some more installments of "Mackerel Sky"
I am skimming minds for my own pleasure.
Usually I am recovering some snippet of conversation that preceded a gasp, an "oh my", or a "what?!"
Sugar water for the hummingbird of my mind.
I am keeping tabs on Patrick and California, but in the meantime I am skimming bursts of emotion.
They count for little, but they are delicious.
"I'm heading back to my own personal Zero Year, do you care to join me?"
"There are thousands of ways we could imagine filleting a beach ball into perfect partitions, but what would be the point?"
Ghosts of mathematicians giggle with repressed enjoyment.
A tired theorist replies to a trite greeting with the reply, "I'm running out of social constructs that require hindrance or confuscation.
How are you?"
How do you think I acquire my vocabulary?
Come now-- its not so bad to enjoy these things.
After all, it is so much more difficult to track through the mindfield for quiet wonder, or serene enjoyment, or selfless appreciation.
These are the finer vintages of emotion that I cannot yet afford.
Allow me to enjoy the grade A varieties of discomfiture.
Lacking that, allow me to take morsels from the commonplace.
Now its your turn to change the diapers.
I did it last time.
Take out the trash!
Speak slowly and e-nun-ci-ate.
Come with me...
it is time.
The snapping of her gum annoys me.
Two sparrows flash by the window and bump up against the glass, thrown off kilter by the wind, and I sweep a strand of platinum blonde hair from my cheek and tuck it behind the arm of my glasses.
I keep snapping that damn gum.
I arrange my waistband and march off to deliver an order.
I feel a sense of victory at finding a susceptible host so near to Patrick, and am glad to be without the annoyance for once of being a feral gibbon.
The reflection in the darkened glass, which warps and changes hue due to the gusting storm outside, allows me a moment of vanity, where I can see the pleasant contrast between my caramel skin, the platinum of my hair, and the shining blue of my eyes, enlarged slightly behind the untinted lenses of my glasses.
My cleavage is pleasantly exposed, just above the V of my buttoned collar, and for a moment I think longingly of my mother, far off in the jungles of a world I may have lost.
I am not interfering at all in her (the host's) behavior, and have the pleasant sensation of being carried like a child around a busy room where I am safe and relaxed and where all my wide eyed glances are received with a pleasant grace or blithe unawareness by the recipient of my attentions.
In the back of my mind I remain attentive to Patrick, and snippets of conversation come into my awareness, but at the level of images and sense impressions, with no real surety of the words being used.
The hunger inside of me goads me on, however I know I must hold back.
If he begins swatting his ear, then all is lost-- he will have sensed me and his highly tensile psychological armor will kick in.
I have already pushed things too far during the sleepy hours in the morning where I tried to find avenue through his sense of distraction during his coffee routine.
I know that I must be far more astute in my approach.
I must hunt him patiently.
I must lie in wait, yet not make him aware of me.
I must know the opening when it comes but I cannot force such an opening.
Fortunately my present appearance is just the sort of thing that might soften his vigilance and cause him to naturally extend some sort of romantic warmth towards me.
California's heart would naturally reach out to children, and Carmen would sense immediately the neediness of a vulnerable but intelligent man, and position herself to catch his eye.
Patrick will long for beautiful young women, and yet he would never dream of what in his mind would be termed "taking advantage".
Nevertheless, a strong enough longing may be enough for my purposes.
I position myself close enough to overhear, but in such a way that I seem also to be attentive to the cries from the kitchen.
I snap and snap my gum.
California says, "To make habits and break habits is human.
I smoke, I drink a little, I have a regular coffee habit.
Sometimes I go overboard, but I don't live in anxiety about it.
To play a little bit with the statistics is one thing-- to make oneself a statistic is quite another.
I think that involves losing hope.
Losing oneself in the substance.
Moderation in all things, I say-- but that includes moderation.
Occasionally one must be immoderate to practice true moderation.
Occasional excess is part of the true moderation game."
"I'm not even comfortable with my dependence on coffee."
He leans forward and flicks his nose in agitation.
