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Crying Alone

Pato in Argentina

 

Written in 2007 by S. Hein

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Last night I was at Pato's birthday party. I wrote this happy birthday and thanks note to her. Her younger sister was in Buenos Aires, taking college admissions tests. They come from a relatively poor family so they haven't spoken by phone in several days due to the cost of the long distance calls. So because I knew how much Pato missed Ceci, the younger sister, I offered her my cellphone to call Ceci. I said, "I just put some credit on my phone and you are welcome to call Ceci." So she did.

After they talked, Pato came back to the table. She had three friends there from the school where she has studied to become an English teacher. Pato talked about Ceci for a minute or two and then started to cry. I was sitting next to Pato and normally I would have just given her a hug, but Pato is afraid people will misunderstand our relationship and judge her if they see us hugging. She wants them to think we just work together and nothing more. But we have become very close friends and we hug a lot. We are both hug addicts.

I felt uneasy for a moment. I didn't know if I should hug her or not. But I couldn't just sit there and let her cry alone. So I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. Then one of her friends got up out of her chair and came around the table to give Pato a hug. I wonder, though, if I hadn't been the first to reach out and touch her, whether anyone else would have.

I can't really remember what would happen when someone would cry in the building I lived in for so many years, the building most people would call my home. It hurts me now to call it that, though. It truly hurts me. It hurts because I didn't get what I needed in that building. It was in some ways a house of horrors. And for many of you who are reading this, you can relate. That is part of the purpose of this website - to write things you can relate to and identify with. I tell my own true stories on this site, and the true stories of others.

So to continue with this story, I want to say a little more about Pato and the people called her family. Just the other day Pato told me she has cried herself to sleep many a night. She didn't get hugs from the people called her mother and father when she needed them, and now she doesn't want them. And I know this is the same for many people. And even though she slept in the same room as her younger sister Ceci, there are things she never told Ceci. Pato, like so many children and teens from dysfunctional families, learned it was dangerous to tell the truth. So she wrote in journals. And didn't let anyone read the journals. I read a few pages and I am the first person to ever do so, at least with her permission. Her mother once read her journals without asking, which infuriated Pato. So Pato then started writing in English so her mother couldn't understand.

So Pato has lived alone for 22 years. -- even though there are people around her nearly constantly. And just downstairs in the same condominium building are her cousins. All around her age. Yet Pato shares none of her personal and private life with them, because they, too, will judge her and disapprove.

There is one more detail I want to add to give you an idea of how alone someone can be, while surrounded by people. The other night I watched Pato open her MSN. She had 132 contacts offline. And about 5 online. But it is the 132 which I remember.

There are at least 132 people that Pato has met who she cannot be honest with. I know more about Pato's true life than anyone else, and I have known her less than two months. Of all those people, no one really knows who Pato is, or how she feels or what she needs, or what is was like for her in the building called home.

To me this is very, very sad.

Another detail to know about Pato is that when she was 14 she thought of killing herself. I think I am the only one who knows this also. As I write this I have mixed feelings about posting it. On the one hand, I am afraid of posting it because Pato wants to remain alone, since that feels safer than exposing herself to judgment, disapproval, condemnation and rejection. On the other hand, I feel hopeful that someone who knows Pato will reach out to her and Pato will accept the invitation to become closer and share more of her life.

In my life I have gone through a painful process of separation from those called "my family". I have almost no contact with the people I learned so many dysfunctional things from. It took me till around age 35 to see that what had happened to me, though. I hope the young people who read this can start to see their lives in different ways much sooner than I did. Pato, at 22, is much more self-aware than I was at her age. I hope that I have made a positive, lasting difference in her life by the things I have taught her and the things we have experienced together.

I hope that she feels less alone now than she did before she met me. And I hope I or someone else will be there for her the next time she cries, so she will never again have to cry alone.

S. Hein
February 8, 2007

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Mar 2012 update - I just read this again. For the first time in years. It brought tears to my eyes. I am alone, but I don't feel very alone because I know there is someone who I can go see, or who would come here and give me a hug. This person is P.

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