Good Night, Doctor…

It was one of what seemed to be a thousand nights in a row and I was completely burned out, playing a solo show in some faraway town that I can't even recall. She wandered in about a half hour into my first set and sat down right up front.  I told the crowd that I was going to do a few more tunes and then take a break, and she loudly and provocatively exclaimed, “I think you should take a break right now and come sit down with me and let me buy you a drink.”  I paused for comedic effect and then hastily announced, “Folks, we're going to take a break RIGHT NOW…” 

She was obviously drunk already, and getting drunker.  As we talked, she mentioned that she lived close by and was going to drive home.  She was clearly in no condition to do so, and I suggested she leave her car and retrieve it the morning after, and I would drop her off at home.  It was not a pick-up line; I've lost more than a few friends and family members to drunk drivers. 

Yes, I know what you're thinking.  And you're partly right.  I didn't just drop her off.  We got to her place and she said I should come in for a drink.  We went inside and kept talking, and yes, I spent the night.  But no, we did not fuck.  We just laid in bed next to each other talking all night.  Or rather, she talked and I listened.  And boy, could she talk.  I might have gotten six words in the entire night. 

She went through her whole childhood, education, and work history.  She had come from an upscale Boston family, which is perhaps why she introduced herself as “Kimberly” and corrected me when I called her “Kim.”  She had recently graduated with a PhD in pharmacology and had moved to the area to accept an executive position with a pharmaceutical company.  She had no connection to the area, no friends close by, and had gradually become more and more estranged from her family back home.  As the night wore on, it became abundantly clear that this was an extremely isolated and lonely human being.  She had begun “raiding the cupboard” - increasingly availing herself of the opioids to which her new position provided her access. 

I sat there and listened to her into the wee hours until we fell asleep.  When we awoke around noon, she was sober and clear-headed.  The gloom of the night before had dissipated, and she was bright and delightful, laughing at my stupid, awkward jokes.  She expressed her gratitude for me not taking advantage of the situation. “I'm glad we didn't do it,” she said.  “It was just nice to have somebody to talk to.”  She made breakfast and we talked some more and then I said I’d better get going. 

She asked if I would like to come back sometime and have her cook me dinner, and I said that would be really nice.  Then I left.  I had about a three-hour drive to the next gig.  About an hour later she called me, thanking me again, and wondering if we could nail down that dinner date.  I said sure, and before we could even get to that, she spent the next 45 minutes telling me more about her life. 

We never had that dinner.  In fact, I never heard from her again, and this was over 10 years ago.  Just today, randomly, her name came up in that weird little Facebook feed; you know, the one that makes you say, “Holy shit, I had forgotten all about” so-and-so.  I clicked on it, and apparently, her friends or family have been curating her Facebook page.  Because she died two years ago. 

My first immediate thought was wow, for all the things we've heard about the terrible toll the isolation of the pandemic has taken; all the lost souls and the proliferation of opioid addiction, here was a person who was both a lost soul AND an opioid addict long before we foolishly shut down our entire society and now seem somehow bewildered by the results.  Then I immediately felt bad for even assuming that she died that way.  However, she had been a young, otherwise healthy human being, and it's not like there's anybody to ask anyway.  Besides, I'm not sure I want to know.  What difference would it make? 

I'm not even sure what the point is in all this.  Maybe it's just a reminder that we can never underestimate the value of human connection.  Or the toll exacted by the lack of it.  Goodnight, doctor.