"What in God's name is taking this waitress so long, anyway?"
California turns and takes a good, long look in my direction.
"Oh, let her take her time.
It's not the end of the world."
California turns to Patrick, "You know, cutting back now and again is fine, and probably a good exercise, but completely quitting can't be wise.
To never do something is not human, and to do things to extremes is not something I would recommend-- except on occasion, and for no great amount of time.
It's best to find a balance."
"Yeah-- I know all that."
I am not really hearing this.
I have only the vaguest sense of what they are saying, but I have gleaned this from Patrick's mind.
Suddenly I notice a look of annoyance growing on Patrick's face.
He looks more insistently at me.
I flash him a bright smile.
He only looks more annoyed.
Giving the waitress back to her senses I watch her register Patrick and realize that she has not yet ordered their drinks.
She flushes as she orders the two espresso moras and walks quickly over to apologize to the two men.
"Oh, here she comes now."
California is graceful and inattentive as always and Patrick's growing violence comes to a peak and is calmed as she speeds through the requisite apologies.
I wonder if I have ruined it all again, but then I feel a pang of sensual longing emote from Patrick and rise to tingle my inner brain.
I turn and flash a comforting smile that manages in its last seconds to be coy.
Several barriers in his consciousness that normally stand sentinel around his impressions of women become pliable and my image begins to migrate towards that of his mother.
I grab the two coffees and begin my way towards them.
As I do so I extract from his memory a few bars of a song that his mother used to sing, and I hum them as I set the coffees down.
As I walk away I feel his gaze wander down my waist to my ass and as he does so he shakes himself out of whatever trance of suggestibility he had fallen into and returns to the conversation suddenly clear minded and chaste.
Evidently there is more to getting into his pants than that.
Really I have no idea what this man wants.
I can't get into his most private thoughts and listen in as I can with so many other people.
I know that I want him.
I feel my attention wander into an analysis of why he is so attractive to me, and know only that I hunger, that so many veins of energy converge in him, and I may find through these energies a passage through space and time, or I may more fully become a separate self, less dependent on a host being, less fearful of ceasing to exist.
I do not fully know my hunger, but I know what I hunger for.
"You have to relax into it before you can relax out of it, Pat.
The only way through is through.
You can't circumvent it."
Pat leans forward, "But when I relax, I hear voices."
California leans away, "So has that been your problem all along?
You've been too relaxed, Pat?
You're defeating the voices by being all wound up and agitated?"
"Well, no-- but I have to keep vigilant or it overtakes me."
California put his hand to his chin, "What is that like?"
"What is what like?"
"The voices overtaking you."
"Well, it's like I'm disconnected with what is really going on.
I feel kind of numb to reality, and then things are said to me.
A strange and specific craving.
I can be locked in fear at an intersection because I am certain of the existence of invisible cars.
Ghosts of things are registering in my perception and passing on the road before me and I cannot discount them.
Then I get through it far enough to reassure myself that if they are invisible cars that I can barely sense myself, then they are probably immaterial and they will pass right through me, and I drive on.
But I must remain vigilant or I could become catatonic at every other step."
California pauses, his brow furrows momentarily, and then relaxes.
"But you've never been stuck in this state for hours at a time?
You can always snap out of it and resume normal life?"
"Well, occasionally it has lasted a while, but that's always while I'm alone in my apartment."
"So you have some kind of control over this."
"Oh yes-- I've always felt that I could willfully shut out the sensations and go about my life.
But I just wish that the sensations would stop bothering me.
I'm not really crazy.
I've never lost it completely.
But it has always seemed like if I felt hopeless enough, or was injured and confined to a hospital bed, or some other catastrophe, then I could succumb to it completely.
Since my mother died I have spent far too much time sleepless, awake, wandering a quiet apartment with no one to talk to, and feeling like I have failed her, and sometimes it just frightens me."
"Well, its good that you're clear headed enough to seek out help, although I still think I'm not the absolute best choice for a listening ear.
And you know, its well documented that many of the most brilliant minds of the past centuries have suffered through various sorts of, um...
