Today’s post marks the third in a series of posts centering around a fictional character in a contrived scenario while he tries to cope with the harsh reality of life’s disappointments. The following post & eventual future posts are in no way autobiographical & the scenarios discussed simply create a backdrop for reflection on general topics like processing grief & remaining motivated through adversity.
BACK to REALITY: I remember the first time I laid eyes on her. I was working a closing shift at the gym. I was new & this was my first job in a long time so I was really putting forth extraordinary effort; more than was necessary. I was dripping with sweat, my shoes were wet from having mopped the floor upstairs, & I felt gross. I remember it was noisy. The room was so full of people running on treadmills, lifting weights, playing basketball . . . it was plain chaos. And then I saw her; and the world around her ceased to exist. All I saw was her impossibly perfect female form. She stood a solid 5’6″ easily—a height effortlessly accentuated by the length & proportion of her graceful limbs. I don’t mean to sound profane, but numerous patrons at this health club would stop & ask me about this majestic co-worker of mine, frequently commenting that she, “had the most perfectly shaped legs” they had ever seen. And while I don’t disagree with their assessment, I was always more astonished by the overall symmetry of her entire body–from her narrow but athletic torso to the lengthy & slender arms that sloped down from her strong but solid shoulders, culminating in soft feminine hands with long fingers. And her skin looked flawless–all over–soft & smooth; they seemed to capture just enough of the ambient light to make her glow all over. And then her long, straight hair which she often left down or pulled back into a ponytail or in a single long braid while she exercised. I studied a bit of Greek philosophy in college. The concept of the Golden Mean stuck in my mind: Nothing I in excess; everything in proportion. Lorraine was the Golden Mean in practice. I was so bewildered by her beauty that I literally had to remind myself to breathe!
FLASHBACK: Oh my gosh. My throat hurts! It feels like I’m choking to death. Fuck me! The anesthesia’s worn off & they don’t realize it! I survived the damn surgery just to choke to death from this stupid tube down my throat!
I was aware of my surroundings. The room was extremely bright. I could tell that I was laying on a gurney. I could make out a group of 4 or 5 medical professionals in the room. There was a young blonde with short hair just down to her neck who seemed the most in tune with me. She wore a blue gown. Too bad she wasn’t in charge because the knuckle-head who was seemed disinterested in anything she had to say. Everyone looked so young; maybe mid-twenties to early thirties at the oldest. Was this really the best group to entrust my life to? The “big man” in charge had his back turned to me. He appeared more concerned with some paperwork in front of him then he was with me or the cute blonde who kept trying to intervene for me. Even back then, I got the feeling that he was playing coy to assert his authority & experience level with the team. “Oh great,” I thought. “Another meat-head trying to establish his Alpha Dog status in front of the pretty girls at my expense! Will this nightmare never end?”
I started to get pissed at this know-it-all. But all that did was hasten my breathing & oxygen was already hard to come by. Besides, I felt so weak all over; as if the blood wasn’t even flowing. It hurt to even try to move. Pumping more oxygen through my weakened body wouldn’t have given me any more strength anyway. I was essentially a conscious brain trapped inside a useless body. It reminded me of an old episode of Tales from the Crypt that revolved around a similar scenario but I quickly ushered it away when my heart began to race from panic. I was just going to have to wait this thing out. I was just going to have to make do with nominal oxygen, even if that meant learning to breathe all over again.
