For as long as I can remember, people have liked to tell me their stories. Of course anyone will talk to someone who listens, and I guess I listen. I listen because I love to hear people’s stories. I should clarify, I don’t like to hear everyone’s stories and I don’t like to hear every story. I don’t care about the person who stole your parking spot or about the person working at Dunkin Donuts who can’t quite get your coffee order right. I like to hear your story. And I guess I’m lucky that I’m one of those people that people seem to feel comfortable enough with to tell me their story. Of course this is sometimes a curse. People tell me all sorts of things that I don’t want and certainly don’t need to know. I will no longer pee at one of my favorite restaurants because I know someone who has had sex in everyone of the one-seater restrooms including the handicap one. I don’t eat Peggy Lawton cookies anymore and you don’t want to know why. But mostly people tell me stories of themself. The strange thing is is that most of the stories I hear are from strangers or people I’ve met briefly.
I met a woman who is a closet alcoholic and a man whose mother was murdered when he was only 7. I met a woman who broke up with her long term boyfriend because he just couldn’t satisfy her in bed and a married man who paid a stripper at a bachelor party for a blow job. I met someone who is exhausted having to live up to the persona that people expect and a man whose wife died so many years ago yet he thinks about her every day and the way she swept the stairs. I met a woman who was married to drug addict, left him and raised her 5 kids on her own and I met the man who delivered mail to my house when I was just a little girl. I met a man who got divorced because his wife became a lesbian and now lives with a very butch woman. They all get along nicely because they have a son and he will get me a discount on tires if I need them. I met a 40 year old virgin and someone who frequents “sex clubs”. I met a man who wanted to write his memoirs but only up until he graduated from high school because after that he said his life was only a series of bad decisions. I met a man who tried an experimental cancer treatment when everything else failed because he had a 13 year old daughter at home. It didn’t work.
It goes beyond the facts too. I know the stories behind the facts. I’ve spent countless hours listening to strangers tell me their unsolicited stories. I’m not sure what drives me to listen or stay after someone starts reminiscing but I do. I am usually fascinated, not only by the story, but by the fact that a mere stranger is tell me this. Most of these people I’ve only met once. I don’t even know most of these people’s names and wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them again. They are strangers who share with me some piece of themself and for that I am grateful and flattered…although sometimes I’m grossed out and a little afraid but I’ll keep listening.