An Abundance of Empathy

“Six!” Roland threw back his head laughing and spun his wheelchair around to stare at his roommate.  “You’re up to Six?!”

“Yeah….” Kevin replied miserably.  “Marybelle was so lonely and her cat had been killed by a car….when she said she needed me and thought we should marry…I just couldn’t say no.”  He stared upward. “You should have seen her face light up – she was almost pretty.”

“So you now have six fiancée’s, all of whom think that as soon as you graduate from college next spring they will become June Brides.”  Roland continued chuckling as he wheeled over to where Kevin sat on the edge of the bed.

Roommates since the first semester, Roland had been there as each new girl entered Kevin’s life.  He gazed thoughtfully at his friend.

Kevin was squarely built and not tall.  His dark wavy hair and mustache already showed a few grey hairs though he was barely twenty-four.   Endowed with a modest income from a small inheritance, Kevin could live conservatively and not worry about needing a job, which explained why he chose to major in philosophy, and minor in music.

People liked Kevin immediately, but most peculiar was the way he always seemed to be able to help people feel better about themselves.  He had the rare ability to make any woman – old, young, tall, thin, fat or ugly…feel as though they were each a rare and desirable jewel.  As a result, they all wanted to marry him – and he couldn’t refuse them because it hurt him to hurt their feelings.

It amazed Roland that Kevin’s fiancés all seemed to not mind the fact that he only spent a few hours a week with each of them.  He was sure that nothing had gone beyond the handholding or kissing stages.  They all knew he was studying for his Master’s degree and was very busy.  It was surprising that Kevin’s bluetooth was not hardwired to his ear, though.

By the accepted beauty standards of modern society – Kevin’s fiancés were pretty well picked from the bottom of the barrel.  There was bucktoothed Betty, cross-eyed Connie, rotund Rosie, skinny Stacy and zit-faced Zelda.  Roland didn’t actually think Stacy was so bad, she was pretty, but just a little on the thin side.  Now he had added Marybelle – a combination of all the worst aspects of a dweeb trying to look rastafarian.  The most amazing thing was that Kevin never seemed to notice their bad points.

Roland took a deep breath.  “So, I take it you are not in love with this one either?”

Kevin paused a moment.  “No, she’s nice and I like her…. but, no.”

“Well, my friend, I think you need some cheering up – grab your coat.”      “Where?”

“A-HAH!  I see you’ve forgotten, O-Lover-of-Music-from-Days-Gone-By!”

“That’s right!” Kevin leaped up and pulled on his jacket then opened the door for Roland.


            “I still don’t see what you see in this stuff.” Roland rolled into the area reserved for wheelchairs in the auditorium.  Kevin was already reading the Barbershop program info in the seat next to him.

As the singing began, Kevin sat back savoring the close harmonies and dynamics of the Barbershop quartets.  Most of the music of that era was upbeat and frequently humorous, so his spirits were already rising as a quartet of ladies, or “Sweet Adelines”, took the stage.

Auburn hair and a sweet smile caught his attention.  She wore glasses, but they in no way detracted from bright blue eyes or the graceful way she lifted her hand for the downbeat.  Though four voices sang, his ears singled out her fluid mezzo soprano voice.  His mind was awash in that mellow, warm, nurturing, outpouring of tone. A sense of wonder mixed with realization of his greater dilemma washed over him.

“Oh, God, Roland,” he groaned.  “I think I’m in love!”


            Aurora thought back to the night two months ago as Kevin, in obvious misery stammered out his admission.  “So, you see, although I love you with all my heart and soul, and I wish to marry you, and only you…I have a problem.”

“That’s an understatement.” said Aurora thoughtfully.  She studied this man she had come to love.  Conflicting emotions washed through her.  She had seen his compassion and unusual empathy on many occasions.  A child’s bike skidded and fell on gravel, and Kevin immediately ran over, picked her up, dried her tears and took her home.  He could tell at a glance when anyone needed a confidante – once he spent an hour in a diner just listening to an old man reminisce about his late wife.

From the moment they met, there was a harmony that bound their souls into an ever-growing symphony.  She knew it would kill him to hurt these other girls.

His eyes begged a kind word, and were relieved when she smiled. “Well then, we will just have to find a way to make them fall out of love – won’t we?”


            “It really was not all that difficult.”  Aurora thought as she picked up Fluffy.  Some of the “fiancés” were already miffed since Kevin was not spending the time with them that he used to.  The white Persian cat was a recent addition to his apartment.  Knowing that a high percentage of the population is allergic to cats, she had made sure that Kevin had been covered in cat hair prior to his dates recently.

It turned out that both Rose and Zelda were sneezing, scratching and rubbing their eyes within minutes of his arrival.  For some reason, most people feel it is incredibly difficult to be romantic with a runny nose.  When Kevin fervently stated that he was significantly emotionally attached to his new pet, they decided that perhaps he was not the mate for them.

Marybelle had a similar allergy to Juniper incense.

