Copyright, all rights reserved 12-16-1998
"When all the blandishments of life
are gone the coward sneaks to death;
the brave live on." –Martial
| Lorraine Butler was extremely
depressed. Even the medication didn't help much. Her marriage
of fourteen years was falling apart and she had reached the point where
she just didn't care anymore. Too many years of quiet compromise
had given way to defeat. The same defeat had turned into many nights
of tears and now she was all cried out. Her agony had now become
nothing more than miserable acceptance.
She had come to believe that relationships, especially marriages, should probably have term limitations. Her's should have ended somewhere around the tenth year; amicably and with no fanfare. Up to that time, everything seemed normal enough but then it was all down hill. Her marriage was finished and she was sick about it.
Tom had been wonderful up until then; at least, so it seemed. Somehow the guilt finally overwhelmed him and he had to tell her. The affair ended and he promised her that he would never do it again. Trying to be an understanding wife, she forgave him. It was difficult the first time but the second time was just too much. It was she who caught him. They were in bed together–her bed. That was unforgivable as far as she was concerned.
The first visit to an attorney made the whole nightmare seem only worse. She and her husband would have to be separated for a full six months before the marriage would be considered over legally.
"Hell," she thought, "It takes fifteen minutes to get married but it takes six months and a ton of money to get divorced. How stupid!"
Not only that, but the maze of paperwork to figure out who gets what was mind boggling. She was almost sorry that they had done so well with their combined incomes. All she knew was that she was going to get everything she could out of it. Tom was the one who was to blame and he should have considered the consequences. Now he was going to have to pay whether he liked it or not. By god, she had earned it.
The emotional trauma was enough to deal with. The legalities only made it that much worse. A betrayed woman is usually much too formidable of a force for even the sharpest of men to have to face in a divorce court. Tom Butler was into it up to his neck and he would soon feel the financial noose tightening around it.
Lorraine replayed it all over and over again in her mind. She recalled how ideal things had seemed in their relationship. She looked so forward to his coming home each night. At least that was the way it was at the beginning.
Taking the job at the college was a necessity. They had just bought their first home and she had to find work to help make ends meet.
Tom was content with his factory work and when she started making more money than he, it didn't seem to bother him. At first he seemed very happy about it. The raises she received only helped their financial situation to improve. Soon she was able to purchase some nicer outfits to wear to work and also get her hair done more often. She was a very attractive woman and now even more so.
The first noticeable change took place when they attended the Christmas party given by the college on behalf of their teaching staff and employees. After introducing Tom to several of the professors and their office staff, Lorraine realized that her husband was totally out of his element. Her being at ease with everyone, as well as the several invitations she received to dance only made matters worse. He sat most of the evening on the same bar stool sipping the same drink. The drive home was a silent one.
From that time on he wanted to know her weekly schedule, when she would be home each night, and with whom she ate her lunches. The frustration between them continued to build and the evenings of stone cold silence occurred more often. She had no idea why he seemed to be so suspicious of her. There was absolutely nothing going on between her and anyone else but Tom's lack of trust only increased.
She offered to quit if it would help but then the factory laid him off and matters only got worse. The unemployment checks were barely enough to pay the bills and they would have gone under if not for her income.
He spent his workless days fishing, watching sports on television, and moping around the house. She hated to go home each evening. His growing frustration with being bored only made matters worse. Several months passed by and he was finally called back.
Things seemed to improve for awhile until his guilt would no longer allow him to withhold the truth that he was seeing a woman from his work. If not for his willingness to make several visits to a marriage counselor, she would never have forgiven him. He went with her and their relationship began to heal. At least, that was her take on the situation.
It was one of those days when classes were only conducted in the mornings for final exams. She was able to go home at noon. The moaning sounds came from their bedroom. Tom had forgotten about the half day and the woman he had with him kept him too busy to hear his wife entering the house. Things got extremely ugly very quickly.
By the time Lorraine had finished having her say, his clothes were strewn all over the lawn. She slammed the door shut behind him and spent the rest of the evening sobbing uncontrollably. Her rage was soon replaced with a very painful and deep kind of hurt.
She wondered how much of it had been her fault. Perhaps if she would have looked for another job it might never have happened.
Tom tried to talk her into letting him come home but it was over. The divorce was finalized and Lorraine moved into a small apartment closer to the campus. The only thing she found to be a positive factor in the whole mess was that they had never taken the time to have any children. The breakup a family can be devastating to a child. Yet, she wondered if that might have been one of the causes of Tom's straying. She blamed herself for that too. Unable to conceive, it was discovered that she was barren. It had been a blow to both of them. He had wanted at least one son but that became an impossibility.
The signs of depression were not obvious at first. The change was rather subtle. Lorraine began to notice that her surroundings started to take on a different tone at certain times. It seemed like there was a glass wall between her and the rest of the world.
