For those hours of our perfect summer evening, I thought of something eloquent to say to you, something that would have an impact and make you see it all the way it is. I tried to give it extra thought so that I wouldn't appear offensive or intrusive. I wanted to coat the million things I had to say in reason and wisdom, and maybe add on a few witty stories. In the end, I could think of nothing that seemed to work, so eventually I just started talking, hoping to find a beginning to latch onto that fit by chance.

"I don't know much about your boyfriend, but I don't have to know him to.... I mean, I don't think I would need to know about him to... um..." The dropped off phrases crashed in piles of unrealized potential at our feet. The moment of eloquence had surely passed. The only thing that kept me talking was my hope for you. I suck at talks like this. I was getting no place, so I decided to abandon eloquence and delicate preface and went instead right for clumsy simplicity.

"Listen to me," I started a second time, staring at you in the eyes and speaking slowly and softly, desperately hoping to get just one damn sentence out without stuttering, "Don't take bruises. Get out. Get away. Don't make excuses. Just go."

And just like that, it was your turn for a long silence. While we said nothing, the world around us continued; a dog chased a ball, a couple snuggled over the rail, a ferry crossed the horizon. I was kicking myself for not saying something more human or understanding. I felt like I should be better at this, or at least not be so bad at this. If I have any wisdom in me at all, it seems pretty useless if I can't put it to any use.

When we said our last goodbye, I began the long, thoughtful walk home. I wondered how you took it. I wondered how it will end up. I wondered what you were thinking. I wondered how many of us find ourselves in the position of wanting or needing to be the "wise man," but feeling completely like the idiot. It's a strange place to be, isn't it? You've got to say something helpful, or at least, you can't just say nothing. You have to say something, eloquent though it might not be. When nobody else is there, what else can you do?

Though I regretted my horrible lack of eloquence, I was hopeful. I suppose that in a situation like that, it's still better to trip on your tongue and kick yourself for that later, than to be ever wondering why you said nothing at all. Doing something, however clumsy, doesn't take wisdom - only humanity. That has to be enough.

"Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world." -- Lesbian author Jane Addams

(Beau Burriola is a local writer better at getting advice than giving it. beaubrent@gmail.com)
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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