It was the staccato burst of machine gun fire from a heavily fortified concrete bunker raining Third Reich death down upon the beach below that awoke him from his slumber. He lay there a moment confused, disoriented, disconnected. Rat-a-tat-tat! Disembodied voices screaming, officers shouting incoherent orders, distant explosions, young men dying. Glancing about and slowly surveying his surroundings he quickly came to remember where he was.
Rat-a-tat-tat! Rat-a-tat-tat! The machine gun continued to report from her son’s video game in the next room. He looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand beside him and the thin linings of sunlight trying its best to defeat the purpose of the aluminum foil lining her windows. It was nearly noon now and she was lying curled beside him, still sleeping soundly oblivious to all the carnage and senseless slaughter emanating from the virtual beach in the next room of her tiny apartment.
He rolled on his side and watched her sleep in the midday darkness of her bedroom. All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming he remembered, a quote of Helen Keller’s. It was an apt quote he thought, one that fit not only Helen Keller but her spooned in beside him as well. He looked at her sleeping peacefully and considered he never knew the suffering her that she had only recently told him about: a runaway from an abusive home situation at seventeen, the subsequent life on the streets, the empty soulless years of her late teens and early twenties spent doing what she had to do to survive in that pitiless world out there. He wished not for the first time that he could have been there for her in those awful, dark days. “It would have made little difference if you had of been there” she had told him, trying to make him feel better. For salvation, she firmly believed, was something one had to choose for one’s self.
But now… here he was with the overcoming her, the her he loved and did know: thirty-four years old and a night shift emergency room trauma nurse and single mother of the twelve year old boy engaged in the noisy combat in the next room. The her who did finally choose her salvation and pulled herself up out of the gutter of her former life. It was the birth of her son, she explained to him, which had bought her around to seeing the light. She had also confessed to him that she had no idea who the father of her son was. “He’s… my Pearl” she simply told him that day. “Your Pearl?” he had asked her, puzzled. “Yes,” she told him. “My Pearl. You know, like in The Scarlet Letter? Because like Hester Prynne’s infant daughter, he is my something beautiful made from something ugly too.”
Overcoming he thought as she slowly opened her eyes and smiled at him with a radiance that he could almost swear had banished some of the darkness from the room. In the next room he heard the tumult of battle drop to a low ebb as the allies had apparently successfully stormed the beach.
Yes, he realized as he gazed into her beautiful smiling eyes, Helen Keller was right. It really was also a world full of overcoming, too.