Then, in my arms, she died.
Once upon a time, I believed that life was made of many moments and many choices that can be used to measure a man’s worth and that would shape their destiny. I knew that every choice I made, be it to buy one brand over another, to talk to the girl across the hall or to have one more beer or not before driving home, evolved who I was and who I would be. Life on this planet is short. In the grand scheme of all that is, each life occupies no more than a brief moment. Religion offers us the promise that our small contribution will transcend past this moment and all that we are will live, in spirit, in a realm of existence that reflects the life we lived. The good will be rewarded and the wicked punished. Once upon that time, I was a good man.
Never once have I claimed to be perfect and I lived a life much like any other. I was a respectful son, a good friend, a member of society who contributed to charity and played a silent part as a cog in the world. Nothing in my life would merit a Nobel peace prize nor would it land me in jail. I was not a leader making great change or a dictator committing genocide. I was unexceptional and mainstream. A nothing who tried to be good the only was he knew how, based on the way he was raised. Clearly, I did not see myself as much but knowing that I was living a noble life, I was content.
A person can live their entire life feeling content. Hearing my own words as I write them gives the impression that I was not happy with my life, but this is not true. I did not need the adulations of my peers or to be a CEO to prove my worth, I felt good about who I was, I was satisfied with my life. I never felt the pressure to stand out or make a difference. As I live in the last seconds of my life, I can now see that I was like most others, the ninety-nine percent of the world that contributed but never made a difference or felt anything more than satisfied. Even for the other one percent who do make a difference, I have seen that most only have one moment where they shine and stand above the rest of us. I however had two. Not looking for opportunity and not knowing it was there until well after a choice had been made, I was thrust into a new life, one of aspiration and the ability to change the world. I would give almost anything for contentment once again.
The first moment came when I was 20 years old. Those twenty years of life could not prepare me for what was to come. I was in school, learning to become a teacher, having fun and existing in my average world. A small dorm room, the occasional party and an overwhelming amount of study occupied me for my first year and I anticipated the same in those to come. This, however, was not my destiny. My destiny came from the girl across the hall. As my second school year began, I would occasionally notice this new girl who had moved in directly across the hall from me. I only ever caught a glimpse of her as she came or went from classes. I knew nothing about her except that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her dark hair, big eyes and slim figure, her possibly too tight jeans and hugging sweaters drew me in and I found myself scheduling when I would leave my room with her classes so that I may see her. I started to visualize bumping into her in the halls and the conversation we would have that would lead to dinner, drinks and her inviting me into her room to spend the night. I was not ugly, just plain, I knew that I was nothing special and was without a doubt out of her league but I had my rich fantasy life which provided a make believe relationship that would suffice. I would like to think that I was not stalking her or acting just like one of the creeps which I imagined she encountered all of the time. She was like a celebrity in my mind, someone to long for from afar but would never be real in my humble existence.
On an ordinary day that began like every other, my life changed. I woke, ate, showered and prepared for class. The girl of my lust would be coming back from her 10:30 class and if I timed things right, I would see her as I left. Confirming with my bedside clock that the time had come, I opened the door excited to see the beauty that would fill my day’s thoughts. I was not disappointed. There she was. As if in a spotlight, she seemed to radiate and my heart stopped for a moment. Consumed with my adoration, I did not, at first, notice that her eyes were filled with tears. I only realized this fact as I started to walk away. As I did, something came over me. A courage mixed with empathy took over my feet as they turned me around to look at her once more. Still standing in front of her dorm room, tears now slowly caressing her pale cheek, my feet brought me closer to her. As this previously unknown strength took over my lips and caused me to mumble a hello, my brain wondered what had come over me.
“Hello.” Who was this speaking? More to my surprise was that she, the vision of perfection, replied. “Hi.” This was the first time I had heard her voice and I was not disappointed. In that one word, in the two letters she spoke, I felt vindicated in believing that she truly was the perfect woman. “Are you ok?” I asked and even as the words came out of my mouth I felt stupid for asking such an insane question. Of course she was not. The tears were the first clue to this but logic did not write my words, whatever demon or angel possessed my body spoke. “I’ll be fine.” She seemed to overlook my ignorance and gave me a small smile that seemed to justify the question. As my mind told my feet to turn around and walk away leaving her to a life with friends I envisioned complimented her celebrity status, my demon spoke. “What’s wrong?” My consciousness was silenced in disbelief of my ability to speak with her and then transcended into shock as she looked up into my eyes and spoke. “F**k my life.” The curse sounded like a sweet prayer as it was formed by her full, moist lips. “Everything that could go wrong has today. I slept in and was late for class because I was up all night breaking up with my cheating bastard of a boyfriend. I got my English paper back and got a D so I could lose my scholarship. My parents can’t afford to fly me back for winter break and now I’m locked out of my room. I’m such a failure.” Though I had only spoken six words to her, she had opened up to me and as the gentle flow of tears turned into a stream, I could not help but focus on the fact she said that she was single. Instead of looking at this moment as a blessing, I could not help but regret all of the times I had seen her and not said hello.
