I visited a friend’s house today. One of her neighbors was hosting a large party. A few women stood on the sidewalk outside the house, smoking and talking. They stared at me suspiciously, in silent challenge, as I walked across the street. I thought nothing of it in that moment.
Later, as I stood on my friend’s deck admiring her cedar trees, I heard a woman yelling, and a man responding in seeming confusion. The woman’s voice progressively frantic, angry curses hurled at the man. I imagined the two, facing off in the driveway of that house just across the street; trees obscured my view.
I waited for the yelling to subside, wondering just how long I might be imprisoned by the cedars. But, it continued, crescendoing then suddenly choking out into wordless sobs. The man’s voice by now grew bold, and he told the other women to leave, go back into the house. I heard their murmurs, echoing from the valley of the street to my perch on the deck, my nest and refuge. He repeated the order, loudly. The women’s murmurs grew faint, and then I heard them no more.
And again, the woman raised her cries, unpredictably breaking into angry shrieks, then exhausted sobs.
I decided I could not linger on the deck forever.
As I walked to my car, I glanced down the sidewalk, listening. The man held the woman’s arms from behind, struggling to hold her up as she alternately struggled then fell limp. His eyes met mine for a brief moment; his filled with desperate frustration and mine cautiously inexpressive.
He said to the woman, ‘Do I need to call the police to take you back to jail?’
And then I heard the words behind her sobs, those sobs I had earlier thought inarticulate: ‘I’m not good enough for any of you. I’m not good enough.’
I drove home, reflecting. This pathetic, angry creature was someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s sister, or mother, or auntie. Would the right response to such a cry be: ‘of course you are good enough, because you are one of us.’
But what if she was not one of us? What if she is one of those who live in the shadows of our lives, constantly failing to connect her heart with any other living and breathing soul? What then are these disjointed, isolated ones in the drama of our own lives?