Dr. Abraham, as she will referred to from now on for the purpose of avoiding misunderstandings and in support of her lecture about the insignificance of names – or rather the false assumptions they often times trigger – leaned back into her cushions and took a deep puff from her cigarette. Her visitor, a young woman in her early thirties we will call Eloise now, as it seems to match her worldliness, intelligence and fragility – a preconception people seem to share about young French women living abroad (that she is not actually French nor speaks with a French accent is of no importance at the moment) – still looked slightly perplexed.
“Honey, take off your coat, help yourself to some wine, get comfortable. We will be a while, there is no rush.”
Eloise did as she was told, poured herself a large glass of a heavy, sweet, thick wine, and leaned back.
“And now, from the start. I believe you have been informed about the rules. The only thing you need to do is give me your reason. You need to convince me. I have heard many stories, one more horrendous than the other. So far no one has ever failed to convince me.”
“That’s…good to hear.”
“I like to think of myself as a collector of sorrows,” Dr. Abraham smiled. “I keep them all, safely stored away.”
“What do you do with them?”
“I like to look at them from time to time. It helps me keep perspective. You know how you suddenly feel prettier when you’re surrounded by ugly people?” She laughed, and a wave of vibration seemed to move from her chin, down her neck, through her bosom and into her belly and back. “Oh don’t look so shocked!” she giggled.
“No, no not shocked. Just surprised. I… I didn’t think you…”
“You did not think I’d be a person who judges people. And I don’t, believe me. You are right, everybody is beautiful in their own way, yah yah yah. But I’m also very realistic. Some people are more beautiful than others, we all know it, and we all compare ourselves to others, no matter how enlightened we think we are.”
The young woman nodded.
“But I think you know what I mean. Sometimes comparing yourself is not a bad thing.”
“I guess so. I don’t know. I compare myself all the time. To be honest I think this might be part of the problem. I cannot stop thinking about other people’s lives.”
“What is it that makes you jealous?”
“No, not jealous. Ashamed. Ashamed that I have everything, and most people have nothing. Nothing bad has ever happened to me. I have money. I am healthy. I have a job. I have a house. I am reasonably attractive. I have a partner. I have enough time to have hobbies. I am independent. I have never lost a person I love. I have never been robbed or assaulted. I have absolute freedom to choose what I want to do.”
Dr. Abraham nodded. “Sounds like a terrible fate to me,” she chuckled.
“You don’t understand. It’s like in The Man Who Had All The Luck. How can I enjoy my fortune when the majority of people is suffering?”
“You could help your friends and family, the people around you, your colleagues if you feel the need to share your fortune – be it material or emotional.”
“They don’t need my help. They are all just as fortunate as myself. I am more thinking… globally. Like in a lot of parts of this world people will never have what I have.”
“Maybe they don’t even want what you have.”
“I mean a lot of people cannot even feed their families –“
Dr. Abraham released a loud chuckle that turned into a cough as she choked on her own cigarette. Was this woman for real? She considered her words for a moment, but then decided not to hold back but to provoke. “You mean you are crying over starving children in Africa?” She could not suppress a giggle. “Is that what it is?”
“Not exactly. This is a terrible way to phrase it.” Eloise started fidgeting on her coat.
“Oh, don’t be upset now,” Dr. Abraham mocked. “I did not mean to insult you. But you do have to allow me to be a bit sarcastic when I hear another white rich woman whine about dying children in third world countries.”
“Now you are insulting me. I did not come here to be laughed at. I came here to seize help.”
“I know that honey. I apologize, I apologize. I am here to listen, and listen I will – to all of your story. So please continue.”
“I see where you’re coming from. But: is it not worth crying over dying children? If that is not a good reason, then what is?”
Dr. Abraham sat up straight. She put out her cigarette and picked up the wine glass. Her bright red lipstick left a mark on the glass. She fixed her eyes onto her visitor. “Honey, you are not crying because children are dying. You are crying because it disturbs the comfort of your quiet little life.”