I’ll Help You, If You Help Me

April 25th 2013

Story originally written and experienced: October 11th 2010

I remember sitting at the table with a cinnamon roll and a glass of milk.

The table was long, pieced with glossy white tiles, and trimmed with a maple wood frame.

I didn’t eat the cinnamon roll.

I just remember watching the icing spill over the          edges

And wondering how I ended up crying my heart out.

To a cinnamoned piece of cake.

Let’s go back.

He was sad.

He usually was these days. No reason, really. It was just routine. So routine I used to write down the good times to remember how I even got here in the first place.

journal notes 2

How I signed up to be someone’s super hero.

And then realized how incredibly unqualified I really was.

And I remember making my own routine. To make sure every shred of laughter, joy or success I had, would immediately be put in a box, tucked under my bed and only whispered to my friends when I knew he wasn’t around. I just didn’t want him to know, you know? Know that I wanted to be happy.

That I was happy.

Because it just didn’t seem fair.

Because he was so sad.

All the time.

So I told him that I was sad too.

And telling him that, was the most regretful lie I think I ever told him.  

I guess I just missed when we had things in common. And…

I guess that’s why I lied.

I think I started noticing it the day I was on stage. Competing a gymnastics routine I had been training for for months and months. And it went well! It went really well.  And I remember directly after I hit my final pose,

I ran directly towards him >>

 << And watched his body turn the complete opposite way.

But only because affection meant happiness. And happiness was becoming more and more of an estranged friend to him these days.  But that was okay because, we were still were happy! I promise. So we exchanged half smiles. He told me good job. Told me that he didn’t feel like celebrating but could I come be with him? He needed me. So I skipped the after party. And we ate popsicles in my living room instead. And we watched TV. And never talked about my routine once. But it was perfectly okay. Because he was sad.

I’ll never forget that day at the restaurant. The Chinese one. I ordered the sesame chicken. And he got the vegetable fried rice. And I listened to him talk for 15 minutes about his newest medication while I pushed my chicken into a puddle of sauce with my chop sticks.

We had this conversation many times before.

But I preferred it when he filled the silences anyway.

Even if it was about his medication.

Only because, filling the silences by myself for the last few months, made me really tired sometimes. But I’d never tell him that.

Because he was sad.

 I was a little embarrassed. The time in my kitchen. I was waiting there. And I was wearing a black sweater and my hair was a bit of a mess. But I was really excited because, he was going to take me to dinner! Somewhere nice. Somewhere different. Somewhere a little farther away. Just to leave town for a little bit. He knew he had been mentally checked out from us for a while. And he didn’t mean the things he said. So he wanted to getaway for an hour or 2. Just for us.

And I remember when he didn’t show up.

And when I asked him why, he told me he didn’t remember making plans.

And then later on told me that he did remember

Making plans.

And that he was sorry he lied. And that was that.

So I told him not to worry. And that it wasn’t a big deal. And I completely understood. Because he was sad.

Once Penny and I were sitting in the living room. And we were eating macaroni and cheese and she asked me to pass her a napkin. And so I did. And then she asked me if I was okay. And asked me why I left the party early the night before. And the night before that. Why I missed the costume party I bought a costume for. And missed the gymnastics practice I wasn’t allowed to miss.

I knew she knew the answer.

She just wanted to hear me say it.

But I told her everything was fine. That I was just really tired as of lately. But only because of all the projects! And such. Besides…he didn’t feel like going out much these days anyway. He’s been sad, you know that. He just needs me. So it’s okay.

And after a few minutes of silence she said

“You know Olive, if you can believe it, good people, even great people, especially the ones that you love, are capable of doing hurtful things. Even if they don’t know they’re being hurtful. Doesn’t make them a bad person. Not at all. But how much you care about them? Can’t always been an excuse for the things that they do. And the things they don’t do.”

I got upset and told her it wasn’t his fault he was sad. That I was trying my best. And that I was the person he leaned on most.

And then she told me that that was really great

But.

Eventually it might be hard to lean on someone, who is slowly but surely falling over.

I picked up my bowl and her napkin. And I walked away.

Later that night he picked me up from a meeting. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the things that Penny said. I thought about it so much that it was a silent car ride  all the way home. Eventually he asked me why I was so quiet. And if I was okay. And I remember telling him “I’m a little tired of trying to make you smile. I’m just going to take a small break, okay?”

He told me I had never said anything to him like that before.

And no one said anything else after that.

2 minutes later I walked out of the car and into the house.

And into a room of roaring laughter from Lana and a few of her friends.

They’d told me they made cinnamon rolls! And asked me if I wanted one. I said yes of course! And avoided eye contact so they wouldn’t ask me how I was. Except they did anyway. And I told them in the cheeriest voice I could muster that I was perfectly great. And I hope they were too. I poured myself some milk, grabbed a cinnamon roll and walked into the room next door.

