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Thread: "Angel on Earth"

  1. #1
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    Default "Angel on Earth"

    Important Disclaimer: The figure skater in this story is an entirely fictional character. She is NOT Michelle Kwan, nor a fictional representation of Michelle under a different name. I wanted to do another version of my earlier story, "Privacy Respected," which I posted here in February 2013. That story presented the scenario of a fictional Michelle Kwan fan and MKF member encountering Michelle aboard a commercial airline flight. But recently I came up with the idea of exploring what might happen in the same situation, only this time involving a skater who seems like Michelle on the surface but who is actually Michelle's polar opposite. The result is this story.

    The greatest figure skater of her day, Crystal Chien was an Olympic gold medalist and multiple-time World and United States champion. Because of her intensity as a competitor, and because she often wore an antique necklace with a round solid-gold dragon pendant (a century-old family heirloom), she was dubbed by the press as "The Dragon Lady." The necklace was known in Crystal Chien lore as her "Good Fortune Necklace."

    An iron-willed competitor with no quit in her, her skating was magnificent, lovely, and dynamic, the epitome of polish and refinement and finish, the epitome of heart and soul, unmatched by any of her peers. Outside the competitive arena, she was well known for possessing uncommon grace, class, humbleness, integrity, optimism, and, most of all, kindness and compassion. These latter two qualities she demonstrated through appearances as a motivational speaker, and through much humanitarian work she performed on behalf of many charitable causes. Her exemplary personal qualities made her a beloved favorite with the general public, particularly figure skating fans; and also made her a favorite with corporate America, such that she had earned millions of dollars from product endorsements during her years in the public eye.

    Captivated by her spectacular skating performances and even more by her exemplary personal qualities, not to mention the fact that she was an incredibly beautiful young woman, I became an ardent fan and admirer of her. As such, as soon as I learned of its existence, I registered with and became a member of The Crystal Chien Forum on the Internet. Among its members and in the figure skating community, the forum was affectionately known as "CCF." Thereafter, over several years, in the virtual company of like-minded individuals, I contributed more than one-thousand posts to CCF, in each one complimenting Crystal to the utmost in any number of ways, always in a sincere and respectful manner reflecting my great admiration for her. In one post, I even called her an "Angel on Earth."

    During that fateful airline flight, however, I was to learn that Crystal Chien was anything but.

    Settling into my window seat on the Boeing 747 that day, I buckled my seatbelt and opened my book, one of Stephen King's newer horror thrillers recently released in paperback. Then I sighed wearily over the prospect of the boring two-hour flight home that lay ahead of me.

    As the mass of people made their way down the aisle to take their seats, I thought about how airline travel was the equivalent of sardines being jam-packed into a can. I also remembered Chuck Yeager's description of the Project Mercury astronauts and their space capsules as "Spam in a Can."

    And then it happened. The impossible. I saw HER walking down the aisle. Could it be? Yes. No mistake. As a long-time fan, and having seen thousands of pictures of her, I recognized her instantly. It was CRYSTAL CHIEN.

    My heart started beating like a trip-hammer -- and accelerated even faster when she slid gracefully into the seat next to me. Around her neck, in its accustomed place, was her "Good Fortune Necklace."

    OMIGOD! It's CRYSTAL! And she's sitting right NEXT to me! So what do I do now? I wondered, my brain racing feverishly a mile a minute. For ten years I had been a devoted fan of Crystal Chien. For a good portion of those years, I had hoped to meet her, or at least see her in person, someday. And now "someday" had arrived at last. Crystal Chien, "The Dragon Lady," was sitting a foot away from me. A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, to be sure.

    I should introduce myself. Tell Crystal how much I've admired her all these years. Tell her how much I love and enjoy her wonderful skating. Tell her how much I admire her humanitarian endeavors and good works. Ask her for her autograph. Maybe even ask her if she could possibly send me an autographed picture. Yes, I should. This chance will not recur.

    Turning towards her with a smile, I opened my mouth to introduce myself.

    And that's when everything went south, big-time and in a big hurry.

    Before I could get a single word out, Crystal's face contorted into an angry, hate-filled glare and she hissed, low enough that only I could hear, "Don't talk to me! Don't say a word! I know who you are! You're one of those idiots who posts on my forum!"

    Stunned, shocked, I responded, "Uhh…how can you possibly know who I am?"

