fiction, short story
16 July 2001
Snow is caked on the windshield, and headlights reflect on the windshield as we see a thirty-something couple in a trendy sport-utility truck. Janine is in the passenger seat with her eyes close, relaxed, drifting close to sleep. A loud bang followed by severe shaking, their truck crashes. She doesn’t even have time to scream.
As she’s discharged from the emergency room, she has a neck-brace, a black eye, and an arm in a sling.
A nurse asks some routine questions: Were alcohol or drugs consumed prior to the accident? (no) Are you family? (engaged) Well, we’ll have to contact his family for most of this, but perhaps you can help now: Know of any previously known medical conditions? (no, none) Is his identification info correct? (yes)
The nurse notices something on the form but keeps asking questions: Is his… medical insurance… valid? (should be)
The woman doesn’t really notice the particular, almost peculiar nature of the questions: Did he grow up in this area? (yes) Oh, he must have gone to the local high school then? (yes, i think so)
Upon returning home, the woman encounters a familiar neighbor, William. Seeing her sad state, he recommends she pursue the healing arts for both internally and outside– especially massage.
It turns out that he’s an anthropology professor, and he’s learned about various exercises around the world from his studies.
A few days later inside her apartment, she checks the phone messages.
First message: We’re so sorry to hear about the accident; call us when you’re better.
Next message: Jake, the bastard, he had to put himself in a coma to get out of helping his best friend, didn’t he? Sorry, bad joke.
Next message: We hope you’re doing well considering your wedding was supposed to be in a couple of weeks; how long will you wait for him?
Next message: I heard you’re taking the bus to work now since your truck was totalled; you must be so embarrassed.
Next message: We can’t meet this week; I know we had planned it for a while, but something came up; we’ll give you a call when we get back from the bahamas.
That was your last message.
While waiting for her physical therapy appointment, she attempts conversation with another patient in the waiting room. He ignores her. The receptionist is open to friendship.
Janine’s pain keeps the conversation brief.
That evening, she visits her finacé who is still in a coma. His parents thank her for being dedicated and sticking by him. His heart had been broken once before which took years to get over.
In the following days, she has her first yoga class, qi-gong instruction, and massage.
“In yoga, always start and end with calm.”
“In qi-gong, the real healing comes from the final standing position.”
“So you’ve never had a massage before….”
The lesson to learn with each is listening to your body. The key to each is being relaxed and letting your body heal itself.
While on the massage table: Relax? All the pain and therapy is distracting when at my job, so I’m even more stressed out. I have to hurry and cancel all the wedding arrangements since my finacé might not wake from his coma within two weeks. And you’re telling me to relax?!?
She visits her finacé again. The future mother-in-law tries to cheer her up by saying he should wake out of it soon, the couple will get married and have the big family they’ve always wanted. “He’ll wake soon; you’re still young enough to have kids. It’ll all be fine; you’ll see.”
He’s still in a coma but at least physically ok now, bruises all gone. Trying to find the best in the situation, she tells of the new friend she made. “We’ll have a big party when you’re better. That might be a good opportunity for me to introduce you to the Chairman of the Board.”
She checks messages on her answering machine: You have no messages.
During a brief encounter with her neighbor, she says they must stop meeting like this, so he suggests dinner. She gently reminds him that she’s engaged, albeit to someone in a coma.
Class on meditation and visualization: Sitting or laying on your back, rest calmly. Breath deeply: in, out, in, out,…. You are relaxed but awake. Imagine an infinitesimally small point in the center of your mind. Locate it at the center of your brain if that’s easier to picture. As you breath in, imagine that dot expanding. It expands with each inhalation, diminishes as you exhale.
Qi-gong instruction: How long are you able to perform the standing position? “It was the full 20 minutes the first few times, but then I became bored.” The instructor tries to hide a surprised reaction but then admits, he still is unable to do it that long.
A visit with her medical doctor reveals she might be unable to have children, but it’s still too early to tell. The doctor sends her to a psychiatrist.
That evening, she sits with her cat. She asks if the kitty minded being fixed, unable to have kittens. The cat just purrs.
At the psychiatrist, she talks of a lifetime of wanting to be a mother, having a family. She’s always felt that she had the mother’s instincts– strong intuition and nurturing.
Another visit with her finacé (still comatose), “And by the way, I’m feeling much better. Who would have thought to drink aloe with apple juice to mend bruised organs?” The visit is interrupted. A nurse is here to check on the IV. Coincidentally, it happens to be the same one from the ER that fateful day. Janine almost doesn’t recognize her. She leaves her finacé, then the nurse is attending to more than just the IV.
The Nurse’s dims the light now that the two are alone. The nurse has been in love with this man for a very long time and vows to bring him back– then win him back.
Janine checks messages on her answering machine: You have no messages.
