Happy Endings

Meg meets Lorena. What happens next? You decide.

I

Meg likes hats and women. Lorena is a nun and only likes hats. For the second time in her life, Meg has entered a Catholic church weeping. Lorena is lighting the candles in the vestibule for St. Christopher, who she has a thing for. It’s a prayer thing.

For the second time in her life, Meg weeps and approaches a nun, asking her to pray on her behalf to a God that could not possibly love her. Lorena prays and asks Meg if she would like to have a candle lit for her in front of St. Christopher. Meg says yes and does not donate any money on the way out.

II

Meg meets Lorena. Meg is crying and wearing a hat in a church because she didn’t know where else to go after finding out her grandfather died. Lorena is not a nun. She never married and happens to be Catholic. The kids think she’s a nun though. She prays that it will not bother her, but God does not remove every thorn.

Meg is not crying because she loved her grandfather. She is crying because she loved herself and was sorry she was not better to him. He lived through the Great Depression only to have to beg his grandchildren to send him an email. Ungrateful. Selfish. She weeps for herself and asks Lorena to pray for her. Lorena obliges but wonders if Meg thinks she’s a nun.

“What should I pray for,” she asks.

“Pray for peace for my grandmother and my family, and pray for me, that I might have peace of mind,” Meg says.

She pulls the words out of her past. She hasn’t gone to church in years, but the Good Book says grow up your children in the way of the Lord and they shall not stray.

Meg would not normally ask such a thing of a stranger — to be prayed for — but in the church where the light is dim many things are possible. She notices that Lorena is attractive.

The prayer ends and Meg leaves. She does not donate any money on the way out.

III

Lorena knows that she is attractive. People have told her this in her lifetime, men even. She knows this but cannot feel it or realize it for herself. She knows it like she knows that Mars is a fiery red planet. It is a fact that affects nothing.

She goes to church, unmarried, and is very involved in the volunteer ministry. Everyone thinks she is a nun, or wants to be a nun. No one asks her. They don’t even try to set her up with their sons, who are going into professions. She has not believed in God for years. This was not her choice. God simply went away from her a number of years ago after she had fallen in love with someone. It was like he’d stolen her wings. Now when she prays she feels a silence so dead it is almost holy.

Meg rushes into the church without a hat and walks down the center aisle, her heels marking her steps. She folds herself on the altar. She has not seen Lorena and does not know that she is not alone.

Lorena exits through the back.

IV

Meg meets Lorena at a networking event in the city. Meg is wearing a hat. It really completes her outfit, which is all white and black. When she was a child she loved to look at pictures of harlequins. Such strange shapes. Such interesting things that could be done to the human form. She looks at her phone and sees a text message from her father, “Grandpa died.”

Lorena approaches Meg. She had been waiting for a moment to talk to her. Lorena used to be religious but now she believes that life is essentially meaningless.

She introduces herself to Meg and asks her what she does. Meg looks at her and says she doesn’t know what matters anymore, that her grandfather just died and they weren’t close but knowing that someone who had loved her was dead and that death was coming and that soon they would be frail and unable to feed themselves and counting their last days on earth, that all of this was such a wonder and a bafflement that she was really at a loss of what to do, that her job and her life and her hats felt meaningless.

She notices that Lorena is attractive and seizing this moment she does something she would normally not do. She asks Lorena if she wants to leave with her because none of this matters and real life is out there and she wants to take advantage of it and go somewhere while she still has the chance.

Lorena is surprised but says, yes, sure, feeling for a second that meaning is coming back into her life, that facing the death, even the death of a grandparent through the eyes of a stranger, even this somehow shows a way forward, shows that life can be what you make of it, can be imbued with meaning if one tries hard enough.

They go outside and try to figure out a destination. Were they thinking like a road trip? But neither one of them had cars. Or a bar maybe, to get drinks? But which one? Meg had eaten already so she didn’t want food.

On the side of the street, looking at her phone, Lorena realizes how stupid this is and decides to just go home. Meg is left alone, contemplating the death of her grandfather. She sees a church nearby and decides to go in.

V

Lorena is at a networking event in the city. She sees a woman wearing a hat and decides to approach her. The woman’s name is Meg. Her grandfather has just died.

Meg says nothing about what she does and instead looks directly at Lorena and asks if she wants to drive to Seattle. She’s always wanted to do it and she has a car. Now, in the face of her grandfather’s death, the things that she thought were meaningful no longer have meaning, and if this is not their great chance in life, then what is since it’s not guaranteed that tomorrow will ever come and they only get one shot at happiness.

On any other day, Lorena would have said no thank you and headed to get another pita chip and avoided the crazy lady for the rest of the evening but today she’d gone to a job interview and it had stirred up certain thoughts and feelings in her, questions of what kind of a person she wanted to be, feelings that she was missing the point of life, so that the entire day had felt unreal, that a door to another dimension had opened up and here it was in front of her in the form of Meg wearing a hat so she says yes and hears herself saying yes and she wonders what’s going to happen next. She’s always been religious but even that, now, seems part of a world that’s slipping away.

Meg takes a breath, sets down her glass, and reaches into her purse to get her car keys. “Alright. Let’s go.”

VI

Wait, what do you think is going to happen? When the two women get to Seattle (or maybe before then — it’s not a short drive), will a new normal settle in? Will they find what they are looking for? And what is that anyways? And what if Seattle is dreary and the life they were looking for appears to be located somewhere else, geographically-speaking? What if they decide to stay there? Or take their little trip and then go back and find they are still the same? Or what if they are so excited about beginning again that they throw themselves into making this entirely improbable situation work and they relish the work because they are coming closer to who they are supposed to be? And it does work? What about that?

I’ve looked at these characters and made them be. That’s my job. But, what do you want them to do?

Here — I’ll make an ending you’ll like.

VII

They both become artists and fall in love and live happily ever after until they die of natural causes in their sleep, without pain, both perfectly healthy even though they are old. Their house has a tree outside of their bedroom window and a large community of diverse and artistic people mourn their passing but celebrate their lives and their achievements and their great love for one another and for the people around them. The end.

VIII

Did you like that? Or is that too fantastic? Smacks of wishful thinking doesn’t it? That’s okay, though. That’s what stories are for. They are our wishes. We see reality too much anyways. Here, take this happy ending and in your own life when you are wishing for a door to open, remember Lorena and Meg painting in Seattle, never regretting leaving their previous lives, never regretting anything. They are happy and they are a fiction.

IX

Wait no! I’m not saying it can’t happen! I’m just saying they are a fiction. How you finish your own life is up to you. It’s outside the scope of my responsibilities. Thank God.

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