It started as a coming-of-age story, set in a university of buildings of cobblestone with a prestigious and arrogant presence. This particular man-boy was no ordinary one. The story started as most of these stories do:
He had a different life than the others; one they didn’t or could never know, and so, it was one they didn’t (and didn’t want to) understand. He worked nights at a nearby motel with his only friend, a large girl with facial piercings, beautiful hair and second-hand clothes. They were both maids. Pushing cleaning carts in their cyan-green uniforms (a poorly-enforced code with which they took liberties), they would often talk about their day, their hopes, the people they knew as they drank cheap hard alcohol hidden in some of the plastic containers.
Silver dazzled in the sputtering fluorescent light as a turquoise stone swung on the end of the long sterling silver wire. With every step, the turquoise peeked out from behind his thick, black curls. “I had to defend my jewelry today again,” he said as he took a swig.
Conversation happened, but was a bit more strained than usual. When things ‘got weird’ between them, the ritual to take the edge off was to inhabit an empty room for half an hour. They’d drink some more and talk, but use the room as a contained area, like a confessional or secrets’ box. Tonight they got into the double bed and sat upright, passing the plastic bottle between them. After some drinks he lied down and positioned his body to face the window as she started to speak. She felt distant from him, like he wasn’t telling her as much as he had in their past. She wanted to be closer; she wanted it to be like old times. Didn’t he trust her anymore? Pause. Or was there something else? He didn’t provide answers or assuage her fears; he remained quiet and motionless. He didn’t turn as she placed her hand on his shoulder. A shiny film of drool reflecting the stale orange lights from outside pooled on his pillow. She sighed in disappointment.
“I know y’all gonna change those sheets now before I get back with some ice,” said a strained deep voice from the door.
In her focus, she must not have heard the door open. She was greeted with an impatient stance from a tall, muscular body with a loud mini skirt and halter stretched across it. Long, red nails were being tapped on the door frame while hair extensions almost broke free from the headband as s/he shook her head in chiding. The queen’s eyes met the young girl’s as a righteous finger shook in the air.
“Wake that little boy up and get him outta my bed. Y’all two are lucky I aint tellin yo manager.” The queen huffed and made a small scene as she walked quickly down the hall.
The girl sighed again.
The movie cut to the next scene in school. In these scenes I began to transition into the man-boy’s place. Two things occurred, but I cannot remember their order. I’ll start with what I feel may have been first: The House (again, The House always comes before the critters).
He/I had cut school that afternoon. I slipped out while everyone was talking and eating lunch outside. My friend was still inside somewhere, and she was likely annoyed and still wanting to talk. I took the opportunity to get on my scooter and leave campus; no one else would know I was gone. It only took me about ten minutes to get to the city limits. I exited the city and followed a sense of urgency. The expedition was unplanned; I had neither a map nor supplies. Structure fell away once outside the city. Traffic lights were few and far between. Stretches of road were long and winding. Businesses were mostly long closed down or nearly empty. The air was fresh but buzzing in a different way than it does within the city walls, untainted by human thoughts. I traveled through rolling hills of green like an ocean swim.
And then I arrived. A small corridor between two stone walls overgrown with ivy was my way in. I parked my bike outside and slid between the walls. At the end, acres of land opened before me. This looked like a private estate. The lawn was well maintained and saturated green. A garden wrapped itself enchantingly around some small houses and sheds. Paths seemed to spring up right under my feet, and they led me to a hole in a wall, an empty stable and a tiny, furnished house. All of these were overgrown with ivy or honeysuckle. Looking through the hole in the wall, I saw more land of the same, with gardens and greenery and fruit. Though it may not have seemed so special, I found it difficult to avert my eyes. They felt stuck on the scene. Slowly a dewy haze crept in from my peripheral vision. I heard music on the wind and melodic voices singing.
If it was not for the raucous in the stable beside me, I would probably still be staring down that hole. I literally jumped at the loud noise, like a stable door being slammed shut. When I looked though, nothing in or around the stable seemed to have moved. I almost loss my balance as I examined the stable. I grabbed my head as it began to ring. With one hand on my head and the other out in front of me, I stumbled away from the wall with the hole, the tiny house and the full-sized stable. Walking back the way I came in, I saw some things I did not notice upon first gaze. So strange that I missed a large tan sign claiming this was an estate and the gigantic House many yards away. Unfortunately, my distorted vision did not allow me to read the name or address on the sign. An old man’s voice came out of nowhere, followed be his very presence next to me. His image was blurred, but I take it he was the grounds’ keeper. The House looked well-kept and full of life until the man touched me. My thoughts raced with him through a gutted-out House that barely stood except for its pretentious façade. I pulled myself free of his grip and charged to the corridor between the walls.