'madness', or are subject to bouts of eccentric thinking and behavior-- so it could be that you are just that brilliant.
I mean, your lectures have earned you quite a reputation.
Maybe you just need to lose yourself in activities that promote your strengths.
"Well, I am very good at extemporizing.
I feel safe and secure when I am at the head of a classroom lost in an organized form of thought."
"Well, see, you're solving your problem for yourself-- an 'organized form of thought', that's the ticket.
Maybe opening up your schedule to study groups would be good?
Spend more time with students, where your strength is?"
I think that would be good."
"Well, that's already supported by the university structure.
You'd just have to fill out the paperwork and then off you go with a fuller schedule.
I'm sure the students would come.
You're a great teacher."
"That's a very good idea.
"Maybe the symptoms will lessen when you spend more time with people exhibiting the skills you're most confident in, and in time the anxieties will wear themselves out.
Speaking of wearing oneself out, working more should make you sleep better, if the time at work is well spent--you know, doesn't give you anxieties that last after work hours."
"All of this is true.
You know, I am so glad you are not fixating on me as if I had a great and insurmountable problem.
You don't even seem uncomfortable with me.
You don't give me that 'crazy eye treatment'."
"I have confidence in you, Pat.
I know you aren't completely off your rocker.
We all have our quirks.
The main thing is that you make it though, not that we obsess on the fact that you have this problem in the first place.
And like I said, I'm confident that you are sitting on some untapped brilliance.
I don't want you to give up on yourself.
Demand more of yourself, I say."
"Well, that's a great encouragement."
As this is said I feel such a flood of relief emanate from Patrick that I feel myself go dizzy.
I clutch my hand to the counter, remove my glasses and feel my forehead.
All I see is white light, rushing streams of energy and the palpable strings of disembodied being that Patrick thinks of as "voices".
This is it!
I am frozen.
I cannot move.
My vision clears and I see Patrick over there with California-- beatific, safe, understood.
I cannot believe it.
I breathe raggedly and brace myself for the plunge.
The coldness of nonexistence surrounds me for brief fleeting seconds, threatening me with its expanse, as I hurtle towards the doorway in Patrick's soul.
Even now it closes.
As I enter it is like a warm mouth closing upon me.
Sensation and thought return.
The experience of the transcorporeal plane becomes available to me as memory, and I see the waitress wiping her brow and accepting help from the monobrowed line-cook and I no longer care what she is thinking.
I beam even more broadly, I bask in the expanded dimensions of this consciousness.
I feel as if I am at a central crossroads, and many paths lead off like the spokes of a wheel from where I stand, and the terrain on all sides of me is beautiful.
I keep myself quiet in my exultation, and listen in barely contained elation to Patrick's first words, heard from within, as if I spoke them myself.
He says, "I will fill up my time with lectures and study groups.
And I will call you if I have an anxiety attack."
And California replies, "I already said you could."
One of the young women at my study group is extremely hot.
Long, strawberry blond hair that is usually done up in a sort of loose, twisted bun.
When she lets it loose it extends down almost to her ass.
I can't even express what I feel when I see her leaving class, long hair trailing down her back, light glinting off it, a sway in her hips that is accentuated by the movement of her hair as she brushes it back from one side of her face and over her shoulder, revealing a limpid moment wherein a portion of her finely sculpted ear and exquisitely molded cheekbone, above a graceful curve of jawbone, expose themselves to my hun gering eyes as she turns the corner, walking to the left, where I believe she usually walks out of the main entryway, across the quad and over to the library to study.
Vaharada is an expulsion of the breath or of vapor from the body (as in a confined space, such as with the fogging of car windows) or the rising of steam and odors from a cook-pot or maybe from bath water, when said steam gathers strongly and causes a trail or puff of mist.
A vaharada is a mist with a certain thrust, or intention, or force of presence.
It is steam expelled or gathered or impelled.
It is a mist laden with odors.
It is the forceful rising of water molecules against the confines of the harshly cold air.
It is the bursting of fog into existence beneath the force of pressure.
