“We cannot afford to forget any experience, not even the most painful.” — Dag Hammaskjold
“Will you remember me when you’re famous?” she asked. “I know you won’t.”
“How could I forget you? I can’t even imagine it.”
Steve Lawrence had been showing her his sketchbooks when Liz said this. She saw an unusual strength in his work, and a unique style that transcended what was trendy and fashionable. For a young art student, he had been incredibly prolific.
“Someday you’ll be famous and I’ll be just one more girl who foolishly threw herself at your feet,” she said.
He laughed. He had enjoyed her immensely. She was delightful, funny, thoughtful, profound, and incomparably sensual. He affirmed it repeatedly. He would never forget Liz.
The following semester, when Liz dropped out of the university and went to Mexico, Steve became involved with Stephanie Bond with whom he remained involved for two years until he met Gloria, which wrecked things with Stephanie, but that was O.K., until Gloria went off with his friend Chuck. For a while, after he graduated, he dated several girls at once until he moved in with Marianne, whom he later married.
Over the years his career path was equally circuitous. Political activist, social worker, kitchen help, janitorial work and a cabinet manufacturing position all helped pay his bills until he got plugged in at the ad agency. Minneapolis agencies had just begun to get the attention they deserved and his was spotlighted frequently as a national trendsetter. Awards followed along with much success.
In his twilight years he received numerous lifetime achievement awards for his creative work and accolades from around the globe for his “World Peace Through the Arts” initiative. Two presidents entertained him in the White House and as an ultimate grace he was nominated for, and received, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Success in art, business and global statesmanship… what more could any man want? Yet there was something he wished for. He wished, he wished somehow, that he could find Liz Mills and tell her that, indeed, he’d never forgotten her.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech he even said as much. There were chuckles when he told the little anecdote about Liz Mills, and several reporters included the story in their account of the speech. Newswire services picked it up as well. And several internet newsgroups debated the merits of the story, whether there really had been a Liz Mills, or whether it was simply a metaphor for youthful aspirations and long lost dreams.
A search was undertaken, initiated by several friends, as a surprise for his seventy-fifth birthday. They scoured every database conceivable. There was a difficulty in that she may have married and had someone else’s name. Nevertheless, in hope, the search was undertaken.
Liz Mills, the tall and sleek Liz Mills who was known by Steve Lawrence in those days way back when, the real flesh and blood Liz Mills, now living in a nursing home — having been placed there by her family — was blankly watching the television, watching Ted Koppel and Nightline, on the evening Steve Lawrence and the Nobel Peace Prize were being discussed. Celebrities and scholars debated the merits of Steve’s achievements, two endorsing and two assaulting. A brief snippet of Steve Lawrence’s acceptance speech was also aired, including the anecdote about Liz Mills.
Liz smiled and turned to a nurse who, standing nearby, was also listening. “Isn’t that funny? My name is Liz Mills, too.”
“Did you know him?” the nurse asked.
“No, I never knew anyone by that name,” Liz said. “I’m sure I’d remember someone like that.”