[COLUMN] Once upon a time series: Charisse’s confection

Stories have the power and influence to touch the heart that a cut and dried essay or a report does not have. Somehow the lessons and insights we learn from stories have a longer shelf life. They stick.

Along the way, I have met many whose stories seem like the stuff of fiction. Other stories are cautionary and some are horrific. A lot of what I write are stories told to me. I view them from my personal lens and filter.

I listen quietly, file them away and sort things out. I fictionalize story elements to protect their privacy and some elements, for purposes of conciseness and flow.  Like the deft fingers of a tapestry maker, I hope to weave the colorful threads together, conjure a composite character from different, engaging people I have met. Hopefully these series warm and lift the heart just a tad. For as long as we live, we all need a boost daily.

“I’ve had it!” Charisse said to herself as she put down her phone.

This one broke up with her via text message, saying he’s found someone else and something about her being too square.

They say three is a charm or in her case, she thought, three strikes and you’re out. She stiffened her spine, picked up her phone and was going to just block his calls, hesitated for a bit, and with a glint in her eye and a decisive finger, deleted his name from her contact list forever.

Charisse used to go into a season of self-pity after a break-up but realized that it was like flogging yourself silly after the one you foolishly trusted kicks you to the curb.

One day she took action. She decided to be kind to herself and take none of the bad behavior others feel they can pile on her. She built her self-confidence daily, rigorously with positive affirmations and learned to do many things with excellence just like her Mom and her Lola taught her — two generations of awesome women who continue to guide her.

As a research associate for a non-profit firm for a decade, she made a modest living allowing her to have her own place and some expendable time doing things for others. She kept close tab of her expenses but made sure she had money for her continuing education and time to spend generously with other people. Charisse kept in close touch with her family keeping them in the loop about her simple but utterly engaging life.

She mentally threw out the window the new wave speed-dating, internet dating, web-chatting schtick.

It works for some but certainly not for her. It’s a jungle out there.  She decided she will do things the old fashioned way. She was going to be a jolly mini-renaissance girl, a well-rounded lady that considers technology as a useful tool but never a crutch.

“Hah! Tall order,” she admitted to herself but she knew on the gut level she was going to do it or die trying. Her dad and her brother said she had spunk and gumption. She always got going when the going got tough. She thought it was the built-in spark plug wired into her by praying to God constantly.

She learned how to do things, like write, bake and cook, even dance and sing and do stand-up comedy — pursuits that made her so busy, so disciplined and so doggone tired she just didn’t have time to be sad.

She talked to senior people in the mall and at the senior center and realized she enjoyed learning so much from their stories. She also felt their intense loneliness. She became friends with them and looked forward to senior center nights. She became particularly close to Dolly, an elegant graceful, silver-haired lady that seemed like she was to the manor born.

Boy, were those senior citizens a hoot to be with! She learned to tango and do the foxtrot with them. She volunteered to read to the children at the library. The kids made her laugh and they taught her to be joyful and lighthearted. Her friends complained that she was missing in on the action. Quietly, she begged to differ.

Best of all, she rediscovered prayer and its powerful, wonderful effect on her and the people around her. She found comfort in the quiet sanctity of her small parish church.

Through her journey of self-discovery, Charisse learned to never be one to wallow over a break-up — more so with an extremely crass text break-up.

“What is wrong with guys these days who won’t be man enough to do a face-to-face break-up? So many beta boys, spineless soy boys around her orbit! Where are the gentlemen alpha males that pursued the love of their life with all they’ve got?

Charisse was convinced romance and courtship are dead like the dodo. Or perhaps, she thought, the reason there are no alpha males and manly men is that women don’t act like women these days. And the men are so confused they want to be like women. “What a warped world we live in these days,” she lamented.

“Oy Vey!”  She picked up the expression from one of the Jewish women at the center. She alternates it with her mom’s expression of  exasperation, “Hay Naku!”

At this rate, I will be the only single lady aka “old maid” whose sell by date is about to expire among her group of friends. The current social media template seems to work for her friends but not for her.

Charisse shrugged her shoulders. With an impish grin, she said out loud, “I don’t care. I will be a happy, single lady just the same. So goodbye to love.”

Charisse sprung into action to slam shut another annoying damper of a mini-chapter of her life. She went to her kitchen, tied her long lustrous brunette hair into a bun, put on her apron determined to whip out a delicious baked goodie, a confection like no other.

Baking was her magic wand to shoo away the blues. She opened her pantry, peeked at her refrigerator and checked out ingredients for one of her specialties, Crema de Fruta, a layer of lady fingers, covered by cream, then a layer of peaches and cherry and a thin layer of clear gelatin on top to hold the layers together. She will bring her delicious confection to the Senior Center tomorrow for Dolly who will be celebrating her 80th birthday.

Dolly loved seeing her every time she stopped by at the Senior Center. Her eyes lit up when she sees the younger woman. She loved to regale her with wonderful tales of a glorious past. Charisse listened and learned of a wonderful, well-heeled family life until a tragic accident wiped out all except for a grandson. Dolly’s eyes would close when she recalls the tragedy while Charisse kept her respectful silence squeezing the woman’s hand slightly as a tiny measure of comfort.

Charisse’s natural curiosity as a researcher would normally drive her to check out her story on the internet. But she felt Dolly’s story was told to her in confidence like a secret and so it will stay that way. She purposely didn’t ask for her full name because she enjoyed the mystery and the company of the older woman. She thought that too much information overload has killed all the mystery and wonder in this world. And so she just let it be.

(To be continued next week …)

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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