It was a dismal December day and the sun barely broke through the haze of the gray winter sky. Claire looked out through the smoked glass window pane at the University Library and thought to herself that even the glass seemed heavy and oppressive. The abundant clouds rolling in off the lake promised snow. She looked forward to the possibility of snow, as it always brought magic to dress up a day.
Today, when her usually hopeful spirit seemed to be at an all time low, she thought, ‘I could use a little magic’ .
She noticed the clock on the church tower across the street. The hands seemed so heavy, it was as if they would never move, but ‘They will,’ she thought, ‘and in a half hour I will be headed off to work.’
She took a deep breath as if to compress her undefined longing and place it in her heart as an offering towards a brighter tomorrow. Then as if in response to her patient resolve, there arose out of the darkness, a sign, the fruit that always appears, when desperate longing matures.
Desires and wishes that can make us feel weak at times, or even debilitated in our soul, can grow into a mighty force. Necessary ingredients to that maturity are sincerity, and an earnest desire to know the truth, then longing becomes a mighty destiny shaping power.
Claire’s attention was drawn to the reflection in the darkened glass before her. She saw there, at the entrance inside the library behind her, the amorphous forms of milling students busy coming and going. Separate from all that, there emerged a figure of distinct bearing. ‘By himself
,’ she thought to herself, ‘ I might not have even noticed him.’
He wasn’t doing anything in particular to draw attention to himself. He simply carried himself in such a way that made it clear that he was not just aimlessly walking through his day. This was quite a contrast to the swarming students around him. Oh, there was considerable activity, and all well intended for sure, but it didn’t express any real clarity of purpose. How a person moves reveals a lot about their character. It was somehow reassuring to her that here, there was a man with direction walking the globe.
She looked again through the glass as if it were her crystal ball and she began to envision her day take shape in the swirling clouds outside. ‘It’s important ,’ she mused, ‘ to dream a little bit by day to keep you young.’
Her afternoon would no doubt be filled with her younger sister Denise. She had recently finished her culinary training and was running the kitchen at Donovan’s, a popular student hangout. Claire, in spite of her aversion to anything related to cooking, had agreed to help her there a few afternoons a week. She loved her sister, and put up with the drudgery in spite of her busy workload. Somehow today, under the weight of her mood, her crystal ball just wrapped unbearable tedium around the picture of chopping vegetables.
In contrast, her morning at the clinic where she worked as a GNP (Geriatric Nurse Practitioner) always had a few bright moments. She took much needed strength from the eyes of the older people that she attended to there. As she dreamt on, she was inwardly warmed and renewed. For now, her work was the thing, apart from her violin, that kept her going. She learned from experience that the better moments of every day came to her as the inevitable reward of the sacrifices that she made. She considered every single opportunity as a gift that made her life valuable and rewarding. When she began to dwell on that, she started to feel a little ashamed that she should be so feeling sorry for herself. ‘I have a wonderful life!
’ she thought. ‘ Anyway, tonight I’m off. Some free time will be nice.’
Claire discovered a long time ago that if she just opened herself up to those free moments with expectation, she was never let down. People who never expect anything are seldom disappointed. They get exactly what they expect, and so, usually nothing does happen. It was important, she felt, to keep your head up and your eyes open or you wouldn’t even see what was right in front of you.
As these feelings gripped her heart, another image appeared in her crystal ball. This time again on the inside of the Library. There, reflecting in the glass, she noticed a figure who seemed to have his attention fixed on her. Outside the clouds rolled and streamed through the morning sky. Inside students wandered here and there like ants in a colony. But this figure didn’t move.
She was filled with a delightful mixture of feelings. On the one hand, it was clearly The Man
, an actual man, and for some reason he had taken an interest in her. That fluttered her heart. And on the other, she was able, through this reflection in the window, to look right back at him, quite unnoticed herself. The longer he gazed, the more pleased she became. Inwardly she felt like blushing.
She caught herself, however, and pulled in the reins. She began to wonder, ‘He may not even be looking at me. ’
Not wanting to get carried away with herself, she jokingly thought, ‘Well, in any case, he’s a determined fucker!’
She wanted to laugh, but somehow felt spellbound under his gaze. Claire was not accustomed to being the focus of anybody’s gaze, except the appreciative eyes of her patients. She even made it a practice to be invisible. She had a simple modesty. She didn’t make it a point to depreciate her fine qualities, but she considered them gifts that were for her responsible use.
When she was a teenager she went through the normal preoccupation of sweetening herself up with glitter, but discovered that for her, it lead to unwanted attention from the flies that were attracted to it. She had stopped coloring her hair and began to use less and less makeup. She decided that the time was better invested in good literature.
On a page of paper in her notebook, she made a note to herself with the title of the book she had gone there to get. She had been unable to locate it on the shelf; just another token of the dismal weight of the day. She would have to pass that on to the Librarian on the way out. As she gathered her things, she did not fail to notice that she was still the object of attention from this mystery man at the other end of the hall.
Feelings began to stir in her like a distant memory of experience from so long ago that it seemed as if it was from another lifetime. It was as if there was some aspect of her nature that she had completely forgotten about; a part of her that was so important that it really couldn’t die, but due to lack of nourishment had retreated and laid fallow. Now, as if from out of an abyss, it was re-emerging.
