Day 68: Reese’s Journal Entry 5: Möbius Town

Yesterday, I was going to take off and look for you in one of the other regions.

Let me back up a bit. At first I worried that I could happen to be blowing town the same day they decide to bring you back at Resurrectorium 1920-η. So I just cooled my jets. But the idea that you were out there and they wouldn’t tell me kept growing, and soon it was more than I could take. I tried to get a train ticket, but they said I didn’t have my Zoë’s permission to leave the region. I tried to hitch a ride, but none of the drivers of the carts headed toward the next region would give me a ride. No one would loan me a bike when I told them where I was going, and — remember what I said about it being easier not to do bad things? — I couldn’t bring myself to lie to borrow one or steal one from someone else, and I hadn’t earned enough yet to buy my own. So I set off walking toward Region 1819. There were no guard posts on the edge of town, no dogs, no patrols in the woods, nothing. But, I couldn’t leave town. I did that three times with the same result, and each time it spooked the shit out of me, because each time I ended up where I started. As I was walking, I would turn my head to see something out of the corner of my eye, then when I looked back, I appeared to be back in town again in a street I didn’t recognize.

Instead of calling it Region 1920 they should call it Möbius instead. I know you get that. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode.

Anyway, when I found I couldn’t leave town, I went to where my Zoë hangs out, the resurrectorium, and we had a scene right there.

“I have others to attend to. Please wait until tonight,” she said. “I’ll come by and talk to you.”

“I’m sick of this shit,” I said. Yes, we can still cuss. “Where is Helen?”

“Reese,” she said, “please don’t force me to have you confined to your home.”

I split. I walked for hours, but since I didn’t try leaving again, no spooky shit. I just walked. People saw the scowling face, and some of the Bios tried to talk to me. I mean, they’re all really nice people. Like being in church all the time. But I wasn’t ready to play “what’s the matter, brother?” so I went home. I didn’t want my Zoë trying to make me forget my anger. My anger was the only thing that felt normal right then. I went home, latched my door and barricaded it with a table and chairs. So I am just starting to forget how pissed I was at finding all roads lead to Möbius when my Zoë, Amber, sort of appeared in my living room.

“Hello, Reese” she says, as if I knew she was already in the room. The argument started again and went downhill from there. They won’t tell me where you are. They won’t even tell me why they won’t tell me. Telling me I’m not ready only makes things worse. It’s like failing a test and asking the instructor to see your paper so you can look at the marks and see what you missed only your instructor won’t let you see the paper and just says ‘study for the next test.’ It’s bullshit all the way down.

*

Okay. I’ve had some time to think. Amber is all right, I’m sure, with her other clients. I must drive her nuts. I’m sure she thinks I’ve got a one-track mind. She’d be right. But enough of my endless argument with Amber. I meant to start journaling earlier. Getting late, and I’m sleepy. I saw your face in a dream the other day, looking like you did the day we got married. I can’t wait to see you again, hug you again, kiss you again, make love to you. Like I always told you while we were together, you’re my heart in the world. That world is gone, and with it my heart. Until you come back to me, I live here without that part of my heart that you carried with you. I told you then I’d always love you. I wasn’t kidding. So where are you, my love? Where are you?

Well Isn’t This Just Peachy

So the last thing I remember is hitting the windshield. I shit you not. Right into the windshield, face first, and didn’t that just hurt like an S.O.B.  Why does crap like this always happen to me? So I wasn’t wearing my seat belt – that’s what air bags are for! This is just my crummy luck. And this is a good shirt, dammit. This is Sea Island cotton. You don’t get this shirt off the rack. I had this made for me by an Italian tailor, mother of pearl buttons, bespoke stitching, the whole nine yards.

That blood is never gonna come out.

I walked for hours after it happened but whenever I looked back it seemed like I could still see my car, lying in the middle of Route 50, out there smack in the middle of the desert. Smoke billowing out of what’s left of the wreck, thick black clouds rising into the air and some part of me knows I’m lucky to be alive. I survived. That’s got to count for something.

