What I Should Have Said
**Names have been changed to protect identity**
Jolie looked across the room at me; her eyes burning with pain.
She was sitting on the floor of my tiny cruise ship cabin with a glass of red wine in one hand, and her head in the other.
Our days were spent as entertainers, jesters that dished out joy and laughter to those who had paid to sail.
If you were under 10 years old and sailing aboard our ship, we were professionals at making you laugh.
The guests knew from us for our hilarity, but all Jolie knew was despair.
Every night I’d look across the stage and see her pain masked behind choreographed revelry.
When we were finished with our work, we’d wipe off the sweat and return to the floor of my tiny ship cabin.
The Cabin Floor
This 2x2 metre floor-space was the conduit to all manner of adventures both happy and sad.
From wild parties to wild sex; this floor was caked in memories.
It was now playing host to two friends, one in turmoil and one desperate to appear more empathetic.
I say “appear” because, while I genuinely feel empathy, I find it almost impossible to display across my face.
I have no idea how people are able to sit there and display deep concern for other people, and it look so genuine! How is this magic crafted?
Whenever I try to appear as though I care, which I do, I come across as sarcastic and cold.
Things are even worse when I don’t try. If I don’t try I look distracted, as if I’m thinking of something else and couldn’t be bothered to be in the moment with this person.
So here in the room is me, sitting on the floor; trying to appear as empathetic as I’m genuinely feeling.
Across from me is an individual in pain. She doesn’t know which gender suits her best.
Because of this, her boyfriend has left her for someone “less complicated.”
She feels unloved and unlovable. She has perceived her boyfriends words as demonstrative of a reality where she is someone that doesn’t deserve love.
I listen to her and tell her that he’s wrong and a jerk. I tell her that she is loveable and that the world is better off with her in it.
I make physical contact and warp my face into that of a person who displays empathy in a situation that desperately needs it.
The only thing I don’t do is tell her the only thing she needs to hear.
It’s not until weeks later, when we’ve both finished our contracts and gone home that I realise what I should have said.
I should have said,
I love you.
That’s all she needed. It would have accomplished everything my twisted up face couldn’t.
I can’t re-live that moment, but I won’t make the same mistake next time.
For some of us, displaying love is difficult.
But failing to display, you can always say it.
Just reminding someone that you love them can be enough to get us through the darkness.