Friday, March 11, 2011


I pour sugar into my tea until no more will dissolve, and stir while I wait. The earthquake and Tsunami news from Japan last night had frayed a nerve, when images of thousands search for stability on frail rocking grounds.

Ella is about to arrive, with news of her own. I take a sip of tea while I wait, letting the warmth travel through me and calm the quivers. When I check the time again, the door bell rings.

"Would you like some tea?" I ask out of nervousness. Her eyes have the look of all night crying spells and more tears on the verge of spilling, her pale round face ashen, and her hands trembling.

She nodded, and pulled her lips apart in an effort to smile, or talk, or both. But neither came forth. I rush back to the kitchen to prepare tea. I am lucky she likes Earl Grey and I have one bag left.

"Are you off work today?" I push the mug before her, and sat down in front of mine.

"No, but I don't have to go until later."

"Oh, that's good. You just moved here right? Do you like San Diego?"

She nods with an almost smile. We chat more about the weather and her great new job, while she relaxes further into her chair, and her hands nearly stop trembling.

She takes in the steamy tea in big gulps. Her eyes, swollen with red rims, are now slightly obscured by the tiny cloud of fog lifted around her. Her usually neat bob looks slightly disheveled, falling into her eyes and aiming to take control of this side of her face.

She had called me last night, crying and shaking through the crackling phone lines. "I am too scared to move my legs, T! Why is he doing this to me? Why does he plays so many stupid tricks? Is he going to take away my kid so I'd never see her again?"

I pictured her daughter Anni, a wee bit toddler still, her wispy blond curls flying up behind her head while she runs and hides, always babbling something about superheros. Her warm brown eyes are just like Ella's, inquisitive, impatient, and impossibly clear. She chats happily yet never for more than a minute before she's off running again, continuing the conversation herself, until she's back and find you again, a few minutes later.

I somehow couldn't picture her without Ella standing over her on the side, picking up things she dropped, pulling her in when she's about to run into something, or afterward, and wrap her up in a hug. It somehow silences them both, just for a minute and no more; a moment of reprieve, from running, chatting, crying or whatever it was occupying them the moment before. They'd smile into each others eyes, unmoving and holding on to a world of unspoken words.

I had pulled the phone close, as if that would somehow help me convey my thoughts, yet I didn't have a thing to say. Unknowingly I raised my voice and started to tell her to take some deep breathes. But I didn't stop there, I had more steps and instructions. I got so caught up in the righteousness of my logic, voice raising all the more as I speak. Then I realized I was nearly yelling, at her.

I apologized sheepishly and called her back half an hour later to invite her to tea this morning.

"I can't imagine what you must be going through...but come round..., if you like to to have some tea... I'll listen."

So here we are, sitting in the soft rays of the early morning light, studying the swirling patterns and rich brown hues of my battered cafe table. Neither of us seem to want to reach back into last night's sorrow, lest those worrisome confusions and misplaced angst return.

"So how are you doing?" I finally break the silence that was beginning to weigh on us.

Another lips pulling effort. "I was actually doing much better after talking to you last night."

"Oh good." I cringe inside but continue. "So tell me what happened...,um, sorry I was in such a rush last night I didn't,... um,... listen..."

She gives me the story, and I listen, biting my tongue at times. But the look in her eyes reminds me to be patient, the look surrounded by tears still threatening to spill over.

My hands start to tremble when hers finally stopped, along with the story. It is the same old story, of how life can go so wrong when you least expect it, in the flesh in front of me. The absurdity of it all fills me and rises up inside like the beginning of a wildfire. Were I to try to control it, it will just break open every containment and shatter them into pieces.

Instead, I open the lid to tell her how I was in that story not so long ago, of how frightened and angry I was, and how easily those memories could still be triggered. I tell her about having no where to turn, being ashamed and about crying on the floor all night, and shaking until every muscle was hurting in my body. I tell her the story I'd told no one until today.

She starts to nod, her hands reach out then back, and eventually, real smiles broke through, and melted that thin layer of gray ice freezing her face. I had almost forgotten what a nice smile she has. It reminds me of the ones I saw on Anni, always flashing by the second before she runs off.

I feel the tears then, surging in and putting out the raging fire, bringing in an ocean of peace. I tuck back the tears behind my blinking lids, not knowing why. Perhaps that is just what the moment needs, not more drama. Perhaps I am getting used to tucking things behind, after all that has happened.

I can see the questions in her eyes, I can see her wanting to hear more. I can feel the story form on the tip of my tongue, about how I finally walked out of all the mud, but I tuck that back down too, not knowing why. Perhaps there's just not enough hours in one day to hear about brokenness, or perhaps there is too many. Or perhaps there is not a way to put shattered pieces together in one go, or revisit one that is still slightly shaky, and more persistence is needed than mere strength and speed.

I see a calm in her that I didn't expect. She tells me so too. So perhaps this is enough for today. We pray that there is a chance for more stories on another day, when we can sit sipping a second pot of tea, sifting through experiences that are different but the same, shifting into emotions that are echoing but varied, not knowing why but finding that feeling of okay anyway.

