Learning to listen

Sometimes the words you need to hear just come to you, sometimes from a totally unexpected place. Last night, I was at one of my favorite Brooklyn places, Flatbush Farm, with Katie, her sister and boyfriend Marc. The Farm one of the places Katie and frequented when I lived in the neighborhood, a place we celebrated many an occasion, good and bad, with a burger and a dark n’ stormy.

Last night we met there before heading over to BAM to see “Hunger Games.” I was sitting at the end of the bar waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the bartender to come take my order, when a white-haired man came in and sat down beside me. We started chatting, and our conversation quickly turned from the weather to life philosophy. It wasn’t bizarre or uncomfortable. It felt like an old friend had appeared from a distant past, like maybe my grandfather had wandering in with a message he knew I needed to hear.

The last few weeks have been filled with a lot of questions for me. I’m thinking, at long last, of settling down for a while in one place. Someplace. I’m ready, but it’s a scary thing. What if I finally settle down, for example, and have all this time to focus on my novel, and I still can’t make it work? What if I can’t find peace? What if I never find my place?

“I remember being your age, but it’s hard being young. It’s a cliche, but it would be so nice if I could have known then what I know now.”

“What is that, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Now I finally know what’s important.”

I sighed. “What IS important?” I asked, and he smiled.

“Love. All kinds of love. Every kind of love. But also hardship. Having things come to you easily never gives you a fuller life. It’s the hard lessons that give your life meaning. If you can find a way to see the beauty in the hard times, you’ll find the meaning much faster than I did.”

I sat there for a moment, considering how insane I would seem if I jumped up and hugged him. The bartender appeared, set my drink in front of me and took my food order. It was time to go back to my table.

“Thank you,” I said and held out my hand. “I’m Juli. It’s been so nice talking to you.”

“I’m Peter,” he said in his lovely British accent. “It’s truly been a pleasure.”

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