BACK to REALITY: It was early summer. Lorraine was a beach volleyball player & nursing student. I would learn these details later but I bring them up now because her involvement in sports explained that clean, lightly bronzed tan. To be certain, she was sexy–an absolute bombshell. But my thoughts weren’t on sex at all at the moment–more astonishment. I was speechless; even in my mind, I was lost in complete admiration for her. And then I saw her eyes–those large, expressive brown eyes . . . and I was done. I knew that I was in the process of witnessing one of my life’s top five or six visions–like watching your first Christmas parade or seeing the aurora borealis after a lifetime of reading about it. I hope this doesn’t sound sinful, but just 9 months prior to that moment, I had almost bled my life out–unseen in a post-surgical recovery room. By the slimmest of chances, a nurse who wasn’t even assigned to me just happened to peek in on me & then sound the alarm. (Thanks pretty brunette nurse. Sorry I never sent a thank you card). But those of us who are religious believe that there are no chance occurrences when it comes to life & death matters. God brought me back to life because He wants me to complete a mission that He’s assigned to me. And over the last 9 months, I had focused only on the simplest of matters like breathing, going to the bathroom by myself, & figuring out how I could re-pay God for my second chance. I hadn’t dared to ponder more indulgent ideas as simple as Christmas presents or vacations, much less falling in love–for fear of appearing ungrateful, if nothing else. I was just happy to see a new day, to be able to walk around a grocery store unsupervised–just happy to take another step & breathe another breath. But when I saw her, the only thing I thought was: “Wow. I almost didn’t live long enough to meet the most beautiful girl I would ever see.”
FLASHBACK: “Okay, he’s moving his finger! I think he’s waking up!” the pretty blonde nurse exclaimed.
Somehow, I had managed to fall back asleep despite being unable to breathe earlier. I guess all those years of sleeping through my alarms & coming in late for class or work paid off; because apparently, I could fall asleep through anything! I wasn’t quite as weak anymore & the response I was getting from the surgical team had worked me up into a frenzy.
“No he’s not! Look at his eyes,” the know-it-all big shot had to assert his authority again.
“They’re moving!” someone exclaimed.
“Okay. If you’re awake & you can understand me, move your eyes side-to-side–follow my finger,” the smart guy demanded of me. When I did so, his colleagues starting to gang up on him & implore him to take out the tube. (Thanks, by the way–all of you who choose to stand up to this authoritarian on my behalf).
“Wait,” he says in one final attempt to establish his dominance. He held out his right hand & gently placed it inside my left hand. By now, his subordinates had gathered around him & were awaiting anxiously to pull out that stupid tube. “If you’re really awake, squeeze my hand,” he demanded yet again.
“Another test?” I thought. “What’s this IDIOT’s problem? Now I know what I dog must feel like when his owners force him to perform a dazzling array of tricks just to get one doggie biscuit. Hell, all I wanted to do was BREATHE! What’s next? Do I have to say “Open Sesame” or something? Next time I see a dog begging for a biscuit, I’m just giving him the damn biscuit!
While the team started the process of easing the tube out of my throat, a bevvy of profane retorts bubbled up into my mind, driven by hours of helpless frustration. I was about to unload on Mr. Smarty Pants with several statements containing words that my Pastor would call, “unfit for Church.” But when they finally pulled out the tube & I could breathe again, I felt too weak & could only muster a faint “Thank you.” Oh well. It was no time to curse & fight or hold grudges. For the next few days, I’d just have to fight through each moment motivated only by the dream of arriving at a point where I didn’t hurt anymore. I just had to get to where I could breathe without having to remind myself to do so.
BACK to REALITY: I was afraid to blink, believing that the beautiful girl fifteen yards in front of me would disappear. And when she walked away with that slow, graceful gait, I swear that her celestial form burned an image in the air where she had so recently stood. I was AMAZED!
Up to this point, my motivation in life was to get to a point where it didn’t hurt anymore. Survival was an escape from constant pain. Living was a reclamation of basic abilities that I once had. But now, after having laid eyes on Lorraine, life meant something so much more. That’s what she meant to me. That’s how much of an impact she had on me from day one, before we even spoke a word to one another. Maybe now, you can understand how this hurts me so much. Maybe you can accept why I took such a big risk to save her. Everyone said inaction was the best action, but they also said to put it out of my mind. The only problem was, I couldn’t put it out of my mind without taking some action! To quote Rick Grimes in Season 5 of “The Walking Dead:”
Things just don’t get better because you want them to!
This is L-O-R-R-A-I-N-E we’re talking about here! Absolute female purity!
Oooops. There I go again. Forgot to breathe.