As I was running from The House a wind kicked up suddenly from the opposite direction that I was running. In a strange daze of pain and disorientation, I began to panic at this manifestation. If this was a magic land, well, then I’d fight back with its own rules. I called for my broom to come save me. My Will guided it right to my hands. I jumped aboard and blasted off to the walls. The House, angry with my attempt, gained gravity to distort space. I felt myself being pulled in by its force. To answer its threat, I shrunk myself and dissipated to avoid its gravitic grip. It seemed to shriek as the sky began to crumble, but I had made it to the walls.
My head pain was its worst just before entering the walls. As soon as I managed to slide myself in, I recombined into myself and the pain and ringing dimmed as my vision cleared. I stayed between the safety of the walls and rested until I felt more sober and in control. Looking back toward the estate, I could see none of what I had just experienced; it was just a wash of trees and green.
I fled back to the university on my scooter, eager for some normalcy of everyday life. My parking spot was still free so I took it. The face of the clock read a time that was virtually no longer than my scooter ride within the city limits; I was not even late for my next class, which happened to be “Wellness” (the college cop-out name for gym). I hadn’t been able to change so I showed up in my suit. The instructor made me play basket ball regardless. We had numerous courts, all on the lower floor of the gym. The design was such that a running platform was above the court and stairwells were at either side of the court leading up to the running track. I was on the stairwell when the instructor winged the ball in my direction. I caught it, but the instructor’s impatience and distaste was more than apparent.
My reaction was just that: a reaction. Without thinking, I shot the ball at the wall opposing him with the same gusto. The echo was like the thunder of Zeus announcing his displeasure. My plans to stare down the instructor were foiled by distraction. I heard two balls fall from the wall, one right after another. This anomaly immediately got my attention; a human vendetta was small potatoes compared to physics gone awry in the “real” world.
Indeed there were two balls on the floor, but neither of them was a basketball. They were about the size of one, but one was white and the other was black, and they both seemed to be growing. The balls unfolded into two creatures that stood about 10 feet high. They were both bipedal and had bodies similar in structure to humans. They were sexless and their appendages were malleable, morphing from arms and hands with opposable thumbs to tentacles to robotic cylinders with claws or clasps. Their faces were different, but both animal-like. Though these animals represented were no animals found on earth, the best likeness my human mind could grasp was a rabbit for the white one and a horse for the black one. They both greeted me and telepathically introduced themselves. The white one was Odds and the black one was Ends. They huffed and blew some smoke as their eyes began to twirl and flash. A speech seemed to be eminent, but was cut short by a ball that made contact with my head. They dissolved into the air and seemed to traffic back to the hands and face of the clock, with Odds filling the spaces of the faces and Ends bleeding back into the hands and numbers.
To be continued…
I found myself at a retail warehouse – some strange mix of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Best Buy. At first, I could not distinguish myself from some of the shoppers I saw: the newly-wed couple, the lone intellectual, the overly enthusiastic child, the exhausted mother, the care-free bachelor, and the malcontent teenagers. They were all there, and I grappled to figure out who I was this time around. Or was I the disembodied Watcher again?
No. The Salesman could see me. As I found my body and my orientation, I felt his eyes already on me, as if he had been watching since the second I entered this dreamscape. He was an attractive man of somewhere around 30 years. His skin tone and hair color hinted at a lineage descended from desert-faring people. Immobile he stood, with his hands held behind his back while his eyes interrogated my presence. Eyes just like a gun, with all the world in his cross-hairs; he was not of this world common to the shoppers. But, then again, neither was I so it seemed.
As shoppers approached him with questions, he morphed into a dozen different people. Each one was tailored to the customer’s tastes, and he always got the sale. I watched through the newly-wed couples’ eyes as he saw an attractive young woman addressing the novelty and fun found in the item while she saw a warm, mild-mannered man appealing to her sensibility and frugality. He herded them from one aisle to another and finally, to the checkout. In my examination of the Salesman, I ignored the customers as much as they seemed not to see me.