Bitter disappointments in the past had left her stifled and empty. In her naïveté she had misinterpreted the attention that different guys had showed her. Her unhappy experience led her to conclude that generally speaking, they were just jerks – boisterous, pushy and demanding. Little by little, the crude instincts that tended to stir in them, seemed to her repulsive. She resolved not to be the type of girl that was going to allow herself to be either trifled with or degraded and then passed around like a basketball.
It suited her just fine that she acquired the reputation for being either prudish, or as an unapproachable dud. Rather than allow her refined sensibilities to descend, she opened the gaze of her soul to higher, richer spheres. That was when she began the love affaire with her violin. It became the partner she had never found. Sometimes she would imagine that her movements with the bow were passionate caresses that she was bestowing on her lover as he responded in melodic ardor under her touch. But then she also recognized that all that movement and sound proceeded from her alone. She wanted to be touched. She wanted to hear the voice of one who would call her name.
She had reserved in purity a treasury of feeling deep inside her. Now it began to be active. It was drawing upward that part of her that had seemed to atrophy. For a moment, she almost swooned under the emergence of a revitalized surge of hope. This awakening, she realized was like an epiphany, like the long awaited announcement of the approach of the fulfillment she had always wanted but had never been able to discover in her life.
It was one thing to look compassionately towards those in her care at the clinic. She had a tender concern for them and felt tremendous satisfaction in the service she was able to provide. She sensed the troubled feelings of vulnerability and dependence that worried many of them. She worked hard to alleviate that. But at the same time she felt like she owed them a tremendous debt of gratitude. What was bottled up in her as a perpetual song was so generously received in their hearts.
She also found it quite easy to admire and even venerate those figures in her life she had chosen to model herself after. She made it a point to thoroughly familiarize herself with great names, not only in her profession, but literary, and historical figures as well. She had become a virtual devotee of both Wagner and Soloviev. She found the great Mahatma Gandhi, as well as Mother Teresa as figures who had irresistible charm. She had a profound love for her music teacher who had put all these figures within her reach. But she had searched in vane for her equal. In spite of the fine company she was otherwise able to keep and the warmth she felt according to the special love she had for them, a part of her had sunk unrequited.
As wonderful as her violin was, its voice was her voice and it never really spoke back to her. She wanted to experience a purely human response to her own spirit.
But now she felt her breast flush with a sense of renewal. All these coursing feelings seemed to surge in her as she gathered her things together from the table in front of her. The activity was therapeutic, as it gave her focus. At the same time she was gathering all her inner resources to keep herself from unraveling right there. ‘Claire!’
she chastised herself, ‘You are not seventeen years old!’
Where the strength came from she could not determine, but she felt as if there was a hand at the small of her back, steadying and guiding her as she headed to the Librarians desk. ‘God!’
she thought to herself, ‘He is still looking at me!’
She made it a point to keep her attention focused on where she was going. She was certain that if she didn’t, she would fall flat on her face. She stared straight ahead, but through her peripheral vision as she passed him, she drew the life out of the eyes that were fixed on her.
She bent over and handed the Librarian the slip of paper on which appeared the title The Brothers Karamazov
. She considered it good fortune that she had already written it. At that moment, the palms of her hands were so sweaty, pulsating with the blood that beat strongly through them, she thought she would not have been able to write anything.
Then suddenly a cloak of soothing calm was as if wrapped around her.
She corrected her posture as the words “Excuse me,” reverberated through her. They seemed to draw from her a strength that she never knew she had.
She received those tones into the cradle of her soul. She would never forget their timbre again. Under this stimulus, what just a few minutes ago had produced the most confused apprehension, now coalesced into a source of strength and rose from her heart. It permeated the breath that produced her first word; the first word spoken from this newly awakened deep resource in her heart. She said, “Yes.”
How long she had waited to acknowledge the call that resonated in her ear just a moment ago. ‘Yes,’
she thought, ‘Yes, a thousand times yes!’
Inwardly she felt as if she had been immersed in a bath of warmest water. She was drawing all her strength now from the eyes that were so strongly directed into hers. His curiously ruffled brow rested comfortably beneath a forehead that reflected the noble thought that went on behind it. In contrast, his deep set blue eyes twinkled with boyish mischief. As she gazed into his eyes she sensed that it was as if something of herself went out of her; almost as if he drew this from her through the intensity of his eyes.
She observed with pleasure how much command he seemed to have over his bearing. His determined jaw only emphasized that. The line of his lips began to raise to a smile.
“It looks like your pen may be trying to escape.”
He pointed to the bag hanging over Claire’s shoulder. ‘He should see my apartment. That’s a free-for-all,’ she almost chuckled to her self.
“That’s all I need,” she said. “It already has a mind of its own. If it gets loose and starts revealing my secrets all over the place, I’ll never be allowed to practice medicine again.”
He was quite casually dressed, she observed, but at the same time seemed professional. ‘It’s the man that makes the clothes,’ she decided emphatically to her self,
‘At least, this man did!’
