Afternoon's Indulgence
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Afternoon's Indulgence • Posted: Oct 31, 2008 13:05:02Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

She is a nurse, married, not unhappy with her home life. He travels for a living selling medical supplies. In a perfect world he'd be married too, perhaps to a nurse like her. But it isn't a perfect world. In this world there'd be no point to him being married, he's never home. Instead he travels alone across the barren Southwest, from one small town to the next, one family practice to the next, one community hospital to the next. Syringes, swabs, rubber gloves, astringents, antiseptics, tapes, gauze, bandages, examination gowns, masks, specimen bottles, test strips, tongue depressors, every disposable medical need but drugs.

All the nurses know him and greet him when he arrives. He smiles as he hands out samples and takes orders. He is complimentary but not ingratiating. He acknowledges their hard work and caring, their long hours and compassionate composure, their sometimes not so appreciative and difficult patients and bosses. And he never fails to listen with concern and sympathy should the Doctor be out of earshot and they have gripes or frustrations needing to vent. A few even take a really good look at him and wonder, wonder if there are times when he might be in need of someone to listen. But seldom, very seldom do even those very few actually turn the tables on him and ask.

Too tempting perhaps? Too good looking? Too potentially needy and involving? Too emotionally risky?

The point is, it doesn't ever happen. The routine is set. All the actors know their parts. The play merely repeats, over and over again. Until today, that is. Until today.

Today, in a moment of silence between them, she allowed herself to wonder and then to ask. And with that question the routine was broken. They both began to teeter, he not knowing what to say, she suddenly sensing the depth of his underlying aloneness.

In sympathy she touched his hand. "Look, we're out of here at 3. If you're still around, perhaps we can do coffee."

He smiled. "Sure, I think I'd like that."

And so it happened, this little episode of frailty, compassion, and sordid human indulgence. Good people, both of them. Yet, who among us would cast the first stone in their direction? Far too many, I think. And that is sad. Bonobos we are not. All the formalities that help grease the wheels of civil commerce also seem to isolate each of us in ways that, in the long run, might not be so healthy.

But then again, not all of us have the social skills to constructively handle moments of vulnerable intimacy. Beyond kindergarten, our cultures do not train us for such things.

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007