But something’s really off about this place.  It’s not like any hospital I’ve ever been in. It’s so quiet, for one thing. Nobody shouting over the intercom. No beeps or alarms. It’s so peaceful. I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here – there don’t seem to be any clocks in this place – and it occurs to me, you’re damn right it’s occurred to me, that maybe this isn’t a hospital at all. Maybe I’m in the morgue. Yeah, maybe I’m dead before I even hit the big time. Story of my life.

And there’s this guy, this old guy, bald as an egg, ancient-looking, like he’s a hundred years old if he’s a day. Wearing corduroys and a white t-shirt and one of those Members Only jackets. Burgundy, if you can believe it. He asked me how I was. “How you doing, Ash?” I don’t know how he knew that’s what everybody calls me. “Anything I can getcha?” Old geezer talks like he spent his life hanging around some of the tougher parts of Philly, getting into bar fights and drinking himself silly. Am I supposed to know who he is? Your Honor, may I approach the bench?

How am I doing? How the hell do you think, Gandalf? For this I spent ten years in college? Am I schmuck, or what?

 

Day 27: Done with Jumping, She Gets Her Sea Legs

Day 27; 2nd entry

I think it’s my second day here, if indeed the periods of time between light and dark are a full day.  I seemed to have arrived here without a watch. And no earrings. I am without my jewelry armor and feel totally naked. Heck, my ears aren’t pierced anymore, and my tattoos are gone. I don’t know who I am without them.

To catch up: We walked out of the Resurrectory and through a park to get to my new digs. What a novelty to walk straight, not limping…to hear sounds of a real world instead of that damned constant ringing in my ears.  The conversations of other people walking this way and that, I could hear them. Leaves in the wind, birds tittering: I could hear them. Being partially deaf in the outside world had seemed so disconnected, living in some nebulous reality where I didn’t belong and the programs weren’t close-captioned.

And let’s not mention how embarrassing it is when someone speaks to you and you can’t hear him or her clearly. Your brain fills in the blanks with words that are not just incorrect but solidly surreal. Most of the time what you hear is hilarious, such as “Let me pumpkin lick you” instead of “Let me pump the gas for you.” Laughing is a hugely wrong idea in some circumstances. Such as a friend’s funeral or when listening to your priest’s sermon.

Here I am, part of it again. All the information out there is loud and clear, and again I am part of something bigger than me, more important than me alone. I am not a child, I am adult who hears as she did when she was a child. My world isn’t that silent envelope I was living in. There’s power in hearing sound.

I had the sudden urge to find an ice-cream vendor and buy a cone but as we walked, no vendors to be seen. A lot of people, though; we all were walking. No bikes, no motorcycles or cars: all walked. Most were like me, just regular people with regular faces, and quite a few were accompanied by someone like Belle, someone who glowed a little. They glow with music to them, music that is not heard but had an effect nonetheless. In comparison, the other people–I must remember to call us Bios–were colored dully. I looked down at my hands, waving them back and forth like a hula dancer. Yes, they were my hands, but compared to Belle, my hands were insignificant.

“Nothing about you is insignificant, Sarah.” She could hear my thoughts?

“Oh, you don’t know me that well yet.”

“Perhaps I know you better than you think?” She paused, glanced around, and glided to a park bench.

“Doubtful. Nobody really knows me.” She patted on the bench next to her, a universal sign of join-me-we-need-to-talk-seriously, and I sat.

“Someone does.” I sat, wondering who she was referring to and  if that glow she had emitted heat. I didn’t feel any.

“Someone does, huh? I give…who?” I was so very careful to hide the ugliness inside me, the hate, the desire to hurt as I’d been hurt. Make a joke and walk away when someone gets too close, the best advice my brother ever gave me. Don’t let the suckers see you sweat.

“Someone who loves you.” Belle shimmered brighter, bright enough even to cast small shadows behind the bench.

What a crock. Some divine being, presumably the God I was introduced to in Sunday school, grabs me when I commit suicide, whooshes me away from sweet oblivion, kills all the pain in my soul, then I find out it was because of love. What a cheap word, love. Easy to say but not to mean.