Outside the warehouse was an unremarkable desert that felt like a hole in the world. I could hear and feel the wind, but strangely, it seemed not to move anywhere: no origin and no destination. The Salesman appeared behind me, and assumed the same stance as before. His eyes spun through several colors and shapes. We stood in silence, glaring at each other. Neither of us were looking for answers or explanations; we seemed beyond the point of interrogation, now into the phase of silent accusations. Was I the Accused or the Accuser? Did (does) it, would (will) it, should (who cares about “shoulding” anyway) it really matter?
Nothing happened in the desert. We eventually walked off in the same direction, not together, but not completely apart from one another.
We entered the old house turned base. Those we knew were inside doing whatever it is they do. It was something important to them, some political activist activity or some kind of “rebellion.” It was of little importance to both the Salesman and myself, though, everyone else seemed unaware of our disinterest. They spoke to us as if we were thick as thieves and blood brothers. Perhaps that is how they saw us. Truth be told, the Salesman and I were far “closer” in those ways than either of us with any of them. They were of the world of shoppers; that very great fact immediately places galaxies between us. Whereas the Salesman and I- we were two of a Kind.
The activists continued on with their activities, speaking nonsense words to us. We sat in opposing chairs and communicated via eyes. I knew my eyes were much like his own. The flickers of information and subtle changes went unrecognized by those of this world; our eye changes were above (or below) and beyond their perception range. The activists probably were consciously unaware of the effects of our exchange, but within minutes, the base became silent and still. No one asked aloud if anything was wrong, but they gradually gathered close to us. Some sat behind the Salesman and some sat behind me.
Stories were told through the movement of gas molecules, but no one spoke a word. Images of the desert were transmitted and imprinted in the air. There was a boy that looked very much like the Salesman, only he was about fifteen years his junior and of the world of shoppers. He was not as quick, clever or confident as the Salesman (his idol and role model), but he would never admit these things to anyone except in prostration to the Salesman.
This boy set out into the desert on a mission. My side did not know his mission, but we had hints about his mindset. He carried a messenger bag full of unknowns. It felt like weapons that lacked conviction, and I knew the boy lacked expertise. Perhaps a gun with blanks or perhaps a knife he would wield unconvincingly. Images were choppy, like a reel that has been edited or spliced. In the desert he found some men and he found some women. He passed by the men, making eye contact but no threats. With the women, he would attempt flirtation. The ones that returned the flirtation made him sweat. If they giggled, he would sweat some more. If he construed the giggling for ridicule, out came the gun. He would command them to kneel and place their hands behind their head. Many would cry and beg for mercy, which would empty out his eyes while searchlights flooded his mind. He prayed for the Salesman to guide him, constructing His image in his mind. Then the Salesman slipped into his body. During this time, the boy had no recollection of the actions taken. He would return to himself as the women walked away, unharmed, without a care and sometimes even in high spirits. He would torture himself with attempts to remember the details, but the Salesman requested that he be content without the memories.
This cycle repeated many times on many days of many months to years. Before grabbing the gun and turning it on a woman, the boy told himself that he would go through the motions himself. Whatever it was he was doing, he would be the one to do it. He would remember. The Salesman would take pity on his condition and allow him. Or else he would rebel against the Salesman and reclaim his body and mind. But time and time again, the Salesman would appear in his mind, calm the boy and disarm him. The boy would retreat and feel safe and warm as he drifted to sleep.
There was one time when the boy awoke while he was still holding a gun to a woman. He had recollection of him/the Salesman ordering the woman to praise aloud Ha-Li (THE Godform). This particular woman refused; she was the first to do so. The boy panicked. He consciousness fled in and out. The name of Ha-Li was used in vain and blasphemed. Were there gunshots? It was difficult to know. Suddenly, the woman disappeared from the images. The boy walked back to the base like a zombie in sweat-soaked clothes and an empty messenger bag.
His body tumbled into the room, startling those immersed in the mind-movie-story. Both the Salesman and I watched him; neither of us moved from our chairs. He shouted at both of us- words of hatred, pain, remorse, renunciation, and accusation that bled from disillusionment and delusions. He waved a key in the air in a triumphant defiance that neither of us quite understood. He said he would enter The Room of God, and that neither of us could stop him or dissuade him. We could not go with him, he stated; he proclaimed that he knew we were of the Damned. If we were of his world, perhaps we would fear for him or attempt to stop him from opening that door with the silly key he waved around.
