Diane sat in her car and thought about it. She decided that it was a NPR (National Public Radio) kind of a day. So, she turned on the radio and switched it from Q100, the more popular channel, to NPR. Andrew Pete and his BBC Newshour were on. To her, America’s obsession with the British accent felt comical. And NPR being the National Public Radio, gave her an air of elitism as a listener and the news was almost always unsurprisingly somber.
It was 3pm in the parking lot of Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia. With traffic, it would be around 4pm before she reached her home in Johns Creek. She actually hadn’t felt the commute was killing her until she had Ella. At 37, she had all but given up on her dream of becoming a mother [to her own child].
She had called her baby sitter and got her voicemail while she walked to her car. For a second, she felt a panic. Hope all is well with Ella? But, wait, Taylor didn’t pick up the phone, isn’t that a good thing? 9-month-old Ella and not her iPhone was the focus of Taylor. After all, babysitters are subjected to higher standards of moral code in this medley of online and offline lives we’re living in.
She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror as she drove towards the highway and realized her face looked as if it was amused. That’s how she ended up looking, with smiling lips and twinkles in her eyes when she thought of her brand-new baby.
“The Islamist state of ISIS has beheaded the American journalist James W. Foley in Syria. The US government has confirmed the authenticity of the barbaric video and that Mr. Foley has died in the hands of the extremists. The video that has been circulating the internet for the past 24 hours has been condemned around the world.” Andrew Pete told her as a matter of fact.
Although Diane Kelsh didn’t publicly debate world affairs and express how she felt about the heartbreaking conditions of humanity, those who knew her knew that she oozed heart. To her, some world events just seemed to mitigate the daily grind and the travails of life. She often remembered of where she was and what she was doing on the day the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11 or when Katrina made touch down in New Orleans or when she heard news of the kidnapping of 250 Nigerian schoolgirls. Where are the girls now? Why doesn’t anyone talk about them anymore? Hasn’t it been 6 months, surely not all of them must be dead?!
As she got closer and drove passively, she stopped at Crème de la Crème and picked up 6 year old Quentin. She came home and took Ella into her hands gently from Taylor. Taylor left beaming after seeing the cash handed to her and after showering praise on the infant girl for her great attitude.
But for Diane, after what she had heard on the radio, life that afternoon moved like a time trial video. In spirit, she stayed with James Foley’s mother. She could not watch the latest on the case on TV now, it would be too gruesome for Quentin, she rationalized with herself.
She felt nauseous and laid down on the couch in the living room. Her mind was stuck in an endless loop.
How was his mother doing now? Has she seen the video that everyone is talking about? A mother never brings a child into the world with the intention of burying him one day. Do the words like US Foreign policy – something that the government spends billions of dollars and on which many diplomats and their families depend for their livelihood performing daily duties of hostage negotiations – mean anything to her? All the resources in the world could not save her son – just one human being. May he rest – in peace? Isn’t peace the costliest commodity of all? Without it, does anything else matter? Of course, not if you are already dead. Then, nothing matters.
She waited for Nate while the kids played around her. Nate would come and make all her troubles go away. They always did a “brain touch” as they gently head butted each other in the evening as soon as he came home and she would feel a rush of calm come to her central nervous system.
She had met Nate through a childhood friend towards the end of 2009. When they went on a blind date one weekend while she was visiting her parents’ home in Atlanta, he had shocked her with a few of his first words. “It is important for you to know that I have reconciled with my wife now.”
She was not amused, but did not want to sound irritable to a stranger on a first date. “That’s great news, I guess? Hmmm.. So, what you are doing here with me?” And those words came out with the sarcasm that she had intended them to sound like.
“She died in a car accident last February.” He had smiled sadly.
Somehow, his morbid humor had made her knees weaken and her heart melt. Aren’t we all dark in one way or another, trying to make light of unfathomable tragedies that life serves up for us?
