The heaviness she felt, pushing on her shoulders and clamping down her throat- “this must be what ‘guilt’ feels like”, she thought. How had she let this happen? How had she could she have been so careless, so cavalier? Usually Helen couldn’t be bothered to care about someone else’s feelings. Usually, she wasn’t wrong. As one of the greatest minds in psychology, a wildly successful writer and accomplished practitioner, Helen was only vaguely familiar with the concept of ‘failure’ on any level, including careless mistakes. She simply did not make them, and did not tolerate them from those she worked with. While Helen had somehow gone her 33 years without developing what people might consider a normal level of empathy, she was not a ‘bad’ person and could deftly recognize when an injustice had been committed. And this time, she was the one to blame.
Wholly inexperienced in how one would go about seeking forgiveness, Helen did what she always did when she needed advice- she called her best friend Ruby. Agreeing to meet Helen where she was at the corner diner, Ruby arrived ten minutes later and fell into the chair in a huff. “Ruby, you have some kind of blue substance on your face,” Helen said as her friend picked up her menu. Without putting the menu down, Ruby dipped two fingers in her water glass and rubbed them on the cheek Helen indicated. As a Kindergarten teacher for more than five years, having a bit of smutz on her face was hardly a cause for concern. Placing her order with the waitress several minutes later, Ruby leaned her elbows on the table and said, “So, what’s the problem?”
“I’ve made a mistake, Ruby, and it’s outside my scope of expertise so I was hoping you could help me understand how to correct the error I’ve made,” Helen said matter-of-factly. Seeing her friend was troubled, Ruby nodded her head for Helen to continue. “It happened about half an hour ago. I was sitting at the counter, in my usual seat when a young man entered the diner and sat down in the seat to my left. Interested in why he would choose to sit in that particular seat, when there were many open seats that were not next to another patron, I struck up a conversation with him. He was very interesting, and I found that I was enjoying our conversation very much- in a purely professional manner, of course,” she finished hurriedly when Ruby flashed her an inquisitive smile.
“So…. What’s the issue? Sounds like nothing but good things so far,” Ruby replied before taking a huge bite of her tuna melt.
“Well, as he was finishing his meal and was preparing to depart, I’m afraid I gave him some misinformation,” Helen answered, looking a bit sheepish- a look Ruby had never seen on her friend. Before she could press her for more details however, Helen seemed preoccupied with something over her shoulder. Looking behind her, Ruby saw a tall man with dark hair and a brooding expression enter the diner.
“That’s him!” Helen was almost giddy. “Now I can correct my oversight and put this entire thing behind me,” she said as she walked over to meet the stranger in the diner’s doorway. Not wishing to miss any of the action, Ruby grabbed the other half of her melt and swiveled in her seat to get a better look.
“I’m so glad you returned,” Helen said as she approached the man still standing in the doorway. “The phone number I gave you, it’s… well, I gave you an incorrect number. You see, I don’t typically hand out my personal number and when you asked, I am embarrassed to say I provided a false number out of habit. I feel badly about my dishonesty and the humiliation you would have felt, had you dialed the number only to realize it was not mine. But, you are here now, and I would very much like to give you my correct phone number,” she concluded and handed him a business card, her cell phone number written on the back.
Ruby watched as her friend handed the mystery man something and a few seconds when the man turned to leave she quickly swung back to face the table and waited for Helen to sit back down. “So? What was that all about? Who was that? What did you give him?” Ruby couldn’t help the flood of questions that fell out of her mouth. She remaindered herself of her students. Helen just stared at her hands, a subtle smile playing at the corner of her lips. Finally, when Ruby didn’t think she could stand the suspense any longer, Helen looked up and said quietly, “I have a date”.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: OK, this one when in a completely different direction than I intended… oh well, it happens. Today I discovered some information that immediately caused a knot to form in my stomach. Based on what I was reading today, I knew I had given some very bad advice yesterday to a student wishing to apply to the program. Now normally, I would shoot off an email to the wronged party to explain my error and apologize for the confusion. Problem was- this student was a walk-in, I didn’t even have a name. As a result, I walked around with a stone in my bowels and a heavy conscience. The small detail that I got wrong could potentially delay this student’s graduation by a semester, postponing his ability to apply to our program and continue towards his career goals. I was kicking myself. My job is to help students like him, and for the first time that I know of, I had done the complete opposite of that. And then- there he was. Standing in the office, talking to one of our faculty, there stood the very student I had misguided yesterday completely unaware that I had messed up. Springing on this opportunity, I informed the student of my ‘oops’ and apologized profusely. The news ‘made his day’ according to him, and I felt such relief I almost hugged the dude. Love when things work out (thanks Big Guy).
Love & Squirrels.