And I remember sitting at the table with a cinnamon roll and a glass of milk.

The table was long, pieced with glossy white tiles, and trimmed with a maple wood frame.

I didn’t eat the cinnamon roll.

I just remember watching the icing spill over the              edges

And wondering how I ended up crying my heart out.

To a cinnamoned piece of cake.

How I had somehow let 1 year slip through my finger tips with absolutely no results. How no matter how many nights of listening to him talk or not talk, smile or not smile felt like the most stationary thing I’d ever done.

How loving someone was completely easy.

But successfully helping someone who is indefinitely sad felt like the most super human request in the world.

And I told Lana all of that when she found me in the neighboring room.

Strangely crying over my cinnamoned piece of cake.

And told me she felt like him once. More than once. For a while actually. And her parents, family, friends, boyfriends would try everything. Everything in the world to make it better. Talking, not talking, food, presents, music, etc. But the only thing they never tried was showing weakness.

And then I asked her why anyone would ever want to lean on a weak person?

And then she told me that the only person who has ever called me weak,

Was me.

Me

No one else.

That maybe if he knew that his inexplicable sadness was getting too much for me to carry, that he might try to lighten the load for the both of us. 

But he’d never know that unless I told him.

And then I asked her why I felt so guilty when good things happened to me. And why I was crying with a glass of milk and a cinnamoned roll. Why lately I skipped occasions that meant the world to me. And why I kept silent about any fortunes I had collected within the last year. Why I thought about his sadness all day and all night. And how I’ve never told anyone that I was starting to resent him for it. And how that just didn’t seem fair. Because he was sad.

And then Lana readjusted in her seat and told me that the capacity humans have to not only care for someone else, but physically be affected by them as well, is absolutely incredible. That helping him with his struggle was an amazing thing to do. But it wasn’t a one man job. But if it was. That one man.

Wasn’t supposed to be me.

I asked her if she could give me a ride.

And she said yes.

And the next thing I knew, I was walking up the carpeted stairs and up to his paint-chipped door.

I knocked.

He didn’t answer.

But I knew he was in there.

He just didn’t like what I said to him before in the car.

And that was perfectly okay.

And I remember after a few more knocks, I decided to just sit indian style with my back leaning up against the door. And then I remember saying:

“Hey. It’s me. I um. I’m sorry about what I said earlier. You know I want to make you happy. I’m just not sure how to anymore…I’m so tired. And I…I’m going to need you to try, okay?

I just don’t know if I can do this anymore.

I want to.

I just. I just don’t know if I can.

I don’t think I can do this by myself. And I don’t think you can either. But I cannot help you if you won’t let me help you. I want to help you so badly. So so badly. But you’re going to need to help me too. Lying to my friends is getting hard. Lying to you is even harder. And lying to myself? That just might be the hardest. I’m going to need you to work with me. Please work with me. Please.  “

The door                             opened.

 And he looked down on me at me on the floor and asked me something I never thought he would:

“Olive, do you consider me a waste of time?”

I didn’t answer.

Not at first.

But only because I hated that he had asked me that at all.

But eventually I told him that making him happy was the best use of my time.

And it needed to be the best use of his too.

And then he asked me if I was going to leave him.

And I remember looking at him for a long time and then saying:

“Why didn’t you congratulate me when I got my internship in New York City?”

“Because that meant you were going away. Really going away. And I just couldn’t seem to be happy about that. I need you here.”

“Why didn’t you pick me up from Columbus that one day you promised me you would? I was 3 hours away. You didn’t even tell me you weren’t coming. I had to ask you.”

“I was having a bad day Olive, I told you. And I told you I was sorry.”

“…Did you know they chose me for the A team for the national gymnastics competition next week?”

“No. That’s really great Olive! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I told you last week. But you watching a political debate. You must not have heard me. But that’s okay.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

Eventually we migrated into his room and I remember telling him that no human is ever expected to give everything, without deserving at least a little bit in return. And it took me a long time to realize,

What a selfless request that really was.

 How unconditional support is one of the best foundations anyone could ever have, and what a shame it was anytime such an incredible asset felt wasted.

That being there for someone is such a solid quality in a person, and in a friend and in a soul. And sharing problems, and seeking help is absolutely fantastic.

But sharing problems, and sending them away to be fixed, were completely different things.

And if you think about it. If you really really think about it. We carry so many problems that aren’t our own. And it’s okay because other people carry a little bit of ours too. Because that’s what friends are for.

But to never forget.

A friendship. Especially a supportive one. Works both ways.

In fact.

It’s supposed to.

In fact.

It’s what it was built, designed and engineered to do.

And how incredibly fair that really is.

And then I went to give him a hug. And this time he didn’t turn away. Not at all.