Vaharada is a mist twinned with fire.
Vaharada is a suddenness.
Not merely a mist, but perhaps a phantasm.
Some presence wandering through the empty early morning streets of a miserly mountainous town.
Some presence clawing its way from out of the subterranean through the manholes and sewer grates.
Vaharada may surprise you.
Vaharada may envelop you in the stench of garlic or caress you with lavender.
Vaharada reveals hidden currents of the wind, hidden elements of the world, coaxes scents from the solid world and makes them mobile.
Vaharada is the sinuous writhing of a moonlight dragon against the mountainside.
Vaharada animates and transforms, sets in motion that which slumbered.
Her complexion is pale and almost free of freckles.
Such a specimen.
I haven't worked up the nerve yet to follow her, much less approach her.
Plus, such a thing is out of the question.
There is no sensible way such an arrangement could work out.
I must be fifteen years her senior, and besides, she is from one of those outlying provinces in the inland mountain states and undoubtedly has a beau and a family and a future awaiting her-- a future that does not include some disheveled, middle-aged professor with bewildering mental problems.
But, for the moment laying all prudence to the side, giving way to my own particular form of self-flagellating, masochistic honesty, I hunger to plunge myself into her.
I long to somehow, in her, find spiritual immolation.
I thirst to be cleansed from my pain by every drop of her beauty.
To consume her like nectar sipped from the broken base of a trumpet-shaped flower.
To be reborn.
To suckle at her breast.
To cast upon her my sins and find them whimsically transformed by her touch, into puppy dogs, or white pigeons, or the swirling pink petals of cherry trees tossed by the wind, or a lonely goat loping out into the desert.
To be sacrificed.
To figuratively rend from my body the source of my imperfection.
To transcend the temporal and societal barriers that intervene to separate us.
To bring down society, if necessary, to get to her.
To cast caution to the wind.
To unsheath these ten claws and pounce from my solitary perch where my cat breath fogs against the chill held within the mossy rocks and damp tree limbs of this pleasureless ravine.
To unsnug those denim jeans from her hips and shred them into a pile of dismembered fabric to clothe the floor, to throw her legs around my waist and take her right there, to be not only silent but invisible as I enter her, extend her, lick her languid and adorn her with sweat and pheromones upon the dark green plastic veneer of this anonymous desk, if not against the wall, the mute, confidential, ugly wall, or amid the chalkdust below the blackboard, or between the desks, perhaps again and again, dying without ceasing, plunging deeper and deeper, holding my breath, suffocating in her.
Yes, perhaps again.
Perhaps to die.
Perhaps to be emptied.
Perhaps to find I was already empty-- to be torn asunder then.
To become unhinged.
To drown, to drown, to drown, to drown, to drown inside, to kill the screaming child within me, to breathe in something other than this harsh, pitiless, unforgiving, murderous air that encloaks this rotting planet with its stink.
To end it all in the midst of beauty, to be felled while at play-- to know that release, and in that release, perhaps somehow to forgive.
To, in her, find a way to be new again.
To be new like I remember I was-- before the fighting began.
Before my beloved mother gouged out her eyes and let me be ruined right in front of her, while she claimed she just couldn't see it-- something I have always, because I worshipped her, refused to believe.
I find myself thinking once again of that old, secret story.
The one I cannot bear to tell.
The story that is wired on every floor with explosives.
The story with dark, mysterious corridors that even I cannot reach, they are so well concealed behind lock and key and, barring that, should I find the keys, the fear of touching something, intruding on something that would bring those lesser monsters from out of their childhood graves and back into the shadowed closets and secret woodland hiding places of my adult life...
a zombie-like adult life where I still feel chained to the ghosts of past selves whose wounds have never healed and whose ungainly weight drags at my feet every day and causes me to litter my path with the emotional detritus, the "calling card," as it were, of a scarred and damaged life.
They're easy to recognize, once you develop the knack.