She instinctively stood up and bent across their dinner table in Cheese Cake Factory to take his face into her palms and kiss him tightly on the lips. After those two seconds, she was left with a lifetime of embarrassment. As she sat back down, she could see Nate’s eyebrows arch, his face slightly tilt to his right and his lips curving upwards slowly.
Later when he introduced her to his infant son Quentin, whom he was raising as a single dad, she couldn’t wait until the fall of 2010 when they got married. Her infrequent trips to Atlanta turned out to be twice a month shuttles back and forth from Seattle where she worked for Microsoft.
She did not care that her work suffered and the flights were too much for her physically and mentally. She did not care because her time and life were filled with love kisses in the sunset, weekend getaways to Mexico, the Bahamas on a whim, clever banter, and passionate embraces in public while tasting rain. She hadn’t felt that good about life again until 2013 when she read the book Eleanor and Park, the story of two 16 year old misfits falling in love.
At 6:30pm, Nate walked into the house with his usual air of light heartedness he carried around everywhere. Quentin was watching cartoons on TV and Ella was holding her milk bottle in her left hand and sipping on it as she bounced with her diapered bottom on her mom’s tummy.
“Hey, you alright Di?” He walked upto the couch and said reaching up to Diane’s face and putting his palm on her forehead.
“I don’t know.”
“Is it work? What’s up baby? Talk to me.” He said sitting down on the couch while taking her head into his lap.
“Have you heard? James Foley?!” She looked up in his lap to make eye contact with him.
“Yeah, I didn’t mention it yesterday night. They were talking about it on CNN. Didn’t want to upset you.” He drew a deep breath before he spoke again. “It’s OK baby, shit happens. Please, if you are like this, the rest of us can’t function. Have you guys eaten? Let me take you to Jason’s.” Jason’s Deli was their favorite place to eat and they went there once a week.
Back home after dinner and after tucking the kids into sleep, Diane sat down on bed holding her iPad between her fingers searching through news. For a long time after reading, she lay awake in the dark wondering what to do next. Just like how many of us, who ponder on how to save the world and to make a difference, only to curl up and snore off the tedious proposals that might actually save the world.
She thought of the final video of Mr. Foley. His blank, scared stare into the camera a few seconds before he was killed by the masked beheader. How can anyone do this, let alone posting a video for the world to see? Such monsters. Such cruelty. And it did not help that she shared the same name with Mr. Foley’s mother. Diane. Diane Foley. How will this Diane put back all those nerves in place that have exploded in agony? Will she replay his last stare in her head? Is a mother equipped to survive not being able to give what might be a last and final hug?
Diane then thought of the cleaner with the burnt face and hands at Jason’s Deli. His clothes must be hiding his burnt body. She saw him every time they ate there. She wondered if he smiled at them broadly mostly because he was grateful for the 5$ tip she left at their table. But, today, he told her a different story. A story of irreversible loss, letting go and the celebration of life.
If life is a pursuit in one’s vanity, how would this guy survive? What was his plan? Ego – how many times has she seen it shape lives and destinies? Doesn’t everything seem to surround around how better one felt about oneself? Nobody has a trademark on tragedy – all of us have a few of them, some more obvious than the others. If the burnt man could manage to smile, surely, she could be happier too. Couldn’t she?
Hadn’t it started when she wanted a great job? Then she wanted a great husband, a great life with him. Then she wanted to move closer to Nathaniel and Quentin. Actually, she wanted any job and anywhere in Atlanta just to be closer to them. Then, all they wanted was to have a baby. Just, one baby. Now, all she wants is a short commute so she can get home faster before Ella was not too tired to play with her.
She felt sleepy and tired as she thought through endlessly. As she went into sleep, if she had looked at herself in a mirror she could see she had a determined look on her face. She had a husband who loved her to the bone – at least, he pretended he did. And, she had these amazing healthy kids that were hers.
