When you are new in town, your history is virginal because you don’t know anyone. Of course, the tender for such a luxury is often loneliness. And there is the achingly slow process of figuring out your new world and your role in it. We all know time brings friendships and a road to a place that eventually announces to everyone that you are no longer new meat—you have cured a bit. You have collected stories, colloquialisms, and adventures. Even better, you have become part of the daisy chain of dirt brokers in your neighborhood. And while you are privy to the scoop on neighbors and coworkers, you know that they too have gained a story on you as well.
Some argue that this process is a social necessity and the natural order of things. I can’t help but wonder what else it is that connects us as a community, especially to the folks who move here with no familial ties to Wonderville.
I decided this morning that the weft holding together our tapestry of friends, colleagues, and the barely tolerable is the degree to which one trusts. Trust is an interesting opiate: It keeps friends together, especially the ones who only admit to being friends. Trust also keeps together friends who tried being lovers. And when trust is lost, the broken road of privacy tumbles into places where one’s history becomes everyone’s entertainment. Thanks to Facebook, the Blab, and a myriad of other networks we could probably play bingo with cards depicting the degrees of separation between countless couples, goodhearted fools, and naked–Vegas-billiard-playing princes.
I stared head-on at the promise of a ride on the gossip train last week by way of a mortifying gaff in my personal life. Nothing illegal, immoral, or tawdry, but embarrassing enough to worry about becoming the center of someone else’s discussion and judgment. I was vexed with the possibility of what would happen if my peeps discovered some of my dirt.
I was in a fetal ball for an hour before I had the courage to text a not-so-old friend and ask if we could talk. He is a fixer, and a memorable one at that. The phone rang two hellish hours later. I took a gulp of air before telling him about the mess I was in. He nonchalantly strategized about solving my problem with the same gravitas as if we were discussing ways to stake a tomato plant. First rule of trust: Give the other person space to keep their dignity, even when they have none left. Second rule of trust: If you are the one with no dignity, be honest and face the facts with a good sense of humor.
It took three sentences for him to gift me with a solid plan to solve my little drama. It took another 10 minutes for us to dance in a conversation about gardening, golf, and the everyday things that shift an awkward moment into something smoother, something easier. Three days later, I dug out of a mildly embarrassing jam with a neurotic crisis squashed.
I think juicy secrets of Wonderville often melt into gossip because of wounded hearts, selfish egos, or alcohol-soaked tongues. But you know, every now and then, someone like my pal the fixer shows up who honors the personal discipline of trust in the same way you do. In the public presence of each other, you both show a dignified front-stage behavior that fools observers into seeing nothing but a lack of history or connection. But if you dare to really look at a person you find their eyes reveal an affectionate galaxy of secrets. And you don’t have to say anything, because for a moment you float together in the waters of the whole shared truth.
Trust rests in what is said and, more importantly, what remains unsaid. I know my fixer will never mention our phone call again, to anyone. He gave me redemption on a plate. I can only pay him back with the galaxies in my eyes. Hope he looks for them when we bump into each other.