You know, sometimes it really sucks being the odd one out. You know what I mean. The guy nobody likes. I’ve dealt with it my entire life, so it’s not like it’s new or anything. It just rankles sometimes.
Yeah, I know, it sounds like I’m doing the pity party thing. Maybe I am. Except being a social outcast all my life made my discovery all the more startling.
I guess I should explain, I can see you’re confused. Heck, I would be.
See, as a social outcast (hold with me here, I’m not doing the pity party thing again, I promise), while I’d wanted to date girls in school, or even after graduation, it was all I could do to get a date. Those few I did get, made it clear within the first little while it would be the only date we’d have.
Sure, I did the self assessment thing. My clothes were clean, if not the latest style. My truck worked, but wasn’t brand new. I bathed and groomed daily, and tried to be nice to everyone I met. My mom, and also pretty much my only source of information on the subject, said I wasn’t ugly, and some girls might even like my little snaggle tooth and the faded scar just peeking out of my hairline. I just didn’t fit in.
So, having decided to take a couple years off school to make some life choices, I got a job at a call center. It was there I met Angie. She and I were opposites in many ways. My skin had no tattooes, while she had several. My hair is blond, hers is a rich mahogany brown. I was still a virgin, yet she had a kid. But for all our differences, I was hugely in love with her.
Except my life, being what it is, it didn’t take Angie long to fall in line with all the rest of the girls before her. I knew soon enough, I was tolerated, not liked. Yeah, it hurt because I liked her so much, but I dealt with it and did my job while trying not to think about my monster crush on her.
If you’re confused yet, don’t be. Things are about to become clear.
One day, things changed. I got to work a little early, and walked into the breakroom. I only wanted a soda from the machine, but felt like an intruder. There was Angie, sitting at a table in the far corner, sobbing. Her sister, Trina, was comforting her. I tried not to look their way as I went about my business.
My feelings for Angie were such that I hurt for her, seeing her crying so hard. Figuring it was guy troubles or something, I thought I could at least be decent, and get her some water and a couple tissues. It didn’t take me long to gather them, and I walked over to the table to set them down. Trina smiled at me, “Thanks, Ron.”
I smiled back and turned away when I felt a warm hand on my arm. I knew without seeing it was Angie’s. Then suddenly, a feeling of vertigo struck me, and I knew a lot more.
It wasn’t guy troubles Angie had. Her mother was dying of pancreatic cancer, and it was agony for both her and the family to watch. Angie’s daughter was sick with some immune system issue that the doctors couldn’t make heads or tails of, and her car kept overheating. The pain and frustration of it all was so much, she finally broke. I could feel it coursing through her like blood in her veins.
Here’s the really weird part. Not only could I feel Angie’s emotions, knowing better than she did how deeply they were felt, I realized I had some control over the flow of them. Tentatively, and after a false start, I started syphoning off the pain. Not all of it, I didn’t want to remove her humanity. However, I did take enough away to lighten her load. The next shock came the moment I understood I could give her emotions too. So I did. I gave her hope.
The kind of hope I gave is hard to describe. It’s the hope of knowing the death of a loved one is a pain that’s dulled with time. That children can, and do, overcome things in miraculous ways, and that until a treatment is found, the best thing to do is spend as much time with little Maddie as possible.
It only took the two seconds Angie’s hand was in contact with my arm for all this to transpire. When she let go, her wide, staring eyes looked at me. It was all I could do to not look away. I returned her gaze, and smiled. A gesture she returned.
Trina must’ve known something was going on, because she looked at her sister, then to me. It was Angie who spoke.
“Thank you,” she whispered so softly, I only knew what she said by reading her lips.
“F-for what?” I said, pulling away.
“What just happened?” Trina asked.
They both looked at me, and suddenly I needed to throw up. Dashing from the room, I barely made it to the men’s room in time.
The rest of the day was a blur, though I do remember catching both Angie and her sister looking at me. They’d wait until I looked up, smile, and move on. I don’t even remember leaving for the day, or getting home.
I sat in a darkened apartment, a glass of milk warming as I ignored it in my hand, trying to figure out what I’d done, and how I’d done it. This was, after all, the normal world. People weren’t supposed to be able to touch one another and do things with their emotions.
Could I do it again? I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to, though the following thoughts had some merit.
I called out sick from work the next day for the first time in over two years. What I needed was time to think. Time to process everything and maybe figure some other stuff out too.
A long drive in the country seemed to be in order. So I gathered up some stuff for a lunch, and made sure I had cash on me for gas. With my cooler packed and my jacket over my arm, I walked down to my parking spot. There was a note tucked under my windshield wiper.
I’m not sure what you did, or how you did it, but thank you. I know you know what’s going on, I’m don’t know how you know it, only that somehow you do. My life seemed so empty up until that moment. Like I lived under a dark sky, and all I could see was shades of gray.
Then you touched me, and it was like color entered my life again. It felt like I could breathe, finally, after all this time. Trina doesn’t know what to make of it all, but like me, she’s very grateful for what you’ve done. I guess there really are angels among us, whom we know nothing about. I hope you don’t mind, I looked up your address in the company directory. I wanted to say thank you. I also wanted to say, that I will always be grateful for what you’ve done. You will always have a friend in me.
Tucking the note in my hand, I got in my truck and read it three more times before starting my truck and going on my drive. Dark clouds rolled overhead. Rain fell in a steady way that suggested it would be here to stay for a while. Except for me, the day didn’t seem dark or dismal. It seemed bright and cheery. As I headed out of town, a smile formed, and I could feel the joy inside. Maybe my life would mean something after all. It struck me that in touching Angie for those couple seconds, I too, got to feel some of the hope I gave her. The future looked bright indeed.
© 2016, Tim Hillebrant. All rights reserved.
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