The door was a plain one with chipped white paint and an old handle that rusted over a bit. It was on one wall of the house/base. Nothing else was kept on this wall; the wall had a way of rejecting wall hangings. It broke mirrors and absorbed any ink or paint so it was always a bare, plain, old, white wall. From the outside of the house, there looked to be a sun room on the other side of the door. It was constructed of white boards and columns that held the unbreakable glass in place. We could see the other side of the door through the glass from the outside. Nothing was in the room, which was all the better considering anything under glass in hot dessert sun would bake.
The boy took off his shirt and went into one of the bedrooms to change into a new pair of pants and a gray, zip-up hoodie that he left open. The Salesman and I saw him in white robes in flashes as he moved from the bedroom to the door. He shouted some more nonsense and then grandly unlocked the door. The activists were shocked that they key worked. They backed away. It seemed that even the boy was shocked that he had found the one, magical, working key. He was awestruck and regarded the inside of the room with much trepidation. We smelled the fear wick off him and heard his heart beat like a jackhammer. He molded his face to something he thought to be impressive and victorious as he turned to the activists in his sorry facade.
He lifted his foot to step inside and no sooner than he made the motion did the room respond by sucking him in as if he had opened a vacuum. The activists did not see this, though. To them, he had merely stepped inside as light spilled at his feet, and the door clicked shut behind him.
The Salesman and I met him inside, as one merged entity, through projection, as the flesh remained outside the door, and half of our minds entertained the activists’ questions. We questioned him on how it felt to be in The Room of God. He was unregulated. His sense of time and self kept fragmenting and reconstituting in what may be considered fractions of seconds. His articulation fell away from him as symbols and words ceased to make sense. He paced and bounced around the room while simultaneously melting or solidifying into what might be described as “the floor.” His spirit was in agony as he struggled against dissolution. Two simultaneous visions: one of the bare, white room and one of Space, phased in and out for him. They collided and melted into each other. He could not make sense or hold onto to either.
The activists had ran outside to find out whether they could see him in the room or not. Some were shocked to see that he wasn’t there at all, while others were saddened or terrified to see him in such a degraded, raging or self-mutilating state. They fought over the reality.
“He’s dead in the corner!”
“What?! No, he isn’t. He’s inside beating his hands to a pulp against the wall.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t see him.”
“You don’t see him because he’s not there in the room at all.”
“What are you, blind? He’s catatonic and drooling on himself.”
“Oh, I thought he was just asleep.”
“Where? I still don’t see him.”
“Maybe he’s hiding?”
“He’ll be cooked to death in there…”
In any vision, they all agreed on one thing: It must have been the wrong key.
The much overlooked essentials (besides the obvious):
Tea lights – Having these little blessings around can easily transform the ordinary to enchanting, romantic, or peaceful in minutes. A bag of 50 usually costs no more than $10 (scented or unscented), and they last for weeks to months, depending on use. Plenty of occasions call for warm lighting and gentle atmosphere. They add ambiance to dinner, softness to bathing rituals, and intimacy to conversation. And, hey, they’re a light source. (Note: matches or a lighter are an implied essential here as well.)
Cards – Whether with company or alone, having these portable, lightweight, cardboard rectangles can be a lifesaver. When minds need to be sparked with a game, mental steam needs to release or boredom needs to be broken, cards can make the passing time easier, smoother or funner.
Pen and paper – Creation can happen anytime, anywhere. The Muses don’t necessarily wait, and Murphy’s Law will ensure that fleeting inspirations remain fleeting.
Thrift Stores – Local, that is. A treasure trove of nostalgia and an invitation for re-invention. Sometimes you don’t know the perfect piece for a room until you see it, and sometimes the trends lack heart.
Herbs and Spices – Anything from commonplace salt and pepper to fresh rosemary from the garden, crystallized ginger or well, you name it. A kitchen cupboard without spices has no personality. Sometimes the “dash of __” makes all the difference. Plus, spices are simple ingredients to revisit and modify old recipes. Some even have some healing quality.
The Comfy Blanket – Everyone needs the ability to pick up and wrap themselves in comfort whenever they please. Society doesn’t think much of adults with Teddy Bears, but a comfy-enough blanket, robe or pajamas serves the purpose pretty well.The blanket is also handy to have in the car, in case of roadside sleep emergencies or cold emergencies.
Bandana – It can act as a handkerchief, a washcloth, small towelette, temporary bandage, tiny bag, head-wear, tourniquet, or fashion accent. How is that not perfect?