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The Perfect One
The Perfect One
Perfection. It’s an odd thing, really. It’s like when you’re in the forest and you come across a winding path covered in shrubs and twiggy thicket, concealing a certain unfound beauty. You begin to walk a little further to see what you can find and begin to feel the path softening beneath your feet and see the trees take a more graceful shape. A few steps more lead to a gradual increase of colorful wildflowers and soft chirping of a baby robin. Soon the ground beneath you becomes softer and softer until you are walking across white sand that attempts to crawl up the trees that are now swaying like beautiful dancers in the wind. It’s all so peaceful and wonderful, yet you yearn for more. You walk a little further to smell the fresh air and hear the music of the forest animals admiring your presence. A small pond forms right before your eyes revealing the most magnificent golden trout leaping and diving through its mirror. But still you are not satisfied. You begin walking faster and faster to see just how perfect the forest can get. Finally, you realize that it is time to head home and you walk back along the beautiful pathway. You watch as the golden trout disappears, the peaceful tunes of your animal friends cease to play, and the trees lose their graceful essence. The ground beneath you turns to rugged dirt and the air becomes mucky and dirty. It isn’t long before you are where you began and all your happiness is withered away. You forget how perfect this place where you stand used to be. You simply forget.
I came across a path like this once. It was even more windy and long and beautiful. I would have walked along that trail for a hundred years if I could, searching for perfection. But my path was different. It wasn’t all greed that bound my feet to the trail like a slave but rather a mission. I wanted to find the perfect thing; the perfect one.
It was a sun kissed day with curious clouds that peaked behind the tall buildings like shy children waiting for their turn on the merry-go-round. The morning air was crisp and I wrapped my green scarf tighter around my neck while strolling beneath the autumn trees that shed their colorful leaves across the park. I watched as children played with kites and did cartwheels, laughing blissfully at something or another. I continued down the street smiling with coffee in hand. My breath could be seen trailing behind me as I sped up my pace so as not to be late for my job at the clinic where sick and injured people awaited my assistance. The light on the corner turned from red to green and I made my way to the other side with head held high and proud. I could feel the drivers’ eyes on me, thinking what a crazy woman I was for being so happy in such an imperfect world. But I was happy anyway to be able to wake up each morning and walk to work to make a difference in the world. It was all I could ever want.
I soon came to the large, glass doors of Jefferson’s Clinic and allowed the cold outside air to follow me inside for only a moment before the doors slid shut once more. “Good morning,” one of the nurses said to me with a smile.
“Good morning, Sarah,” I said back as I took some keys off a wooden hook above
a silver clock and opened the door to my own private office. I threw my white coat on and laced it around just as a patient was entering. I had to look down to see her, for she was so small and fragile looking, like a little glass doll. Someone who I assumed to be her mother stood behind her helping her to walk. A deep cut was visible on her left leg and a line of dry blood lined her calf. I hoisted the fragile little thing on the paper-covered table and dabbed at the wound with a wet cloth soaked with hydrogen peroxide. Then I wiped away the tears that were building in her eyelids, threatening to spill over, and she giggled. Soon, I had her all bandaged up in soft cotton bandage and she was heading out the door, all smiles and a lollipop.
By noon I had helped fifteen people, young and old, sick and hurt, and my happiness was nearly unbreakable. By five o’ clock, I had assisted thirty-five people and I glowed with happiness at the work I had accomplished. The last patient, an elderly man, was rolling out the door in his small, blue wheelchair. Just as I was slipping my white coat off to signal the end of a hard day’s work, my boss walked in and looked at me with an expression I couldn’t quite decipher.
“Madison, I need to speak with you. I’m afraid I have bad news.” There I was, beaming with happiness and thinking nothing of the forlorn expression on my boss’s face.
“Oh, whatever it is I’m sure it will be alright.” I smiled.
“Well, you see…” he sighed. “There’s no easy way to tell you this, but we’re letting you go.” And the light within me blew out, just like that. It was as if those words pulled the happiness right out of me in the blink of an eye. I could barely hear him explain about how poorly the clinic was doing financially and how they just couldn’t afford to keep all of their workers. I packed my stuff, taking with me the little bobble head I had situated on my desk. I walked out alone, dragging my feet behind me like a broken puppet. My job had been my life.
It was then, in my sadness, that I began to see the tragedy all around me. I saw the homeless beggars mumbling and holding cups and a couple arguing in the park. I saw the poor shop owner by the bakery nailing up a sign that announced the closing of his business and the alley cats digging through the garbage for leftovers. I witnessed a mother kicking her daughter out onto the street who was busted for using drugs and a window washer sighing because he did not pursue his dreams. Everything seemed different than that morning as if a satin veil had been uncovered for only me to see. Perhaps the world really was imperfect and the drivers had been right to think me crazy.
The shadows of the autumn trees smothered my huddled figure as I stroked the cool grass whose dewdrops reflected the colors of the setting sun. I exhaled and watched my breath slither away into the cold night air. I was alone, waiting, thinking what my next step would be in this tragic world. Was nothing perfect? Was it all just a fairytale that ended in ruin? Just as the last speck of light was leaving the sky, I decided what I would do. I would prove to myself that there was such thing as perfection. I would find the perfect thing and it would be the perfect one.