The coming of morning lost it's zest due to the difficulty of not being able to sleep well each night. Getting out of bed required more effort.
During the afternoon working hours a strange kind of anxiety would overtake her. She was becoming forgetful and it was getting harder to concentrate on anything for even short periods of time. It was a struggle to carry on a normal conversation. She began avoiding others whenever she could, especially those she had any obligation to.
The onset of nightfall caused her to sense a kind of panic. As the darkness fell, she experienced the sensation of drowning; of suffocating with no one nearby to help her.
When the college personnel director called her in, she was surprised. He informed her that it was obvious that the quality of her work was deteriorating. Furthermore, she was not keeping herself up as she had before and it was taking her too much time to get things done. Although the college understood that she had been experiencing some personal problems, she would have to either get help or seek employment elsewhere. She had no idea that it had been that noticeable or even that bad.
Medical testing ruled out any kind of thyroid disease or anemia. She didn't use alcohol and had no record of drug abuse. The only factor to surface was that of her father having had attacks of depression throughout his lifetime. Some people do have a genetic predisposition to experiencing depressive episodes and it was considered a strong possibility in her case. At any rate, it was determined that she was indeed experiencing a definite and serious case of depression. The real culprit was the severe stress caused by the break up of her marriage.
Lorraine had loved Tom very deeply and now she was alone; feeling very vulnerable and unable to trust anyone else ever again.
With proper medication she was able to continue working and begin feeling somewhat normal again. It would only be temporary.
Paul Levine served as a consultant for the college. His expertise was in computer science and he kept the school's mainframe up and running. Whenever there was a problem with it, he was the man to call in.
It was Paul's smile that she noticed first. He never seemed to be without it. Lorraine soon learned how to make it even bigger. All she had to do was smile back. It worked every time.
The smiling man would soon become an important part of her life.
Since the college was upgrading their systems, the subject of what to do with a number of outdated personal computers came up. Realizing how little the return was on used systems, it was decided to make them available both to the staff and also the students. When Lorraine realized how reasonable the price was, she asked for Paul's help in picking out one out for herself.
He not only agreed, but also offered to set it up for her.
She also agreed and then offered to prepare dinner for him if he did.
Lorraine would not have made the suggestion without prefacing it with a question as to his need to possibly be somewhere else at that time. When he shrugged his shoulders and responded with a "Nope," she assumed that a Mrs. Levine was not in the picture. Why is it that jumping to conclusions always ends up taking more effort than running with the truth?
The following evening, Paul arrived with two arm-loads of cannibalized computer parts and a small, red tool box. She had already brought home all of the components she had purchased from the school. Nevertheless, he talked her into letting him upgrade everything as much as the parts he had would allow. As Paul busied himself tearing everything apart and then putting it all back together again, the smells of all things good from the kitchen were his only distraction.
Nothing momentous happened that evening. Paul only stayed long enough to enjoy the meal and then explained the few upgrades he had made. After thanking him, they exchanged a few friendly goodbyes and he left.
Several days passed and she saw him as they passed each other in a hallway while students were busy changing classes. She stopped him long enough to mention that she had installed the internet software he had given her. When he asked for her new e-mail address she hesitated at first. She only gave in because he looked so cute holding an ink pen over his open palm with that wonderful smile taunting her. When she recited it, he wrote it on the palm of his hand in tiny blue letters. While promising to drop her a line, he walked down the hall repeating over and over again, as if half-crazed, "I think I'm in love. I think I'm in love." Lorraine laughed and found herself chuckling all the way back to her desk.
"God," she thought, "how wonderful to finally be laughing again!"
Paul's first e-mail was waiting for her that night. He certainly didn't waste any time. She concluded that any man living alone probably had plenty of time anyhow. His note was quite short. He simply asked her if she would like to go out for dinner with him sometime soon.
Lorraine clicked the "Write" icon and send out an even shorter response simply saying, "Would love to. Thank you. Where and when?"
The thought crossed her mind that a phone call would have been a better way to contact each other. Perhaps he was just helping her to enjoy some use out of the new piece of technology he had helped her with.
As she was about to sign-off, she noticed the icon that looked like the figures of a man and a woman at the top of her screen. They were facing each other as if they were talking. Out of simple curiosity, she clicked the icon and the "Chat" window popped up and listed a number of options to choose from. She clicked "Go To Chat" and another window appeared asking her to type in a nickname before being allowed to enter. There were also several other boxes providing any information she might want to include.
Enjoying her new discovery, she pursed her lips and looked thoughtfully at the screen. Her favorite movie was the first thing that came to mind so she typed in "Scarlett" as her nickname.
The only other box she felt comfortable filling in asked for any personal interests. In a small burst of creativity she paraphrased her namesake and typed, "I will never be hungry for love again!" It wasn't really the way she felt but she thought it was clever anyhow.