“Well, perhaps it could write down your name,” he said, pointing again to her pen, “Mine is Matt. And if I can be a little forward – perhaps it could write down a time and place, say tomorrow night or the day after, where I might find you again. Perhaps we could have a cup of coffee together.” ‘Matt,’ she thought to herself, ‘That’s perfect.’
It started to register to her that it wasn’t all that long ago that she noticed his reflection as he walked into the Library. But for her now, that half hour , seemed to have taken forever.
“Well it took you long enough.”
Her remark humored her, but it felt as if some enormous weight had be lifted. And she could not restrain her smile. She hadn’t felt this wonderful – perhaps ever before. The long repressed yearning that she had for so long kept in some place deep inside her just surfaced and filled her entire aura with light.
It was a marvelous spectacle for anyone who had eyes to see; the combination of the two of them as they stood there. They were staring at each other as if they were staring into the farthest future. The dignity of his stature was the perfect compliment to what coursed though her with such wistful serenity. Behind every true man is infinite space. Behind every true woman is infinite time.
What just a few moments ago she would have not been able to do, now seemed like a task of inexpressible ease, it was
as if her pen was writing for her. He didn’t ask for it, but Claire wrote her phone number twice. She wasn’t going to allow any room for an error. She was obligated today, working with her sister at Donovan’s until 6:00 pm, but afterwards she was free! ‘I hope he will be free tonight,’ she thought to herself, as she considered her work schedule. ‘If I have to wait until Saturday to see him again, they will have to medicate me in the mean time.’
“Sorry, but tomorrow and Friday I am busy.”
She didn’t want to appear to presumptuous.
“But,” she quickly said, “perhaps this evening would work?”
She was almost afraid to wait for his reply, but in any case she would be late if she lingered there for even another minute. So with her renewed optimism, she gave Matt her number and turned to leave. She didn’t take two steps before she began to long for his eyes again. As she looked over her shoulder to gaze at him once more, she just wanted to draw him along with her eyes. ‘Well,’ she thought to herself, ‘a man like that isn’t so easily won.’
Her face was flushed with the same flood of hope that began to be her permanent nature.
She bathed him with her radiant smile as she said, “Gotta run now, I’m late.”
Her inner honesty would not allow her to just leave it there. ‘I am yours,’ she thought to herself, and then said, “I can’t wait.” ‘Well, at least I didn’t scream it,’
she laughed to herself, as she turned and hurried off. She figured she would do that the first chance she got. She entertained herself with the considerations of where she might do just that, and she hadn’t gone very far. In fact she hadn’t even made it out of the Library, when her phone started to vibrate. She was already clutching it in her hand. She looked at the text on the display.
“6:00 PM sounds great.”
As she read it, a pulse of feeling started to come over her. She felt quite giddy. ‘Who am I kidding?’
she said to herself. ‘You are seventeen.’
Every seventeen year old knew exactly what to do these days: “C U then!”
Off went the SMS reply, and off went Claire with a buoyancy that reminded her of when she was in high school.
When Claire got to the restaurant she changed out of her scrubs and headed for the kitchen. Her sister Denise had already got a head start on final preparations for lunch. She looked up from her cutting board as Claire floated into the kitchen. “Well, are we
having a good day?” What was really intended to be a question, sounded somewhere between a taunt and an accusation. Denise was very animated and she immediately picked up from her sisters gait that something special was up. Always wanting to be the first to know about everything Claire, she just stopped working and bathed in her radiance. Claire was as if spellbound.
“Well,” Denise said, “am I going to have to pry it out of you?”
She sneered menacingly and held up her knife.
As much as Claire was unable to conceal her rapture, her natural modesty surged in an attempt to maintain her composure. She realized that she was being trapped by these two compulsions. In a moment she realized that neither would do. She, Claire, was neither.
She sat down under the impact of this awakening, and stared straight ahead. Both were compulsions that sought to wrest her from the reality of what she was being caught up in. She was not going to allow that to happen. She imagined herself being be swept away on the crest of this wave that had been carrying her along. That would not do! Nor would she allow reservation, for reservation sake, dampen her spirit. She took a deep breath as she considered the frontier she was facing.
The two stood like elemental powers that were competing for her spirit. She understood that she herself would have to be the point where these two aspects of her nature must coincide in harmony. She herself would have to make that possible. She realized that what would enable her to do that, was her dedication to these emerging purposes that had not yet fully awakened in her. She could not be without feeling. Nor could she just abandon a measure of reserve. But she was awakening to purposes that had their origin neither in her feelings nor in her sense of propriety. She sensed that it arose in her in some kind of magic way through what had streamed into her from Matt.
She felt steadied and empowered in a particular way that was completely new to her. Her feelings underwent a refinement and elevation. They didn’t exert. Now these grand emotions supported her under the direction of her dedication. And what before had been a sense of discipline that exercised a kind of cold necessity, was now permeated and ennobled with the warmth of this new dignity. All this somehow she had been mysteriously awarded. Instead of being torn in conflict, she moved as one woman. Instead of being tugged and pushed by surging and unsteady emotion she experienced a kind of strong warm peace.
