“While I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw…”.
— Black Elk
Tara Lynn used to work with me in a small business I owned and operated some years ago. I know a few folks thought I hired her because she was gorgeous. One day, a business friend I had not seen in a few years dropped by the office and was stunned. There’s no other word for his reaction but “stunned”.
I got from him that he was there to sell me on investing in a project of his. But that information didn’t come out too clear: Once he saw Tara, he lost track of where he was in his pitch. It was like a bad comedy. A bit later on he left — having either forgotten to ask for the sale, or forgotten to set up a follow-up meeting to his visit, or both, despite his 35 years in sales.
Yet, he didn’t leave before impolitely suggesting that he was no one’s fool, and that he absolutely knew I must be “bopping” my employee, as he put it.
Tara Lynn’s physical beauty was alchemy that could — and sometimes did — turn a man into an idiot.
To this day, I’m honestly unsure whether or not her beauty had that same witchy effect on me. Here in my “exile” among the foothills of Colorado, I have wondered more than once whether things would have worked out as they did — worked out back there, a thousand miles to the East — had she been somewhat less than hang-jaw beautiful.
I don’t know.
I was married to my second wife, Tomoko, when I met Tara. But to explain how I met Tara, I must go back long before I met her — even go back to before Tomoko and I were dating, let alone married. Back then, Tomoko lived in the trailer park on the North edge of town. And, there she had met a small child, a boy of about six or eight.
The boy’s mother was in the habit of locking him out of her trailer. When he was locked out, he would stay in the local laundry mat, where it was always warm, and it was there Tomoko met him. She all-but-legally-adopted the boy, and she raised him up as her own child.
In time, the boy grew up and became Tara’s boyfriend. Then, one day, Tomoko asked me to take a vacuum cleaner over to their place, which was in the trailer park on the North edge of town. When I got there, I met Tara, and I was in the act of handing the cleaner over to her, when I had an impression that I had seen Tara in a dream about twenty years before.
I think she was 20 that year we met. A couple weeks later, Tara’s boyfriend asked me to hire Tara. I thought it was strange he was asking and not her. But I agreed to give her part time work.
I was willing enough to hire her because I had a project I was behind on, because I was fascinated with the dream, and because she was beautiful. But I’m not certain which of those was more important to me.
It wasn’t long after we began working together that I was in love with her. If you are wondering, that’s hindsight speaking. At the time, I either failed to recognize that I was in love with her, or I was in active denial that I loved her, or some of both.
No matter how much I was in denial of my love for Tara, I was in far greater denial — almost infinitely greater denial — about the ruthless and almost unrelenting abuse my wife was throwing at me. Of course, you can deny abuse all you want, but you still will not escape its consequences.
I hired Tara in the first week of June. Everything will change from that June until the next. I had many possessions when I hired Tara. I will have few possessions 52 weeks later.
Of course, it is easy enough to talk about the material things: I will leave the greater part of all I own. I will leave my wife and my home. My business will fail and my career with it. I will lose countless items at one time personally dear to me — from a library of books to a small collection of oriental rugs. I will lose most of my friends and will feel estranged from my birth family. Yet, in 52 weeks, I will still own a car, a few clothes, four books, a fountain pen. It is the spiritual things that are harder to talk about.
Losing the material things — even the wife and home — will not be that difficult compared to losing my self-identity. My image and understanding of who and what I am. My feeling that I have a place in the world. My sense that I am decent. Honest. Good. Intelligent. Hard-working. Competent. Wise. Kind.
It will all go.
It will all need to go. Because there will not be enough truth in those things. It will become evident that I am merely a decent enough man to think of myself as a decent man; that I am merely an honest enough man to think of myself as an honest man; that I am merely a good enough man to think of myself as a good man. Yet, I will not chose to renounce those images of myself.
Rather than choosing to renounce them, I will cling to them. Competent. Wise. Kind. Leaving that understanding of myself — that image of who I am — will be more difficult for me that leaving my wife and home. I will not — if I can speak precisely — I will not actually leave that image of myself. Instead, I will be evicted from it. I will be forced from it.
Yet, some components of my self image will just slip away, will — without a struggle — evaporate. These will most often be components of my self identity I will not know that I think of as me until they are gone. They will leave me:
Late one night, I was driving along a country road when I thought of God. I was mildly surprised to realize it no longer mattered to me whether God existed. I couldn’t say why it no longer mattered, but I knew it did not. Until then, it had been important to me — important to my sense of who I was — to know whether I believed in God.
In fifty-two weeks, I will lose nearly everything I own — from my material possessions to my spiritual possessions. But I will not lose everything. Not quite. I will be left with enough. Yet, I will almost be able to count without actually looking all that remains. If Tara Lynn had not come along when she did, it almost certainly would not have happened when it did.
She was the catalyst. In chemistry, a catalyst can be thought of as an agent that accelerates changes without itself being changed. Some chemical processes would take so long without a catalyst present that, for all practical purposes, they would not happen at all. Without a catalyst, they might take millions of years. But in the presence of a catalyst, they take only a short while.
I wrote earlier, “Tara Lynn’s physical beauty was alchemy that could — and sometimes did — turn a man into an idiot.”
But that’s not quite it. I don’t think she brought about many things that would not have happened anyway. A few things, maybe, but not many. It was mostly that she greatly accelerated what might have otherwise taken forever and a day. For instance: Tara Lynn did not turn my business friend into an idiot. I always knew he had a bit of the idiot in him. Tara Lynn just brought it out. She made the idiot in him blossom.
I believe even without Tara, I would have left my abusive wife some year. But how much more time would it have taken? Five years? Ten? Even longer?
Without Tara, it might have taken a long time to have lost all I lost, and to have seen all I saw in the losing of it. But with her, it took about a year.
To this day, I think it strange how some people can have that effect on us. How some people can be catalysts.