Will Squeezing Your Shoulder Ease Your Crippling Sadness?

Here, let me stand at a distance and place my hand on your shoulder. Don't worry, I will hold my hand very lightly, so that the gentle pressure makes the hair on your nearby neck tremble instinctively with fear. Let me look down at the ground to avoid meeting your hollow gaze at all costs. I will even isolate the pattern in the carpet to remove the possibility of considering your palpable grief.

Fear not. My elbow will be completely stiff as I extend this empty gesture of consolation. It will appear as though I am actually pushing you away, which is, in many undeniably ways, exactly what I long to do. After my hand is hovering above your shoulder, I will make the decision to constrict my fingers, creating a menacing claw that I implore you to interpret as a sufficient approximation of concern.

The length of the forthcoming shoulder squeeze will seem interminable. Take comfort in the fact that it hurts me too. While I would prefer to never look at you again for fear of glimpsing the dark, desolate crater your soul has become, it will take the last of my inner strength to keep my hand poised on your clavicle for as long as it will be. As I stand here with a contorted grimace that I hope you will mistake for compassion, know that you are not alone in your suffering. Know that I, too, hurt.

Just when you think this moment of base pity that I call empathy will never end, I will carefully extract my fingers from the woolen fibers of your tear-soaked cardigan. This process will be nearly as painful as the previous segment, the only relief being the knowledge that in a few seconds I will slink away down the hall and, going forward, carefully calculate your movement so as to never cross paths with you again. Please consider this relief my gift to you in your time of need.

I will leave you know, creating the impression that I am moved by your condition but actually just anxious to rinse off the shirt sleeve your red cheek has accidentally rubbed. Disregard my audible sighs of disgust as I dart around the corner, or if you cannot, consider them a heartfelt exhalation of understanding. Later, if you happen to see me laughing with my friends, sharing candy and making fun plans, view that as a hopeful image, a sign that perhaps someday you can make it through all the awkward sorrow that is making you regrettably repellent right now.