part two (nine people)
Now back on the party floor, we began mingling again. Again, we laughed and chortled, snickered and sighed, conversed and digressed with wine-glazed enthusiasm.
I must say I was stunned by what I had set in motion. To see all of these friends in person was almost an astonishment. They were real people -- in all three dimensions. They were lovely and sweet and interesting. I was in heaven. I was in a dream. But...I'm a shy guy usually, so my self-appointed role of Master of Ceremony seemed odd to me, unnatural. I did the best I could to keep circulating among the self-organized grouplets. I asked rather silly and inane questions of my guests in the attempt to appear social and vaguely garrulous. I should have subcontracted out the office of host. I could tell everyone subconsciously winced at my lack of fluid grace and easy manner. I know I must have appeared to be like a duck without a proper quack. I'm not a smooth operator. But dammit...I just had to meet these souls. I also wanted a good excuse to drink much wine.
I took a sip of wine while staring over the room of friends. Then felt a tug at my elbow. It was Peter, and he spoke in an unusual manner, as if concealing something. The expression on his face and his demeanor did not seem to square with the words coming from his mouth. It was as if these words were for my ears only. Everyone else would think he and I were discussing the weather in Belgium.
“I have developed a private hypothesis about the Neo-Darwinian evolution of anti-matter particles in a predator-prey relationship with imaginary particles. Would you like to hear it?” Again, the odd smile on his face contrasted with this query.
“Umm...sure, Peter. But perhaps another time?” I took a couple unconscious steps backwards and quickly drifted into a group of whispering women. Peter's now-quizzical expression turned rapidly to one of brightness and delight, as he motioned to Miriam across the way.
“May I introduce myself? I'm Peter, and I have developed a private hypothesis....”
“Yael! Oh, my gosh. So nice, so nice to finally meet you!” I said. Then I let loose with a Russian sentence I had memorized for the occasion. She looked at me, blinking with bemusement.
“What...?” I asked peevishly.
“TIM! Ha, ha, ha. You just said, 'Why does your electric kangaroo have the wings of a buzzard?'”
“Gosh, that's not at all the effect I was going for.”
She smiled and handed me a CD.
“A gift for you. It's me playing the piano while reciting a poem I wrote. About university students spraying the professor with water pistols whenever he starts babbling about post-modernism and the 'Gnosticism of the Text.'”
I was thrilled, ecstatic. After all, Yael is my oldest friend on Facebook. I don't mean that she's old. She's not. She'll never get old. She'll always be as fresh as an iris fairy, as wry as a thistle gnome.
I noticed that Joseph was walking around the various cells of conversation. Filming everything with a hand-held camera.
“Joseph! Hey, man. Glad you could make it. So, you're recording the event? That's cool. That way you can send all of us keep-sake videos.”
“Oh, no, Tim. This is not the creation of sentimental memorabilia. This is Art! This will be my first independent feature film. And I already have a title – 'Encounter & Chaos' [was Joseph prescient?]. When I get back to my workshop, I'll use a vocoder program to modify all the men's voices, turning them into high-pitched helium voices that sound depressed. And for the women, I'll edit out their voices completely, replacing them with synced-up snippets of movie dialog by Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe.”
Joseph paused to get his breath, then...
“Yes! It is going to be a fabulous film! My vision is this: an ambiguous reflection and implicit commentary on the magnetic resonances resulting from the attractive-repulsive fluxes of male/female dynamics in the hyper-modern dimension.”
I nodded my head vigorously, in uncomprehending approbation.
I kept noticing from the corner of my eye a mysterious form flitting in and out of the shadows around the room perimeter. And also flitting in and out among the various interlocutors. It dawned on me who this ambiguous shape was – Sonja. She moved deftly, stealthily, like a sniper performing reconnaissance.
I finally cornered her in a corner and said, “Buenas noches, senorita!” (That was as close to Serbian as I could get.)
With tight serious lips now parting, she said, “Something bad is going to happen tonight.”
“What do you mean,” I replied, somewhat nervously.
“Don't you feel it? The vibrations are already changing into interference-waves. Be ready for anything.”
At that moment, she unslung a weapon that had been slung over her shoulder.
“This is to protect us...from whatever.” Her weapon was like a cross between an Uzi and a grenade launcher. I noticed an oddly glowing inscription across the length of the barrel: “Tesla Arms.”
Someone behind me gently tapped my shoulder. Fatima, wearing the coolest hat I had ever seen. Her head was cocked, and she sort of grinned ironically. Like someone considering a large rock on the ground that had distinctively anthropomorphic features...a fissure for a mouth and spaced gouges for eyes.