Denise just stared at her, quite unable to comprehend what she had just witnessed. It was as if in just a few moments Claire had grown both older and younger at the same time. She had to shake her head. Claire had always been the source of unexpected surprises, but this took the cake. She knew that this wasn’t just some casual thing to make light of. She also knew that, in due time, Claire would share with her what she could, when she was ready. Denise didn’t have to wait very long.
“I just met someone,” Claire said, as she tied her apron around her waist.
She just smiled with serenity as she set to work. Denise couldn’t take it any more.
“And, so does he have, like… – two heads or something? ! ?”
“No, silly,” Claire replied smiling. “I really don’t know much about him. We just, kind of, ran into each other at the library. He’ll be here later. We’re just going out to go grab something.”
“Well he certainly did a number on you!” Denise said.
Denise was the personification of Feel first, speak immediately, and think after . She served straight up
– no ice, no syrup, nor diluted with water, whatever was going on around her – as she saw it. Sometimes it was a quite bitter tonic. Fortunately she was without malice, and while occasionally in your face,
she was delightful, almost blameless, and consequently, even in her worst blundering, easy to forgive. Right now, however, she was at her delightful best and so, as a pure and clear mirror, was simply blurting out what she saw in her wonderful sister. At times like this, she was very easy to take.
“I don’t think that I’ve ever seen you like this.”
“Yeah,” Claire held her head with exquisite poise as if to compliment the image of Matt she held vibrantly before her in imagination. “He’s special.”
Denise couldn’t take her eyes off of her in anticipation of what was to follow. She had to know more!
After just a moment Claire waved her hand in front of sister’s glazed eyes and said, “Hey snap out of it! I’m the one who met him, not you.”
She smiled affectionately.
“We better get crackin’ here, or we will be in deep shit!”
She carried her smile as she set herself to work. Her smile seemed to settle in, as an almost fixed gesture of her countenance. Denise reflected on just how special Claire was. They were quickly lost in the hectic Lunch-rush drama; two and a half hours which was unforgiving of even the slightest distraction. N
Around 5:30 pm there was the usual kitchen lull that sets in before the evening surge. This provided Claire the opportunity to get out of her stained uniform. By that time of the day everybody back there looked like they just marched off a battlefield. Refreshed as she returned to the kitchen, she spotted Matt out at the bar. She looked at the wall clock. It was not quite twenty minutes before 6:00 pm. She went right out to greet him. He was looking away from her in the direction of the front entrance. ‘Even the back of his head has character,’ she thought.
“Hey, you’re early.” She felt so alive just to be able to see him.
Matt spun around. She was somewhat amused at his momentary confusion, but she knew how to quickly fill in the blanks.
“I still have a few things to finish up in the back,” she told him. “I get off at 6:00.”
“Sure, I’ll just sit tight,” he said. “I’ve reserved us a table.”
“Oh,” she said. “Can we go somewhere else? I’ve had enough of this place today.”
“Yeah. Of course,” he replied.
As she turned and walked back to the kitchen she took comfort in the way that Matt was able to adjust to such a rapid turnaround of circumstances. Not that anything so great was being demanded, but there was no evidence that he was thrown off, as so often happens, when things don’t fall out quite the way folks anticipate them.
Once back in the kitchen Claire did a little tidying up and gathered together her things. She contemplated the marked change that she had already experienced as a result of their brief meeting earlier that day. She also felt that she had this intuitive feel for Matt’s character. But by ordinary standards, she didn’t really know Matt at all. She sought out her sister to say goodbye.
“We’ll know a lot more by tomorrow,” Claire told her. “I’ll introduce you next time.”
“Sure,” Denise responded. “Relax and have a good time. He doesn’t look like an axe murderer to me!”
Denise could always be counted on to put things in the best imaginable perspective.
Claire chuckled a bit at the remark. She looked at her and thought to herself, ‘How could you not love someone like that?’
With earnest emotion she reached forward and kissed her goodbye.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”
Denise smiled broadly and waved her cell phone around in the air over her head.
As Claire emerged from the back, she noticed immediately that something had changed in Matt’s overall demeanor.
He said to her directly, “Maybe your girlfriend would like to join us?”
Not only did the question confuse her, there was something rather ambiguous about the delivery. ‘What on earth is he thinking?’
she wondered. There was nothing about his expression or the tone that really revealed where he was coming from, so she figured she would have to go there herself to find out. She looked back over her shoulder into the kitchen from where she had just come. Then she began to replay in her mind the very few events that had transpired since she had left him, when he was in a quite different state.
It only took her a moment to realize: ‘The kiss!’
Claire was greatly relieved. Not only did she solve the mystery, but something of the mystery of Matt had been revealed to her as well. It was obvious to her what his concern was, and that would be easily remedied. But the episode spoke volumes for both his character, and also for his interest in her. He was capable of getting quite serious about the things that were important to him, and in this case it was she, herself. That stirred her deeply. And at the same time, he was neither judgmental or hasty in his action; no jumping to conclusions, no freak out. ‘Nope, not an axe murderer!’
she humored herself.
And to him she said, “Oh, you mean Denise
. She’s my kid sister. She’ll be here until 11:00. I’m starved. I don’t think I can wait that long.”