The sky artist waited for the sun’s rays to emerge from the hills to dip his brush in the soft pink paint and painted the sky with ravishing beauty. He then dipped the brush in yellow and outlined his work to create a picture that defied all others. I sat up in my bed to see this marvelous sight. I could not speak for the beauty that took my breath away. I was helplessly entranced. Could this sunrise really be perfect? But then a dark cloud covered this beauty so that the spell was broken and I decided, no. This could not be the perfect one. Still determined to find perfection, I got dressed and escorted myself out of the apartment. As I was walking out the door of the mahogany building, I snagged my jeans on a nail that bore a hole at the end. No Worries I thought. I’ll take a walk to the tailor shop down the street. I was careful not to rip my jeans even more as I continued down the sidewalk. Suddenly, about a block away, a magnificent bird caught my eye. It sat on a tree branch that rocked it back and forth like a baby in a cradle. Its breast was stained crimson and golden orange that wrapped around its little head like a hood. When it sang, it was like magic to my ears; a song worthy to be heard by all. I closed my eyes to let the bird sing me to a land of peace and beauty. And then I opened my eyes and saw that the bird stood on only one foot and sadly realized that this was not the perfect one. I continued on to the tailor shop and opened the doors that chimed with tiny, golden bells. I showed the young woman at the counter the rip in my jeans and she went on back to fetch some yarn and sewing needles. While I waited for her return, I delighted myself in trying on a dress that hung on a mannequin in the window. I spun gracefully in front of the wide mirror and stared at the needlework fantasy that now hugged my slender body. Nothing could have fit better on anyone and the color and design couldn’t have been beat by the world’s best designer. However, when I turned around my eyes turned to the one imperfection the dress had. One little thread stuck out at the seam. I slipped the dress off and admitted that this was not the perfect one.
Within a few silent minutes the hole in my jeans was patched up, and I exited the shop with the doors jingling behind me. My stomach growled with hunger and I decided it would be best to have brunch at a small café a few blocks down. On the way, I came across a crowd of people gathered at the street corner watching something. Curious, I squeezed through the thick jackets and scarves that brushed my face as I tried to get by. When I had reached the middle, I watched as a guy balanced on a glass bottle with his head on the opening. It was a sight I had never before witnessed. His balance was perfect and not a single movement came from his focused body. But then the wind shifted and he fell. Perhaps he wasn’t the perfect one after all.
I entered the small café on the street corner through its tiny little gates, entwined with thick green vines and purple morning glories. A kind, young waitress greeted me and led me to a table beneath an autumn tree. Once I placed my order, I searched for the perfect one. I held a water lily from an earthenware pot and its beauty was evident but the brown spot was, too. I felt the kitchen kitten’s velvety fur, but the burr embedded within pricked my tender finger. The food that caressed my tongue with heavenly flavor rested on a cracked plate. The day was wearing on and still there was no perfect one. I walked down to the river that rushed by as if racing with the taunting wind. It crawled along the soft silt that lined the water bank. An old man thrust his easel into the grass and began to paint the river’s race. His dainty brush slid down the paper with such delicacy I thought the river would stop to watch. I came closer and watched him form the trees that drank from the river’s forceful current. This painting had to be the perfect one, for it depicted the scene’s beauty like no other.
“Is it finished?” I asked the old painter.
“I’m afraid not. The river moves too fast for me to paint an exact picture. It shall never be completely finished,” He said solemnly. I knew his words were true and that this could not possibly be the perfect one.
The sun was high in the sky and I led myself away from the river to walk along the sidewalk where shopkeepers swept and washed their windows. In each window that I went by I saw my reflection in the clear glass until I did not. In this window, a young, Chinese woman sat at a table folding a white piece of paper into a beautiful paper crane. She folded the sides with such skill and talent so that every crease was as perfect as could be. It seemed as if perfection had finally come, but the paper ripped on the last fold.
The sun was beginning to seep down towards the mountains from which it came and the temperature was dropping lower and lower with each step I took. Perfection had to be found. I began to walk faster and faster looking for the perfect one. I studied the buildings, the sky, the ground, the people, the animals, the clothes, the cars, the plants, and the trees. I created and read and drew and ran. Nothing was perfect. Nothing lacked imperfection no matter how great they were. I felt defeated and burnt out. Finally, as the sun was nearing the end of its life I forced my feet to carry me to the park where the autumn trees danced with the wind and children laughed joyously.
I sat down on a wooden bench and simply gave up all hope that anything was perfect. For now, I watched the children shoot down the slide in their father’s lap and fall onto the sand because they went too fast. I watched a black Labrador jump into the air to cradle the red Frisbee its owner threw. I watched a girl’s older sister push her lightly in the swing until she felt brave enough to touch the color-tinged sky.
A chestnut colored squirrel cautiously scurried beneath my bench to claim its long lost nut and scrambled back up the tree to a little nest in the branch. I smiled and reached for a leaf that had fallen from the tree, twirling it in my fingers like a baton. Its colors were as beautiful as the sunset in the distance, and suddenly I discovered perfection. Perhaps nothing in the world is perfect. Maybe everything is flawed in some way or another. But maybe the flaws are what makes everything perfect and shapes who we are. Even though the world is full of imperfections, the world itself is perfect. It’s not the perfect look, touch, sound, smell, or taste but the feeling we get.
I did not fail. I walked along that path in the woods with a different thought. I did not long for perfection, but the journey. And when I turned back and came to where I had begun, it was just as beautiful as the forest path because the feeling was just as satisfying. Instead of living the perfection, I live the journey because life is perfect. So there I sat, watching the sunset’s iridescence spread from the sky to my heart in one silent moment. That is the perfect one.