Normally, she’d have gone through the self-check line, but they were busy. Her four items made their way down the conveyor belt in time for the clerk to say, “That’s all for you? Looks like Italian tonight? I’ve the best recipe for lasagna, of course it calls for spinach and my family would shoot me if I dared put anything green in a meal. Do you know what I mean? Like they think I’m trying to kill ’em or something. Little do they know, spinach is one of the best things for ’em. Do you like spinach?”
She smiled as she inserted her credit card in the chip reader. She started to give an answer about spinach, but the clerk went on. Luckily the boy bagging her groceries had already finished. She said thanks, without having to jump into the spinach-in-lasagna debate.
She had two more files to close and then she’d be done for the day. She opened a file just as a co-worker approached. She wondered about keeping her head down and not making eye contact so as to avoid conversation. If she acknowledged her co-worker, she’d be enveloped in drama and details from the previous weekend that had nothing to do with her. But even keeping her head down wouldn’t protect her. “Wow. You must have a lot going on. What’s that file about?” What could have taken 20 minutes turned into 40.
Between the teller at the bank and the clerk at the post office, she learned about the lives of people that she would never meet.
She knew secrets about people who didn’t know her name.
She knows things about folks that they only learn during the process of talking to her. She’s heard people say, “I guess I needed to tell someone that.” “It feels good to unload.” “I haven’t thought of that in years, I can’t believe I’m telling you this.”
If she had a dollar for every time someone said, “I’ve never told anyone that before,” she could afford to move to a deserted island.
A long time ago she realized that she was some sort of conduit for processing other people’s stuff. It was not her job to fix anything.
She just listened. She listened and let it pass through her.
Sometimes they felt a little better having been heard. Often times, they felt embarrassed for having divulged so much that ought to be personal. They’d laugh at themselves and apologize, and do the same thing the next time she saw them.
It was as if they couldn’t help themselves.
One evening found her at a social engagement that she hadn’t wanted to attend. She’d tried coming up with an excuse. She wanted to stay home, but The Voice said, “Come on. You never go out. It’ll be good for you.”
She went. He talked. A lot. At the end of the night he said, “I’ve missed talking to you.”
What could she say? “Thank you?” “I missed listening to you?” “I’m glad you like to talk to me?”
He drove away as she turned the key in her door.
She put her purse on the table and saw the cat waiting for her in their favorite chair – the one where they sat together in silence.