Such important things were being established, and so quickly. She felt a level of comfort with Matt that ordinarily might take weeks to gel. Confusing situations like what had just occurred may appear trifling and our choices within them small, but they are among the many important small decisions that we make each day. In themselves they may not seem to be much, but taken together they indicate our direction in life. By the threads that we weave each day in just this way, we reveal what the fabric of our life is made of. Intuitively everyone in their heart knows this. No one should be surprised when the result is a brilliant tapestry, or a complete mess.
“Okay, Let’s get going.” Matt’s tone regained the buoyancy of before.
She reached to take his arm. Such a strong arm, she felt, was a perfect place to attach her confidence. Together they went out.
Claire got her snow, and it made a magical day even more magical. It had only been falling for a few minutes but everything was already covered with white. Somehow the snow transformed a walk down an ordinary street into an adventure. As many times as she had walked up and down here over the last few years, tonight everything seemed new. She was enjoying just being with him as they walked along.
The way that the snow filled the air seemed to create a buffer between them and everything around them. The prospect of the noise and rubbing shoulders with others made popping into a café or a restaurant appear intrusive to their private moments. They were measuring them by a whole different clock. No place seemed so inviting that it could induce them to give that up.
After two blocks Claire started to realize that they were never going to find a place that was equal to their mood. Her apartment was only three blocks away. She began to consider what it might mean if she were to suggest that they just go there. She immediately dismissed any concern that he might interpret the offer badly. Then she began to envision what her flat looked like. ‘Well, if there was ever a Man Test this would be it!’
The past few days had been very hectic and even in her better days Claire was not exactly a candidate for the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” She wasn’t sure even what the inside of her own refrigerator looked like, but just resigned herself that they were on a Getting to know you fast track. ‘That’s who I am,’ she deliberated. ‘He might as well find out up front.’
“Look, we can do better,” she gaily said. “I only live five minutes from here. It’ll take no time to put something together.” ‘ If there was anything?’ she mused.
Matt seemed very pleased. The same strength by which he guided them through the snow, now glowed with gentleness. He really didn’t need to think it over. She trusted him implicitly. And the gesture warmed him thoroughly. It was the best moment of his day since he saw her phone number, twice written by her magic pen, earlier that morning. This trust was worth more than rubies.
“Let’s go!” he said.
The harmony of their natures had extended into their very steps. Claire clung tightly to Matt’s arm and his hand easily covered both of hers. They pushed through the heavily falling snow with steady strides. They were already themselves covered with snow. The flakes were so large that occasionally when one settled on an eyelash, the next five steps went on without the use of that eye. But with four eyes and four feet, between them it was more than enough to move speedily along.
“That’s my place there.” Claire gestured toward a small, two-flat brownstone building just ahead of them.
They ascended up three steps to the entrance, and Claire keyed her way in through the front door. Once inside, they kicked the snow off their feet in the small foyer. Just beyond, the door to the first floor apartment popped open.
Claire was already smiling broadly as an older gentleman with gray hair poked his head out to greet her. Now retired, he was not only the owner of the building, but he had been Claire’s Music Teacher in violin and voice. He was proud of his work, and she was the fruit. When the apartment upstairs became available, he immediately offered it to her. He never stopped being her teacher. The relationship altered in the details, but the bond between them was indissoluble.
She taunted him. “Okay, let’s have it.” ‘This should be good,’
she thought to herself.
“Siegfried, Act Three, Scene Three.”
If there ever was a lyrical mood that matched the way she felt this day, that was it! How many times she felt like Brünhilde; powerless, and waiting. And then one day the sun breaks through the clouds! She poured everything she had into that praise that ascended to the very heights of the Sun. She did not feel her own weight as she was carried up the stairs by the gratitude she felt for the spirituality behind all that the Sun meant for her in that moment.
At the top of the stairs she began her usual struggle with her apartment door; the ill-fitting key, and the equally ill-fitting door frame. ‘Well, here we go!’
she thought to herself, as she threw her shoulder into her door to get it pop open.
She didn’t blink an eye as she launched the first obstacle on the floor, just one step inside. She didn’t even want to look at Matt right away, to allow him a chance to adjust. The apartment wasn’t at all dirty, but the multitude of objects created an impression of a sort of very well organized chaos. Claire obviously didn’t spend a lot of time neatly tucking everything into its place. Her philosophy was that things tend to gravitate to the places where you use them, and it was best to just let them be.
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Matt’s gentle smile. This was a tremendous relief for Claire. She took his coat and, in the absence of any more space on the coat rack, laid it with her own on a chair. He picked up an umbrella that barred his way and dropped it into the umbrella stand. She felt that there was no point in apologizing, this was just Claire. And somehow, she sensed that she would never have to apologize for who she was with Matt.
She gestured to her right, pointing; “The kitchen’s yours. I gotta get out of these.”
She had put those scrubs on more than 12 hours ago and that was enough for one day. Matt’s smile assured her that he was absolutely comfortable with her suggestion and so while he turned into the kitchen, she turned and headed for her bedroom to change. She couldn’t get over the calm demeanor that Matt seemed to demonstrate at every turn. He was in no way stilted, but at the same time he brought unwavering stability through every moment. ‘He’s got some kind of spiritual gyroscope,’ she laughed to herself.
