He saw you: gyūdon and good people

Image by the awesome Stuart F Taylor

When I tell my sister this story, she snort-laughs and tells me ‘we really need to do something about the low expectations you have of men.’ I’m front-loading this because I suspect that’s what the man involved might say himself. He used to be quite baffled by how pleased I was when he did little thoughtful things, as if little thoughtful things aren’t worthy of note. As if kindness is incidental, instead of – you know – everything.

We were chatting about takeaway one night, and I mentioned off-hand how annoyed I am that ‘sushi’ gets top-billing when people think of Japanese food, while the most delicious option – gyūdon – is far less well known. I lived in Japan for a while so I know what I’m talking about: gyūdon is the most comforting of all comfort foods. Hot and sweet and nourishing and delicious. On the coldest of nights I dream of Sukiya, and the gyūdon I used to buy there when I was feeling lonely and down.

A week or so later, he made gyūdon for me. Just… made it. Looked up a recipe, bought the ingredients, and cooked it. For me. Because it’s my favourite.

I watched him cooking, admiring the broad curves of his back and shoulders as he stood over the stove, taking note of the swift and easy way he measured ingredients, revelling in pride when he asked me for my opinion on how this or that part should best be done.

I marvelled at how casually he said ‘no problem’ when I breathed an effusive ‘thank you.’

That’s it, that’s the story. That’s what prompted my sister to laugh and tell me to raise my expectations. But to me it genuinely did feel like a miracle. This guy listened when I told him what I liked, remembered what I’d said, then went out of his way to make this nice thing for me.

I know.

He saw you

Let’s step back a bit further, to June 2020. It was a horrible time, and memories of it still wake me up some nights. I’d get up each morning and put on the happy face I use to show people I’m fine, then go about my day trying hard not to think about the horror that might be happening elsewhere. I’d work, and eat, and sometimes sleep, and often cry and get drunk but broadly hold it together when other people could see me.

While holding it together, I had a video chat with a friend. We talked a bit about The Scary Thing, and I assured him it was probably all fine. Everything would definitely be OK. A week later, a box arrived at my door filled with twelve different bottles of interesting cider, and a note from him that read ‘you seemed like you needed cheering up.’

When I told my Mum about the box of cider, and how emotional I had been that a friend had sent me this gift, I laughed a little at myself for getting so weepy over what was essentially just some cider. I babbled on about how dramatic I am, how pathetic. How over-emotional and silly and easily pleased. I’d expected her to laugh along with me, but she didn’t.

She put her hand gently on my knee, looked me in the eye and said:

“Of course you were touched. He saw you.”

Yeah, he saw me.

In 2020 I was repeatedly rescued, over and over, by people who saw me. Who realised that my litany of ‘no no it’s fine, honestly I’m totally fine’ was not quite as true as I wanted it to be. It’s easier to sum this up in gifts and gestures – the incredible woman who sent me a box of tapas and a note about sharing and support, the one who brought me a cocktail shaker because she spotted a post in which I mentioned that mine had gone. The friend who brought pasta sauce and peanuts when I couldn’t afford any shopping. The person who replaced my cycle panniers when my ex took my old ones because she realised that without them I couldn’t be free. The mate who took me on walks. The one who (it sounds so small when I write it down but it was massive – MASSIVE) fought my corner. The one who said an uncomplicated ‘yes’ to help when I explained to him that my career was built on technology I did not understand. The ones who came to visit and gossip and dispense fierce and powerful advice. The ones who distracted me with cider and stories. The ones who popped up on WhatsApp to check in even if neither of us really had anything to say.

I don’t think seeing people is a low bar or a high one, because it’s easier for some people than others. It’s empathy and kindness and understanding – listening in the truest sense of the word, where you remember what someone says and take it on board for later. Not just keeping your mouth shut and letting the other person speak, but actually hearing what they say. Whether friend or lover or sister or random acquaintance: not just looking at but seeing them. I don’t think I am always one of those people, but I aspire to be. And I learn from the examples that better people set, which make me weak with gratitude.

So yeah. This one time a man made me gyūdon.

And he told me it was ‘nothing’, but it wasn’t.



This post was originally written a very long time ago. It’s sat in my drafts for ages because I couldn’t really find a way to give it a stronger conclusion. But I am bereft of ideas at the moment, so I’m combing through old drafts, and even without a strong conclusion this one feels important to me. ‘Important’ in the way blogging used to be important to me, like a public diary of things I don’t want to forget. Even four years later when I’m no longer in the middle of that storm of stress and worry, I remember the time a lovely guy made me gyūdon, and know that I have hope today because back when I was drowning, good people saw me. 


  • Mermaid says:

    ah thank you! I needed this today. Struggling with all the things, and the poly-feels too.
    thank you GOTN xxxx

  • Danni says:

    This is so true. For some people it’s their way of saying ‘I love you and I care’
    It’s always welcome!

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