Sitting there in the hole, the guy remembers hearing a story about someone falling into a hole just like he did. In the story, a rugged man comes along, the guy shouts up asking for help, and the rugged man tells him to pick himself up by his own bootstraps and then heads right off. Then a doctor comes along, the guy shouts up asking for help, and the doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, moves on. Then a priest comes along, the guy shouts up for help, and the priest says a prayer for the guy, heads off. Then a friend walks by, the guy asks for help, and the friend jumps in the hole. The first guy says, “What’d you do that for? Now we’re both stuck down here!” And the friend says, “I’ve been here before, and I know the way out.”
So the guy thinks, okiedoke, I’ll just wait for a friend to come along. Easy peasy.
At some point, a friend does come along, and the guy in the hole shouts up asking for help. The friend says, “Aww, I’m really sorry you’re down there, you have my deepest sympathy,” and off the friend goes. The guy thinks, wait, that’s not what was supposed to happen.
Soon enough, another friend passes by, the guy shouts up for help, and the friend says, “Chin up, things are bound to get better!” The friend is out of ear shot before the guy can even ask, “How?”
Friend after friend comes by. Each time, the guy asks for help. And each time, he gets another unhelpful response. “Things aren’t that bad!” “Don’t be so negative!” “Other people have no trouble getting out of holes, why don’t you be more like them?” “You’ll get over it.” “Plenty of people have it worse than you!” “Always look on the bright side!” “Everything happens for a reason.” “The one thing you have control over is how you react to things!”
The guy thinks, reality sure is different from stories. The guy thinks, maybe I don’t know what a friend really is. The guy thinks, maybe I don’t have any real friends.
At some point, the guy stops bothering to ask for help, even though friend after friend — or, at least, acquaintance after acquaintance — keeps passing by. Some peek in hesitantly, a few say a quick hello, while most just keep right on going without so much as glancing at the guy or the hole he’s in. He feels it’s pointless to ask for help anymore.
The longer he spends in the hole, the more familiar it feels. The more familiar it feels, the more contempt he has for it — and for himself. For having gotten himself into a hole, yes. But, even more so, for having apparently never made any real friends. And especially for having never made any real friends before getting himself stuck in a hole, so that he had nobody to help him out of it. All of which just made him feel like he’d probably been in a different kind of hole long before the tall one that had now become so familiar.
Eventually, someone he knows comes by, sees the guy down there, and jumps into the hole.
The guy fills with hope. “I can’t believe it! Someone finally jumped in here with me! A real friend! You must know the way out!”
The friend says, “The way out? No idea. I’m still in my own hole right now. Comes with me wherever I go. I just know that it helps to have company.”
With that, the guy begins to feel better in one way, even as he keeps feeling not any better at all in another way. It makes no sense to him, but nevertheless, it’s what’s so.
After a time, the guy sees that he’s back up on the ground, with his friend, and with everyone else. Much to his surprise and confusion, it looks like countless people, just like himself and his friend, are each in their own holes, even as they are also up here on the ground. Not everyone, but a great many. And not everyone in a hole is alone, but a great many are. It’s like a dream. It makes no sense to him, but nevertheless, it’s what’s so.
“Maybe they could use some company, too?” the guy asks.
“Maybe so,” says the guy’s friend.