A sort of life

How to resolve disputes from afar

WASHINGTON — It’s just after 2 a.m. and drizzling. And my life story is mostly irrelevant. I like talking. And when I write, I like writing. And the people I know like talking. And some like to read. But mostly no one cares much beyond what it takes to fill a couple of hours after work. Or perhaps a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’m like that too.

I used to not be like that. I have distinct memories of being the guy everyone talked to. Everyone told their secrets to. I liked listening. But I burned out. Too many secrets to keep. And then I stopped listening. And then I felt guilty for a while. And then over the years I stopped caring.

But I’m coming back around. I care again. People are important to me in a way I didn’t appreciate before. A forceful deconstruction of my life proved that. Illuminated that. People matter.

And here’s the thing: My life story is irrelevant. I have a guy living with me right now that’s embarking on the very invigorating endeavor of divorce. An experience that’s still fresh for me. And while there are some parallels that can be drawn, and I can chart the swinging emotions he’s going to feel, he’d be foolish to listen to me. I can’t offer any more than words. And there is little comfort in words. We must bear our own crosses.

My favorite bartender is doing the same thing. She’s on the outs with her husband and there’s a lot that can be said to remove the mystery of the agony that awaits her. She’d have no “gotcha” moments. But that’s not true. And so all I can do is listen. And maybe have a drink with her after her shift.

And just now I learned of an old friend–a friend I haven’t talked to in 14-years–having her own marital struggles. And unlike the others, this one really hurts. I always liked her. She is or was the sort of vivacious character stuffed with all the attractive qualities vivacious people are stuffed with. And so to hear that she’s way down in the hole (cue Tom Waits)–it really burns. Had our lives been in a closer rhythm, we might have been better friends. Closer friends. We had our moment in time, but even so, it is one of my life’s true regrets that we did not have a chance to linger a bit longer. But such is life.

And so tomorrow I’ll pull out my pep talk. Share my experience. The resulting wisdom. The stories. The misery. The heartache. And it’s all irrelevant. I can talk, but, the ear is all I have to offer.

There is little comfort in words.

“How to resolve disputes from afar” is from Volume Three: Rock and Roll Part Three (2015–).

Dick Starbuck

Dick Starbuck "Porno Detective"

Justin Young smokes a Davidoff cigarette in the basement of his home in Orleans, Mass. on July 13, 2006.

One of my life’s true regrets that we did not have a chance to linger a bit longer.