Upon performing `dragon standing between heaven and earth' position, she slips into the visualization exercise from her class and goes far beyond previous attempts. She experiences the Blue Pearl. While there, another entity is encountered. She asks if it might be her finacé but gets no response. Then she asks, “who are you?” and hears nothing. Then the realization that she might be in too deep, she exits.
The next visit with her finacé (still comatose), she tells of the strange daydream experience she had while doing qi-gong.
Upon a subsequent visit to the physical therapy, new friend, Dorothy, is finishing a phone call: You’ve been giving her her medications, right? Let’s just hope it’s not hereditary, sis. Oh, speak of the devil, I gotta go.
Dorothy starts, “This is going to sound weird, but I must tell you. My sister was asking me about my new friend, you. But I didn’t get a chance to tell anyone but my husband about you, and he’s such a geek, he never passes on news of any kind unless it’s about technology. Anyway… My mother apparently described you in detail to my sister. Not just what you look like but your perspectives on life and everything… Well, you see, my Ma is a little nuts. She sees things and hears things and claims to talk to my deceased grandfather. She claims I wrote her a letter, but I haven’t. And since my sister takes care of Ma, she would have known if letter arrived. It’s so weird. I thought it was just the strangest story! I just had to tell you!”
Janine heads into her therapy session in a daze. She’s freaked out. The physical therapy session is ruined. She’s unable to explain to the therapist. He suspects it’s some kind of post-traumatic shock and suggests she discuss this with the psychiatrist.
Upon visiting her finacé (still comatose), she reveals her fears of telling the psychiatrist about her daydream. She ends with, “Then, there are all these issues about me being in denial about intending to give up my career. I think I need drugs just to get through therapy!” She cries.
Returning to her apartment, she sees her neighbor again. She starts asking about side effects of the regime he put her on (yoga and qi-gong). He smiles knowingly, “Perhaps you have uncovered a talent.” They go to a cafe to talk. He explains that there’s more to yoga and qi-gong than just exercise.
With the meme planted, Janine sets out on her quest.
In the library, she hunts by walking through the stacks…
She explores more meditation through yoga.
Dialing-up from home, she surfs the net…
At an internet cafe, she downloads large documents…
In the park, she can be found reading…
She frequents many bookstores, browsing the window, then entering…
She meets with her neighbor and they discuss some of the philosophies and meditations– results of her research. She reveals that she experienced the Blue Pearl without having prior knowledge of such a thing. She details the account and explains it as a series of paradoxes and contradictions. Much like life itself he responds, almost as if to amuse himself.
The next day, she prepares for meditation. As she sits in the half lotus position, the calm tranquility is shattered as she has a realization. She gets up with a frantic start.
Visiting her finacé, she’s crying. “It’s been half a year. Why won’t you wake up?”
The psychiatrist informs: her fears are deeper than just from the accident (without elaboration).
Meeting with the friend from physical therapy clinic, she’s advised. “It’s like an apple orchard. After so many years, they must take out the old roots or the new trees will get tangled in them and choke. Learn the lessons from the past but get rid of the emotional baggage. You’re a strong person, go out in the world and make your mark.”
Her cell phone rings, interrupting the conversation. She yelps, “He’s awake?”
Upon arriving for a joyous visit with her newly awakened finacé, the nurse is sitting rather comfortably on his bed chatting as he looks enthralled at her. The woman doesn’t even notice and makes a big fuss over her fiancé’s restored consciousness.
The medical facts of the moment are straightened out. Some tests will be needed of course but everything seems to be ok.
She learns something of his past. The nurse was his high school sweetheart, and they were just now getting caught up on missed times. Their separation all those years ago revolved around a misunderstanding which they have just cleared up! They intend to marry immediately! Happy day!
When she’s alone, the realization of what just happened hits her with full impact. She bangs on the steering wheel of her car.
Dejected and rejected, she returns to her apartment. She knocks on her neighbor’s door in need of an ear, hoping to find a friend and a hug.
She sums her life: The past is killing me. My finacé just left me, I’m bouncing between different kinds of therapy, I’m broke from all the medical bills, and most of my old friends want nothing to do with me any more. My life is a mess!
“You brought me into this meditation thing in the first place. I was completely oblivious to what was going on around me. What do you have to say about all this now?”
He brings her inside.
His advice: Reshape your personal myths. Change the myths you live by. The fact that the blue pearl came so easily to you means yours is not an ordinary destiny. Become what you are. Follow your bliss to find your path.
People are often chasing the wrong things in life these days. The SUV, the big house, the big career…. Look how I live. It’s a simple life, yet comfortable.
His words are of little help to her at this moment. He essentially just insulted her lifestyle and experiences.
She ends with, “How could you understand? You’re a professor. You’re sheltered on your campus, your little academic world, safe from reality.”
If there was to be any romantic potential between these two, it’s probably just been shattered.
The psychiatrist renders an analysis: the woman has been unaware that she had mistaken society’s dictates of a woman’s place as her own beliefs and denied her `leadership qualities' by interpreting it as wanting children. Clearly, she’d be happier as a career woman.
