A fellow editor, "Jennifer" called in sick one day but then called me on my office phone, whispering.
"I don't know if you can handle this," she said.
"Of course I can handle it," I said. I was 27. What couldn't I handle?
"After work, come meet me at the building on the corner of Chicago and Damen," she whispered.
There, I learned that Jennifer was cheating on her husband, "Scott"—a friend of mine—with a man in the office, "Sam," who was the husband of another colleague of ours, "Jane."
I was titillated, horrified, but undaunted. There was much to do over the next weeks and months.
I smoked with Jane and heard her pain.
I also counseled Scott, while we drank heavily.
(I did not console Sam, of whom I wasn't a fan.)
I believed that since I knew all the parties, and since I was a kind of emotional genius who could hold many realities in my head at once, that I could be of some essential help in this situation. I thought I could create a win-win-win-win.
In the end, the parties only used whatever "perspectives" I offered to beat on one another, and eventually each scattered to a far-off corner of the earth.
(So chastened was I by the experience that I intervened in a marriage difficulty only once more—in order to confirm that amateur marriage counseling was not, indeed, a best-practice in interpersonal communications. Again, my words became the couple's clubs and my name became mud.)
I was 27.
Communicators, don't you be.