Today started off as a crushing day, it actually began around 1 am when I first crawled into bed after finally finishing a memo that's taken 2 weeks to crank out. S jumped on me in bed at 7 am, I had been in brain fog all morning, despite drinking a literal bowl of coffee.
The sun was out, shining, the temperature mild. I should take a walk, right?
But I also remembered that someone called me a few days ago and that I should call them back. Ok, multitask, sure, talking on the phone walking a steep treelined hill near my house isn't the same as a zoom in my attic.
Backstory on this call: One of Viking's friend has a wife who I never knew well, we used to hang out in the same circles. Lots of other people sort of backed away slowly from her. She has always been, um, "flighty" much as a character in a novel from the mid-20th century might be described. Her conversation threads always bounce off walls, manic, sometimes narcissistic, sometimes shockingly insightful. I recognize her style well, see, my beloved French grandmother lived with bi-polar disorder. We USians talk about people bi-polar an awful lot, it's a phrase that's casually thrown around, but often inaccurately. I know real manic episodes when I see them.
So backtracking some more - last week I got a message from the receptionist at my union hall. A woman named K called, she is interested in writing a book about labor history, specifically a biography of the union leader George Meany. She randomly called my union office, our receptionist said, "Oh I know someone who may be able to help you, she's our staff Researcher, C. Oh really, you know C? what a small world, that's GREAT!" Our receptionist is sincerely the chattiest human alive. She lives for talking to strangers. I honestly can only imagine the pure joy of this phone call.
I have been meaning to call K back for few days.
In a sad sort of fugue state I left the house with my phone, and somehow dialed the number on the email message.
The next 40 minutes, as I was huffing and puffing up a hill, was, well...
K is in wrapped in the arms of a beast that is enveloping her. I could feel it over the phone. She began with reading me a poem she wrote about the death of a friend's wife. She talked about George Meany. And Spiro Agnew and LBJ (late 60s history is her jam). She asked if I ever read the works of Irene Nemereofsky. She talked about how her employers retaliated against her when she wanted to form a union at her hotel catering job. She casually mentioned self-harm, anxiety, depression. I knew she lost both of her parents back to back about two years ago, we talked about grief. I hung on for the ride. I asked about her young son, nearly Niblet's age. I offered to talk to labor historians I know. I encouraged her to get outside, PLEASE K, take a walk. Please unplug. She told me she used to hate me because she was jealous of my looks, my intelligence and my success. But she was so happy to be speaking to me now. We talked about drinking, I mentioned that I don't drink anymore. I told her that I was huffing and puffing up a series of hills because the walls were closing in on me. I asked if it would be ok to call again next week, to see how her day went. I hung up with one final plea to go out into the sunshine.
I think I was able to put to words just a portion of the conversation. I am still sort of processing it all.
You may recall I'm big on the signs of the universe. The cues. Maybe it's my rational brain looking for order in a world of chaos and nonsense.
I don't know why the universe had this woman call my union hall to find someone to talk to about 1960s labor bosses. But she did, and for about 40 minutes I was out of my own head and just another human with another human sitting in a suburb about 30 minutes away.