Last night, I picked up Ray from work, as I had the truck. We got back from our latest camping excursion on Wednesday, but as we both had to work on Thursday, the equipment and all of the detritus from traveling and seeing all of the things we saw remained until yesterday, when I had a day off and could tend to them.
As he wound down from the day, it was clear that he was in a foul mood. His day had really grated on him, but there was a moment specifically that really gave him pause. One of the customers had asked about the artwork at the restaurant, and through a bit of back and forth, he admitted to her that he wasn’t a student at the college where the restaurant is located, and that he wasn’t an artist.
That last bit – admitting that he wasn’t a creative person – really gave him pause and shook him to the core. All of his life up until last fall had been built around the framework of his design ability. Everything he enjoyed, all of the things he created, centered around his ability to produce. A rough semester in a design course at a local college here in Portland, while he struggled to make rent and bills and somehow devote enough time to his studies just to keep up, all blew up in his face, and has left a deep, deep scar in his belief in himself and his abilities.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I could see that he was hurting, and that he really needed to vent and lean on me, so I remained quiet, and let him speak. He is lost, and his life has fallen into a bit of a mess. What I heard and what I saw reminded me of why I have appeared in his life. I cannot fix everything. I can clean the truck, the camping equipment, offer to help organize his room, his house, his social schedule. I can buy him the occasional iced coffee, chocolate, or little present. I can offer him my shoulder, my arm, my ears, my mind, but I can’t make this darkness go away for him. He’s going to have to figure that out on his own. The only thing I can do, really, is be the supportive and loving person that he deserves.
This was a new side to Ray that I really haven’t gotten to know much. He puts so much effort into putting on a good face, keeping up a lightness and brightness about him, that it’s easy to miss the moments when he’s really feeling dark and lost. I told him last night that I really appreciated finally getting to see this other side of him. I know things aren’t as rosy and wonderful as he’d like them to be, and it’s therapeutic for him to actually talk about the actuality of things as they are.
It was a moment like last night that reminded me that he and I aren’t as different as I sometimes think we are. When I was younger, and my own life had blown up in a similar fashion, it took some time and some healing for me to find a path forward. The man I was with at the time seemed to be the supportive person I needed in order to find my own bravery to make another step forward, and I did. Granted, in my case, he turned out to be resentful of my growth and life-movement, but it was that environment of opportunity that I needed and he gave me. I want to be that kind of person for Ray, but with a lot more gusto behind my supportiveness than perhaps I got myself when I was in his shoes.
I guess this is also one of those moments when I realize the potential that he and I really have. All along, I’ve said that I don’t know how long this will last, and that if he were to move on from us tomorrow, that I would hug him tight and then let him go knowing that the time we have shared has been transformative for me. I trust that he’s not disappearing tomorrow, though. I have a little more faith in things lasting longer than a night, longer than a day. I can see with a bit more clarity where I can make a real, impactful difference in his life. I also truly feel appreciated for being in his life, and that, for me, means everything.