We part with the news back on, remembering how people in the other corner of the world is still churning, scattering and struggling through impossible forces of the elements, praying with the spirit that is carrying us, today and tomorrow, that we will persevere both inward and out, together in aid, somehow.


  1. I think this is lovely. There is a sense of strength that runs right throughout this piece even though the narrative speaks of vulnerability and uncertainty.. The flow and rhythm is fabulous.

    I've read it two or three times before commenting. You've written it with such delicacy that it leaps off the page to be read. Definitely one of my favourite posts.

  2. "We pray that there is a chance for more stories on another day, when we can sit sipping a second pot of tea, sifting through experiences that are different but the same, shifting into emotions that are echoing but varied, not knowing why but finding that feeling of okay anyway."~My favorite sentence in this piece... Your words are always so honest and filled with strength, even when describing painful subjects. God bless you :)

  3. I loved this piece. It's amazing how you connected your friend's own sad story with the disaster in Japan. I feel really bad for both people in Japan who lost everything and also for your friend.

  4. Beautifully written piece. Sometimes when hope seems gone the best thing someone can do is to hear our story. She knows she was heard.

  5. You're a good friend, T. You knew she'd need more stories for later. There's turmoil all around us, but it doesn't lessen the pain of each individual crisis. You conveyed this beautifully and with much compassion here.

  6. What a truly beautiful piece you have written here. Eloquently sharing the story. I'm your newest follower.

  7. You are a good and kind friend, opening yourself up to someone else's pain and in doing so, reliving your own pain. Beautifully told.

  8. 'Perhaps I am getting used to tucking things behind, after all that has happened.' I could really relate to that line in particular. I am really impressed with this post. The flow and quality of writing as well as the message are all there. As has been said in a previous comment this really was beautifully told.

  9. Amazing writing. you have a gift, thank you for sharing

  10. A trouble shared is a trouble halved. I loved reading this! You are so expressive about feelings that we have all felt at one time or another in our lives.

  11. such a lovely written post!

    i also want to thank you for leaving kind and sweet comments that made me smile, you were actually the one who made me realize i was a blog-of-noter, so you're special in that seemingly small (given the big world and all its turmoils and disasters) way too:) thank you!

  12. It's tough for everyone, everywhere in the world. Sometimes I like to be reminded that my minor problems are nothing in comparison to the suffering that others are going through. Thank you.

  13. Your writing is wonderful.

    Being there for a friend, the way you were, though it may seem trivial, I'm sure offered more comfort than you know.

  14. I just love your writing style, Shopgirl! I could read a whole book of it. Good work!!

  15. This is so beautiful. I have been praying so much for the people of Japan and all of those affected by all of this. I've been glued to the news about it. Thanks for writing this blog.

  16. This is a nice picture of the ministry of hospitality. Your friend is blessed to have someone like you.

  17. light208 - The story, happened on the same day it was written which is rare for me, really wanted to be told which made it easier. Thank you for reading it more than once, that's a wonderful compliment.

    Jade - I am glad you liked that sentence. It's one of those that worked itself out before *I* interfered with it.

    Starlight - That is a beautiful sentiment and your encouragement really helps in a wonderful way.

  18. Barbra - It took me a while to get there, to really hear her, better late than never I suppose.

    Jayne - I was overwhelmed a bit that morning having slept little the night before watching the news. So it was a release to write down a bit of both later that day. Glad it worked.

    Mitzi - So glad to "meet" you on my blog. Your support is much appreciated.

    Leonora - You understood it perfectly and that is a beautiful comment.

    HF&I - I hope to hear about why that relates if possible, I enjoy your beautifully written stories myself.

    Becky - Thank you.

    Technogran - I am so glad you enjoyed this.

    taio - Thank you, I hope you come back sometime soon.

    Pia - Thank you for visiting and welcome to my blog.

    Clarissa - Compassion for Japan around the world has been so encouraging, I agree.

  19. Megan - It's tricky but I believe we both benefited, which is what's so wonderful about it.

    Christine - Welcome back, thank you for reading this and leaving a comment. A book, wow. I hope, someday.

    Jessica - thank you for your sympathy for those suffering in Japan.

    Cassandra - The credit goes to the one who healed me. :)

  20. Lovely piece. You are a such a good friend.

  21. I read all of your comments, not wanting to be repeatitive, and everyone is right, the blog is wonderful, delicate, just what she needed.

    She is lucky to have a friend like you. There have been many times in my broken life that Iwould have loved to have had someone listen over a cup of tea, I think that is what I have missed having most in my life.

    I have always been the nuturer, for once, I would love to be nurtured. :-) How selfless and giving of you to be that for your friend.

  22. Loree - thank you. I hadn't been believe me leading up to this but I came around eventually.

    One Girl's Story - Thank you so much for reading all the comments as well, I hope you enjoyed them as I did. I appreciate your visit and your stories, I hope you've found someone who can listen and have tea with you, it's so important. FWIW, please feel free to chat / email anytime if you need to.

  23. We are all broken in one way or another and knowing that brings comfort in and of itself. The way out of that brokenness is of less consequence as it is a different journey for all of us.

  24. Well said Nari. It's such a personal journey for each. I believe the desire to walk out is the most important first step and I'm hoping that there was at least a start on that.




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