Time Travelers: the Gray Man and the Black-haired Woman (of thousand more faces)
First, your soundtrack:
My brothers and I arrived at the park about two hours before sunset. The vehicle that delivered us was a strange mix of a hippie van and a school bus. It felt like we were returning from a field trip or sporting event, yet we were dressed in suits and professional duds. We were all itching to get in some exercise at the park before sunset, maybe run a couple trails and do the circuit work-outs. All of us changed as quickly as possible at different ends of the van/bus. Some little fleshy dragons that could be mistaken for insects if one didn’t look closely enough kept flying in the window near me. They were cute and distracting, but they quickly became annoying as they insisted on buzzing around my head or landing on me. Some of them would bite or spit fire so I shooed them out the window several times. Once they were all out, I closed and locked the back window. Peering out, I saw our driver for the first time.
He was a small, thin, pale man, dressed in grays and blacks. A baseball cap covered his bald head, and the chains hanging from his wallet jangled as he walked. He looked at me through the smoke escaping his mouth with other-worldly, luminescent, steel-gray eyes. Storm clouds rolled in him and imps sought to escape his skin. Before becoming too transfixed, my brothers called for me to finish getting ready. I nodded and put on my sneakers. As I was tying them, the driver walked over to the front of the van/bus, a fresh cigarette hanging from his mouth. He began to bullshit with my brothers. As he talked with them, the sky changed rapidly. The sun quickly dropped closer to the horizon. The driver made eye contact with me before walking outside again. The numbers on the clock had jumped 30 minutes in their three-minute conversation.
My brothers shook their heads, as if they had water in their ears that they were trying to dislodge. I made my way to the front of the bus. A Brief History of Time, constellation maps and the Beastie Boys’ album Intergalactic were sprawled out on the floor of the van/bus by his seat. I rose my head to see the driver outside smiling as he crushed his cigarette under his foot. As quick as he was to light another, he seemed to jump out of my view.
The weirdness was apparent to me, but I filed the feelings away for now, deciding not to act. I still didn’t know what this encounter meant really.
“Are we doing this or what?” I called to my brothers. “It’s getting late fast.”
They stopped fiddling with their ears, and we all emptied out of the bus to run among the trees and ponds, toward the setting sun.
I’m in a house. But who am I in this house? Am I the cyberpunk woman with white hair and blue lips, dressed in a black and purple gown? Am I the little girl standing in the upstairs hall in a party dress, with my black hair done up in ribbons and barrettes? Or am I the hired help, somewhere in between these two females, that is supposed to be getting everything in order for the wedding? I think I’m the hired help: the 20/30-something woman in the crisp, white, button-down; the simple, black pencil skirt; and brown hair pulled so tight in a ponytail that my eyes always look like they’re slightly watering.
What am I doing? …besides not being productive and holding things up currently. My boss, a domineering matriarch with permanent frown lines and etched, sinister eyebrows, barks orders at me from the bottom of the staircase. What am I doing up here? Isn’t everyone dressed already?
Oh… OK, now I know what to do.
The little girl is not ready. She has no tights and no shoes, and she is starting to pick the rhinestone barrettes out of her hair. I take her hands.
“You mustn’t play with them right now.”
“But they hurt.”
“Oh,” I make a frowny face as I kneel down to talk to her. “I know it hurts. Barrettes suck. But you only need to wear them for a little while. After the ceremony, you can take them out. OK?”
She rubs her eyes and nods. “If it makes you fell any better, my ponytail hurts like a bitch.” She looks at me. “Uh… don’t tell the other adults I said that. OK?” She nods. “Great. Now, we need to get you in tights and shoes.” We go into her room.
As this is going on, the cyberpunk bride is arranging her “veil:” a silver headdress that extends over her head like horns and below her chin like tusks. Blinking lights frame her face. For some reason, she stays on the stairs while others prep her and workers try to squeeze by her to move from the top levels to the bottom ones. She seems cold and distant, almost dead underneath her impatient and dissatisfied exterior. She looks at her pointy, black nails or the glass, spherical chandeliers above her. A young man, who I soon identify as the groom, comes into view at the bottom of the stairs. His attire matches hers: black and purple with silver accents. His hair is wind-whipped; the black and white colors make it look like an electrified skunk has latched onto his head. He is shouting to the bride about something. I’m not sure what the argument is about, but he is certainly less than pleasant to her and she is certainly less than happy about or attentive to what is going on.
As his voice escalates, the girl, now sitting on the bed in her white tights and patent leather shoes, begins to cry. I don’t ask, but she answers.
“He always so mean to her. I hate him.”
I am guessing that the bride is probably her sister or half-sister. The bride is too young to be this girl’s mother, and the relationship seems too intense for it to be niece-aunt or cousins. As I am doing my assuming, the girl becomes very still, as if she is listening to me.
She changes. As she dries her eyes, I see that they have grown older and changed color. The muscles in her face tighten and she assumes a new persona. Her voice is that of a grown woman… or rather, female cyborg.
“I am Out of Time,” she says to me, plainly. We both pause. She flickers back into the little girl. “I don’t want to be here, like this.” She begins to cry again.
I try to handle the situation. So I start the only place I really can.
“OK. OK.” I lay my hands in the air. She flickers back to the lady cyborg; her mannerisms and demeanor show me who she is moment to moment. I ask her: “What Time are you in?”
“Many. I live several lives simultaneously.”
“Some I don’t know. Sometimes I cannot control where I go; I just pop in. I don’t know how many lives I am living exactly, right ‘now,’ but I do know that she’s me and she’s trapped.” She flickers and cries. Instantly, another young girl that looks almost exactly like her, except with blonde hair, appears behind her.
“Who’s trapped? Who’s ‘she?'”
Two, three, four more girls, all very similar, but slightly different, pop into existence.
Flicker. The voice is now a blend between the adult cyborg and the little girl. “The bride. Out there. She’s me. I’m her. She just doesn’t remember. He made her forget.” The crying of the girl with black hair begins to reverberate all around in the room. The other young girls look around with dry eyes. Many look focused on a task, or at least, are driven by strong feelings. They begin to talk in unison about numbers and counting and manifestation. I cannot make sense of it all.
I hear glass break outside. The chandeliers, they fell from the ceiling. Broken glass is strewn all over the upstairs hallways and down the staircase. The bride is nowhere to be found.
The young girls rise together and exit their bedroom. These mirror images begin to oscillate between one and many incarnations. When the girls come together as one, the image is of a young adult woman with black hair and violet eyes. She wears an oversized men’s button-down shirt. Her legs are bare and milky white. She wears no shoes and rolls her feet slowly from heel to toe.
Parents, relatives, the bridal party and guests all tell her to stay put, not to move. “There’s broken glass everywhere; you’ll slice up your feet.”
“I am aware,” she says as she walks forward without flinching or avoiding the glass. “You seem not to appreciate how much I do not want this. I will show you that I’d rather walk through broken glass (this broken Reality) than be a part of it.”
And she walks slowly and purposefully, never wincing or crying. In the windows and mirrors she passes by, all can see images of a thousand incarnations that she is, including the little girls and the cyberpunk bride, including tribal warriors and circus performers, including war machines and hummingbirds. The hallways are long, but she continues. Though glass embeds itself in her skin, she does not bleed on the forest-green carpet.