I started listening carefully to people, and their particular conversation topics the moment I realized that they weren’t just speaking. Most conversations are of a very specific content. Human beings are like deep wells, and when they become to full they begin to overflow. Words become metaphorical buckets with which we empty our souls.
What I find to be most interesting is the subject matter that causes us to reach the point where we can no longer contain the amount of words within ourselves. The very point where emptying the well becomes a necessity. Over the years I have come to find that the subject matter is as varied, and unique as the storyteller. I have also come to realize that who we choose to tell our story to is of equal importance. The big mystery of course is why we choose our particular listener. Sometimes the listener maybe someone who knows us very well. Even more often we choose someone who doesn’t know us at all.
Over this lifetime I have had the privilege of being chosen as the listener many times. Many times much to the dismay of my family (they refer to this pretty regular occurrence as the not again Mom syndrome), but they have become accustomed to my inability to walk away from the storyteller. I am fascinated by the entire process, most of all by the story I’m about to be told.
We use to take our children to South Beach in Miami every year for Easter. On one particular evening we had arrived at two o’clock in the morning. We had parked outside of the apartment where we were staying, and were coming down the sidewalk carrying our luggage. Out of another apartment came a man (a complete stranger) he walked past all of my other family members and stood directly in front of me.
I sat down my luggage on the sidewalk, and he began to speak. His eyes were filled with emotion, tears streaming down his cheeks. He told me how much he had loved his sister, and how deeply he regretted not coming sooner to be with her. She had died shortly before his arrival. He told me about how they had played endless hours as children. How she snorted when he made her laugh. He had taken a job in London, and had not seen his sister in almost five years. He told me he really thought that they would have more time together. His description of her was so detailed, his love for her was so immense, it felt as though she were sitting right there on the sidewalk with us. I imagined her listening to him as intently as I had been listening.
Two hours had passed in what seemed like a short moment. My husband ,and his cousin had unpacked. They had tucked our children in bed, and continued to watch me from the living room window. The man told me that their parents had died six years ago in a car accident. He told me that he was alone now except for his wife and their son and daughter. That his daughter snorted when he made her laugh just like his sister had. Then he stared at me with an expression that let me know he had emptied out his overflow of words. I don’t think he himself understood why he had told me, a complete stranger his very personal story. I never spoke back to him the entire time. He stood up and walked back to his sister’s apartment.
I walked back to our apartment thinking about his words, his love for his sister. I secretly hoped that when my time in this life comes to an end, that there would be a storyteller who would express their love for me with an overflow of words equally as beautiful. I also secretly wondered who the storyteller would be, and who they would pick to be their listener. 😉