    "I have people!" she spat. "They always let me know who I'll be sitting next to on a flight! I won't get on a plane unless I know exactly who my seatmate is! If there'd been more room on this flight, I'd be sitting as far away from you as possible!"

    "What did I do…?"

    "I'm sick of your smarmy, syrupy posts on my forum!" she continued, her eyes glaring in a most unsettling manner. "'Angel on Earth'! I mean, gimme a break! Sometimes you fans make me want to puke my guts out! Bunch of idiots! Morons!"

    "Uhh, if something I posted offended you, then I'm…"

    "Muzzle it, Nimrod! And get off my forum! For good! I don't want to read any more of your stupid drivel!" she snapped.

    "Uhh…Done," I blinked blankly.

    And so ended by far the most unpleasant conversation of my entire life.

    Opening my Stephen King novel, I pretended to read, but was much too shaken up to do so. Instead, I thought about the situation, and realized I had just been abruptly administered a dose of cold reality akin to having a bucket of ice-water splashed in my face. Cold reality in the form of image not being reality.

    As my admiration for Crystal Chien evaporated like a puff of steam, one thing was patently apparent to me: Her public image -- one of kindness, compassion, grace, class, and integrity -- was a total fabrication, a sham. In a word, she was a fake. Her angry face, her glaring eyes, her hateful words, her utter contempt had betrayed her true inner nature -- coldness, rudeness, ruthlessness, viciousness, hatred, and, most of all, burning rage.

    I pondered why such an individual, and presumably her family and her "people," would go to such great lengths to craft and maintain a positive image, a façade, so utterly opposite her true nature. And then the answer hit me, and it was obvious: Endorsements. Of course. Her image had been carefully conceived, manufactured, and implemented entirely in order to make her become a beloved public figure, and as such to appeal to corporate America so that its companies would pay her handsomely to endorse their products and services. And, oh, had that strategy worked well. For, in a recent financial magazine, I had read that her net worth was above thirty-million dollars -- and she was only in her mid-twenties.

    But I cannot express in words what a crushing blow it was to me to so rudely learn the truth about this young woman whom I had admired so much for so long. Talk about illusions being shattered! Talk about heartbreak! I was crestfallen.

    During the next two hours, the duration of the flight, I kept my nose buried in my book and said not a word. Occasionally, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Crystal cast a furtive glance at me -- and I would swear that her eyes actually glowed red with fury, as though they were furnace doors that had swung open to reveal the fires of hell. The eyes of a madwoman, I daresay. The sight was jarring.

    Although I was twice her size, and had been lifting weights regularly for decades, I actually began to fear for my safety, to fear she might suddenly snap completely and try to claw out my eyes or such. The tension in the air was so thick you could have cut it with a knife.

    I can't imagine what inner demons must have possessed her, what could have twisted so beautiful and accomplished a young woman into, literally, a monster. This utterly baffled me.

    Uncomfortable to say the least, I felt like a captive, wishing I were anywhere else in the world but sitting next to Crystal Chien. A day earlier, I never would have remotely imagined that I could ever possibly harbor such a thought. But, oh, what a difference a day can make.

    For a moment, in an attempt to give Crystal the benefit of the doubt, I entertained the notion that perhaps she was just having a bad day and was in a lousy mood. But no. Her anger, her rage, was light-years above and beyond that of someone just having a bad day. There was madness there, for sure.

    In my mind I reviewed my ten years of being a fan of Crystal -- reviewed the thousands of photos I'd seen of her, the scores of articles I'd read about her, the dozens of television interviews I'd viewed of her, trying to see if there had ever been any indication, even a fleeting one, that had hinted towards what she was really like. But nothing. Never had she come off as anything less than the epitome of grace and class, both on the ice and off. I could only marvel at the incredible, masterful job Crystal and her handlers had done in promulgating her positive image.

    My train of thought was interrupted as the plane came in for its landing. As soon as the plane stopped, Crystal, still obviously seething, flung off her seatbelt and jumped to her feet. As she did, I felt something fall into my lap. Before I could unbuckle my own seatbelt, Crystal had already grabbed her bag from the overhead compartment and set off striding down the aisle towards the plane's exit. Reaching down into my lap as I unbuckled my seatbelt, I felt a round metallic object on the end of a chain. Taking a quick glance at it, I saw that it was Crystal's "Good Fortune Necklace" with the round gold dragon charm, the clasp at the top of the chain having broken.

