A monsoon summer day, I weep over my past choices and what will come, and watch a film about Virginia Woolf.  When her husband asks her of her novel by which she is consumed, “Why must someone die?”

“So that all else can value life more.  It’s called contrast, Leonard.”  She twitches.

I leave the house and walk to the theater in the after-rain dusk, remembering what it feels like, the heaviness of life’s story to be resting on only one’s mind.  I lapse into a different season and am content to keep to myself and avert my eyes inward, staring silently at life itself.

In the theater seats she has slowed speech.  She frequently brushes aside a wisp of white hair and it also seems as if something is scratching the inside of her throat with every word.  But she wants to talk, asking me about my life and offering milestones of her own.  She seems happy to hear that I got my degree at CU, her alma mater where she got her doctorate, and even more pleased when I tell her I studied Chinese.

“These days you must be worth your weight in gold.”  Ha!

She tells me about a nephew who worked in Mongolia and China negotiating with health officials to have iodine added to their salt in order to prevent goiters.

“He was killed in a helicopter crash over there.  Thirteen died but twenty managed to escape and survive,” as she tells me of the tragedy I am aware that my face has become twisted in sympathy.

“My sister and her husband set up a fund in their son’s name and now support about ten to fifteen students’ education a year.  But,” she sighs, “My sister will never get over it.  It broke her heart.”  When I tell her that I’m getting married in a few months she asks if I can cook.  “We both take pleasure in cooking.”

I tell her how we met, the bad boys in the woods, and that we’ve taught in schools as well.  About the music, the tiling.  “We are unofficial missionaries.  Eventual teachers.”  She still wants to continue with the conversation, but the emcee introduced the show as the lights dimmed.  She is delighted during the performance.  “Those costumes!—Who is that?  She’s having the time of her life! — Look at that dancer’s hands with the black, curly hair.  She’s the most expressive belly dancer!” Curious about the blind dancer in the back, I tell her what an inspiration she is for so many in town, ‘walking by faith, not by sight’ and all. Later, when they ask for volunteers, I raised my hand but my new friend declines my insistence to join me. “You go on up, Hun,” she winked.

As we all stand up to leave the auditorium after the show, she still sitting, took me by the arms and faced me square—a contrast to the evasive mood of the whole misty day—to say, “You are on a good path in life.”

“What is your name?”

And she says, “Virginia.”

Woolf’s husband asks her, “So who must die?  Who dies?”

“The poet.  The visionary.”

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.


© 2013, Amaya Engleking


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