Monday, January 12, 2009

The Tilting Universe

I grew up in a small town on the edge of a forest and my friend Helen* lived on the other side of the creek from our house. We spent all our time at each other’s houses, playing hopscotch, skipping, swimming, playing with dolls and doing all the other things girls do. We went through elementary school together and we ate lunch together every day. We would often trade lunches, and I always looked forward to the days when Helen’s mother made her chocolate bar and banana sandwiches. They were delicious. We grew apart as we got into high school and found we had different interests. Helen was very athletic and involved in girl’s basketball, where I was more involved with the school choir and painting. We went our separate ways and didn’t see each other again after graduation.

Helen became a teacher and moved to another city, and I got married. After my husband died, it was necessary for me to go back to work, so I became a legal assistant with a large law firm. I worked for a senior partner and his junior assistant, a young articling student named Paul*.

Paul was a very sweet young man and everyone liked him. He was dark, attractive and sort of self-effacing, but he was a very promising articling student. However, he had made one serious mistake in his personal life, which required a formal hearing before he could become a lawyer. When the hearing concluded, it was agreed that Paul could become a lawyer and practice law, but on the condition that he move to a law firm in another city.

In the meantime, Helen had been diagnosed with a condition that required surgery. The doctor who performed the surgery botched it, leaving Helen in chronic pain. Helen sued the doctor but she lost. By coincidence, the firm representing the doctor was the same law firm where Paul now worked.

Helen was frustrated with the outcome of her case, and after exhausting all appeals she set out on a mission to take justice into her own hands. She went to the law firm that had represented the doctor, with the intent to shoot the lawyer, and she shot Paul instead and killed him. She was on her way to shoot the doctor when she was captured. After a lengthy trial, Helen was found guilty of murder.

At the time this happened, I had not yet heard of the theory of six degrees of separation. Two people whom I had known at different times in my life, had their lives intersect with each other in a way that would turn out to be devastating for them both.

That is my story of how the universe can sometimes tilt on its axis.

*The names have been changed.

42 comments:

Prema Sridhar said...

awesome read! loved it..

Lorna said...

Jo, something about that Six Degrees of Separation I find fascinating and you tell your stories so well.

Maybe because I am not a numbers merchant I don't know how true or far from the truth such concepts can be, so in my mind, it is all very possible and the mystery and irony and reversals involved make me want to believe. (Hmmm. But that is another topic....)

And now I am going to think about such incidents of the earth tilting on its axis and enveloping people in six degrees of separation.

I promise I won't tell the story of the man that married his own son that his girlfriend put up for adoption decades ago. That would be cheating. -Lorna

Miss_Nobody said...

A theory i guess wouldnt be a theory,if the practicals hadn't happened before hand.
This post,and so many others on your blog really,really convince me thati HAVE to "go miles before i sleep".

Arden Reece said...

BEAUTIFUL! I have noticed the world tilting on its axis serveral times! I also love your QUOTES!

Satsuma said...

Busy, busy, busy.

Firefly said...

Through blogging and social networking the world is getting even smaller and six degrees of separation may become even less. Imagine that.

AJ said...

Your story is incredible. I am always so deeply saddened when a person becomes so desperate or vengeful that the only solution they see is to take the life of another human.

Could the situation not be remedied with a second surgery? Or something else that would have truly eased her pain, rather than just satisfying her vengeance? Of course, I don't think you were intending to invite a debate on what could have been done different. Obviously, many things could have been done differently. It simply makes me sad.

I also feel that in this comment, I should specify that my influences do not include religious dogma, but rather the writings of a science fiction author whose writing has caused me to become quite contemplative in matters of life and death.

joyce. said...

That's crazy how small our world is becoming although our population is increasing immensely. Best regard's to Paul's family.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Strange re-entries.

Oh Lisa Nowak,

Get your handcuffs, your duct tape, your pistol and diaper for long-distance travel..
Tie that astronaut down!

You don't have to be out of his world to go postal.

KathyB. said...

I was so not expecting the ending of that story. What a tragedy. It would also make a good novel, written with that angle....well told. Is Helen still alive?

the walking man said...

This is poetry in motion. Strange though how the friend thought gun violence and revenge was the only option.

nomore said...

Guess we should to dissuade the struggles and the dealings induce.....

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sad story. Little Girls and little boys hold such promise and hope but as you say, a tilted universe can make them grow up to tragedy.

There is something wrong with this world.

