Ruth wasn't special. By that logic, no one was. Best to think everything was ordinary, explainable. That's what her better self told her, if she ever entertained the notion that she was an empathetic sponge. All her life people confessed personal things to her, spilled out their sorrows at bus stops, motor vehicle waiting rooms, doctor's offices.
The fastest confession ever was the stranger at the baby shower. Between each gift the stranger shared different details of her daughter's death. The woman said she had her tubes tied too soon. People's sadness broke Ruth's heart, exhausted her. It was a grim honor, an excruciating honor.
There was nothing to do but listen and care, care so much people's problems started solving themselves in her brain, until one day, somebody stopped talking about themselves and asked, "Hey, what about You? What are you thinking?"
Ruth was shocked. Should she actually say?
"Well, I was thinking about elephants somewhere weeping
Over their dead friends, graveyard grey skins
Flapping on arched rib cages like cathedral ceilings against the sky.
Then I thought about Cadmium mercury particulates
moistening each twisted leaf of
What is left on the mutated trees.
Rivers of orange, in the mountans,
Ocean Fukushima wave on the beach
--Starfish melting into the oblivion of world commerce.
Then I thought about the city and how it towers Magnificently
But only for the top feeders
In the shadow of their
Elegant glass studded investments
Where white collared criminals
Recline in the safety
of what they think they earned. . .
And then I was thinking in quantum wonderment
if time went backwards could we change all this?"
Ruth finally paused. The person had a glazed look.
"I'm sorry," she said. "We were talking about you."