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OK, No More Gin Until Dinnertime
No Retirement for Me!
Unexpected Hero
Beth the Second: Coup De Grace

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Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.

- A Wounded Heart, Who Can Bear?
- Drowning Under a Tidal Wave
- Clawing My Way to the Sunlight
- Yes, Santa Claus, There Is a Virginia
- Fugu
- Touching the Spirit
- A Hole in the Universe
- Riding on the Dreams of Others
- Turning Into a Shark
 - A Heart, Ripped Asunder
- Surrendering to the Roller Coaster
- Hunting in the Jade Forest
- Dodging the Shark
- Dancing With Invisible Partners
- The Captain and the Harliquin
- Courting the Devils
- The Captain Makes His Mark
- Mad Dog to the Rescue
- Innocent in the Big City
- Dropping the Ball Briefcase
- Scrambling Brains
- Cheating the Reaper, Again
- What If the Man Behind the Curtain Is No Wizard After All?
- All of Us Have a Soundtrack
- Working With Broken Machines
- Happy Anniversary, Baby
- Standing on Stars
- Running the Film Backwards
- Identity Crisis ("Who am I?")
- Can We Ever Really Admit the Desires of Our Heart?
- Forgiveness is a Rare Thing
- Having Your Heart Caressed By the Creator
- Working With Broken Machines
- A New Leg to Stand On
- The Real Spirit of Christmas
- Chatting With Infinity
- Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
- We All Have a Great Capacity for Loss
- Brushed Lightly By Might Have Beens
- We See the World Through Our Own Looking Glass
- Every Storm Passes Eventually
- Accidents Can Introduce Destiny Into Our Lives
- Freedom Depends on the Walls Around Us
- Pulling Aside the Velvet Curtain
- Riding the Razor's Edge
- Dying With Strangers
- In Your Face
- Between the Lines
- The Bobcat
- Angel With a Coffeecup
- Innocent in the Big City
- Chains of Gossamer
- Playing With Knives
- Stumbling Through Memories (Ooops)
- Picture This
- Running the Film Backwards
- Playing the Score, Tasting the Music
- Coins and Corals and Carved Coconuts
- My God, I Confess
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 1, Speechless)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 2, Taxi)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 3, The Pan American)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 4, Guano)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 5, The Andes Express)

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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

Walt Whitman (1819-92)

"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."

Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Ballad of Steve and Betty

Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English bestealcian; akin to Old English stelan to steal -- more at STEAL
1 : to pursue quarry or prey stealthily
2 : what some people do to other people

I knew Steve for years before the world fell on his head again.

Long ago, he had held a position of authority and leadership in local government, from what I'm told. Positions like that, of course, come with a certain amount of stress. Not everyone is up to that kind of thing, especially in a political climate.

One day it got too much for Steve, and he cracked under the pressure.

He never told me the details of it, he didn't like to talk about it. I could understand why. No one likes to speak about a time when they were totally, completely defeated. Even when it is because of something overwhelming, something they couldn't help.

So, Steve had to leave his job. After some time in the hospital, and some time to heal, he took a job as a courier for a law firm. It was a nice job, not too much stress, and he spent most of his time alone on the road going from place to place. For Steve, that worked.

And so it was for years, and that was when I met him. Steve was quiet, gentle, kind. He avoided conflict like it was smallpox. All he wanted to do was his job, no more, no less, and his life was like he wanted it. Order and structure were his bread and butter. Predictability.

Then one day, the law firm hired Betty.

Betty was a friend of another employee of the law firm, and she came highly recommended. She seemed pleasant enough, bright enough. Betty was also monstrously huge.

She had recently had stomach stapling surgery so that she could lose weight, and had already lost about a seven year old. Weekly she would let us know how much more weight she was losing, which we all thought was a wonderful thing.

Gradually, though, it started to become obvious that not all was right in Camelot. She was very resistant to learning both accounting and the software on the computer, even though her job entailed tracking the firm's escrow account using a computer system. So her frustration built. She also had an invalid father, who was verbally abusive to her and senile. That made it even worse.

One morning, she came into my office and sat at my desk on her break. "I guess you heard," she said.

"Uh, no apparently not, heard what?"

"I have a boyfriend!" She beamed like a schoolgirl.

I was momentarily startled, but still said "Wonderful!"

"Don't say anything to anyone, because he doesn't want everyone to know," she said. "It's Steve."

"Oh." The mental image started....no, stop that. Perhaps this was a good thing. I mean, it could be a good thing, couldn't it? Love is always good, right?

Sometimes not, apparently.

As the weeks passed, two things began to happen. First, Betty talked to me more and more about things that she and Steve were doing together...cleaning out her attic, going to church, taking care of her invalid father, and on and on. It seemed like Steve must be over there every waking moment.

In the meantime, Steve was around the office less and less and less. And when he was around, he looked more and more frazzled. But at the time I had my own problems and didn't notice, sad to say.

One day I was talking to Steve, and mentioned something about his dating Betty.

"What? I'm not dating Betty."

"You're not?"

"No! I've never been dating Betty!"

I was stunned. "Steve, she's been telling me for six months that you and her were an item."

"Cliff, she won't leave me alone. I don't know what to do."

So I gave him the usual advice, along the lines of "tell her to stuff it and leave you alone" or something like that. Of course, Steve was too gracious to do that. He wanted out. But he couldn't bring himself to hurt Betty. He didn't want to hurt anybody.

One day Steve wasn't at work.

Then another past, no Steve. And no Betty either.

Then all week.

When I asked, I was told privately that Steve had gone to the hospital. And not the kind where they treat broken legs, but the kind where they treat broken lives.

He never returned to work.

Betty kept stalking him, following him to church, calling his house, whatever she could do. Eventually she lost her job and all of her friends over this. And it was all imaginary, all a fiction in her head.

I spoke to Steve months later, after my own set of events had happened. We found ourselves suddenly with more in common than we expected. We even had the same doctor.

Steve was spending his days on the family horse farm, tending to the animals, checking fences, things that he loved doing. Low stress things. Steve was happier than I had ever heard him. I have no idea whatever happened to Betty. But I think she was out of Steve's life by then.

Sometimes, love isn't enough. And you can't make reality by simply wanting it hard enough.

We may kiss with eyes closed, but we have to love with eyes open.

Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.
--Blaise Pascal

Permalink: 2/01/2005 11:48:00 PM |
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