She also was aware of the impact he was having on her and she found it most reassuring. ‘In the past,’ she reflected, ‘I would be tearing these scrubs off. My mind would be racing – what on earth will I wear?!’
But not now, she just went about getting changed; grabbed a skirt that was hanging nearby over a chair where she tossed it yesterday, and reached for the closest top she could find that wasn’t a complete clash to it. Done. Matt wasn’t going to be catapulted in one direction or the other by what she had on, and she was certain of that. It was as if some nagging pest inside of her had been shown the door. She was getting lighter and lighter as the day went on.
From the threshold of the kitchen she had the opportunity to watch him as he stood over the stove. He already seemed more at home in a kitchen in which, after two years, she still had difficulty. She reflected on how easy it had been for her to maintain her slender figure, simply because she had so little skill in the kitchen. It wasn’t that she didn’t have an earnest appreciation for a good meal, but that interest wasn’t enough for her to overcome all that she lacked in the ability to come up with one herself. ‘Uh oh,’ she thought. ‘There goes the diet.’
Sometimes it is those, who find themselves to be lacking in a particular ability, that have a remarkable skill to identify those who are endowed. If not that, they almost always have the appreciation for those who can provide what they lack.
But often, it doesn’t work out for the good. It is peculiar; the things that keep people of dissimilar natures from being able to benefit from each other. On the one hand, a raging pride cannot admit that another has it all over them in an area where they are weak. As a result they are unable to enjoy what so often would be freely given to them. And on the other hand there are those who pander to the weaknesses of others, thinking that they are of help. But the result is that they allow the other to escape precisely those challenges that, if they were engaged, would serve as a health bringing stimulus. You really cannot expect to grow in the absence of a balanced relation to others. And that type of relation can never be achieved in the absence of humility and self-knowledge. ‘I guess, I’m just going to have to try harder!’ she thought.
In one sense Matt was making things much, much easier, on the other, she knew that more was expected of her. But that “more”, would make life so much more meaningful! She couldn’t get enough of this guy.
He had a rare quality of openness. When he was comfortable, and his guard was down, he was an open book. Claire observed, that as he slowly stirred the soup he had put on the stove, he was a million miles away. He gave immediate expression to his deep inner content. She knew now for certain that there would never be any secrets between them. Matt licked the spoon and reached for the kettle. Suddenly Matt noticed that Claire was standing there watching him. While he might be a mighty fortress under other conditions, for her, his wall was very thin! With a start, he dropped the spoon from his hand. Before he had recovered. Claire reached for it, eager to present it back to him. There was a simple but unspoken synchronicity in this exchange. ‘Gee, I hope he dances,’
was her thought.
Without thinking about it at all, she brought a kind of artistry in her movement. He made her feel graceful and this was just her implicit response. She wanted to perform for him, not much to impress him, but to reciprocate. It was a compliment, a gesture of what was now within the range of her experience.
She quickly put out a few plates and bowls, and they sat at the table together. Outside the glow from the streetlight in the alley out back was reflected by the thousands of snowflakes that streamed downward. The snow was so thick they couldn’t see past it. There was a stillness that seemed to envelop them. The outside world just dropped away.
Matt looked at Claire as if she held within her all the secrets he had been longing to know his whole life. When he asked her who her favorite composer was, Claire felt like a jack in the box
that had never had it’s lid sprung. She answered his question in a way that she had never done before. It wasn’t just about Opera, nor was it a matter of ideas, nor what in particular was important to her. He drew from her that vast resource of all that she, on the waves of reverence, had breathed into herself over the years. Her devotion, while she had surrendered her self to the genius behind the artist, had produced in her a living communion with all that stood behind the man, Richard Wagner. She herself didn’t even realize what resources she had within her reach until it was drawn out of her by Matt. It was the way he looked at her as if his life depended on what she would say next. His ardor for all that she had within her was implicit.
He became her conductor and her audience. He seemed to be limitless in what he wished to receive from her in this way. She felt beside herself in the range and depth of animation which she poured her heart into. She knew that she wanted to give him her heart. She also knew that he would care for it with tenderness and concern; that he would forever protect her heart.
Two cups of tea and twenty minutes later, she sensed another call.
Unabashed she said, “Hey, excuse me. I gotta pee.”
She headed for the bathroom; surprised even herself with what ease she shifted from the intensity of the moment to something so banal. This in itself spoke to her of the free intimacy that seemed to hover about them from the time of their first meeting. It was as if everything passed back and forth between them unrestricted. Even the smallest gesture of expression had already existed in the other as an anticipated impression. Then she shook her head in amusement. ‘All these super earthly notions, are coursing around in me like a scene from an Ancient Greek Drama, as I listen to the tinkling of my very mortal pee splashing into the toilet!’
Sometimes a good confrontation with ones mortality is a pleasant relief from the great burden of high ideas! But she knew at the same time that something quite special was transpiring that she was actively participating in.
Together their souls became a single arena. What each had experienced independently before as an undefined longing was here coming to fulfillment. It wasn’t just happening. Together they were making it happen. It was if a single being had been created, and was being breathed back and forth between them. But even this idea had to be considered anew, because at the same time, it was also as if this being had created the two of them as a sphere in which it could live.
