An older woman got drunk at a party I hosted.
I’ll call her Celeste. Though that’s not her actual name. And ‘older’ might not have been her actual age. Though years of serious drinking had added lifetimes to her face. A delicate, sad face.
It was a come-one-come-all party. People brought tabouli and crackers and wine. I’d invited a speaker, a local celebrity. And as the speaker spoke, so did Celeste.
“I know what you mean!” Celeste would exclaim when the speaker paused for breath. “The same thing happened to me…” And on she’d go.
The rest of us would try to ignore it. Pick at our tabouli. Recross our arms. The speaker would try to continue.
And I sat there. Felt powerless. In despair. And didn’t know what to do with my despair. I wanted someone else to handle this. Wanted someone who knew what to do to just do it. And make this go away.
For 15 minutes, Celeste exclaimed. And for 15 minutes, I despaired. And justified to myself why I shouldn’t have to manage this.
I didn’t really know Celeste. Or why she’d come. Or anything about her life. All I knew was I’d planned for a beautiful party. Not this mess.
But after all my justifying, I was still the host. This party, this time, and now this Celeste situation felt like my responsibility.
So, as the speaker talked, I walked to Celeste. Walked to her in desperation. Walked to her hoping to manage this mess. Walked to her wondering why, when she was only a few chairs from me, she seemed far away.
I sat down next to her. Put my arm around her. “Celeste.” I spoke quietly. She didn’t look at me. “It’s hard to hear the speaker. If you have something to say, why don’t you whisper it to me.” The speaker continued talking.
Celeste turned her delicate, sad face to me. And I saw her eyes, these dark, despairing eyes.
“Who,” she muttered in a small, wounded voice, “do you think you are? You can’t tell me to be quiet. I’m going to, I’m going to…” She couldn’t come up with anything. And she sank back in my arm, not knowing what to do.
Which was when I saw Celeste. Not as a responsibility. Or as something to be managed. But as a person. A person who knew despair. And didn’t know what to do with it.
I didn’t know anything about Celeste’s life. But in that moment I understood it wasn’t so far away from mine.
So, we sat quietly together for the rest of the night. My arm wrapped around her. Her life wrapped around mine. In this beautiful mess together.