NDJ:8 Michael Gerard Mason, PhD

Diamonds Are Not Made From Coal

Jade entered the consulting room as she had done many times before. She stacked her three traveling bags against the chair. Her lunch, uneaten, remained in its clear plastic box; the steamed broccoli appeared to melt through the container.

She was tired. Her petite body folded in upon itself in the large chair. She slowly turned away from me until her knees pressed deeply into the arm of the chair. She was prepared to begin.

“I was late for his graduation,” she whispers. Jade had spent the last week paralyzed. On three occasions she flooded my inbox with messages begging for help. She had not completed five incompletes that loomed from the previous semester and was falling further behind in her current work.

Her first message reads, “If I leave my office, how can I write? If I am not writing, how can I live? Follow my tweet.” Her tweet reads, “I think I might try the taste of death; life’s current flavor is too bland?” She is being followed by 14,254 people. The most recent retweet: “@promisedland Let us know what you think.”

Jade had not written a word of her dissertation in seven months. Nine of thirteen chapters completed, then nothing. “You were able to attend his graduation, nonetheless… How was it?”

She whispers, “I was ashamed. There were no seats available at the head table so I sat at the table next to him. “

I read from my notes, “’And he said to them, You shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.’ Matthew 20:23.” Jade begins to cry. “You don’t even believe…and you hold His word closer to your heart than I do.”

“I only know those words because you gave them to me.” I say softly.

“Why do you remember?”

“You wonder how a stranger can hold so much of what you give them in their mind when your father didn’t remember to save a seat for you.”

Jade sat up straight in the chair and looked at me for the first time. “You said that if I talked about my family things would get better. If I shared with you the meaning of my faith, you would understand. My defense is set in four weeks and I haven’t written a word.”

“So many people have failed you. I am no different?” I say.

Jade spoke while twirling the cord to the lamp behind the chair, “It is hard to say you have failed me. Maybe misled is more accurate. By now, I figured I would have finally found some goodness. A small nugget of joy. A kernel of hope. Instead, I have only uncovered layer after layer of suffering. Suffering that has been perfectly preserved by time and other layers of suffering.”

I respond, “You’re hoping that pain is transformed into something more beautiful over time, that you only need to be patient and endure the layering and gradual transformation.”

“Is that too much to ask? Too much to wish for?” Jade is whispering again. “If the only desired outcome of our work together is to find diamonds in place of old forgotten pain… Yes, that may be too much.”

Jade asks loudly, “If there are no diamonds, then what am I digging for?”

We sat silently together. After a few minutes Jade gathered her bags and her lunch container. She stood without looking at me. No salutations. Just left.

The door clicked shut. As I sat down to think about the work that we had done together, I noticed that her lunch, the steamed broccoli, had leaked, leaving a small green stain on the carpet.