‘This calls for a beer,’ she thought, as she wiped herself and hit the flush lever.
As she reentered the kitchen she paused in front of the fridge and asked, “Beer?”
It was obvious to her that Matt also needed a little reprieve from the high drama that was unfolding.
“Sure,” he said almost relieved.
As she peered into the fridge she realized that there was almost nothing in there that would constitute the ingredients for a normal meal. She examined the variety of oddities that reflected her eclectic tastes. She even noticed a tube of toothpaste that somehow had found its way into the back behind a jar of kosher dills. Fortunately her eyes fell on some ground beef that Denise had left her yesterday. ‘Man this is work!’
she thought to herself.
With a little uncertainty she turned to Matt and suggested, “Cheeseburger?” “Wow!” Matt said.
She observed that Matt somehow found this whole thing very entertaining. That suited her just fine. ‘If he can find a ray of humor in all this, I think we’ll get along just fine.’
A little comic relief was in order.
Matt continued, “Sure, but under two conditions.” ‘This outta be good!’
she anticipated. “Shoot!”
“I make the cheeseburgers.”
“I’m crushed,” she said, which of course, was the exact opposite of what she was feeling. ‘What a relief!’
she thought, as she flung her head back. She wrenched the tension from the air with her fingers, as she pressed the back of her hand to her brow. This was fun!
When she felt that she had satisfactorily delivered her best impersonation of Euripides’ Media
, she turned, now quite curious to find out what else was on his noble mind! “…and the second?”
“You kiss me first.”
At another time, another Claire might have begun a freefall, while the Halleluiah Chorus sounded in the back ground. She was simply unable to abandon herself as she might have done in the past. Back at the restaurant something had come alive in her that became her new inner presence. One that was sustained by all the power of her thoroughly feminine feeling, but called for her direct and engaging presence. Again her inner honesty prevailed.
She continued the performance, embodying the character of this maiden, who had been devastated under an undeserved verdict. She found that she was able to play out a little of her actual peril.
“I thought you’d never ask.” She gasped.
Pausing for a just moment to let the thought settle in, she followed with, “It took you a whole
thirty minutes before you came to talk to me this morning. I was afraid I’d grow old before you actually kissed me.”
Matt sensed already earlier how much she had bottled up inside her, and he had already resolved to assure her that he really did understand. Her inner riches glowed before him like a hidden treasure that he had just found. He played along.
“I apologize for that,” he said, in his best faux Camelot banter. “I was so blinded by your light, that it stunned me. I had to wonder whether one so fair would even talk to such a knave as I.”
Until now these words had gone unspoken, but they had already passed between them as silent sounds. To say them though, even in this affected form, felt wonderful. It was pitifully melodramatic, but at the same time, drama at its absolute best. She poured her heart into it.
“My gallant knight,” she said, the intensity was brilliant, “you have finally come to rescue me from the isolation to which I had resigned myself, for dread of the disgrace of an imperfect union.” ‘I will never more be alone!’
What had begun to awaken in her this morning at the Library under the quickening force of Matt’s gaze, took increasing dominance in her. Under its steady influence she started to realign herself as a personality. It was not as though she were one thing and this impulse another. The instincts that formerly drove her, she now sensed as annoyances, like a nagging mother. They were becoming increasingly impotent. She identified with this new impulse. It became her basis.
This shift had a profound impact on her. Her sense of past and future was now being drawn along completely different lines. This morning in the Library this longing seemed at first to arise from a place in some distant past. Now it was as if it reflected purpose, which she herself had set down before her life began. To awaken to this, she had only to uncompromisingly wait, until she was able to bear it fully in her person.
As she moved toward him, she felt that she had always known him but had been separated from him for a season. At the same time this was going to be something entirely new. She longed now to be his in such a way that they would never again be separated.
Matt seemed to draw her across the room and with her ethereal grace she floated onto his lap. She held his face between her hands and kissed him. First for noticing her. Then for rescuing her. Then for allowing her to be. Then for accepting her for what she truly was.
“I’ve been waiting for you so long,” she managed to breath these words out. They emerged from the deepest resources of her soul. They resonated with the same inwardness as the “Yes” that he drew out of her when he first spoke to her that morning. The ebb and flow of her day would now be measured by this rhythm as she breathed herself in and out in this way. She was able to sense that she was something more than what she could know on her own. This new Claire that she knew herself to be, was unimaginable without Matt.
He was gathering himself together in attempt to fully appreciate what she had just expressed. In his wonder he finally said, “And, just how long have you been thinking about this?”
“I haven’t. I’m not even thinking about it right now.” Then smiling she added, “…like you are trying to do. Thinking has nothing to do with it.”
Matt realized that she was speaking from out of a world for which he had always longed. He knew that quite other faculties were required to go there. Claire was bringing this world to him, and by receiving her, that whole world came along with her. No, thinking was not faculty that he needed to employ right now. He held her as if all the longing he had born within him flooded into his arms. A lifetime of desperate yearning flowed as gesture; it was an eternal embrace. It was a manner of receptive openness that he would extend to life itself. But for now he wanted to discover something from every part of her nature.