I got distracted; a tiny seed of hopelessness pinged into my head from no-where and made my stomach contract. In the presence of love I feel unlovable. The image of ice cream came back. Maybe I was hungry. Food works to drive away hopelessness, at least for a little while.

“Here,” Belle reached off to the side and an ice cream cone appeared in her hand. “Bet this is the best pistachio you’ve ever had.”

I accept what she offers and have to agree, damn good ice cream for sure. Just cold enough but not too cold, creamy but not cloyingly creamy. Far better than the Howard Johnson’s of my youth, even better than the designer label stuff I’d buy when the hopelessness threatened to take over.

“Good stuff, real good. Thanks.” Even the smell of cold felt good. We sat in silence as I lapped at the cone. After the first few licks, the flavor was fading fast, too fast. Far too fast. I suppose I wasn’t surprised.

Suddenly I didn’t want it anymore. The empty spot in me was still empty, and the ice cream began to taste chalky, like ice cream that has thawed and refrozen. The desire for ice cream was gone, poof, and my normal compulsion to eat anything I could get my hands on evaporated.

I glanced around, looking for a trash barrel. That last lick tasted like garbage, or what I imagined garbage to taste like. Belle took the cone from my hand, turned away, and then came back empty handed.

“That was earthly love. Delicious at the beginning, but the flavor does, sadly, fade.” She reached into the air again, bringing out of nowhere another cone. You could see the flavor, you could almost hear the cone.

“This, dear Sarah, is another love.” She handed it to me.

The weight was light, the texture of the cone crisp to the touch, and the smell of the cold…ah, this was a sweetly creamy cold. The freezer we had when I was a child smelled like this; I’d sneak down to the basement where it was kept, would open the lid and literally bathe in the fragrance. I took a tentative lap.

There was color on my tongue, green and sharp like nuts. There was the sound of creaminess that tickled my ears. One lap and I was full, satisfied, sure I needed no more. This was enough. I needed nothing else.

My face must have betrayed what my mouth, tongue and ears were tasting and feeling.

“This is the love of a father for a treasured child, Sarah. This love knows every cell of that child, every thought both good and bad.”

“This is the love of God, Sarah. You are that treasured child.”

When had I started crying? Tears leaked down my cheeks, then jaw, then neck. I hate crying in public. I hate crying in private, for that matter. The flavor in my mouth and ears overwhelmed the saltiness of my tears. The emptiness was filled by that complete flavor, making me feel whole and solid. No chinks of disappointment or shards of anger, no void of loneliness.

I understood on an intellectual level, which should be enough to shut down the water works, but still couldn’t stop: no sobs or moans, just silent tears running down my face. For the first time since I’d woken up, I began to feel pain; the empty spot in my soul had been filled, was whole, solid, but nonetheless there was pain.

Belle sat quietly, not touching me to comfort or console; the sense of her presence was soothing enough.

“I understand but I don’t understand,” I said in a tear-choked voice, my throat thick. “Why am I crying? Why am I in pain?”

“Growing hurts. Realization hurts.” She stood up and glanced down into my wet eyes. “The hurt is the storm in your soul, a storm of loss and doubt.” She reached into an unseen pocket and handed me a handkerchief, a large one suited for a man.

“Sorry, but this is all I have. Just like you, it is more than it appears to be.”

I took the white rectangle, shook it out to its full size, and dabbed at each eye in turn. The handkerchief smelled of starch and ironing.

“If I’m so treasured, why…”

“Because you have to realize that love is of the Father. It is constant, contingent only on whether you will accept it.”

“My dad loved me, I think. I don’t know, I don’t remember.”

“He did, and perhaps the love of the Father is a little like that. But it is more. One is like a grain of sand: part of the beach. The other, the love of the Father, is the entire beach.”

It made sense, sort of. I shook my head to get the remaining threads of misunderstanding shaken out and they fell away, leaving that lovely flavor which colored my thoughts like pearls, made my consciousness shine. Shine, yes that’s it. My soul was shining, finally free of the muck and mire of years of hurt and self-doubt.

I suddenly wanted to run, climb trees, let the light inside me spill out and give everyone the flavor of what I’d found. I jumped to my feet, and Belle put her hand on my arm before I could bolt away.

