Hugging and learning
The motto among the writers of Seinfeld was "No hugging, no learning." They never resorted to "a very special episode," where, say, Elaine had a pregnancy scare or Kramer got a brain tumor. Even when George's fiancee, Susan, died from licking poison glue on the wedding invitation envelopes, the reaction from Jerry and the gang was a flip "Wanna go to the coffeeshop?"
But life is not a sitcom (usually). Life requires hugging and learning.
And life also asks a girl sometimes to shut up and listen. Which is what I found myself doing with Professor Lunch-Guy yesterday. Shutting up is not my best thing. I talk. A lot. In the classroom this is an asset, as it helps fill 50 to 80 minutes that otherwise would be left to the sound of crickets and the a/c cutting on and off. But on a long lunch date with a lovely human being who has a story to tell, shutting up is better.
I won't tell you the story. It's his story of love and loss. Happened a good many years ago but it still hurts -- as anyone over 40 can tell you, it will always still hurt, even long after you've thought it didn't anymore -- and I could tell it was hard for him to tell me about it.
We've been having these afternoons together since last year. I look forward to them, getting a bit fluttery and girly-girl about dressing nicely and dabbing on a little stink-juice here and there.
It's taken a long time to build up to the story of what happened when and why. So I just shut up and listened.
He looked so sweet in the telling of it. He's handsome anyway -- I've thought so since I was in his class years ago in grad school. But getting into the nitty-gritty of real life stuff, golly. He was beautiful.
And when he finished the story and sat back and rested his spoon on the purple tablecloth of the little cafe in Deep Ellum where we were eating very salty Cajun food, I couldn't think what to say. And he says, "Did anything like that ever happen to you?"
Of course, it has. It's why there are certain songs I can't hear on the radio and certain movies I can't watch. Maybe I'll tell him my story someday. Pretty sure I will. But right then the big lump in my throat kept me from saying anything. I just whispered, "I can't tell you yet." He looked right into me and said, "That's OK. You don't have to."
And I knew at that moment I had learned something important about this man. And right after that, I hugged him.