She Listened with Her Eyes – Infinite Permutations
On the events that followed William after David left “It’s been so long. How long has it been?” Mary Jane asked William. “It’s been more than 19 years.” he answered. “I tried writing you. I don’t know if you ever got them. I wrote a lot of letters. Then you moved and I didn’t know where to send the letter too.” “Oh. I’m sorry William. I never got them. I would have loved to have read them.” “I’m sorry too.” William said, feeling bad at his wasted feelings on paper. Sensing the shift in his mood, Mary Jane spoke, “It’s so good good to see you, William. I was having a bad day till now.” “I’m glad I saw you too. So what’s going on with you? Update me.” “A lot has changed. I’ve been a little foolish.” “Foolish?” “Silly. Simple minded. Foolish.” “I find that hard to believe. You were always such a smart girl.” “In school, yes. Real life is very different from school as you know.” “That’s true.” “Real life is… well… more complicated.” Mary Jane said looking down. “Only because we make it complicated.” William said. “I guess being in a wheelchair has forced me to live simply, and living simply has taught me that life need not be complicated. That each day can be beautiful without having to climb a mountain or run a hundred miles. Sitting in a corner, seeing the world, observing the world, can be amazing in itself. We don’t always have to go somewhere to arrive.” “You were always wise, William. I wish I had your wisdom the last 12 years.” “What happened Mary?” “I’m embarrassed to say.” “Don’t be. It’s just me.” “I don’t want you to think bad of me.” “I’ll never think bad of you.” “You don’t know what’s happened.” “It doesn’t matter.” “William, things are different now from when we were in college, when we were kids. Things are much different.” “MJ, there you are!” a man’s voice said angrily. “I’ve been looking all over for you! You missed the mayor’s speech.” “I don’t really care about his speech. I hate that crook.” “Watch your words! He gives us our projects. All your fancy things, that dress your wearing, your purse, even the paint on your face, comes from his kindness to us.” the man corrected her. “You think about that before you talk so righteously. Now let’s go!” William watched this conversation between this tall, strong looking man and the love of his life with anger, “Excuse me sir. Don’t talk to her that way.” he said bumping the man’s legs with his wheelchair. “Ouch!” the man said more out of surprise than any real pain. “Watch where you’re going.” William frowned at the man who was talking down at his love. Mary Jane interrupted, “William, this is Don. Don, dear, this is William, we played together as kids. We were best friends.” ”Were.” William thought to himself. “Ouch.” Don eased his initial irritation and politely yet insincerely extended his hand, “Hi William. Very nice to meet you.” William shook it without removing his frown. “I thought your husband’s name was Jim?” he asked Mary Jane. “It was. We’re separated now.” “I’m her unlucky boyfriend.” Don added. “You always liked guys with bodyguard sounding names.” William said, unhappy that two other guys were able to claim the woman he couldn’t. Don’s frown returned. “William…” Mary Jane admonished gently. “Let’s go Don. Let’s say hi to the mayor. It was very nice to see you William. Give me a call ok?” “You gave him your number??” Don asked surprised. “Of course! He’s a good friend. I want us to catch up. I want you to get to know him too.” Don rolled his eyes. “Let’s go.” “Bye William.” Mary Jane said as she bent and touched her cheek to his. “I’m happy I saw you.” She took Don’s hand and they walked away. William sat there watching them, and when he could no longer see them, he spun his chair to face the downward sloping hill. He looked up at the sky and lifted a prayer. “Father, thank You for the evening’s gift. Please be good to her.” And he made his way down the hill. – As I listened to William recount these events, I wondered at his resilience, at the purity of his heart, to love so much, lose, yet never let bitterness take root. The key of course was his ability to stay defiantly grateful. Gratefulness was his weapon, and he was a seasoned warrior. “William, you need to teach me how to do that one day.” I told him as I put my hand on his shoulder. “Teach you what?” he asked. “How to be grateful like you.” “Oh! That’s easy. You only need to look around you!” I thought to myself, “I guess I’ve been blind.” David’s Cocoon After the party, I had not seen William for a few weeks. Which is understandable, that’s what happens to friends when they meet someone prettier than you. I would probably do the same if I had someone like Mary Jane. Technically, he didn’t have her, just reconnected, but that seemed to have encouraged him to busy himself. I was also busy anyway having to take a trip to Hong Kong to meet with a business partner for a business I took over a few years back. This business has been quite the challenge but full of lessons and promise. Sometimes the success of a business, the success of anything is a single breakthrough away. Maybe it’s an idea or a chance or a hire, it could be many things. The key is to stay in the game, survive, learn, grow, and persevere until you find it or it finds you. Walking through the tunnel connecting the plane to the airport, I heard someone call, “David?” I turned to see a friend I had not seen in a long time. “David! It’s me!” I knew who she was but wasn’t sure if I had her name. “Dementia?” “It’s Demetria!” she said without losing a bit of enthusiasm. “Close enough.” I whispered to myself. “How’ve you been?” she said in a voice loud enough to wake every sleeping person in the waiting airport. “I’m normal. How are y…” I hadn’t finished the question when she answered, “I’m great! Been busy on my way to Hong Kong!” “Really?” I told her in mock surprise. “So that’s why you’re also entering this plane.” “Are you being sarcastic?” “Not at all.” “You are.” “Ok, I am.” She frowned at me for a minute, then, as if nothing happened, resumed her sunny loudness, “This must be God! I’ve been wanting to get in touch with you.” “I have been falling behind on my building reading…” I muttered. “No, silly. I’m not going to ask you about the Bible.” I debated in my mind whether I was going to explain what I meant but decided that it would ruin the sarcasm. “I wanted to ask…” It was my turn to interrupt her, “Here’s my seat. You better find yours. Enjoy the flight.” and I tucked my carry-on above me, sat down, fastened my seat belt, put on my earphones, played Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, leaned-back, and shut my eyes tightly.” “You’re