Mary's home and her boyfriend has thrown her a surprise party at his house. He's invited all of Mary's friends. The scene is set in William's living room. It's the day Mary returned from India, around lunchtime.
Kathy, her best friend, said, “Tell us what it was like, Mary.”More tomorrow!
Mary looked down at her hands in her lap. She studied her palms, her fingers, the finger where Sara had first kissed her. She looked up, at the white cieling, let her eyes scan the textured surface, picking out small imperfections.
“It was...” she struggled for a word, one word, that would capture the vastness of her experiences in India. She hesitated, the room full of girls hung on her words, desperate to know what she would say.
“...enlightening.” She and Sara had spent some of those nights together just talking about life. Talking about India. Talking about religion, philosophy and the need to be true to who you were. Of course, for Sara that had meant being true to what she knew she must be, not what she wanted to be. Mary couldn’t understand that, until that very moment, surrounded by her friends who, in their expressions, wanted to know who she was now. Sara had known all along who she was but she also knew who she had to be. And for Sara, those two states of being were opposites. Yin and Yang. Kali and Shiva. But Mary had a choice. She could decide her own fate. She had choices. She had options. She knew from then on, sitting in that fat, comfortable living room, she must live as herself, as much for herself, as for Sara who was trapped by a world Mary barely knew. She knew that Sara would live her life, as she must, in the way she must, but that in that small, dark, quiet corner of her heart, hidden from the world, that place she had let Mary see and inhabit for a brief instant, Sara would draw strength to endure, as women always had throughout the ages, her suffering.
But to the crowd of girls in the room, the answer hung in the air, anticlimactic, certainly, for them, distinctly unenlightening. Mary had a Mona Lisa smile, she could see through the bullshit into what’s real. For her, enlightenment was hard won and not shared easily. She couldn’t bestow it on the gaggle of girls who surrounded her. Enlightenment was earned. Earned through suffering. It was never given.
The girls in the room all talked at once. To Mary and to each other, all attempting to unravel Mary’s enigmatic answer. Mary remained silent. Mona Lisa smile. She was so tired, so very tired. She saw William standing in the doorway looking at her, not smiling, not frowning. Mona Lisa smile.