My senior year of college, I set out to write a book. To accomplish this, I knew I had to get a muse. All great writers have muses.
I made a list of qualities my muse had to have:
1) She had to be beautiful.
2) She had to be smart.
3) She had to be passionate.
I looked across campus and my eyes lit on a Botticelli Beauty with flowing blonde hair. Amy. She was reading The Stranger by Albert Camus, jotting down notes in her black leather journal. I later discovered this was filled with inspiring quotes she uncovered quenching her thirst for inspired truth. Beautiful. Check. Smart. Check.
I introduced myself and we soon became friends. We shared a common disdain for pop culture. We were disgusted by the same people, hated the same things. One might think we were a match made in condescending heaven.
But there was one problem. Amy depressed the hell out of me. I was already depressed enough without her. With her, I became incapacitated. Were this to have happened today, I would just take some Prozac and go about my business. But back then, all we could do is sit and moan in a pit of depressed despair, cutting classes and calling it empathy with the suffering of the universe.
Amy was not cut out to be my muse. The semester was ticking away and I was losing hope that I would ever find inspiration for my novel.
Then, as if by divine decree, along came Allison. Allison was a lively young woman with wavy shoulder length hair, an athletic build, and a wonderful smile. Her eyes sparkled with hopeful curiosity as we talked about God, music, creation.
Every night after dinner I would turn to her and ask, “Can I follow you around like a puppy dog?” She would smile. We would walk around and I would tell her about my story. Her body reacted with each scene, she listened so attentively.
Some nights we sneaked into the chapel and lay on the floor looking up at the ceiling. I wanted to reach out to her, but she was already touching me with her soothing words, her boundless energy, her hope-filled faith. We lay beside each other and let the light between us fill the darkness.
With Allison as my muse, I finished Life (in obvious places) on the day we left for Winter Break. I handed her the first copy. She was eager to leave. I was looking forward to coming back from break, spending long nights together with her wallowing in her admiration for my work.
The next time I saw her, a serious expression had replaced the smile on her face. She reached out and handed me a note. “I want you to read this,” she said simply. And she walked away.
It was a note about love. She said she wanted to break off our relationship. I was crushed. We never once talked about my book.
One day, I found Allison on Facebook. She was still smiling, now beside her adoring husband and two beautiful children. Her oldest looks just like her. There is so much joy welling up from within.
I wrote to Allison to thank her for the role she played in my life. She wrote back —
Thank you, Tony, for your friendship and kind thoughts. Funny, I don’t remember ever receiving a copy of your book. It sounds like you were really hoping for something I could not give you. I don’t think I was ever made to be your muse. I hope you have found this in another.
It’s been over 30 years now since I wrote Life (in obvious places). I have written many things inspired by many persons, many experiences, many things. I’ve found that it is much healthier and holier to not idolize one beautiful soul, but to appreciate the beauty of all souls filled with the Holy Spirit.
Still, I long for one who is beautiful, smart, and passionate with whom I can share my work. A spiritual companion at ease with herself, not threatened by the extremes of my emotions. Someone who will receive my affection with a gentle smile.
Maybe I’m writing to a muse myself. God only knows.