"Scarlett" clicked the "Go To Chat" icon once more. A new window came up and allowed her entrance. She suddenly found herself looking at a scroll list of numerous rooms that could be changed simply by clicking on any one of several other categories.
An hour or so passed by before she realized that she hadn't eaten yet. Grabbing a quick sandwich and a soda from the kitchen, she sat back down in front of her computer and resumed her stroll through Chatville.
Unable to find the courage to enter into any of the conversations, she contented herself by being an observer. At first she wondered if all of these people were illiterate. It soon became obvious that the rules of grammar didn't apply here and all of those strange punctuation groupings were actually little faces turned on their sides. :-)
A full three hours had gone by before "Scarlett" noticed how late it had gotten. The time had passed by too quickly. She would have continued but there were still a few things to do before she could turn in for the night.
Paul's smile was the first thing she noticed as she was leaving the cafeteria from her lunch break. He had been looking for her to see if they could decide upon an upcoming evening for their dinner date. The following Thursday evening was decided upon as she was going to leave Friday after school to visit her mother for the weekend. He asked her if she wouldn't mind him writing a reminder to himself on a piece of scrap paper from her purse. Then he smiled and made a comment about the difficulty of getting ink off of his hand.
After looking thoughtfully at the ceiling for a few moments, he got very serious and began writing on the small piece of paper she had given him. When finished, he asked her to sign it.
"I, Lorraine Butler, do solemnly swear that I will go out to dinner with Paul Levine this coming Thursday evening and will be ready promptly at 6 p.m."
Her laughter was followed by a question, "Promptly?"
"Well, at least reasonably prompt," he replied.
She signed it.
Paul folded his little contract and then held it up against his heart. He continued to do so as he walked down the hallway away from her. Seeing him jump up into the air and click his heels together startled her. She overheard a passing student say to his companion, "That's Levine. He's cool."
Lorraine thought to herself, "Maybe there really is life after Tom."
Her smile lasted all the way back to her desk.
Again, that evening, "Scarlett" explored the side streets of Chatville. There was no doubt in her mind that the appeal had something to do with being able to eavesdrop on the conversations of others. Most of the time the chat was really rather silly. Finding interesting discussions became easier when she discovered the daily chat listings which gave the topic to be discussed, the room name, the beginning time, and the nickname of whoever was going to host it.
The "What Next?" room was listed under the "Divorce" category. The title of the 9 p.m. discussion to be held that night was "Taking the Next Step." She glanced down at her computer clock and it read "9:09 PM."
Arriving in the room, she was greeted by a few of the chatters as the text of the discussion continued. It was immediately obvious that the chat host had her hands full. Several discussions were going on at once but all of them were related in one way or another to the announced topic. That is, all but one. Someone named "roMANcer" was typing in cute sayings and short quotations having to do with love. He wasn't being rude or obnoxious but he was being ignored.
"Eseedozit" was the first one to bring up the subject of depression. No one else answered other than "BenThere" who said very little other than to agree that it was an important consideration in regard to divorce.
"Scarlett" decided that it was finally time to become an active chat participant.
Scarlet: I WAS CLINICALLY
She noticed that the room immediately
quieted down. Eleven chatters took their fingers off of their keyboards
and watched their monitor screens as "Scarlett" began to describe
her odyssey through the horrors of depression as a result of her divorce.
Scarlett: the worst thing was that I stopped
There was a pause as she waited for a response from the others.
Chat Host: no, Scarlett, thank you for sharing
The chatters continued to comment
on the information that "Scarlett" had provided them. She answered
several more questions as well as she could and then sat back in her chair.
SthrnGtlmn: May I chat with you for a moment?
The story was an old one. He and his wife had married young, raised two children, only to find out that they had grown apart. His wife had left him for another man and, at forty years of age, found himself very hurt and feeling very much alone. He was now experiencing many of the things she shared in the room. Life, for him, had become a meaningless exercise in futility. Once more, he had no interest in having a relationship with another woman. The risk of getting hurt again was, in his own words, "...just not worth the pain."
Scarlett: know what you
She was not able to answer his
question concerning when she would be on-line again. It was only
her second time in chat and she honestly didn't know when she would return.
Although, she did offer to send him some more information on the
subject of depression. After getting his e-mail address, "Scarlett"
wished the "SthrnGtlmn" a good night and exited the room.
"Looking forward to Thursday night! :-)
Like everything else, he said
it with a smile.
A post script included his e-mail
address and an invitation to write him. She did.
The woman was sitting in the
foyer when she arrived back at her desk following her afternoon break.
The look of sadness on her face was painfully evident. She was dressed
in a starched white nurse's uniform. It was not often that someone
made a request to speak to the receptionist in private, so Lorraine took
her into an nearby empty office and closed the door behind them.