My homunculus tormentors ensure that, despite my best concealments, despite my escapes into lecture and study and solitude, in the wake of my passage all possessed of a nose and enough sense to put together two-and-two may smell the subtle stink of a child's anger at the injustice of what he has seen and felt at the hands of those he loves most, an anger that has become overripe and gone bad.
An anger that is powerless and serves no purpose.
Except inside of me.
It is there to destroy.
I must be destroyed.
She waits for the forest to become dragons.
She waits for them to speak into her dreams.
She waits for them to lead her to the cold mountain caves above river ravines where fish scales litter the floors amid the stench of bear.
Daylight comes late and night comes early.
The ocean has swum upstream to sleep between these rock walls, spawning ghostly fishes in the form of swift mists that dash themselves against the current as they whip from the water and up to the treetops, coursing to their liberation into and up over the jagged ridgeline that defines the sky.
Burst yourself asunder, release your grip on your next breath, die to your past and be reborn.
So I find these impossible sexual desires to be unpalatable yet nutritious, and thus irresistible.
I am compelled to fantasize with seemingly inexhaustible energy and against all reason.
These fantasies are fine confections-- I taste them and they taste me.
These fantasies are art works-- I create them and they create me.
These fantasies are old childhood friends-- I try to forget them and yet they remember me, and when we meet up they can't wait to lead me back down that hopeless path, the path that might, just this one time, turn out differently, I think.
Maybe this time the moon really will hold still in the sky.
Maybe this time I really will bend the spoon with my mind, or give my Aunt Mabel cancer, just through the sheer power of my thoughts.
That and other wishful thinking.
I hold my old friend's hand and muse that there are subtle pleasures to be had in this self-punishing plunge back into a past that holds no solutions-- there are fine and pungent aperitifs, such as the mislaid childhoods of the acrobats and escape artists of this generation, left strewn where they have left them, thinking they can be the spider who makes it, as the children's song would have it, "up the water-spout."
I see the images of these acrobats as they enter his mind, dressed like members of the troupe of the Cirque du Soleil.
They artfully avoid the flaming torches and pitfalls that attempt to impede their carefully executed escape from the stage of their childhood dramas.
These are the damaged souls who move often so that, by uprooting themselves before they become stable enough to settle down and remember, they may avoid the pains of nostalgia that plague those who have overlearned the lessons of innocence.
The curiosity that leads me back along these trails, the old friend who leads me by her hand, is not the joy of learning, or a thirst for the new and unknown, it is not a Pandora's box.
It is an exploration of un-understanding, a wondering at the changes in ourselves to which we cannot become reconciled, the parts of ourselves that we do not yet, or may never, wish to acknowledge.
Its the way we trace the scars and discolorations on our bodies, remembering the tree we should not have climbed or the car ride home from a friend's house when we should never have fallen asleep.
Maybe we should never fall asleep again.
Maybe we should not breathe.
We barely dare to think of it, because what we really wish is that we could return to before it happened.
We wish also that we could return to before we knew about it--as if we would be happier if we could turn back time and watch it happen to us, again and again and again, each time turning back the dial to erase it...
just so we would never know.
Her feet numb themselves upon the salt streets of Cohu, that mountain island.
You always wished for the destruction of your father.
You have ruined him so many times in your mind.
Why then are you dismayed at his failing health?
Why do you not follow your heart as it rushes to sit beside him?
Water droplets recoil as they hit the hot sides of the frying pan.
The shells of this morning's eggs are broken with fingers moist from last night's tears.
She touches her heart and it feels like velvet gummed by a teething baby.
Perhaps the smell reminds her also of a baby's drool.
She finds it strange to think that in her heart is retained her infancy.
I am helpless in the face of a reality that I cannot acknowledge, because to do so would only destroy me further, and so I fear to leave for long the feet of this overshadowing monster.
I adapt my eyes to live in its shade, because to venture into the light might mean being destroyed by the weight of an understanding that I do not believe I can bear.
For me death and suicide hold little fear-- but the challenge of living fully, exposed to the harsh light of a universe that has done me nothing but wrong, to have to learn one more truth about this reality that feels ever so much more like a lie, is too much to ask of me.