“You have always wanted it all at once, all the knowledge, all the understanding. Be patient, it will all be revealed, but only revealed a little at a time.”

Belle tugged gently and I moved with her.

“Come on. Let’s get settled first, then we’ll see what’s what.” She indicated a path to the left, and we walked silently from the bench toward a tall, pale building rising into the sky. I made a last swipe of my cheeks with the handkerchief and offered it back to her.

“No, you need to keep that, to remind you that you are loved and lovable.”

Nodding, I followed her toward the tall building, folding the square to fit in my jeans pocket. My first real possession, other than my clothes. A square of finely woven cotton, soaked with my tears. Other possessions didn’t matter.

 

Well, that catches this journal up until this moment. No, I lied.

Belle led me to and into the building, gliding. We climbed stairs, many flights of stairs. When was the last time I made it up a flight of steps? Didn’t matter. Up we went until we reached a door marked with what appeared to be a series of runes or squiggles. Understanding what they meant seemed to be right on the edge of my consciousness, teasing it.

“Oh, you’ll be able to read, in time. Don’t fret.”

 

She led me to a wooden door, one of many ranging down the long corridor. It opened without a key, and we stepped in.

Simple, clean lines, but everything was balanced. Just the right number of flowers in a vase on the table. Some books, but not too many. Pictures, just enough but not overwhelming, on the walls that were a curious shade of blue. I could see a door off to one side and a huge window that let in light, enormous light.

Belle reached to a shelf and took a book from the middle of a group.

“Read this tonight. Tomorrow we’ll discuss any questions. I need to be elsewhere right now.”

I took the books, blinked, and she was gone. But I didn’t truly feel alone.

 

Day 29: Reese’s Journal Entry 4: Little India

Day 29: Reese’s Journal Entry 4: Little India

I’m writing this real quick while I’m on the interurban, not in my usual journal. Just to give us translators some perspective, they’re sending me on a field trip today. There is a section of 1920 with people from the Indian subcontinent, 1920-alpha. (There’s also one with people from Africa and another from Southeast Asia, and a few more but I don’t remember exactly what they said in the meeting.) This regional subdivision idea is a smaller-scale version of the bit on the back of the pamphlet that asked if we speak Babylonian: even if we had a translator device in our ears, the cultural differences would be unbridgeable. In fact, there’s a section of the 1920 timeline that is so “distant” culturally it has their own sub-Region of 1920: We call it “1920 M” with “M” standing for Mecca. I won’t be going there. Not all Muslims go there, either.

Even within connected regions, as people rub elbows in ways they didn’t before, their lives change. What’s kind of fun is that as you travel within the region, there are blends between the different architectures. You can watch the building styles change when you ride the interurban line between towns. One of the riders called the region I’m going to today “Little India,” but that makes it sound like some low rent district outside the zone of the upper “Euro-American” classes, but it’s not. But I was told to expect to be surprised. I’m to meet a Zoë named Arjun, who will be my guide.

*

I’m back home. I’ve transferred everything to my official Journal.

It was quite an exhilarating experience. God, I’ll miss the food in Little India. Everything here is dull by comparison. I jokingly asked Arjun if anyone was going to open an Indian restaurant in New Harmony soon, and my question was taken seriously.

One thing I realized was that our section of 1920 shares some traits with 1920-a more than it does the world that was in the American Midwest. It hadn’t dawned on me that in New Harmony, there are none of the big-box retailers we were used to dealing with. Just as there are no 50’ semi-rigs, the distribution system can’t support centralized retailing. And since there’s no monetary gain to be made from that kind of consolidation, New Harmony is more like my own childhood Midwest, which still had a lot of Mom & Pop retail stores and grocery stores. It took going to Little India (apparently it’s a term of endearment there, a reminder that there are many more people from the India that was who will be waking up in their resurrectorium) to bring to mind the differences.

