This touched me so much, because someone promised me this too, but one day they said. “I am tired of taking care of you!”
I was a Burden!
“I’m not feeling well,” she told me. “I look terrible.”
I’d driven cross-country to see her.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I just want to see your face.”
“I don’t have any energy.” She had chronic fatigue, along with a host of other illnesses. It was, sadly, a part of who she was. And she was having a major flareup today.
“I don’t need you to be all sexy for me. We don’t need to do anything.”
“But my skin hurts.”
“I repeat: We don’t need to do anything. We can sit on opposite corners of the couch and watch television, and I’ll bring you ginger ale if you need it, and I’ll talk if and when you have the energy. I just wanna see you.”
“I’m very sick,” she repeated.
And after we talked in circles for a while, I finally asked:
“Do you want me to cancel my trip?”
She sighed, as if a great burden had been removed from her. “…that’d be good, yes.”
And even though I’d driven several hundred miles to see her, I hung up and phoned a nearby friend to see if they’d put me up for the night.
I never saw her that trip.
I never saw her again.
And last night, I got a text from someone who I love so fiercely they make my heart flare in my chest like a cigarette ember. She also suffers from depression, and other maladies. And it said:
“You do know that I don’t want to be a burden, right?”
I thought back to my other friend – the one who I never saw again – and a cascade of emotions poured through me.
I love you no matter how sick you are.
I want to see you no matter how depressed you are.
If you’re unable to walk, I want to sit next to your chair. If you’re unable to speak, I want to hold you in silence. If you’re unable to touch, I want to just bathe in the glow of your presence as long as you want me there.
Yes, you’re ill. But there is no shame in that. I don’t care how you look, I don’t care what we’d planned on doing, I adore you so thoroughly I tremble sometimes when I think of you, and you are not your sexy times or your witty conversation. You are the whole of all your thoughts, including this sickness, and I love you even when you cannot function.
You are not a burden. You are beautiful.
Let me be near you.
And I often think back to my friend, and yes, it occurs to me that maybe she wasn’t into me and just didn’t have the courage to tell me that up-front. And that’s sad in a different way. Or maybe she was so genuinely down that she couldn’t bear company; that happens, too.
But I think what happened was that she was so shamed of her illness that she’d internalized that sickness, had come to think when her body dysfunctions were ascendant they somehow eclipsed her, and the only time she was really there was when she was healthy. And seeing me when she was sick would have been some sad, paltry half-life, like watching the Grand Canyon through a thick bank of fog.
I wish she knew that I would have loved her regardless. I still love her. And I think of my other beautiful sweetie, and the fact that she is coming to visit, and I know she’s scared that maybe she’ll have a bad weekend while she’s here and break down and won’t be as dazzling as she wants to be or as able to get around as she needs to be or maybe she’ll just mope the whole weekend and want to stay in a hotel with the curtains drawn.
And to her, I say this: If you draw the curtains shut, I will sit in the dark with you and hold your hand.
Because I love you.
And that’s what love is.