It was some people’s contention that Barbara Arnold had been a saint since the very moment of her conception. In many ways, their argument was valid. From her hospital nursery crib, she altered, in an extraordinarily positive fashion, the mood of everyone who gazed upon her. And her nurses—or anyone with reason to hold her— claimed it was an otherworldly experience.
As an infant, Barbara continued to captivate and have a profound effect on others from her stroller. Each person who locked eyes with her claimed she was the embodiment of goodness and that she was destined to perform miraculous deeds. And as it turned out, these claims also proved to be correct.
Throughout her life, Barbara rescued stray animals and lost people. At every turn or at the slightest hint of opportunity, Barbara put her own wants and needs aside and was there for others. Consequently, everyone— with one lone exception— referred to her as St. Barbara.
As far as everyone else was concerned, I was the Antichrist. Every time someone called her St. Barbara, I stopped them and said she was a quasi-saint. And each time I did, I was met with indignation and my warnings of placing her on such a lofty pedestal fell on deaf ears.
For years, I fought in vain to point out that Barbara’s great deeds were undeniable. However, everyone’s combined expectation of them continuing unabated was robbing Barbara of her own humanity and foibles. This too fell on deaf ears— everyone continued to flock to her for their every need or simple fix.
Sadly and tragically, I was proven correct. For on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Barbara left the earthly plane—by her own hand. And near where she lay, a two-line handwritten note was found. It read:
I am not a saint. Trying to be everything for everybody is an insurmountable burden.
MARK KUGLIN is an American expat currently living and working near Ensenada, Mexico. He writes fiction, poetry and the occasional essay. Samples of his work can be found on his website markkuglin.com or by following him on Twitter @cr8fiction. Additionally, he has a profile and a page @markkuglincreativewriting on Facebook.