The following is a work of fiction.
“…for there are other passions, deeper passions; you know this. You saw fit to sow them there. Sometimes I wish I was not so aware of their presence–beneath the crude folds of my temporal flesh, beneath even the heart and blood which nourish this painfully ephemeral body of mine–down deep, in the unseen burrows of my own humanity–there exists an insatiable hunger, a striving for perspective–a striving to find it and to share it.”
It was Dad’s caretaker who first suggested I speak with the Army about having his GI bill transferred to me to pay for my community college. At first, I disregarded the thought, because it seemed an awful lot like my dad gone to Iraq and got his brains scrambled so that I could get free school, but the nurse was persistent; she was persuasive. Her name was Carla. She was a few years older than me, and she was beautiful.
I was nineteen at the time the nursing service changed staff, and Dad’s caretaker changed from Jeanne–a fifty-some-year-old curmudgeon with the build of a lumberjack–to Carla, an attractive, twenty-four-year-old with understated style and gracious bedside manner. Carla possessed a charming quality that bordered on the maternal. Were I not so attracted to her, I’d have wished she was my mother.
The thing about Carla had to do with her eyes–a pool of blue-green wonder, they were. You always hear about people with piercing eyes – eyes that move you, but I think piercing eyes are not as hard to come by, because piercing has to do with moving forward, possessing direction, and there are plenty of folks with direction, even if it’s direction to nowhere. Carla’s eyes weren’t at all like that. Hers were inviting. It was almost like she’d stumbled upon some fantastic place–someplace otherworldly, and somehow she managed to be there while also being wherever with you in the moment, and she was beckoning with those gorgeous, inviting eyes of hers – saying, “Come here! Oh come with me! I have something amazing to show you!” When I looked into Carla’s eyes, I felt peaceful. I fell in love the first time I met her.
Once I fell in love with her, it took Carla little time to convince me to contact the Army about the GI bill. I was impressed she cared enough to bring it up to me. I’d been working as a construction laboror at the time, an ephemeral job for me, due to a lifelong proneness to injury. After her routine with Dad – getting him exercised, bathed, fed, dressed–she would check on me; inevitably I’d have a series of minor flesh wounds – blistered palms from a shovel or pick-ax, bloodied knuckles from gutting walls. Carla would clean and bandage my wounds while I took in generous inhalations of the shampoo scent in her hair, and became transfixed by the tenderness of her touch on my skin. She would talk while treating me, often about places she’d been and even more about places she wanted to go–how she dreamed of travelling overseas to do humanitarian work, and sometimes she talked about church and God–things I didn’t understand, but I always listened, because it was Carla speaking.
She had this thing she did with her mouth whenever she spoke about God and about service. She stretched her lower lip to the side as a way of emphasizing certain words, then she would bite down, as if to demonstrate that seeing others in pain was also painful for her. If she spoke of helping orphaned girls in Thailand–that’s where she wanted to go someday–she would stretch and bite her lower lip when she spoke of that country or when she talked of how much God loves the orphan girls over there, that he doesn’t want them to be exploited by human sex traffickers. I wondered how she could talk of such things and still maintain her positive radiance. When I think of poor Thai girls being exploited by human sex trafficers, I feel depressed. Carla sees an opportunity to help.
– to be continued –