The next day it started raining, tentatively at first, like a long-silenced wife who, for the first time, is asked what she thinks. Soon the sky was packed tight with clouds and the drops got bigger and bigger, until the rain filled the world with a heavy beat, suggestive of a long-suffering wife smashing the dishes. It was like a disease of rain, dull in its unvarying monotony, smothering as a fever, cruel as suffocating phlegm. It fell over all of Kenilworth; over the Head Surveyor, whose transit fogged; over the Town Cop, whose brim ran rivets; over the Weather Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat, who huddled under his dumpster; and over the Crazy Dog Lady’s dogs, who saved their shaking till they got inside. It inspired Rabbi ! to write a sermon about Noah. It pockmarked the Connecticut River and gave it strength. It flooded Abraham Pierson’s grave and dampened Chai Latte’s drugs, but it did not extinguish the Geeky Guy’s desire.
The Geeky Guy still grieved over the one he regarded as his wife, the Lisping Barista. No little bit of rain, or ocean full of rain, would dissuade him from what he thought was right. He would go to her, claim her as his own, and set her free. He had a gun and could make it happen.
Perhaps we should pause for a minute, if only because he failed to, and examine why he felt this way. We should ask the question of him that the Therapist Emeritus would have asked had she still been there. We should seize hold of the Geeky Guy, hang tight to his sleeve, and demand one thing of him before he goes.
Just what do you think you’re doing?
We won’t ask him this, though. You won’t because you are just a reader and cannot leap into the pages of a book and affect its outcome. I won’t do it because it’s raining outside, the Geeky Guy has already left, and I don’t want to get wet. It wouldn’t do any good, because the Geeky Guy wouldn’t know how to answer and, if he did, he wouldn’t know how to say it right.
You see, it was not the Lisping Barista that he was trying to save; it was the meaning of his life. It was not a relationship he needed to preserve because, in truth, he had no relationship except that of employer to employee. The Geeky Guy thought his life had no meaning other than the Lisping Barista. It had no meaning before she arrived, and it would have no meaning if she left.
Having meaning in his life never seemed an important thing before she had said yes. He used to go to work every day and tinker with his engineering projects without one. He’d come home and tinker with his electrical projects without one. Days, years, and projects came and went without the Geeky Guy ever thinking about their purpose. But when the Lisping Barista did come into his life, bearing its meaning, he began to believe it was an essential thing.
A meaning, you see, is very powerful; more potent than a gun. A gun can only kill you, but a meaning can affect your whole existence. Without meaning, he came to believe, there was no reason to have been born.
The Geeky Guy should have been more careful about where he had found the meaning of his life and what he did with it. He shouldn’t have found it in the Lisping Barista, who was a fickle thing. He should have found it in his engineering, which was built to last; his electronics, which kept a charge; or even his sister, who rarely left the house. He could have taken up charity work, written the Great American Novel, or found a cure for cancer. Any meaning of life would have been better than adopting the Lisping Barista as the meaning of his. It was bound to end badly.
He should not have acted as though the meaning of life was so precious that it needed to be hoarded whenever found. He could always find another. In fact, meanings of life are quite plentiful, like stones on a Connecticut hillside. You can’t walk a hundred paces in any direction without stubbing your toe on a dozen of them. To put it another way, each meaning of life is like a lungful of air; no sooner are you done with one when another comes along to replace it. The Geeky Guy was acting as if he had come upon a fine lungful of air and had to keep it because he might not get another.
He also made the mistake of thinking that the meaning of his life was like a riddle that had a single answer. The meaning of life is not like a problem in mathematics, which either adds up or doesn’t. It’s more like a design problem; there’s a million ways it can be solved. There is no right answer and there was no one but him who could give him a grade.
At least the Geeky Guy did not make the usual error people make regarding the meaning of life. At least he didn’t fret over whether the meaning of his life was worthy of his life. Perhaps he felt his life was not that valuable and that any meaning would be good enough and better than none at all. At any rate, she was a sufficient meaning and he was determined to keep it.
Having a meaning of life meant something. It meant he had something greater than life, something he could exchange for life. It meant he could die, for if his life had meaning, so would his death. It also meant he could kill.