His lips became the means of knowing, as he ventured to discover what she would reveal to him at every turn. Her soft cheeks, her eyes, her ear, her wonderful neck all spoke secrets to him as he explored her.
He said the strangest thing.
“Maybe we should just forget about the cheeseburger for now.” Even as he heard himself say it, it was like the voice of someone he had left behind.
Claire muffled “Cheeseburger?” She barely knew what he was talking about.
Matt started to feel the inadequacy of the wooden chair he was sitting in and softly spoke, “Can we move this to somewhere else?”
“Sure,” Claire answered. “But you’ve got to give me just a minute.”
She pointed to the couch and said, “How ‘bout if you wait for me there, sweetie.”
She withdrew to her bedroom. Claire was all woman. She wanted to prepare herself. She withdrew to her room like a priestess in preparation for a ritual. The preparation was more of an inward matter. That mood settled over her as she slipped out of everything she was wearing and put on a long white T-shirt that she was accustomed to sleep in. She noticed that although she had a full length mirror in her room, she took no interest in using it to view herself. Matt’s eyes were her mirror and it was her soul that was of interest to him.
The anticipation of the meeting with his eyes caused her to flush outward into the space around her. As she approached him, he looked intently at her and she felt herself to expand even more.
Matt was standing as she walked toward him and the richness of the warmth she radiated extended ever richer and further enveloping him. He lifted her as if she weighed nothing and retraced the steps she had taken from her bedroom. He was entirely caught up in the aura she radiated and it loosed him from anything that responded to gravity. They experienced an intimacy for which their bodies provided no barrier.
They had not a secret from each other. She offered her own soul substance, and he breathed it in. Matt was aware of his inner strength, but in a most unusual way.
In one way he was a freight train; in another he felt like he was hardly moving. Any power he brought, she converted into the rich vapor cloud that they were floating in. They
were no longer in a bed, nor a house, not any city, not even earth.
Afterward, they lay there quietly together. Claire felt as if something had passed out of her but at the same time she was refreshed with the awareness of an even greater resource. She had been given a sovereignty over her ability to bestow the love that she had carried restrained for so long within her. She experienced this not as some vague and mystical feeling but as an expression of her awakened and true nature as she now knew it to be.
As she lay with her ear to Matt’s steadily beating heart, she could hear in those tones the vibrant steps that they would be taking into the future. She felt the high optimism of their endeavors as his chest rose and as he exhaled she felt the renewal they would gather when they retreated to the inwardness with which they were now so familiar. She looked at his hand as it gently but firmly held her arm. She sensed the persistent strong determination that she felt would guide them as they proceeded on their way. As she placed her hand over his, she understood that human will ascends to a higher octave when two work together.
What had lived in her as dream for her entire life, had now become her life.
Matt was absorbed in the afterglow of the experience. He felt as if he was now empowered in a way which was quite new to him; something with which he would have to become increasingly familiar. He felt a new sense of artistry that allowed him to view the world according to a value that was not subject to measure, weight or number; a value that lay there dormant, something that was not unlike the value that was Claire. The entire world, he felt, had to be rediscovered in this way. The purpose and the reward for being alive merged.
As he immersed himself in all this, he heard Claire say, “I have been waiting for you for such a long, long time.”
He looked into her eyes as these words streamed into him and he reflected how he was really only now beginning to see. His seeing conveyed both meaning and efficacy. She had become alive now under his gaze in an even deeper way.
After a bit, in her wisdom, Claire felt the importance to revisit their mortality. “Hey, we never had dinner.”
Matt realized that even the mundane would open up and reveal treasures to the seeker. Everywhere inner secrets are locked up. No, Claire was not Plain . Wherever you see “Plain” you just need to sharpen your vision.
“How about a cheeseburger,” he said; “just a plain, plain cheeseburger?” Post Script
While “Claire’s Song”
stands on its own, in a certain sense, it is unthinkable without “The Plain Girl”
that preceded it, and which should probably be read first. But it is not at all necessary. Each story is about the same cosmos. They represent a meager but earnest attempt to express what really must be understood as a unity. Just as it is possible to view only one side of a coin at a time, the totality “coin”
is inconceivable without the mutual relationship of the two sides. The two stories represent two such sides. And just as the coin in its entirety has a value that the two sides when considered separately can only suggest, so I have sought to discover a special value
that is to be found when we can transcend the limitations to which we are constrained by nature. Such experience may be but seldom realized, and it seems to lie above the polarities that characterize ordinary life, particularly beyond the enmity of the sexes. We discover ourselves as beings insinuated into the middle of everything: left/right, front//back, past/future, matter/spirit, outer perception/inner understanding. If you are honest, I feel, you will also see in yourself a little of male/female as well. In all of this we discover ourselves also to be alone. We are very creative in our attempts to alleviate this problem, and they are often met with little success. To join with another we must really find the way to do so; a way that is extra ordinary. The prospect of what is possible is suggested in what breathes toward us under the magic of love. And these two stories are offered as a struggle to discover not so much the meaning or experience of love, but that it can reveal something higher when two strive selflessly in unison.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
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