Not Quite Finished
The Hero’s Journey is not complete when the task has been finished. It continues as he/she returns home (completes the circle), and takes up the reins of his ordinary life, that will never be quite the same as before he/she started. That brush with fame/celebrity has altered most, if not all definitions. Those of the Hero, as well as those of the people around her, and not always in a positive manner.
I went back to work, as usual. Within a few days, all the hullabaloo had quieted down, and I felt I could breathe again. A woman walked into the store. I recognized her from college, but hadn’t seen her since leaving the campus, and even then, didn’t know her all that well. We simply said, “Hi,” and she began to browse the book shelves, while I went back to whatever I had been doing.
Looking up from my paperwork, I saw her walking toward me with a book open in her hands, not realizing that it was the Anthology. “Man, you must cringe every time someone mentions this poem. I would have thought that a Press of this size had a slew of editors to insure against such sloppiness,” she was gloating by then. “You have to be so embarrassed, Elizabeth.”
“Excuse me?” I was confused.
With a great deal of obvious relish, she pointed at something in my poem, and said, “Oh, Elizabeth, you must be aware of the glaring mistake you made. There is no such thing as a trundle sewing machine, I believe the word you were looking for is treadle.” Carelessly flipping the book onto the counter, she delightedly continued, “I, for one, wouldn’t pay good money for such ignorance. And to think that they would actually attempt to award such carelessness is beyond understanding.” With one last malicious smile, she left the store.
Stunned, I stood there for several minutes, unable to grasp the fact that this almost stranger had taken the time and energy to come into the store to play out her crazy-making game. I opened the book and looked at my poem. She was correct about the word error, but I couldn’t think why she had so enjoyed her little demonstration of superiority. It was definitely meant to wound, and it did. But why? I doubt I will ever fully comprehend the motivation behind her actions.
Meanwhile, something had gone seriously wrong with my younger sister’s surgery. I went to visit her, and as I approached her room, I could hear her whimpering and crying. Rushed inside to find her curled against the headboard of the bed, trying to hold herself up by clinging to the top rail, and in obvious total agony. Removing my coat, I hurried to her side and began trying to calm her down. My sister has never been a cry baby. Never.
As I was trying to ease her into a more relaxed position, a young nurse came in, took one look and said, “Oh, Mary, you have to stop this crying. It hurts me so much to see you like this, and I can’t give you any more medication for a while.”
I blew. Leaned across the bed, looked the woman straight in the face and said with a growl, “Then maybe you should find another occupation.”
Deeply insulted, she put a palm on her chest and said, “You have no right to speak to me in that fashion.” As I continued to attempt to soothe my sister’s distress, I grinned with a definite nastiness, and replied, “If you don’t want to hear more, I suggest you get the f*** out of this room. Now!” She whirled and left.
As it turned out, the pin that had been surgically inserted into Mary’s spine, was put in backwards. One end of it was pressing tightly up against a major nerve. It took the doctors 48 hours to decide to go back in and correct the error. By then, Mary was in critical condition and completely out of it. Her husband had to take the doctor outside in the hall and do a similar number on him, as I had done on that bright eyed nurse.
Into all of this, came the reception and reading for the Poetry group’s Anthology. I was going to skip it, but decided to go and ask a big favor of the Moderator. I arrived at the Art Museum, where the reception was being held, only to find the room jammed with people, some standing because all of the chairs were occupied.
I grabbed Peggy’s arm and explained the situation with my sister, asking if it would be possible for me to read close to the beginning of the program so that I could sneak out afterward and get back up to the hospital in Milwaukee. She listened and looked distressed as I made my request.
“Elizabeth, have you noticed how many people are actually here? They’ve come to hear you read your poetry.”
Shocked, I looked around and then back at her, “You really think so?”
“Of course, I do. When have you ever seen this large a crowd for a poetry reading? You’ve been all over the television, radio, and newspapers. They are here to see and hear you. We were planning on letting you be the last reader because we figured people would want to ask you questions and get to know you a bit more personally.”
Now it was my turn to look distressed. “I just can’t do that today, Peggy. And besides, they are going to be expecting something along the same lines as that other poem, and we both know they are in for a surprise, with what I will be reading today.”
We looked at one another and nodded. I had three poems in the Anthology. One was about my Father’s death, another about relationships that don’t run smoothly, and a final poem about the contents of an incest survivor’s sketchbook. “Okay, I’ll go talk to Jerry.” Jerry being a local celebrity for his visual art, a member of the poetry group, and the host for the day’s activities.
There were two doors to the room we were in. One at the back, where a crowd had gathered to stand behind the rows of folding chairs. Another to the side and just behind the speaker’s podium. I sat down fairly close to the front of the room. Jerry got up and in his usual cordial and laid back manner, gave a brief history of the group and explained how this was the first Anthology we had collected in several years, thus a cause for celebration.
Then looking out at the crowd, he said, “We have had a change in the program. We had planned to keep her til last, but Elizabeth has a personal emergency she must attend to. Her sister is in critical condition at the hospital. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to our most famous poet,” looking directly at me, and grinning from ear to ear, “Elizabeth Crawford.”
I could feel the heat come up on my face and touch the tips of my ears. I gave Jerry a dirty look, at which he laughed out loud, and moved to the podium. I read the three poems slowly, even though my heart was hammering in my chest. The faces were a blur, and I just wanted to get it over with and be on my way. There was polite applause as I moved back to take my seat and another poet was introduced. I put my coat on, and when that poet was stepping down and the next one moving forward, I made a quick run for the open door and empty hall I could see at the front of the room.
I didn’t get far. As I stepped through the doorway, a woman standing on the other side of it, grabbed my arm and began speaking, “Elizabeth, my name is ___ and I came today especially to speak to you about poetry. The writing of it.”
Pulled up short, I looked at her and said softly, “I’m sorry, didn’t you hear him? I have to get to the hospital.” I tried to gently remove my arm from her grasp, but she only dug in harder.
“But, I took the time to come today because you would be here and I really want to discuss my poetry with you.”
Taking a deep breath, I again spoke very calmly, but clearly, “Again, I am sorry, but I simply don’t have the time at this moment.”
Now, she was angry. “But, surely you understand. You have been given a gift and must know that it is your duty to share that with those of us who have not been so lucky. You are a poet, you must understand that you have an obligation to help those of us who have never been given a chance.”
Whew! I looked at her, thought some very uncharitable thoughts, took another deep breath, raised my hand and placed it on the one she was still using to hold me in place, lifted both hers and mine, jerked my arm away, and said less than politely, “And surely you must know that although I am a poet, I have been a sister far longer than that.” Turned and ran for the exist as she fumed behind me.
(to be continued…)