such a kid, David. You’re really such a kid.” I heard her say but I didn’t care anymore. I was in my imaginary cocoon, and no one and nothing was allowed inside. It wasn’t long before I fell asleep. Plane would land, I would take my things and make my way to the hotel Kurt and I had agreed to meet. I had no idea the gems I was about to discover. Infinite Permutations “Hi Kurt. Thank you for waiting up for me.” I shook his hand as I sat down to dinner. “David. You’re looking good. Your hair isn’t but that’s nothing new.” “Thank you… I think. You’re looking very well yourself.” “I feel better. I nearly died remember? But I’ve slowed down. And you know why you’re here. It’s time.” “I know. I know. It is time.” “Funny how life works. We do our best to organize and plan, then you hit a point in life when it’s time to step back, and that’s a point that’s difficult to prepare for. The documents may be in order but I don’t know about my mind. there will always be the unplanned, the surprises the, the flukes, the unforeseen and unpreventable. Yes despite these we build and rebuild, and despite these, maybe even, because of these, we live even more fulfilling lives. But when you’ve been around as long as I have thing are different. I’m turning 83 for goodness sake! When you’ve been around as long as I have, and if you don’t let the downs of life outdo your ups, you’ll find that many times even the most difficult of experiences are steps bringing you to where you are now, where you’re supposed to be. “How do you know if you’re where you’re supposed to be?” I asked him. “You’ll know. It’s like love, you’ll know when you have it. You’ll have peace. If you’re not at peace, if you’re defensive, if you’re too affected by the opinions of others, if you’re restless, you don’t have peace.” he said. “I can’t say I’m at peace with everything.” I admitted. “You should have more peace than me. You’re the religious one.” “I’m at peace with dying.” I said. “Maybe I’m not at peace with living yet.” “You’re young, David. We make peace with life as we understand its cadence. Your problem, the problem with you young people, is that you’re all in a rush. You’re all trying to be somebody. And for what? The day you were born you were already somebody. Yet you’re stressing yourself trying to appear like a somebody to everybody, when what’s important is that your life’s a gift to someone. I’m at peace with my life. Now, death? That’s a different story. But I know whoever is out there, He has been good to me, and I’m grateful to Him. I’m grateful too because I know you pray for me.” “Kurt, do you have any mistakes you regret?” “This business of ours. Investing in it was a mistake! We’ve lost millions! But working hard at it, doing our best, working together, fighting together, those things have benefits on their own. Sometimes the benefits aren’t financial. Sometimes we’re luckier to earn more than just money. Just make sure your wins are more than your losses. Losing too many times doesn’t make you much more than a loser. Mistakes can be made, they will be made. The only thing to do after every mistake is to redeem it. It is through the redemption of mistakes that man learns and grows. When we don’t redeem our mistakes, by either not learning and repeating them, or denying that a mistake is a mistake, we don’t develop. You young people don’t know how to recognize mistakes anymore, you keep saying you have no regrets so end up compiling more. The question is not whether we’ll make mistakes. We will. The question is what are we going to do to redeem our mistakes. What do we redeem? Lessons. A wiser way of doing things for next time.” “Kurt, maybe the reason for all of this is that you would someday teach me. I mean, it’s not like many 23 year olds are thrown into a fire with a man in his 80s. You once told me that we live on through the lives we’ve touched. You’ve touched mine in incredible ways. I’ve learned so much from you. Sure we haven’t achieved all our goals, but we’re moving forward, slowly, yes, but forward.” Kurt smiled, “Yes, we live on through the lives we’ve touched, and when those lives touch others, we live on through them as well. David, it’s your turn now. See to it that I live on forever.” I smirked. Felt my burden of expectations get a little heavier. “I’ll do my best, Kurt. I’ll do my best. I’m really not as good as you all think.” “You’re better than we all think. No one knows yet just how good you’re going to be. Rolly said you’re very talented, too talented. That you need a wife to slow you down before you burn yourself out. She’ll help you figure out what’s most important.” “I think I know what’s important.” “Do you?” “I’m pretty clear about my priorities.” “Just because they’re your priorities doesn’t mean they’re important.” I kept quiet. He sounded more like my parents than a business partner. He sounded like an ex-girlfriend right before she became an ex. “Many of the things I thought were so important when I was your age mean nothing to me today. Nothing. There was no need to prioritize them.” “So Rolly helped you prioritize.” “She did.” “What did she do? Can’t I do it myself?” “You can try. But I don’t think you’ll succeed.” “I won’t. What did she do?” “It’s not what she did. It’s who she became. She became my priority. That’s what loving someone means, to make them your priority. When you know your priority things fall in line.” I had heard this before and let Kurt know. “I know that. I know my priorities. It’s God, my family, which include my parents and brothers and their families, my work, and…” “And all the the things you want to accomplish, all the stories you want to write, and all the businesses you want to build, and all the programs you want to launch, and all the people you want to save. Your real priority is yourself.” Kurt interrupted. “I get things done. How can you say I don’t know how to figure out what’s important?” He smiled to himself. “This is just my opinion. I agree, you do get things done. You’re incredible. But you never let anyone affect you. And I don’t mean your mind, you’re a learner, a processor, you have a formidable mind, but you never let anyone affect your heart. The most important things in life are the things that affect your heart. If nothing affects your heart then you have nothing of true importance.” I didn’t know how to respond. We had never had a conversation like this before. We’ve always had insightful discussions but rarely about matters of the heart. maybe after more than five years of working together our relationships had become a true friendship. “Did I ever tell you about how Rolly and I met?” “No. But I have a feeling you’re about to tell me.” He smiled.