Kevin practically bounced into the room.  “Aurora!  It worked” He crossed the room and spun her around in a short waltz.  “Connie couldn’t stand the thought of living in the deep south after marriage – but I was adamant that Georgia was the only place I could be happy.  She practically threw the ring in my face!”

He drew her close into a warm kiss. “You are brilliant…”

“Not really, I have not met anyone from the high desert yet that could stand the thought of all that humidity.  It’s really just a matter of finding trigger points and allowing them the satisfaction of kicking you out.”  She kissed him on the nose and reached for her purse.

“Now, here’s our plan for Bertha.”  She pulled out a box of big fat cigars…the kind usually referred to as cheroots.  Kevin began to turn a little pale.  Aurora handed him a cigar and lighter.  “Why don’t you practice a bit while I go shopping?”

“Shopping? More like escaping!” Kevin accused


            The cigars worked great on fastidious Bertha, but did not even faze Stacy.  Nothing worked with Stacy – no allergies, no smells, and she would even move to Alaska if that was where he wanted to go.

Aurora and Kevin sat on a couch knee-to-knee staring at a tabletop fountain.

“Well,” sighed Aurora, “you may just have to tell this one the truth.”

“I can’t do that,” Kevin answered.  “Especially not to Stacy, she’s so delicate.”

He turned to Aurora.  “Stacy’s parents ran off and left her with a neighbor when she was five, her foster family consisted mostly of big boys who pulled her hair.  Her dog died when she was ten.” Kevin stood up and walked over to the window.  “She told me she used to cry when the teachers would have the school kids line up two by two to go out to the playground because she was always the odd one left standing alone.  I…just can’t outright reject her.”

“She is such a pathetic little thing…if she were attractive it would be easier to do something…”

“She is attractive,” Kevin insisted.  “You just have to see her the right way.”

Aurora looked hard at Kevin, an idea forming.  “Kevin, I have seen Stacy.  To my eyes she’s so thin she almost looks like one of those “starving kids in South Africa” commercials.  Her face is plain, her hair a lackluster brown and she walks duckfooted. When you look at her, you see something totally different – what is it?”

Kevin thought for a moment.  “I guess I see someone who has a tremendous capacity for giving…someone who needs for someone to need her, and when she finds that someone, he’ll have the incredible joy of seeing her bloom.”

Aurora and raised her arms to circle his neck.  She softly replied, “Well, I guess we have two objectives.  We need to find someone who needs what she has to give, and we have to prove to her that you are self sufficient.”


            It was a Wednesday and, as usual, Kevin and Roland were in the library.  Stacy was there too.  Her own studies were done, but she hadn’t spent time with Kevin lately…he was always busy.

“Do you need that pencil sharpened?” She asked.

Normally Kevin had allowed her to do the hundreds of little things for him that he knew made her happy, but as part of the strategy, he refused her aid.  “No, thanks,” he replied.  “I have several.”

She was quiet for a moment, then piped up. “Would you like a Pepsi?”

“No, thank you…. you might see if Roland would like one.”

“Sure, said Roland reaching into a picket for change. “I prefer coke.”

“Ok…be right back”  Stacy said as she hustled off.

“What’s going on?” Roland queried Kevin.

“What do you mean”

“Look, I’ve never butted into all your affairs…”

“For which I’ve been grateful.” Kevin interjected.

“I have noticed that the only girls you see anymore are Stacy and Aurora and frankly I am appalled at the way you are treating Stacy.”

“I haven’t done anything to Stacy” Kevin affirmed.

“No, you haven’t.”  Roland came back.  “She tries everything she can to get you to notice her, but you’re too busy.”

“But I AM busy.” Kevin insisted.  “I do not have time to stroke her ego or give her meaningless things to do, I have a thesis to write.”

Just then Stacy returned with the drink.  Roland shrugged and maneuvered his wheelchair a little closer to her.  “Thanks, Stacy”.

Roland took a drink then said “Hey, Kevin, would you mind pulling down a book for me in the reference section?”

Kevin looked up almost as if to say yes, then paused.  Before he could respond, Stacy spoke up, “I can get it!”

Before Roland could object she had crossed over to him, “It’s no bother, I am not doing anything anyway.”

Roland shook his head and glared at Kevin a moment.  “OK, come on, I’ll show you where it is.”  He rolled back from the table and the two of them headed down the hall.

A week later at a McDonald’s restaurant Kevin tried to look down-hearted as Stacy very gently told him that she felt she could not marry him – because she was in love with someone else.  “Roland needs me.” She said as she left the table.


             Graduation was over.  Kevin and Aurora were sitting beneath an old oak tree in the University gardens watching the sun glint off a pond.

Aurora spoke softly.  “So, my Love, do you think you can keep any more fiancee’s from showing up?”

Kevin laughed and pulled a box from his pocket.  It contained two rings.  One was small and delicate, the other very large and ornate.  Both had infinity symbols molded into the metal.

“Aurora, I bought that oversized piece of metal because after you put it on my finger next Saturday I want everyone to understand that I am proudly and permanently MARRIED!”