Arjun had me start by going to the Ashram of Jesus Purusha. There I got an interfaith lecture on the oneness of God and how God is revealed in the Vedas. The teacher, Father Davies, assumed a lot of knowledge on my part of Christian theology and scripture and he went so fast I didn’t have a chance to tell him I was as much a newcomer to Christianity as most Hindus were. From there I met with a Brahmin acharya, a teacher, named Krishna Tatacharya for a whirlwind introduction to the ancient faiths of India collectively known as Hinduism.

What I got from Fr. Davies was that the universality of the Resurrection of the Dead is not an afterthought, but something that was foundational, and that it wasn’t only the Hebrew and Christian writings that testified to that foundation. Krishna Tatacharya knows Fr. Davies and says he is excited to return to his scriptures, the Vedas, to find the Purusha.

Oh. The Purusha was referred to in some of the oldest Vedas as the man who was slain and hung on a tree at the foundation of the cosmos (before humans were created), whose devotees drank his blood and ate his flesh. The parallels to the message Jesus gave at the last supper and some of the writings in the Gospel of John were astounding.

Well, that’s it. If I think my job as translator is tough, I just remember the job Zoës like Arjun and the Bios that work with her like Fr. Davies and Krishna Tatacharya have in translating the concepts in the Vedas and the many gods into the Resurrection and the one God. I can tell you that neither man sees his job as destroying a faith or replacing one faith with another so much as learning and imparting how each faith points to the other. The Immanent God is what they call him there. Christmas carols talk about this Immanent God as Immanuel, the God Who Dwells with Us.

Day 96 Wayne’s Journal 8: Edward Has a Theory

Not much had been happening since my last post, so I left off journaling. But I was between jobs again and was working New Harmony Gardens, and today, I finally met Edward. He was and wasn’t what I expected. He’s… I hate to use the word petite, but he’s a short slim guy, and like a lot of guys smaller than normal, he’s a live wire. And he’s clearly an operator. That comes off right away. He’s the kind of guy you want on your negotiating team when you’re talking to those hard-headed Swiss or the Chinese, who are more dangerous as Capitalists than they ever were as Communists. But Edward’s also not the kind of guy you want on your team if you don’t have the time to keep tabs on him. Otherwise you’ll find out the hard way he’s gone over to the other side. Any other side will do with a guy like that, as long as what’s in it for him is more than what you’re offering.

I asked him if he knew about Reese’s Möbius-town experience.

“Oh, yeah. I expected that. Divide and conquer and all that.”

“We can travel to other parts of the region,” I said.

“Maybe this is all there is,” he replied. “We only have their word in it.”

“So you don’t trust them?”

“Trust them?” He snorted his distaste. “I know what they say about themselves in that pamphlet. Life of God and all that. I know what a pamphlet like that is for. I used pamphlets to sell time-shares in Florida. But there weren’t any time shares, get it? Only the addresses were real — shitty swampland real or abandoned sink-hole–land real. No, believe you me there’s something else going on here. I don’t want to say just yet what it is, but I have my theories. All I’ll say right now is ‘look up.’ Look up at the night sky.”

Arjun was watching the whole exchange.

Day 72 Wayne’s Journal 6: What Reese Said

I signed up for garden duty today, again. Edward wasn’t there, nor was Arjun. I don’t think any of the Zoës were there. It’s not like they always have a Zoë with us, as if the Zoës were guards. It’s more like we’re kids on a field trip and there has to be a teacher with us at all times. Unless there isn’t one. Like today. Today it felt more like we were grownups.

I talked to a guy named Reese today, and he had a similar attitude. He described it like being on probation. We had to get permission to go to the other regions, he said. We do not have freedom of movement. When he put it that way, it bothered me. He said he found out the hard way. This place is set up like a Möbius strip. Try walking due east to the next region and you’ll find yourself back where you started.

When he said that, it made me uncomfortable. I felt trapped. I travelled a lot in the world that was. Germany. China. Switzerland. The idea of being forbidden to travel smacked of totalitarianism. My Cousin George fought Communists in Korea. My wife’s mother almost got stuck in Nazi Germany. For my own part, I will always remember the Berlin Wall. Restricting travel is the first thing a totalitarian regime does.

