I wish I were better at cheering people up. I want to be the kind of person others come to with their problems, because I want to be the kind of person who can help others. But I don’t know how. The best I can do when someone tells me their problems is listen with what I hope is a sympathetic expression. I try to be supportive, I try not to ask indiscreet questions – I try to make the person feel better, but I know I’m failing. Honestly, the best I can be is a place to air out your troubles. While that’s frequently helpful, there are other people more worth talking to.
Today Squiggle was less boisterous than usual. I don’t know why, and was unable to ask tactfully. She and another friend started discussing how Midnight (who wasn’t in school today) had seemed rather down the previous day, especially in the morning. I didn’t even notice. I felt so inadequate.
Yesterday, Indigo, Midnight and Squiggle got out of school just after lunch. Indigo and Midnight stayed, playing cards. Halfway through my next class, during the ten-minute break, I went down to talk to them. I found that Indigo was deeply unhappy, and asked why. “The usual,” she replied.
I didn’t know what she meant. A year and a half of friendship, and I didn’t know what she meant. Hating that I had to do it, but knowing that it was better than abruptly displaying my ignorance halfway through the conversation, I asked what ‘the usual’ was.
The usual was family. Indigo has a myriad of family issues which she has introduced me to in a haphazard sort of way. I do know that she has problems with most of her family, and even what several of these problems are, but I just didn’t think of it.
I sat there feeling like a jerk and an idiot as she sketchily touched on what the problem was this time. Midnight led the conversation in a slightly different direction, and I tried to lead it even further away without seeming to jump at the chance. I don’t know if I managed, but I don’t even care. That’s not the problem. The problem is that I’m so stupid.
How can I forget this kind of thing? Am I blind? Am I insensitive? Am I so desperately airheaded? Am I too self-centered to remember? What’s wrong with me?
This is why I will never be the one people go to with their problems. I don’t have the insight to see what it is that’s troubling them; I don’t have the skill to painlessly draw out the stories that need to be told, and I certainly don’t have whatever it takes to say the right thing afterward. I wish I did, but I just don’t.
If only – I don’t even know what to wish for. If only I didn’t mind? If only I knew that there was something else I was offering, something only I can do, that might make up for my shortcomings? If only I knew that someone else was ensuring everyone’s happiness, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them. They’re my friends, after all – I do worry. I want them to be happy.
If only I were a better friend.