Last night I had the oddest dream. First off, I was watching American Idol. I never watch that show, yet in my dream I was. It was the final episode of the season, only two contestants. Belle was tall and slender; her dark flowing hair caught my eye right away. Vera, the other one was older, and plain. The kind of face you see any day in a crowd and never look twice at. Right away I thought Belle was going to win.
There was a tall woman beside me as I watched. She glanced at me with piercing grey eyes that looked right through me. She gave me a friendly nod, as though to put me at ease, but her gaze still made me nervous. I was relieved when she focused back on the show. I wanted to ask what she was doing in my living room, but I didn’t dare.
Belle sang her song. She sounded as good as she looked. But the words bugged me when I listened.
“They told me life would be OK, but I’ve had bad news every day,
I wonder why I choose to stay, why shouldn’t I just walk away”
What was that about? Walk away from life? Did she mean suicide? This stunning young girl about to win American Idol and that’s what she’s thinking of? The tall woman nodded to me, as if she’d heard my thoughts and felt I might show some promise after all.
Then Vera sang her song.
"Life’s no love story, this is true.
People will let you down, but I’ll stand by you.”
Her voice wasn’t as good as Belle’s, and she moved awkwardly on the stage, but I liked the words. I liked her singing about being loyal to her friends when things got tough, not thinking about walking out on life.
Then they showed Belle’s biography. I wondered what suffering drove this cool polished beauty to sing of suicide? She’d moved three times in high school, and talked about the struggle of feeling unknown each time and having to find new friends. Then Vera’s life story shocked me. Her tragedy was greater than Belle’s. She’d lost her leg in a car wreck at 16. I ruefully remembered thinking she’d moved a bit awkwardly on the stage. “But when I wanted to give up, when I didn’t think I could take it any more, my family and my friends stuck with me. So if I can do that for someone else, my life would be worthwhile.”
The tall woman glanced at me again. I realized she wasn’t in my living room, but I was in hers. It was a big room with pillars around the couches and TV. Now I started hearing her voice. “Listen, I’ve got something to tell you. I can help you figure things out,”
“What’s this all about?” I asked.
“An initial lesson. Which of those two is happiest?”
An odd question. Belle was better looking with a better voice, and she’s asking who is happiest? Then the impulse came to me. I found my cell phone and voted for Vera. I felt silly, wondering if it was hopeless. And technically, Belle did have a better voice. But Vera hadn’t given up when her hopes were crushed. And maybe others had noticed what I’d seen.
The woman nodded her approval when I put down the phone, and I realized I did know her name, Sophia. “Have we met before?” I asked. She smiled and nodded.
Then they announced Belle had won. I turned back to Sophia. “Why? Wasn’t that the point? Vera had better character?”
“Yes. You got it, you heard my voice. But most people don’t. I won’t give up though. And who knows? Belle might learn from me one day.”