But until I talked to Reese, it never felt like that kind of place. Then I remembered, there is more than one kind of tyranny. There’s 1984, and there’s Brave New World. Until my conversation with Reese, I hadn’t seen that the Zoës could be guards instead of guides. Or both. Maybe they’re the den mothers of our Cub Scout pack.

Day 37: Wayne’s Journal 5: Edward’s Zoë

I’m looking at that last entry. To say “that was my mistake,” taking the homeless people for granted, was the only reason I awoke a Bios and not a Zoë suggests that it was…well that it was just the one mistake. Hardly. It represented an attitude. My arms-length attitude toward the homeless was part of an arms-length attitude toward everything but success, but money. I guess the first divorce did hurt a bit, but after that relationships were cool. Lots of people live like that, I know. It’s actually harder not to. Still, whatever the reason, and that includes the really good ones, people have to cut themselves off from other people, especially the ones who are hurting, it cuts us off from other people.

The hay baling gig didn’t last long, so Arjun and I are casting about for something else that suits my talents yet fits the new world. I’m not worried about finding something. Making the best of my opportunities was something Papa Bailey taught me well. Meanwhile, the community garden is always taking volunteers.

In some ways, good ways, I’m rediscovering things I lost. Simple things, like being able to enjoy clouds, to see shapes in them, watch them float overhead dipping us into cool shadow. That was one of the things Mom and I liked to do in the Commune, stare at clouds. I was working in the New Harmony Gardens when a cloud that looked like an old lady in a rocking chair floated overhead. I said aloud what I thought the cloud looked like (it had just stopped raining and the sun was coming out), then someone spotted her dancing dog and so other people stopped working and before long we were all just looking at the clouds, naming what we saw. Even the Zoës among us.

That was the first time I saw them like that. The Zoës. They’re usually quite distant from us. Quiet. Sort of like they were monks under a vow of ‘don’t talk if you don’t have to.’ I’ve never seen them at the dances or anything. Only once in a while do I see a Zoë smile. I asked Arjun about that one day. He seemed surprised. Then he denied they were like that, then said perhaps I was right.

“Got a lot on your mind?” I asked him.

“You could say that. Perhaps we take our role as guides too seriously. I enjoyed the clouds today. I talked about it with Amber, and she said she had not had that kind of fun in a while.”

Then he went silent for a while, and I asked him what he was thinking about. He said he was thinking about a man named Edward. Arjun is Edward’s Zoë, and Edward was in the garden today and said something that has Arjun worried. Or concerned at least. It isn’t like a Zoë to worry. Ask one if they’re worrying about something and they’ll tell you God will take care of things. I can imagine a Zoë would say that if a tsunami was rolling at him. But even if he might deny worrying, I can see Arjun is worried about Edward.

I’ve never talked with Edward, so I’m curious about why Arjun is worried about him. Frankly, this Edward sounds like an interesting guy in a vanilla world. Perhaps tomorrow.

Day 73 Wayne’s Journal 7: Ambivalence

I asked Arjun about what Reese said. I told him travel restrictions make me uncomfortable. He reminded me that we were free to travel anywhere within our region. And he pointedly reminded me that there was an interurban train between every town in the region.

“And what about the railroad between regions?” I asked. “Who gets to ride on that? Zoës don’t need it. You guys can…you know, pop in and out like ghosts.” I could see he was upset with that last crack. A place to put leverage had just opened up.

“Many of us prefer it,” he said. “And there are goods between regions.”

“All I’m saying is that there’s disaffection. Maybe not anything people even say, but it’s on their minds, like it was mine, waiting for someone to point it out to them. Why not let us go there and see it for ourselves?”

“It would be like seeing the future.”

“Well, then maybe the other Region. 1819. We could go there.”

“It would be like them seeing their future.”

“Send a representative. Go there and report on it for us.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re curious.”

“When did you become curious? You’ve been here 73 days and only yesterday do you become curious? Who put this on your heart?”

“Never mind,” I said. I could see he wouldn’t agree. And he was right that until someone told me, I didn’t much care. But that’s the way of things, isn’t it? Everyone thinks like us until we find out otherwise. Maybe no one else is curious.