I heard a knock at the back door. When I went to answer it, I found my neighbor, Homer, with a bruise on his forehead, and it looked like he had been crying.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“I don’t want to tell you,” he replied. “Can I come in?”
With no need for formality, I opened widely the door and Homer went to his usual place at the kitchen table.
“Beer?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said.
Although Homer showed signs of emotional wear, he was not reluctant to talk. “I just couldn’t take another minute of the news,” he said, “so I unplugged the TV and I was carrying it out to the garage, and I tripped over the threshold, and while falling, I hurled the TV onto the gravel path and slammed my head against the garage wall. And now there’re pieces of TV all over the walk, and my wife’s upset about it, and I needed a friend.”
Homer looked like he was going to cry again. I went for the beer. I popped the top and put it on the table in front of him.
“I get it.” I said. “The news just seems to be full of one disaster or another, political or natural.”
Homer sniffed and blew his nose into his handkerchief and gathered his emotions, took a swig of the beer and said, “Well, it’s not just that. I’ve grown to expect that: weird weather everywhere, people doing crazy stuff, refugees by the millions with nowhere to go, and now this Corona virus. But what’s really getting me is all the hatred. Everyone’s got a right to what they believe. But why can’t they just talk about it like you and I do?”
I wanted to reassure him somehow, but I was failing for words, and I knew this wasn’t a time for platitudes. I thought back to a book I had been reading before Homer arrived. It was a fiction but the author was waxing eloquently through one of her characters. Thoughts take form, a father was telling his son, and these thought forms become the projects we begin with all of our creativity and enthusiasm. But what the father was telling the boy was that he should not leave the projects unfinished, that doing so was energy wasted. A person needed to do something with his thoughts, to put them into action.
I quoted a short haiku-like poem that I had once written: “like a flower, a prayer blooms in the heart, soft petals open unheard.” Sometimes poetry was wasted on Homer, sometimes not.
“Unheard,” he said.
Homer is a country feller, and a thoughtful and big-hearted one, who looks natural twiddling his thumbs. He looked up and there was interest in his gaze. The thumbs reversed direction.
“I’m touched that you feel comfortable sharing your grief with me,” I told him. “Most people who confront anger respond with equal anger, but I think that there is an idea cooking up in your mind, or your heart, or wherever they distill in you, and it’s like a complicated mathematical formula that you just haven’t quite got the answer to yet.”
Homer didn’t grin, but one side of his mouth curled up a little. I knew all he needed was someone to talk to, someone to remind him that the world wasn’t total chaos.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean, you are aware of something, and your mind is clicking away, and I’ll bet that before you finish that beer, you will start coming up with an idea of what to do about it.” His eyebrows went up an eighth of an inch and the other side of his mouth, too. “I’ll bet the anger of someone specific has got you worked up.”
“Should I tell you?” he asked.
“No,” I said, “but tell me what you think will make the anger dissipate.” Homer’s blank look made me realize that he didn’t know what dissipate meant. “Disappear, vanish, evaporate, dissolve, go away,” I added.
“Hmmm,” was all I could get out of him after that. We finished our beers and Homer left, carefully looking down at the threshold before he walked through it, glancing in both directions before he crossed the street and got into his car and drove off towards town. Later, as I sat reading my novel, I saw Homer return to his house. And after getting out of the car, he opened the back door and took out a big TV wrapped up very nicely with a red ribbon and bow, and headed for his front door.
Thanks to Isabel Allende and her novel, The Infinite Plan, and thanks to you, dear readers, for all the solutions for the world’s problems that are brewing in your minds, or your hearts, or wherever they brew.
– Larry Berger. HashtagWV #124. April 2020.