When Kierkegaard Met Shakespeare

A short story I wrote a few years ago.

Life was over. I don’t mean life as I know it, but I mean my life was over. For years I had built my life up for one dream, one idea, one moment and in one second, my life ended. Her name was Rose Calloway. I never knew anyone named Rose except for women who were over 50 but I guess even they were younger than 50 at one time. When Rose walked into the room I couldn’t resist being near her. I wanted to see her, feel her aura, and smell her. She was beautiful. No. More than beautiful. She was angelic. Angelic isn’t even good enough. She was a goddess. Never before had I seen such arms that could reach to the highest heavens. Nor such legs that moved with such elegance and grace. Nor such eyes that were a pool of beauty in which to swim. Oh, and her shoulders, they bore the face of a goddess and never stooped or fell. She was that one dream, one idea, and one moment.

We met at the library. I was researching some thoughts on Kierkegaard while she was checking out materials on a paper she had to write. I sat down at the same table at which she was working. I noticed that she was reading Hamlet. I’m not sure she even noticed my arrival because she never even looked up to acknowledge me. I strummed through the pages of Kierkegaard’s papers and journals while glancing over the pages at her. Her head would tilt left and then right as her hands turned each page of Hamlet. Her lips were mouthing the words of Shakespeare and I was held captive by every movement of her lips.

In my deepest being I wanted to speak but didn’t want to disrupt the beauty of the moment. Here was a goddess mouthing the words of the man every writer and poet idolized. My sin wouldn’t have been in disrupting the words of Shakespeare but in distracting a goddess from a moment of concentration in which her universe depended. Whether or not she realized it, I was becoming a part of her universe. I was afraid that at any moment she would arise and depart, and there I would be lonely without ever praying to the goddess of whose universe I become a part.

It was then that the words of fate were upon her lips, “To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them. To die, to sleep –”

It was her sign to me, much like God with Elijah. She spoke with a still small voice and it was only I, her chosen one, who could hear her voice. Oh, and what prophecy lay within the meaning of those words. Was I to be or not to be? It was a Kierkegaardian moment in which I had “to be” and take the Kierkegaardian leap of faith or “not to be” and end all my despair. Leap or Sleep? Leap or Sleep? Leap!!

With sweaty palms, it had been years since I was a part of the flirting and dating scene,
“Excuse me, I was wondering if Hamlet was for pleasure or class?”
“Oh, both actually, with much pleasure.” She replied never looking up.
“Interesting. Very few people read Shakespeare for pleasure, while many read him for class.”
“Why read anything if it isn’t for pleasure? True, Shakespeare can be read for purely academic purposes but I doubt Shakespeare, when writing his plays, was writing for academic purposes.”
“Why, pray tell, do you believe he wrote plays and poems?”
“Oh sir, you are not going to make me believe that you have not your own ideas of why he wrote. I recognize you and know you as a learned man.”

I was tremendously flattered that this goddess recognized me and even knew me to be a “learned man.” Then I realized, how could she not, I was merely a part of her universe and she knew her own sphere of existence because she was the goddess who created this existence.

“You are correct that I have my own ideas but part of my responsibility is to see that others have their own ideas.”
“Very well then. My own idea is that he wrote for three reasons. First, he wrote for pleasures sake. I see no reason for anyone to write unless it brings some pleasure to him or her. Secondly, he could do nothing else. Writers, or any artist for that matter, should do anything else unless it just burdens them to do art. Lastly, would be money. I’m not saying a man should only write for money or that to be considered successful you must be a best seller or have a movie made out of your book. I am saying everyone as well as Shakespeare must survive and make a living.”
“I am flattered that you find my ideas “interesting.”
“If I may be so bold…”
“Of course sir, I could think of no other way for a man of your stature to be except bold.” “Thank you. As I was going to say, I find more than your ideas interesting, I find you interesting.” Kierkegaard would have been proud of my leap.
“But sir you do not know me, we have just met.”
“It is true that we just met, but it is my belief that your ideas are ultimately who you are because they affect your behavior.”
“Ah, so then you think you know me because you know my thoughts or ideas on writing. I think sir, and I mean no disrespect, that you may know a part of me but you do not know the whole of who I am.”
“A man must begin with a part before knowing the whole.” She laughed and looked down somewhat embarrassed at my forwardness and overly sexual comment.
“Well sir, I must leave you with that part for I have a date this evening.”
“A date?” My eyes fell.
“Yes, you sound surprised.”
“No, not surprised. As beautiful as you are, why would I be surprised? It would seem quite obvious that you should have a date.”
“Well thank you for your compliment of my beauty. My date is a true romantic and Renaissance man.”
“Miss, he is a lucky man to have your acquaintance.”
“Why thank you again, but he does not know me.”
“Not even one part?”
“No sir.”
“So is this a blind date?”
“Sir I do not date men I do not know and I do not believe that love is metaphorically blind as many believe.”
“I just find all this quite strange. You know your date, but he does not know you.”
“Maybe sir, it would help if I explained myself somewhat. My date is dead and has been for sometime now. That is why he does not know me.”
“I’m not sure what to think.”
“Sir, I am quite amazed that a learned man as yourself has not figured out who my date it tonight. I have given you obvious hints to his identity.”
“Maybe your view of my intellect is too high.”
“On the contrary sir. It is not too high. I just believe that I have been able to distract your mind from focusing upon the subject at hand.”
“What is the subject at hand?” My mind was turning in circles and I wasn’t sure what we were talking about.
“Why my date sir.” She laughed.
“Oh…yes…. so who is he?”
“Isn’t that somewhat of a personal question?”
“On what?”
“On whether this date is a public or a private date.”
“What is the difference?”
“Well, very simply Miss, a public date is one in which the two people go out in public for their date. A private date is one that is shared by two people in closed private quarters.” “Oh…well in that sense, it is a private date.”
“Then my question is personal. I beg your pardon.”
“It is quite fine sir. Well, I mustn’t be late. Maybe we shall meet again soon.”
“I hope we do and it would be my pleasure.”
“Good day Mr. Taylor.”
“Bye,…my goddess.”

