Robert called earlier, frustrated about his slow progress at reading lessons, hungry and broke, and feeling lonesome. I told him I could meet him in the park and give him some money for a burger, but that I couldn’t visit with him.

Robert was standing at the corner watching my door when I went out a little later. I walked over with a ten-dollar bill in my pocket and talked to him for a minute. I gave him the ten-dollar bill, aware that to outside appearances this looked like a drug deal, and returned his hug.

Now I’m sitting here feeling a little lonely myself, waiting for Ingrid’s phone call, and trying to write about Robert. But I’m not getting anything down, not even a basic description of our conversation over coffee this morning. And I’m realizing that I felt lonelier talking to Robert than I did as soon as we parted.

Maybe part of that is sympathy for Robert – he has pretty much nothing and nobody. But more than feeling sympathy, I think I just feel empty when I see him. I see that the gap between what he can provide for himself and what he needs will always be wider than what anyone will be able to give him. No matter how his situation improves, he will always need exactly as much emotional support from me as he needs now.

I feel emptier each time I see him now. I try to separate Robert from the rest of my life, but sometimes it seeps in. And now I feel like I need to push him farther into the background of my life and move on.

Categorized as Before