Wednesday, February 09, 2005

boys' night out

I went out for a few beers with Frank last night. He's the widower of the woman who was murdered a couple weeks ago. I've already referred to him in terms of Charlie, his son, but I never mentioned his name; his name is Frank.

Charlie's doing as well as can be expected, and seems to be handling returning to his old routine. Frank only took one week off work to deal with the funeral, but was forced by his boss to take another; he had some sort of emotional breakdown right at his desk. This has been extremely hard on him... they don't have any family in the area. Meg watched the boys, while Frank and I went out; the guy just needed a chance to let go... he needed a night off.

Everything seemed normal at first. He was lightly sharing how hard it's been, but was holding himself together. When he was halfway through his second beer, everything changed.

He stared at his beer as he began talking about how much he missed her and how scared he was for his son; it's like he was telling it to the beer, rather than to me. His words were empty and rhythmic... he was speaking in some sort of monotone. Tears were pouring down his face, but he didn't seem to notice... I wondered if he even still knew where he was. I felt sorry for him, but I was also a little scared by what I was seeing; I had never seen a man cry like this, and he wasn't himself. I couldn't decipher his emotions, so I backed my seat up slowly in case he started swinging at me.

He didn't look over at me when he reacted. He didn't even blink or interrupt his speech, but just whipped his hand over and grabbed mine. He was squeezing my hand hard, and I couldn't tell if he was expressing his anger, or if he just needed something to hang on to. Upon reflection, I guess he really had nobody else to turn to or to rely on, but I didn't know what to make of it at the time. His state didn't seem natural... he seemed so broken, but yet so strong; I don't know what men are capable of doing with that combination, and I was scared to be too close when it happened.

I was more uncomfortable than I can describe, but I let it go on for a few minutes. He squeezed my hand tighter and tighter as he went on, and to be honest, it didn't take me long to forget to listen to his words. Everyone in the bar was staring over at us, as Frank's speech slowly crept up in volume. It sounds silly... I know that they recognized Frank as a man who was a victim of fate, and they felt nothing but compassion and concern for him, but I couldn't help but feel self-conscious about the situation. Frank's grip kept getting tighter, his words continued to become louder, his eyes were getting darker and darker, and it seemed that everyone else's eyes became more and more piercing and judgmental. It wasn't intentional... it was an instinctual response to the situation, but I ripped my hand from his grasp and quickly backed my chair away, with me still in it.

He still didn't look over, but his words halted. His hand searched the air for another human to hold onto, but I was beyond his reach. He was like a blind man, just franticly throwing his hand around, hoping that it would strike at something to give him some sense of reassurance, but it only found vacant space. His search slowed in pace, and before giving up entirely, he just held his hand out, hoping that someone would take it. When nobody did, his arm slowly fell to his side, and his head fell to the table. As I was walking out of the bar, I glanced back to find that he was still holding that position, sobbing ... alone, broken, and defeated.

Megan screamed at me when I got home, right in front of the kids and Charlie; she knew that Frank should have come home from the bar with me. I didn't have any words to account for the situation, and still didn't know what to make of it. She started slapping me, commanding me to go back to Frank, and I knew she was right, but I couldn't seem to turn back toward the door. All I could do was grab her, and start crying onto her shoulder. She was stiff and defiant at first, but a few seconds later, she held me tightly and whispered to me that everything would be okay. I collapsed into her arms; I don't think I've ever cried like that before. I can't imagine life without her, without someone to depend on.