She never heard the words “my goddess” because she was walking away as I whispered those words. She walked away and was out the door of the library before it hit me, she knew my name and I had no idea of her name.

She preyed upon my mind constantly. I never really believed that I would see her again, but I lived in torture every moment because somehow she knew me but I had no idea who she was. I had always prided myself on knowing everyone I came in contact with on a daily basis, but somehow I failed to notice her. It seems impossible to me that someone of such beauty and intellect would go unnoticed by me. I notice all the beautiful women and I remember all the beautiful intellectual ones. Somehow and in someway I had to see her again, if for any other reason but to find out her name.

The very next day I walked into the library in hopes of finding and seeing this woman in who was my very reason for existence. As I opened the door I knew she was there, it wasn’t a premonition that told me but rather her scent. The day before when I first met her I smelled a hint of citrus in her perfume and cucumber melon in her hair.The scent was unmistakable.

As I turned the right corner to focus my attention in the direction of the table we sat at the day before and in full splendor there she sat in all her glory. She had not yet noticed that I had entered into her realm of existence, or at least I didn’t perceive that she had. With every step toward her I grew more and more nervous. I felt like I was back in grade school wanting to speak to Amy Black but too afraid of rejection and what my friends would think.

Even now I know that those two fears are ever before me now. But how can I fight against what is true? As I sat down she looked up from her reading and our second conversation began.
“Good evening Miss.”
“Good evening sir, fancy to see you here two days in a row.”
“I do hope that it’s not too surprising and the fancy is good.”
“I know no other type of fancy. I was just under the impression that on one day you read and the next you would write and since I saw you reading yesterday I figured you would be writing today.”
“Well it is true that that is my usual routine but I am known to shake things up in my life on occasion.”
She chuckled, “Good, all lives should be shaken up. Discipline is a virtue but monotony should be a damnable sin.”
“So how was your date last night?”
She leaned over the table and began to whisper as if what she had to tell me were details of a hot private date.
“To be honest, it had its ups and downs. I think he expected more but once I fall asleep it is all over for me.”
“Don’t get me wrong, he was wonderful. In fact, I can last longer with him than anyone else I take to bed with me. He just has a way of keeping my attention better than any other!”
I was devastated and didn’t want to go any further with this line of discussion but I could not argue with the goddess of my world. “That is great. I guess you will see him again?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You know, another date.” She began to laugh and I grew very self-conscious because I knew she had to be laughing at me.
“Mr. Taylor, you mean to tell me that you never figured at who my date was last night?”
I knew at that moment that she was going to point out the obvious to me and I was going to be standing there feeling like the biggest jackass, and that is exactly what happened. “Miss, I have no idea who the lucky man was last night.”
“Mr. Taylor, my date was Shakespeare and the paper I had to finish.”

She laughed heartily as she noticed that my reaction was one of embarrassment. I had to laugh at myself. I had allowed her to distract my mind from the obvious and missed every hint at who her date was. I had heard many young people use the phrase, “A date with Shakespeare, Milton, Camus, algebra, or science”, but the phrase never entered my mind in relation to this lady.

“Miss, that seems quite obvious to me now.”
“Oh sir, do not feel embarrassed. Sometimes the obvious is the hardest to understand and know.”
“You are quite right my lady. It is a lot like love.”
“Love, sir?”
“Yes, sometimes love is staring in your face and you don’t even know it, and who can explain it?”
“I will have to trust your opinion on that issue.”
“What? Have you never experienced love?”
“No sir, I haven’t. I have seen what many call love, but I have never and will never experience such pain and confusion.”
“Miss, love is not always painful and confusing.”
“Sir, I must strongly disagree. Read Shakespeare or any of the true romantics and love ultimately leads to pain and confusion.”
“Yes, but love is worth the pain and confusion.”
“Maybe to you sir, but not for me. I myself have chosen to take a vow of chastity.”
“You must be joking.” I could not believe that such beauty would be wasted and never experienced.
“Sir, love and chastity are no laughing matters for Rose Calloway.”
“Then I must say that I am saddened by such a vow.”
“Why would my vow sadden you sir?”
This was the moment my life ended. The moment my world crumbled upon me. I had to tell her the truth, even though the truth would mean pain and confusion.
“In sadness, I love a woman.”


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