That weekend, Diane insisted they fix up their bikes. She placed Ella on her back in a cushioned sling basket facing Nate who rode behind her. Quentin rode in a bike cart that was fixed to his dad’s bike. Together, they rode to the store where Diane decided she had to buy peanut brittles for herself. As she rode back home, she felt the freedom her country had given her gently blow through her hair.
Life is brutal, cruel and frustrating. Life is endless and tragic. Yes, indeed, her life seemed to be filled with irrational challenges – the daily commute notwithstanding. But if things were happening to her, didn’t it also mean that she was still alive, well and actually breathing? James Foley is dead. To be dead, now, wouldn’t that be tragic?
NOTE: SHORT STORY Originally Written On: Sep 22, 2014
* * *
About The Article Author:
I see myself as an advocate for bringing social, emotional and character development to families, schools and communities. I never want to let this idea out of my sight – Our children are not just GPAs. I’m a Writer and a Certified Master Coach in NLP and CBT. Until 2017, I was also a Big Data Scientist. In December of 2044, I hope to win the Nobel. Namasté.
Write to me or call me. Tell me what support from me looks like.
Program Director & Essential Life Skills Coach for Kids and Busy Parents
A Collection Of Short Story Fiction
On Life, Love And Desires In Fiction
* 2010: Rwanda: Genocide, Love and Resilience: This piece is close to my heart, as it is semi-autobiographical, but the story line is pure fiction. It is a tribute to a person in my life, who has been a great influence on me. His name, profession, his location...
* I Barring the phone, 4 year old Mira did not have to compete much with her brother for her father’s attention. 6 year old Rohan had his own iPad that he kept busy with. “Daddy, daddy, look, I am so sassy!! I am dancing, see? Daddy!” Mira screamed in thrills...
* Continued from PART I * VII The next night, I lay in bed, wide eyed and wished for midnight to arrive fast. The night breeze gently blew the pale cotton curtains inside and out. I stared outside at the deep purple flowers in red potted plants in...
* I I will try my best to not sound cynical. But, that's my natural monotone these days - never getting excited or disappointed about anything in life, in general. Call it the adapted bashfulness that comes with age, if you will. There is a prelude to every act...
* Continued From Part I HERE. * V In 2014, as the school year came to a close at the end of May , as I walked to the bus stop, I felt dreadful at the thought of the huge summer break of 10 weeks that was upon us. Children are a lot of fun, but...
* I As long as I will live or drop dead tomorrow, no one will dispute the fact that I am an ordinary immigrant mother from India with spectacular hopes of raising my children with splendid grades on ALL their mark sheets, regardless of (for me atleast) whether...
Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Faciam I will either find a way, or make one. Questions, just ask! Text or Call: 678.310.5025 | Email: email@example.com Bringing a Group? Email us for a special price!
* I It was a familiar voice on the other end of the phone. One that I had heard over coffee or lunch for many years, but missed in the past 7 years. “How have you been? I have a layover in Atlanta on the 9th, for a couple of hours. I am flying to Rwanda, and...
* “Tiny spaces and small handbags make you look big. Now that’s the first tip to keep in mind. Make sure you are always photographed or spotted in an open space. Oh well, at this moment, there is no much control over that, I guess, not an inch of space here to...
* I had never met Lalitha until last Thursday. When everyone around us was congratulating her, I did too. "Sooo… What are you celebrating, can I ask?!!" I asked her with a big smile on my face and my hand reaching out to shake hers. "Oh yeah, sure! Jimmy and I...
* On Saturday, October 9th, only a few hours after Tom and I had feverishly defended her choices for boyfriends with her mother, Sirisha had tied a knot around her neck just a few yards away from us. To imagine her as desperate and lonely enough to end her life...
* As an informal student of Ethnology, I was excited to start a three-month contract at a work place which was 30 miles away from home and that I will have to get there via our city Metro everyday. Just imagine what it would do for my blog! So between...
Questions, just ask!
Text or Call: 678.310.5025 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bringing a Group? Email us for a special price!