Leah Fry said...

How many more of us have had the same sorts of random connections and just not been paying attention enough to realize it?

Raymonty said...

The people here at this web-site are very creative and intelligent; I feel like I am back in school again. The Internet is a community where people of like minds can form a group to promote their creations. . . . . . It is 19.6 degrees outside here in the mountains of the Mohawk Valley.

Anonymous said...

Jo, I have heard that nothing is a coincidence, nothing is random or arbitrary. It appears that you were the unifying element in this story.
I am so sorry for your loss.

Jamie

the broken down barman said...

sometimes the world has to be shaken up. not advocating murder or violence of any sort. but some times we have to act a bit crazy just to clear our everyday view. clouds come at us from all angles and we need a certain clarity to view our lives. our world tilting on its axis can effect our live in positive as well as negative ways.
maybe its fates way of evening out its mistakes???..............

Iasa said...

That's a tragic story, but then most of live is made up of tragic incidents.

I recently found your blog from 'The Blogs of Note'. I am really enjoying it. You may claim not to be a writer, however you have a wonderful style and thoughtful prose. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

Nicole said...

Wow. So interesting how lives intersect. How sad that your friend felt there was no other way to handle that situation.

Joanne said...

A sad story indeed, but goes to show you how small our world really is, the way these two lives intersected. Congrats on being a Blog of Note, enjoyed browsing!

Charles Gramlich said...

A very sad story, and very strange for all the interweaving connections. Amazing.

TheChicGeek said...

Great story! Reality is often more bizarre than fiction. Our world gets smaller every day.

Dina said...

Jo,
I would like to invite you to read
my "tilting universe" story, which, thankfully, has a happier ending. http://causerie.typepad.com (see the post titled: "Christmas"
Blessings to you as you continue to navigate this thing called life.

Mary Ellen said...

Holy Schmolies, Jo! What an amazing and very sad story. I feel bad for both the victims, Helen and Paul. Helen was a victim of the medical industry or was she a victim of the judicial system? Paul then became a victim of Helen. Very sad, indeed.

Catroux said...

That... is one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a while. It's like, Seinfeldian in it's parallelism and ensuing intersection.

Thanks for it.

XUP said...

Ya, what everyone else already said -- holy crap. I never thought of just shooting someone if I was unhappy with their work. Opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.

MePhIsThO said...

Well, I guess life sometimes can turn in a way that we never expect it does. Great blog!

Claudia said...

The picture in this post, It's up in my religion and philosophy teacher's room. Can anyone tell me what it's called, or what it represents?

Franco said...

@Claudia It's Salvador Dalis painting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Persistence_of_Memory

Jo, I would just like to say that, your style of writing is amazing. It grabs me so quickly and I just can't stop reading even with people talking to me haha.

You seem to be a fantastic person and I hope someday to meet you. Keep writing and I'll keep reading.

rethots said...

Wow!!! the world is a small place. However, when the two (seemingly) extremes meet, 'tis not always a delightful end.

Very nicely written.

Angel Helen said...

Yes the universe does tilt on a sixpence. Something someone once said to me almost 20 years ago shaped the rest of my life. An insignificant person in my life both then and now but her words unknowingly changed my life.

Gordon Smith said...

I have been looking at this blog for some time now and I have never had the strength to make a comment. This piece is truly magnificent they way you combine idealism and realism is amaxzing. What i liked most about this is that you leave this piece up for interperation, I have never been so effected by a piece of art in my life. Where I am stationed now in Tehran, Iran it is always great to check up on your blog and your insightful thoughts. Please keep doing what you are doing and I keep fighting for your freedome.

Mean Mama said...

Such an amazing story.Yes the world can tilt on its axis, and the amazing thing is that it rotates back after a few revolutions.

Hilary said...

That's a chilling tale.. and you told it well.

*LIS said...

Fascinating!
Simply fascinating....

*LIS said...

Oh and PS:
I've seen this painying before, just can't remember where or when.

oleg andreev said...

.......

jac-opo said...

love it

jac-opo said...

love it !

crone51 said...

This is wonderful. I love stories like this. I love your blog. It's gorgeous. And...what a coincidence- I am also 897 years old! We should start a club.

Thanks so much for sharing your life.

Britley said...

I love how you connected your story with the Salvador Dali Painting.

It fits so well.
My world seems to be leaning on its axis a lot lately...

So I am amazed that I came across this story.

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