And sexuality is one of the most beautiful of all lies.
So it is clear to me that through such longings, such a desire for immolation, that I only wish to destroy myself.
So what else is new?
And that path would destroy her also; or maim, if not destroy.
Well-- "Comes with the territory!"
as the fellow on the TV might say.
So what is the point in entertaining such thoughts, at all?
Well, what's the point of anything?
Answer me that.
She just draws me to her.
The longing is enough for now.
The whole devil-may-care, "If this is wrong, I don't want to be right," attitude sustains me.
Occasionally I feel almost resigned to my path to self-destruction.
It seems so clear to me sometimes.
Its mythical in some way.
It's what is meant to be.
But that's all beside the point.
I need to talk to Cal again.
Señor Hesu Kuristo, iiho de Diós, ten kompasión...
The devil in her delights in the small mishaps of her family.
The thought, "You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet," arises in her mind but she is displeased with its triteness.
She longs for the healing of flowers.
She used to walk among the flowers.
I believe her name is Vaharo.
Not a name I'm familiar with.
Her parents probably made it up...
and I will see her again next Tuesday, if not sooner.
My heart tugs at its scar tissue and beats almost like it means it.
Yeah, you don't fool me, you poor worthless organ.
Your days are numbered, and you're just trying to deceive me into some hedonistic fling before the last bullet leaves the chamber.
Well, you're not that slick.
I'm onto you, and I will not be so easily duped.
But she certainly does have all the right weaponry.
I watch myself clench up my hands until my knuckles are white, leaning against the window sill and breathing heavily.
Imagery of my childhood rushes through my mind.
Dream images of monsters reassert themselves.
They leer at me like they think they've gotten away with something.
I feel numb.
The oceanic sound of blood roars in my ears.
I fight the urge to hit myself, cut myself, bang my head, snap out of it.
Down, down, down, down.
Slowly the tension in my chest passes and I feel more real.
Perhaps that's not really the upside its meant to be.
I would give anything sometimes to feel less real.
To just get "away," wherever that is.
Whatever that may mean.
Death, I guess-- ultimately.
Not worth thinking about.
I sit alone in the gathering darkness, lean against the smooth wooden back of a chair and perspire.
I open the door, a little too eager, right after the first ring of the doorbell.
I'm perspiring, I'm middle-aged, I'm physiologically underserviced, and I say, "Well, welcome to my humble abode.
I've done the best I can do to clean up.
Don't mind the cat….
Leave the food alone!
Off the table!"
I laugh, smooth some hair back from the right side of my forehead and say, "I really do feed him.
He just always comes in acting like he's starving.
Sometimes I don't see him all day long—he's a real hunter.
He just stops by for some chow in the AM and then he's off God knows where, hunting, messing with the neighborhood cat chikas.
He's just no t used to seeing such a spread.
And he has no manners!
Do you, Scherzo?
No manners at all!"
Vaharo smiles and slides in at the head of the group of five students, melting around the edge of the couch like a tule fog rising up from the wet ground in the dim light of the seaside dawn, like a tule fog with voluptuous hips draped in a mere slip of sage green skirt, settling herself on the closest cushion and setting her purse down on the floor, laying her books on her lap.
I smile and cut my eyes away too quickly, "Don, how are you?
So glad you could come.
Mira, so happy to see you—come on in.
Sandra, Jaime, feel free to eat the snacks.
Fresh from down the street.
I see Vaharo has made herself comfortable.
I'm so glad you all could be here.
The apartment is small, but it has to be better than that hot, musty old classroom with this unseasonable heat, no?
And everyone here wants to learn.
This will be excellent."
"Thank you, sir."
Don says, "I love the sushi.
Unagi's the best."
"Yeah, I'm partial to the unagi myself."
I say, picking up one of the trays, "Vaharo?
Here, Vaharo, just pass this along.
I'll be right back with the tea, or I have limonada if anyone wants some.
I'll just bring both.