    My first instinct was to call out to her, wave the necklace, and give it back to her. But then, her intense anger and withering verbal assault against me still all too fresh in my mind, I muttered under my breath, "Tough luck, shrew"; and with that I furtively slipped the necklace into my right pants pocket.

    Arriving home, I removed the necklace from my pocket, and stared wistfully, sorrowfully at the dragon charm for a moment or two, crestfallen at having had my illusions about Crystal Chien so abruptly and cruelly shattered. All my years of being a fan, all my happy and exciting and fun memories from being a fan, now meaningless. I suppose in that moment my demeanor reflected the cliché, "Sadder but wiser."

    Then, taking one last look at the necklace, I sighed and placed it in amongst the jewelry in my late mother's jewelry box, and returned the box to its out-of-the-way, seldom-visited cubbyhole.

    Over the next few weeks, as much of a pain and a chore as the task proved to be, I logged onto CCF repeatedly and, systematically, one by one, deleted all of my thousand-plus posts. Needless to say, I never posted there again; and, after my task was finished, I never returned to the forum even as a "lurker."

    At the same time, I got rid of the extensive Crystal Chien memorabilia collection I had amassed over the years. I donated my half-dozen books about her to my local library; tossed all my magazines with articles about her into my recycle bin; and burned in my fireplace my large collection of photos of her. Likewise, I got rid of the many text and image files I had on my computer related to her, deleting them with "shredder" software in order to ensure that they were gone for good.

    And thus, as the last glowing ember in my fireplace faded into darkness, my ten years as a fan of Crystal Chien, "The Dragon Lady," came to an end.
    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.”
    --Saint Francis of Assisi

  2. #2
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    Addendum

    I completed writing the preceding account several years ago. As I write this, it's been twenty years to the day since Crystal Chien's "Good Fortune Necklace" fell into my lap on that day of shattered illusions.

    Every year on this date, this anniversary, I reflect upon what happened. As I do, I also wonder how Crystal reacted when she discovered she had lost the necklace. I have no doubt that, if she had any real humanity in her, if she had any kind of heart at all, she must have been devastated. After all, the necklace had been in her family for a hundred years.

    And as I ponder these things, and despite remembering how nasty she was, the fingers of guilt, my guilt over having not returned the necklace to her when I had the chance, squeeze my stomach in a mild grip until the day passes.

    On this latest occurrence of the anniversary, however, instead of entertaining guilt, I decided the time had finally arrived for me to do more, for me to get rid of my guilt.

    To that end, this morning, removing Crystal's "Good Fortune Necklace" from my mother's jewelry box for the first time since I'd placed it there two decades ago, I gently and carefully wrapped the necklace in tissue paper. Then, placing it into a padded mailer, I sealed the mailer in an Express Mail envelope. The envelope I addressed to the figure skating rink a few states away that Crystal -- three bitter and acrimonious divorces later -- owns and operates. As a return address I used not my own, but that of her parents, who I know live in a retirement community about forty miles from my home. I included no note inside the package either. I didn't want to take even the slightest risk of giving Crystal a clue as to my identity. I even mailed the package from a post office located in a neighboring town, and paid for the transaction in cash.

    After I returned home from mailing the package, I felt the relaxed warmth of inner peace, something I've rarely experienced in my life. In returning the necklace, in getting it out of my life, and by extension Crystal out of my life as well, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders; and as I type these words my guilt is evaporating away. An unfortunate chapter in my life has closed at last.

    I can only add to all of this that as much as she despised me, as much as her image was a total façade, and as much as the aforementioned let me down, there is and will always remain -- for old time's sake -- a small place in my heart for "The Dragon Lady."

    THE END
    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.”
    --Saint Francis of Assisi

  3. #3

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    Rick-

    When I first saw your newest avatar, I thought of Michelle as an angel being sort of flung from the heavens to bring good to Earth. I remembered the times when I have envisioned her angelic qualities come to life...like her dedication to the Special Olympics. I can add her absolute kindness and patience to her fans.

    Now comes CrystalChien--"The Dragon Lady." I had to smile. Of course, your writing is spot on, as usual. But, you are so right--her character is the absolute polar opposite of our girl. But, the story's hero is more influenced by good than by evil--like our angel. Thus, a happy ending to a rather sad tale. Thanks, as usual, for sharing your gifts with us.

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