Black and white

The young woman in the library

A whimsical tale of romance

A beautiful young woman whose love I once sought said to me, You’re too messed up, William, you have no direction in life, you don’t even know what you want. Come back to me when you’ve had an epiphany.

An epiphany!

Man, that was a tall order!

I sort of knew what an epiphany was but I looked it up to be sure: An intuitive grasp of reality, or an appearance of a divine being — I knew she didn’t mean the latter, so her demand was more along the lines of me having an illuminating realization about life and my role in it.

I’d never had an epiphany and I never expected to have an epiphany. And, moreover, I’d venture to say that not a lot of people go around having epiphanies. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I didn’t even want to grasp reality.

The word itself is a problem. It’s not exactly a household word, like God or Google or Gin or Elvis or Big Mac. It hardly ever crops up in everyday conversations. It’s a pretentious, awkward, possibly dangerous word that I would avoid at all cost. 

For wont of an epiphany I could come back to the beautiful young woman with a couple of dozen red roses or a genu-ine diamond ring or a ring-a-ding-ding silver-plated set of sleigh bells or a set of steak knives or a double-edged sword or a fur coat or a lovely little furry bunny or enough grass for an epiphany high — now that’s one epiphany I would like to have!

But I was damned if I could come back to her with one of those highfalutin, tall-order epiphanies.

I pondered the problem as I sat in the public library. A young woman with a large book sat down at the table across from me. After a while she said to me, Are you reading a sad book?

No, why?

You look sad.

I briefly told her my dilemma. She was not beautiful like the beautiful young woman whose love I sought. I suppose she was what you might call a bit of a plain Jane — not to say she wasn’t attractive and not to ignore the soulful look in her eyes. She looked kind of sad herself, actually.

An epiphany is too much to ask, she said.

You would never ask that of a man?

Never.

What would you ask?

I’d ask, Would you have a drink with me?

I closed my book and said, There’s a place around the corner.