Today’s post marks the fifth in a series of posts centering around a fictional character in a contrived scenario while he tries to cope with the 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.
I read somewhere that Canterbury Cathedral in England features over 3,600 square ft of stained glass. Stained glass had intrigued me from the time I learned about the topic during a childhood summer camp. We were putting on a production of “The Pirates of Penzance” & every segment of the camp, even the art class, attempting to incorporate era appropriate themes into the daily activities. As a young boy growing up in the American Southeast, I was enthralled. “Wow!” I thought. “Pirates, sword fighting, cannons, & now–treasure! What beautiful works of art!” I loved how a handful of basic colors like red, blue, white, & green could come together to create almost any image imaginable. I liked how the windows were like a jigsaw puzzle; with each piece representing a precious treasure all by itself. When they all came together, it was like a culmination of miniature jewels combining to create the ultimate MASTERPIECE! And when the sun shone through the other side of the glass, the entire structure would light up in an array of spectacular colors. In a time before electricity, a stained glass window with the sun’s rays behind it must have been the Medieval version of Times Square! Such a sight must have seemed like magic, or even better–a MASTERPIECE.
When I first saw Lorraine, I was dumbfounded by her physical beauty. I was a deer in the headlights; so unprepared to process the astounding scene of beauty before me that my entire body simply shut down. I’ve heard some religious texts describe this exact same state when a mortal finds himself in the presence of the divine. As I’ve made clear previously, (see“Breathless”), Lorraine is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. But what really blew me away about her was her demeanor. She was the sweetest girl I will ever meet.
Lorraine worked in an environment where she was surrounded by young, fit-bodied peers, including over-confident young men. I observed a great deal of fraternization, which is to be expected in any college-aged coed group. When Lorraine wasn’t studying or playing beach volleyball, she worked as a front desk attendant at the health club where I got my first job following my major surgery. And believe me–the “fraternization” wasn’t limited to similarly aged individuals. The managers were the worst–openly gawking & engaging female employees half their age while ignoring the male employees and frequently, even their responsibilities! But Lorraine somehow managed to remain coy in the midst of it all. She was so bashful, it was adorable! Somehow, she was able to keep all of the salivating wolves at bay & do so gracefully. And I say “bashful,” not “conceited” because she was amazingly modest. When she worked out, she always used the cardio equipment backed up against the wall so that people wouldn’t look at her backside while she got in her steps. When she worked on her abs or stretched, she’d always sneak off into one of the unoccupied yoga studios because she didn’t want the general public to catch her in a compromised position. And the greatest proof of her modest shyness emerged when she talked to any male co-workers. Lorraine never initiated a conversation; but if someone approached her, she would listen attentively & then respond cordially but briefly. She somehow managed to be polite without encouraging further interaction. The first time I actually talked to her, I must have looked like an imbecile! I was unprepared to receive her voice: how soft & feminine it was, but effortlessly confident. My mother had a jewelry box on her dresser when I was a child. It was crafted in the shape of a miniature chest of drawers. On top, it featured a bird cage with a fake parakeet perched on a swing. You could wind it up & the parakeet would swing back & forth while singing a calm music box melody. When I heard Lorraine’s voice for the first time, I thought of that music box. “Oh my gosh!” I remember thinking. “Even her VOICE is beautiful!” I probably looked like an imbecile because while I could think clearly in my head, I couldn’t say a word out loud.
Someway, somehow, I was able to get her to warm up to me. Lorraine behaved politely but cautiously around me for the first year-and-a-half or so, but eventually she started waving at me in the hallways or would stop to talk to me unsolicited. This was a big deal because Lorraine never waved to any guys much less stop & talk to them. She never caused problems for anyone & everyone who brought her up in conversation would describe her as “sweet” even if they had never spoken to her. She just exuded a peaceful, modest, non-judging persona that everyone seemed to appreciate from afar. But somehow, for a while at least, I got to the point where she would actually smile when she saw me! This was HUGE because Lorraine never smiled at ANYBODY! As I said earlier, (See“The Rain”) we were almost friends.
I even heard from a co-worker who had gone to high school with her that she had never even had a boyfriend. Despite her good looks, good grades, & aptitude in sports, she mostly kept to herself & a handful of close girl friends. I heard it was even a big deal when a group of her classmates observed her slow dancing with her date at her senior prom. This all matched up with what I had observed in my own experiences with her. Even at twenty-years old, Lorraine’s best friend was still her own mother, with whom she’d often work out. Lorraine was an absolute MASTERPIECE–to good to be true!
So you can imagine my shock when I happened on her rendezvous with that sinful manager. By this time, she was a nursing student & I was a security officer at our local hospital. There was a wing of the facility that was off limits to anyone but management & duty specific personnel. There were turbines & water heaters & electrical wires & such–big time OSHA hazards to leave opened to the general workforce. All doors in & out were locked. I was on patrol one afternoon. I know the schedule of everything that goes on at this hospital because it’s my job to know. The nursing students come in at 2 pm & they report to the 3rd Floor Conference Room before they do anything else. It was 2:10 when I came across those double doors for SECTOR A. To my shock, it came opened. I heard laughter & the voice of that idiot, meat-head manager from just inside the ajar door. And then, to my shock, I saw Lorraine emerge from behind the door–smiling, laughing, carrying on. When she saw that I was there, she stopped & when our eyes met, she had a horrified look on her face. I turned away & continued down the hallway to finish my patrol.
It felt like a normal day on my drive home. I wasn’t particularly agitated despite what I had witnessed earlier. But when I came into my kitchen wanting something to drink, it hit me. I flung my coat across the room & yelled some obscenity at that meat-head boss. Then I collapsed onto the floor & cried. I didn’t cry for long. My sense of duty soon kicked in. I couldn’t work for a man who I didn’t respect. I got drunk on Jack & Coke & then wrote my resignation letter that night. Fuck the job. Fuck the boss. Fuck everything. If Lorraine can’t stay pure, nothing on this God-forsaken earth is pure. Everything if polluted. We live in filth. Before the liquor took too strong a hold on me, I remember trying to visualize her face–the same beautiful face that had appeared so often to me even during my deepest slumber–but tonight, all I could see was debauchery. “I can’t even LOOK at you ANYMORE!” I yelled into my glass of Jack Daniels, thinking I was talking to her. I know it sounds unfair. I know it sounds insensitive. I know she didn’t owe me so much as an explanation much less any loyalty. But I’m still allowed to mourn. I’m still allowed to hurt. All I hear about is that I need to be sensitive to everyone else’s feelings. I need to go out of my way not to offend anyone. But what, I’m not allowed to feel offended myself? Everyone else’s feelings & sentiments & world views matter except for mine, is that how it works? Is that how this SHIT works? Tonight, I was going to mourn the loss of something that I had held sacred so so long & I didn’t care if that was selfish of me or not!
For three years, when I’d look at Lorraine, I’d see God’s earthly MASTERPIECE. But now, every time I see her, even if it’s just in my mind, all I see is . . . .
Shattered, stained glass.