I then decided that I would find my meaning somewhere else, far away from all religious contexts.
The most obvious choice was the area in which I had been most deprived . . . women. The first choice was between women or woman. There could be fulfillment in quantity, but I took my chance to find one woman who would give me meaning. But would it be a woman known for her beauty? Would it be a woman noted for her brains? It turned out to be a woman noted for her quadriceps.
I met Linda at the tack. I didn't go up to run but to sit in the isolated bleachers and think. A girl ran by. She wasn't of amazing beauty and I hardly noticed her at first. But then she ran by again, then again, then again. I was intrigued by her endurance. I counted 80 laps around the 1/4 mile track. I was amazed. It is hard for anyone to run that far around simple, redundant oval. But she had a cause. I could see the intensity of it in her eyes . . . and in her thighs. They were well-developed, more so than any I had ever seen on a woman . . . or a man . I spoke to her. "What is your great cause?"
She answered, "A disc of metal . . . bronze."
"Are you an Olympic runner?"
"No . . . a skier. Nordic . . . 30 K."
"So are you in training?"
"Have been since I was 4. I'm 25 now. Albertville is my dream . . . and to be first American to metal.
I latched my longing for meaning to her bright star . . . a bronze star. I completely immersed my soul in her dream. I got up at five every morning to make her the perfect breakfast with the proper blend of protein and carbohydrates, as dictated by the manual. I washed her spandex. I cleaned her Solomons with my toothbrush. I dropped out of my graduate studies to get a quick "Ph. D." in waxing, based on precise testing of the individual snowflake shapes, moisture content and temperature. I learned to drive a snowmobile and to groom ski trails. I worked two jobs to support her dream but all were temporary jobs. We moved to West Yellowstone in the winter, Fairbanks in the Spring, Iceland in the late Spring, Chile in the summer, back to Yellowstone in the fall. I got a vasectomy because she couldn't be on hormones because of her training and a pregnancy would destroy her.
Our entire lives revolved around that circular disk of bronze. I felt a purpose. I awaken in the morning for that disk. I went to sleep at night for that disk. I sent her off, after the perfect breakfast, to the track. I went to work to earn money to buy more wax. I brought her the perfect lunch, less protein and more carbs. I brought her dinner at the evening weight room. I went home and did chores. She came home and I would rub down her sculptured muscles with balm. For four years we lived this way. On our bedroom ceiling was a large poster of a bronze metal.
Albertville came. We were full of butterflies. The opening ceremony was surreal. I didn't see Linda for days. Race day came so quickly. During the one and half hours of the the race we met the pinnacle of our lives. Linda was skiing well--just a second behind bronze--the best ever for an American woman.
In a transition place, where the shadow of one lone fir tree met the bright sun, there was a 2 cm wet spot. Her ski slipped 4 mms. She went down on one knee for 1.5 seconds. She ended the race at twenty seventh. I felt the meaning starting to drain from me. I didn't see Linda again in France. I knew she was devastated. She was going to tour the Rivera with friends and "debrief" from the games. I got her telex ten days later. She was in love with her trainer. They want to have children. She will send her mother to get her things.
It could have been worse. Her best friend Ingrid had her eyes set on gold since she was born. Her father had been a great German skier. She only won silver. Three months later . . . she took an overdose of Prozac . . . and died. She was 26.
The depths of the vanity overcame me. I built a huge bonfire in the back yard. I piled up the skis, the waxes and Linda's spandex. I laid the poster from our bedroom ceiling on top. I poured kerosene on them. I finished off a bottle of Jack Daniels and box of Wheaties . . . dry. I threw the empty box into the fire. The box got hotter and hotter until Larry Bird's eyes burst into flames and he melted into ashes.
I hadn't seen Sophie in a while. She came out of the shadows to speak to me. "Competition is a farce," she said. "Trophies are made in China. Metals are polished with paraffin. It is all pretend meaning."
"Vanity. Nothingness. All as complete waste!" I screamed into the dark woods. I loathed the day I saw her run. I was an empty man . . . once again.