|This essay, Intimacy In A Crowded Place, is the first in the ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend:||The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:|
|The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:||The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:|
|The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:||The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:|
|The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:||The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:|
|The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:||The tenth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:|
I've brought him a gift. I actually bought it for him years ago. But this is the first opportunity I've had to give it to him. It's a bottle of Opus One of the 1992 vintage. It's therefore now twenty five years old. It's a classic, a collector's item. I make the following request of him: "As classic, prized, and as highly rated as this is, if you taste it and it isn't perfect, then please promise me you'll pour it down the drain.". There's Zen in that. He loves it. He promises. He says he'll keep it for a few more years, then savor it. "Opus One" of course is "Great Work". That's him. The logo has the profiles of its co-creators merged. Everything about it is perfect as a gift for him from me.
Around him I'm as open as a human being can possibly be - naked, unveiled, transparent. In the course of taking the conversation to a bone-numbing level of intimacy, I confess things I've done which aren't OK with me, things I can't stand that I've done, things which are my worst memories which I can't erase. I share with him I've contacted each and every single person in those memories, and that I've apologized to all of them, and that they've forgiven me. But at the end of the day, I can't forgive myself. The memories haunt me.
What he says next rocks me, tips my world off its axis. He says our apologies only get us off the hook with people. And you can't get off the hook with yourself. He differentiates between apologizing for what we did, and acknowledging what we did wasn't OK. What I did, wasn't OK. That's the truth (end of story). That's where it completes. I look: there's nothing left. It's gone very quiet in my head.
He asks about my family, my children, my life in general. He's surprisingly up to date with my entire life. I say "surprisingly" because he doesn't have to be. I don't expect it. But he is. He celebrates my children's successes with me. I acknowledge the contribution he's being to my success as a father. I thank him. He takes extra time to acknowledge his respect for my breakthrough in my relationship with my ex-wife, the mother of my children, for communicating with her and re-establishing the connection after a ten year absence.
He shares his own now healed absence from his family with me. What I get is he's clear what he did was not OK. There's no making it right. No apology can do that - even if it's tried as a more traditional path. It's his knowing what he did wasn't OK, that completes it for me. I nod, amazed. He just proved to me his "What I did is not OK (end of story)" works better than my "I apologize for what I did.".
An aide serves us cups of piping hot green tea as we speak, replenishing them from time to time. At some point the cups stop being replenished. He calls out loudly, startling everyone within earshot: "CAN WE HAVE MORE TEA OVER HERE ... THE TWO PEOPLE?". The two people? That's he and me, the two of us. This is intimacy in a crowded place. The cups are replenished. Another aide lights a stick of fine Sho-Kaku Japanese incense, placing it nearby in a holder. It's not pungent or smoky like other incenses - in fact I can barely detect it. But when I move my head to intentionally draw it into my nostrils, it's sublime - divine, in fact. It's clearly something worthy of being showcased in this extraordinary space - obviously well chosen for this specific purpose. In this crowded place you'll find the very best of everything.
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