Some years back, I was stuck at the airport for about three hours waiting for my parents to pick me up. After checking out my luggage, I moved on to the arrival hall to wait for my parents, and after settling down on the bench, a man walked up to me and asked if he could sit next to me. He seemed harmless and we were in a public area so, why not? I obliged him and we exchanged pleasantries.
After about five minutes of silence he spoke to me again. He asked if I was a student being that I had so much luggage and looked really young. I told him I was and we started chatting about random things going on at the airport. We then moved on to talking about the country and recent events.
Suddenly, he switched the conversation to himself. It seemed like he was really anxious to talk. He started telling me about his life and family. He talked about some of his dark secrets, no holds barred. At this point I was baffled. I mean, this is a stranger I started an innocent chat with and the conversation is turning out to be nothing like one I’d normally have with a stranger.
He narrated several events that had happened in his life and I just couldn’t help but listen. First of all, because I was stuck at the airport at 5:00 am in the morning with nowhere to go and secondly, I felt that he really needed someone to listen to him. Someone who knew nothing about him and would not judge him. I wanted to be that person. I had to be.
I understood him. There were times I had wished I could talk to a neutral person who cared to give me a listening ear, about some things bothering my mind, and wouldn’t be able to connect any dots from past conversations we’ve had. Someone who is just there to listen and give objective counsel, if need be.
But what was really different about the conversation was the fact that everything he talked about dated several years back. This made me more attentive, and as the conversation went on, I was able to deduce that he really had no one to talk to about those things. I was scared for him, but also happy for him.
I was scared because I couldn’t believe he had bottled up those emotions inside him for that long and still seemed so normal on the outside. I wondered how he had been coping and how those emotions would have affected some decisions he had made in life. They actually did, based on his story, but I was happy for him because he finally got to talk to someone, me. At least, he was finally able to summon the courage.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder why he chose me. It kept popping up in my head while he was talking. “Why me?” I kept asking myself. I then figured that I seemed like the most approachable person around. He had had it to his neck. He had slipped into depression. He just wanted to talk to someone at that moment. I guess I was the most available and suitable person at the moment.
I was able to give him some counsel. I was only 21 at the time, but I had gotten to see life a lot more differently than an average 21 year old. I think he was thrilled by how I handled it. I must tell you, those secrets were dark. I was glad I could help him, for the time being. At least, I listened and he felt better. I could see it, the relief.
Notwithstanding, I learned a lot from my encounter with him. I learnt that carrying your emotional burden alone would do you no good, more so bottling them up for too long. Those things have a way of haunting you. Also, I learned to stop judging people when they open up to me. I feel like that’s exactly what held him back from talking to anyone he knew. Not even one person qualified, not one.
Finally, I hope I was actually able to touch his life positively, I hope that every time he remembers that day, he can hold out hope for a little bit more, I hope that everyone who reads this would find someone who has the patience to listen to you and also deem it fit to lend someone a listening ear, hopefully, their secrets are not as dark as those of the stranger at the airport.