Himself was working very late. I was up and brooding about - well, frankly, about a mundane personal matter. Brooding for me means clean but outrageous pajamas, about one glass of wine too many, a hand-crafting project just slightly to complicated to permit distraction. Hey, brooding means not sleeping, the least I can do is knit a few rounds on a lumpy sock, right? Brooding is pretty damn useless, so might as well keep the hands busy while the mind grinds away uselessly.
So, I'm trucking along on a sad and lumpy sock (my third ever). Because even if we don't find a house to rent and end up living in a carboard box under the bridge by the community theater*, we will still need socks. Especially with winter coming on.
So, basically it was Artsy Fartsy night down at the Anxiety and Self-Indulgent Corral.
I very nearly didn't answer the phone. I was feeling about as social as a bear with a beehive on her backfoot. But some impulse made me grab it on the last ring.
"Dat you, darlin'?" His Cajun accent, which comes out stronger when he's stressed. Right now he's just barely intelligble. He sounds tired, beaten and sad.
Twentyplus years I've known this man. I know him like no one else does. I cut him no slack, I say the hard things. Watched his romatic life the way the Hurricane hunters study the gulf, knowing that there was a hell ofa storm lurking out there somwhere. Not one of of his wives or girlfriends has ever understood what we are to each other. Sometimes we don't either but we keep drifting in and out of each other's lives.
Underlying all our differences, which are fabled in story and song, are the things we have in common; shared history, a decades long faith in our friendship, pride.
We are both damnably proud.
But tonight he's in a crisis. Shaking in the grip of one of the anxiety attacks he's been having since his last combat turn in Iraq. Doing this where his kids won't see is becoming second nature. Their daddy crying upsets them so he'll lock it down until he can get sometime alone.
He gasps out a shorthand version of what's happening. Between sentences he keeps saying he's sorry to bother me, but I'm all he has, the only one he trusts. He's crying.
I am solidly supportive. I push my love and friendship through the phone for him to wrap up in. I in slip in questions about his welfare, about his and the children's safety. I reassure him that he is not a bad person for not being the perfect model soldier.I talk him down, I get him grounded.
I get confirmation that he has an appointment to be seen by the VA. We compare our litany of aging related health problems- arthritis, bum knees, the bad back he got during a helicopter training episode gone sour. We are neither of us nineteen anymore, I remind him, and he chuckles.
And that's the sound I was waiting for. Not a damn thing has actually changed and his situation is still pretty fucked up. But that irrepressible chuckle, and the way he drawls 'Now,darlin' you did that on purpose' tell me we've won through. No matter how bad tonight gets, there will be a morning.
Some nights its's touch and go. Now we'll do the goodbye dance. He tells me he's never understood why I've put up with his shit for twenty years. Icollect my lightest and airiest voice and reply 'Because I love you, you dope.'
A few moments later, he's hanging up toget some sleep before another day like the one that ground him down so hard he reached for the phone to call me. I continue working on the sad and lumpy sock (now with new stitch tension issues).
Finally Himself somes home and I give him the news. He tells me 'I worry about him.
I wish there were more we could do.' I nod, sleepily.
'Bedtime. World saving and sock knitting and house hunting are hard work. You have to get your rest.'
*House hunting was successful a few days later, because I had fabulous luck and even more fabulous support.The lumpy sock comntinues apace and may actually end up fit to wear by some one not too picky. Kind of like life, really.