“Fatima! It's you!”
“Yes, Tim. I am also quite aware that I am 'it,' or that I am I.”
“Fantastic. Now that you are here in person, please tell me: what is the essence of language? Or at least let me know, finally, what the word 'essence' even means. And how it got into the language.”
“This is not the time or place for that stuff. If we begin going down that path, you will soon turn things into a paralyzing conceptual knot. I know you. You'll break out your Paradox Theory. Good grief, my friend. Relax. Enjoy the night. And this is the main thing – listen! Listen to what is beneath all these conversations here in this room. Listen to the magic of others coming together and 'sounding,' like wind-chime cylinders producing harmonies and significant overtones.”
“As always,” I said, “you make sense!”
She walked up to me with a beautiful, oblique smile on her lips. She was walking like an Egytian. She was walking carefully, gingerly balancing an unopened bottle of red wine on top of her head. She held another – opened – bottle of wine in one hand and a glass full in the other.
“I would like to hug you, Robyn, but the bottle would fall off your head.”
“Don't hug me, Tim. Wine must be protected, cherished. The crazy gods gave it to us a long time ago. It would be sacrilege to break a bottle, or even spill a drop.”
I wanted to speak more with her. We had a lot of strange stuff in common. But Robyn simply glided past me, bottle on head...far-away look in her eyes...as if she were headed for some stairway to heaven. It would have been rude of me to detain her from this cosmic or psychedelic or artistic or spiritual mission. She faded into the crowd. I had never before witnessed such a perfect display of the immanent (wine) and the numinous (mind) coming together in poised complementarity.
I spotted our intrepid pilot, Kris, talking to several others. I elbowed my way in politely and said:
“It must be said formally and officially – your mind is glorious and disturbing.”
He saluted me like a Roman centurion.
“Say,” he began, “I had a dream last night. About a minor character in the new novel I'm working on. He went berserk in the dream. Tied up all the other characters and held them hostage. Until I agreed to give him the main character's girlfriend and wire $25,000 to an off-shore account.”
“Yes, I see. And I hope you relented. One mustn't refuse what comes of itself in such dreams. I think your new novel has taken on quite a life. It sneaks out at night, sniffs the air, and then goes crawling back into your head with fresh scents.”
I bowed like a French ambassador to Tsar Nicholas the First and moved on to interview others.
Everyone was moving around like a slowly undulating mass, or sitting in rapt mutuality. Everyone, that is, except Bonnie. Bonnie was rotating in the middle of the room. Indeed, she was turning in ever faster circles, her face as enigmatic as a sphinx. I sauntered over, and we had a brief encounter, as she continued to revolve around an invisible fixed point.
“So...you seem to have found an existential pivot-center,” I remarked blithely, like a French philosopher.
She stopped her whirling and replied:
“Yes, Tim. Right here. Exactly here. It's amazing, really. I have traveled the entire nation, searching for the spot, for the point-of-view. For the locale from which to launch my next phase of photography. I have found it! This room, this godforsaken skyscraper, that insane jungle beyond the clearing. I shall stick here for at least a year. I will install my studio here, in this very room. I'll explore the dark Mississippi jungle in successive missions of creativity! I will capture and manipulate images of spirits. I will call them forth by banging loudly on my gypsy tambourine!”
I excused myself. Bonnie began pirouetting again. I forgot to ask her why she was spinning around in a circle.
Matt had drawn a small crowd of the curious and the perplexed, with his gentle shouts of “Revolution! Revolution!” I had to see what was up. He then began the most reasonably articulated speech I'd ever heard. Maybe not quite as eloquent as Abraham Lincoln, but far more self-effacing. Ole Abe was quite sure of himself about the parameters of social construction and political discourse. Well, Matt was also somewhat self-persuaded, but he delivered his effusion in such a way that one would feel spiritually soiled by not agreeing with him. One would be obligated, owing to Matt's humble exuberance, to at least agree half-way.
“Don't trust the power structures! Structures arise by congealing energies best left diffuse. Independence is the hallmark, the platform of creativity. And creativity is the engine of social enhancement. Freedom to make without an overseer is a form of 'organic' poetry in entrepreneurial motion. Contrasted with that is the hydra-headed State. Its arrogant fangs and cynical toxins turn the People leprous with decay and decadence. Corporate control and imperial excess turn the People into zombies and fodder. Revolution! Anarchy! Look upon the vision I envision as a solution: Mom and Pop dry-goods stores, tariff-free lemonade stands, and a return to the Pony Express, but with motorcycles!”...........
And so forth.