Sitting in her parked car, we’re eavesdropping on her side of a phone conversation: But I’ve done a lot for this company…. I was instrumental in the merger and helped defeat the take-over…. Well, no…. Officially, the credit went to others, but…. You know why; I’ve been recovering from a car accident! (long pause) But he hates me for some reason known only to him; you can’t… You think I’ve been reading international newspapers for the past fifteen years just to get their daily weather reports?
She knocks on her neighbor’s door. She apologizes for the other night. “At least you know where you’re going in life.”
He asks her out but not just to dinner. He wants to show her more of his life. She accepts.
At a gathering on campus, they’re attending a lecture for the Anthropology department. The speaker concludes with notes on spirituality.
Afterwards, he introduces her to a rather sage-looking man. This a Ken Wilbur or Joseph Campbell type with strong intuition.
The sage man sees that she is powerful but doesn’t know it yet. He merely says, “The world may not be ready, but you must still show them. You know what you have to do. Practice more in the silence, and you’ll discover the voice that has always been there for you.”
“Show them what?”
He walks away waving his hand, repeating, “You know what you have to do.”
After pondering his words for a beat, she says to her friend, “Ya know, normally, I would have dismissed him as arrogant and pretentious. But I actually think I understand.”
She releases the biggest smile we’ve ever seen on her.
Back at his place, she explains how only now does she understand. It’s all clicked for her finally.
Now she just has to do it. That’s the hard part.
She thanks him for leading her into all this meditation stuff.
He responds with: “You know…” The long pause is taken up by the lighting of a very large candle. “There are still more forms of meditation and spirituality….” He turns off the lamp, leaving just the candle to light the room.
And with that, he leans in to kiss her.
He holds her hand and arm gently, then proceeds with kissing her hand. Moving to the wrist, he pushes her sleeve back as he kisses further along her arm. Then when the sleeve won’t go any further, he moves to her neck. Cradling the back of her head, he kisses all around her face, neck, and head. She kisses him, and he opens her blouse revealing lingerie fancier than just everyday wear, so he knows she’s quietly been expecting his advances this evening.
He caresses her stomach and as he opens her blouse more, the stroking continues with the curve of her waist.
Having been laying back, she leans up and takes his shirt off, leaving him completely stripped above the waist. She begins to kiss him on the chest.
They wipe their hands across each other’s bodies with their eyes flickering from torso to eyes and back again.
He leans her back to a reclining position and kisses her stomach. He opens her jeans and gently pulls them off, leaving her in just bra and panties. As he approaches her again, he starts at the top of the foot and starts with kisses while alternating his hands as support for her hovering leg. He holds his cheek against her belly for a moment, kisses it, then rises to kiss her on the lips again.
They kiss for a lingering moment.
She pushes him back until her one arm is straight. Then, she opens his pants, and wiggles them down, leaving him in just his boxers.
They lean against each other, both on their sides, flowing from gazing into each others eyes to passionately kissing with eyes closed.
As they roll around– he on top, she on top, and back again– the formerly large candle illuminating the room burns out.
The next day at home, she prepares for meditation. She re-enters the experience that freaked her out before: the blue pearl. This time, she’s alone in there. It’s calming. She emerges energized. We hear the sage’s words, “The world may not be ready, but you must still show them. You know what you have to do.”
She says out loud to herself, “Yes. Yes, I do.”
* * *
Days later, she’s speaking to an older gentleman in a very fine suit, “I’d like to ask a favor of you.”
“Because I’m Chairman? That battle among the v.p.’s that they dragged you into is beyond–”
“No! No, not that. As a friend….” A hesitation, then quickly, “And the fact that you happen to be on the boards of many corporations world-wide helps, but mainly I ask as a long-time friend.”
Another breath, then calmly she states, “I want to work as an international mediator, and I’m asking for your assistance to get me there.”
“That’s a tough job.”
“You know, my father worked for the UN….”
“You’re kidding? Wow. I just felt, somehow, that you were the right person to ask. Now that I know this, it will mean so much to me if it is you who helps.”
“I always saw this strength in you. I’m glad you finally see it in yourself now.”
She smiles. They embrace. He finishes with, “We’ll miss you here, but you have your destiny to fulfill.”
* * *
TWENTY YEARS LATER
An older Jake is with his teenage daughter (18) and son (13) at home.
The daughter asks, “Dad, what was the name of that woman you almost married all those years ago?”
“Hmm… Janine! Oh, yeah. Janine Pearl….”
“She’s credited with negotiating the peace agreement for the Republic.”
The daughter (reading): Nicknamed the `Mother of Peace' she with the assistance of husband, William, made for a team unique in this reporter’s long life. Unlike the other mediators who came before, boths sides respected what she had to say because they knew she always brought out a common sense of community between differing sides.
The son: I want to do that when I grow up!