The angel that led my tongue and my feet was not through. I had never been uncomfortable speaking with women before but I had only ever approached those who I saw as my equivalent. I was sure that I was not the one who offered to get the facilities manager to open the door for her and I could not have been me who offered her my room as a safe haven until they arrived. Who was this man who freely spoke to the goddess and how did he lose his inhibitions. I knew that I was not a person who would skip my next three classes to talk to her as she let her sorrow out but there I was, sitting across from the picture of perfection even long after she had access to her room. As if my normal mind was expelled from my body, I watched as an outside observer as my mouth, calmly and casually, spoke with her. Somehow I offered to tutor her through English and offered a sympathetic ear whenever she required one. I watched as we shared our stories and, in awe, heard myself ask her on a date. Drinks, dinner, anything she wanted as long as she would be with me and it would make her happy. In that moment I would have offered her my soul if I could have bottled it and she had asked. Anything to see her smile. Fortunately, drinks that evening were sufficient.
I did not go to any classes that day. When she finally left my room, I laid in my bed, still surprised by myself. I had always been content with who I was and what I had but seeing what was possible sitting right in front of me opened me up to a new world. I suddenly wanted the stars, I wanted to be someone, and I wanted to be worth her affections. In a cloud of emotion I found clarity. I realized that I could be more and started planning its execution. I rummaged through my closet searching for clothes that would mask my mundane self and portray success to no success. Looking at my empty wallet, I began to worry that hope was lost but then my body’s co-occupant re-emerged. I had always been responsible with money and had worked every summer with my father building houses and worked part-time throughout the year at a movie theatre, juggling high school and work, just to pay for school. Three more years of tuition and the credit card that my parents had given me for emergencies suddenly seemed like a viable way to find my new self. In retrospect, I realize that the person I was would have never done what I did and would have felt guilty for what did transpire, but as I arrived for my first date with Laura at the posh lounge in my new, designer clothes, I felt nothing but satisfaction and confirmation of my actions.
She greeted me with the same smile I had fantasised about since the first day I saw her. She touched my shoulder and thanked me for the wonderful day. We sat at the table I had reserved, ate, drank and explored our similarities. This day was full of surprises. I never would have imagined that I would have so much in common with her. We shared the same love of music, we loved children and were both planning to be teachers. Two years younger than I was, Laura was accepted into university early on a scholarship because of the potential she showed in High School. Though she did not need the scholarship, as her parents were fairly well off, Laura took great pride in being seen as more than just another pretty face. She was finding the transition to post-secondary hard especially being the youngest in her classes. She felt alone and like an outcast. Her ex-boyfriend, that she alluded to earlier, was her only outlet and anchor to her old life. But now, since he found someone back at their old High School who had more time for him, she was truly alone. I never imagined that she could have felt so much like anyone else. Her insecurities and fears only made her more beautiful to me and made her seem almost obtainable, even to an average man like me.
Through the night, Laura kept telling me how grateful she was to have found me. I was still unsure of whom she was referring, who this man was who was full of charm, confidence and making her laugh all evening but I think I knew I liked being him. With too many martinis and too little food, a bill that far exceeded my typical means and a reminder that the bar was about to close for the night, Laura and I left for the dorm. It was easy to be a gentleman and walk her to her door as mine was six steps away but to not invite her to my room would be more of a challenge. The old me would have never been so forward but I fear that my newly found self, this angel on my shoulder, would change that. After the amazement of the day, a kiss would far pass any realistic hope that my old self would have had. Arriving at our doors, the anticipation of not knowing the next events which would occur was intense. I knew that the right thing to do was to politely say goodnight to this deity in rebound and hope for an encore to our perfect evening but I hoped for more. As she put her key in the door, there was an awkward silence. Could it be that she was thinking the same as I was? Had she realized that I was not good enough for her despite my efforts to hide my old self? My quest to be a good man or my fear of rejection overpowered me. She opened the door and I wished her a good night. She stared at me for a moment. Her big blue eyes smiled. “I already have.” She closed the door with a promise of more good nights to come, together.
How did I change so much in that one night. The perfect girl wanted to see me again. I took a moment to reflect on the night and then went to my room, alone. A moment of disappointment was quickly forgotten and replaced with bliss. As I changed my clothes and carefully put them away, never having owed clothing as expensive, I felt good. Better than the good I had always felt in my comfort and complacency. I laid down and visions of a grand future rolled through my head. Plans for a memorable existence populated a place in my mind that had always been vacant. She was a reason to not just to be but to thrive. A knock at the door pulled me from my thought. Still in a cloud of joy, I did not question who it could be when I opened the door. There in the hallway, dressed in a t-shirt that matched the age of the worn out sleep wear I sported, and shorts that exposed truly how long and glorious her legs truly were, Laura stood.
If there were words spoken, I don’t remember. If I invited her in or she simply entered my room, I don’t recall. I will forever think back upon that moment in times of sadness to bring a smile to my face. Clear as the day it happened I remember her leaning in towards me, wrapping her arms around me, and in complete synchronization, both of us moving our lips together. Her body pressed against mine sharing a passion for one another that we had not mentioned all night, which now came out in force. Our lips remained fastened as we slipped into my bed and we expressed a lust, passion and raw emotion that made my fantasies seem juvenile and without imagination. Never so close or connected had I ever felt to anyone in my entire life. We shared each other’s minds that night and now, entwined in sheets and sweat, we shared the rest of ourselves. As the sun began to appear through my small window’s curtains, we rested together in my bed. I was afraid to fall asleep in fear that this dream would end so I glanced up and down the perfect silhouette beside me. Still, not a word had been spoken since I left her at her room hours before. As she began to drift into what would be a deep sleep beside me, that small smile came across her face again and she whispered the words that solidified my newly found desire to be a better man for the rest of my life. “I think I love you Jason.” As she slept I realized, my lust was gone, but I knew that I loved her.