Dangerous Compassions


I fed, I listened, I housed, I was patient with.  I waited.  I helped, I planned, I smiled, I offered.  I replied.  I asked, I cared.  I gave the benefit of the doubt.

I got used up.  I don’t have more to give.  I can’t solve any of the problems.  I’m hurt and burned out.

I took time for myself.  I rested and abstained.  I wrote letters because it was easier than talking.  I was tender.  For that I got judged and misunderstood.  My motives were assumed, incorrectly.

In a way, making him a sandwich was an honor.  He was hungry.  I had bread and other sandwich ingredients.  I loved him.  In a way, I liked that he was hungry and I made him a sandwich he ate and enjoyed.

But in another way, I’m a caring woman who makes a sandwich.  He’s an elder man who likes to be served and is used to it.  He could have made it, but he didn’t.

In the history of sandwiches, that wasn’t a famous one.  But I remember it.  For him, it was probably nothing.  He got into his truck and drove away.

Or that oatmeal I made for another elder.  I put in raisins–he praised me later.  In a way, it was the least I could do.  He’s done a lot, and he’s old.  In a way, I liked serving him.

But in another way, well, he never made me oatmeal.  When does someone make me oatmeal?

My friend asked me to clean up breakfast dishes.  He had to go.  I looked into his eyes.  I said, “Okay.”

I didn’t want to clean up breakfast dishes.  I put a hundred burritos into large ziplocks.  I put away the butter, the cream cheese.  I moved dirty dishes into the sink.  I made decisions about salsa and closed up the cereal.  I put away the milk.

He said “I love you” when he went, and I felt an instant of glow.  That was my payment, maybe?  I had to clean up breakfast, but I got love.

But love isn’t really like that, is it?  I think love is free.

Where’s my wilderness shack.  I’m retiring.  It’s time for me to be a hermit.  I tried really hard.  I give up.

I heard someone talk about emotional labor.  It struck a chord.  There’s the sandwich–then there’s the emotion behind the sandwich.  My worth, his expectation.  Gender, age, time.  It took three minutes.  But he will never, ever make me a sandwich.  Not if I begged, not if I was on my deathbed.

Well, things with Ming aren’t like that–I’m not talking about him. I’m talking about my dad or grandpas or uncles, maybe, and the men who are like them.

There’s a picture of me with my grandpa.  It was the last time I saw him, before he died.  We’re standing by his roses, and he’s holding one of his little dogs.  He looks like he’s in pain.

I feel like we didn’t know how to relate, but we were trying?  And the photo is proof we stood together for a minute.

The world feels bad today, and it all seems like a fail.  But Ming said maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

3 replies on “fail”

I don’t want you to feel bad! You are such a lovely person. I’m going to bed but I’ll try and write more tomorrow.

Wow Laura Marie, our relationships with men are so complicated. We're expected to go gently into the good night as we move from role to role: daughter, sister, wife, friend. It's not really making the sandwich that strikes a cord, it's the deep knowing that we'll never get one in return.

hey Liam, thank you. yes, I was feeling bad. hey, Sheila–thanks for commenting. yes, and you were the one who ended up washing that mountain of breakfast dishes. I hope it didn't hurt you. for me, I was still tired from last year's event.

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