You guys can make yourselves comfortable and maybe set up the discussion group topic, it's the rise of globalist consumerism as the dominant ideology in the late 21st century, which will be the topic of the essay to be assigned at our next class meeting.
The lecture will be, of necessity, more focused, but we can ramble wherever we like."
I continue talking as I walk to the kitchen, my voice becoming louder, although I can still see everyone through the partition that divides the kitchen and dining areas, "I will simply lay out some of the key concepts and give you some historical background and then we will open it up to discussion.
I think you'll find that you'll be far more prepared for both class discussion and for your papers and by the end of the trimester you'll be able to look back and say that this discussion group was a pretty easy extra two credits."
The students now have settled in and are murmuring to each other, laughing softly, confessing ignorance, using words that admit to a certain amount of hopefulness, trying to adjust to the comfort of the environment.
I sneak a peripheral glance toward Vaharo and find her sitting, still a bit on the periphery, but by no means excluded.
She has seated herself closest to the armchair that has been left for me to occupy.
She is seated such that when I sit our knees will be quite close together.
I will have to sit at a slight angle in order to find room to cross my legs.
Her eyes unfocus for a second as she ducks her gaze in seeming awareness of my attentions, and from beneath half-lowered lids she throws a green-eyed glance up at me as a small curve of smile forms at the left corner of her mouth and I grin automatically in response, only barely hiding my interest, as I straighten up and open a random cabinet, rearranging a few items as I gather my thoughts.
"So who is ready?"
I say as I re-enter.
I position myself exactly as planned.
My shoulder is not really that close to her yet I imagine that I can feel the heat rising from her body, and the skin beneath my shirt tingles in a distracting way.
"We can spend another five minutes or so eating or we can gather the meeting and you may partake throughout?"
Most of the students murmur something about beginning now.
I laugh, "Okay, let's get down to it."
We hold hands in a circle and close our eyes.
I am now holding Vaharo's hand, however my body obeys its training, the training from years of group meetings, and settles into a mild meditative state with almost no bidding.
Her presence is just a pleasant, neutral sensation for a moment.
Within a minute a sense of settledness pervades the group and we almost simultaneously grip and release our hands in the Ehidense fashion and break the circle.
There is a calm indrawing of breaths as many of us bring ourselves back to alertness and then settle into our respective positions.
"We come together today to discuss a period of history during which the shortsightedness of the corporate, political and military leadership caused society itself to collapse under the weight of its own excess.
The American Empire occupied the entire North American continent (politically)…."
finish this later]
I bring in the dishes to the sink and begin to wash up as the students continue to chat comfortably.
The discussion had been enlivening for them, and the meeting had closed in a gathered fashion, so they do not feel the inclination to leave.
Vaharo follows me in, almost startling me as I wander off into my own thoughts, following my habit of daydreaming while I wash up.
"I can help you out, if you like, Professor Barrientos.
Okay, that would be wonderful.
I dry my hands off and begin to arrange the dishes for her.
"So how did you enjoy the discussion?"
I ask, turning back to her as I walk toward the dining room table to gather up the rest of the serving plates.
"Oh, it was very helpful.
I still like to see you in front of class lecturing, though.
I mean, you really make it all come alive."
I say, stopping my walk.
So you come to class like you're coming to a play!
You want a performance."
She smiles in mock shyness, "Well, yes, I suppose so.
At least I come to see your performance."
I redden a bit, but laugh.
I doubt I'm as good as you make out.
But still its good to know.
I don't always get the highest of praise for my teaching style.
It's not professional, you know."
"Oh, I have no doubts that many do not find it professional.
But as teaching, it is excellent.
You really do glue us to our seats.
Some classes are such drudgery.
But not yours."
Vaharo has set her little girl façade aside and I see before me a young woman, complete with opinions of her own.
This is one of the things that draws me so much to her, the deep maturity that hides within that girlish form.
I smile and gather together the rest of the dishes.
I am almost unaware of the other students as they arise and move to the door.
"Goodbye Professor Barrientos!"
"Thanks so much!
We liked it."
"Oh, thank you, Sandra."
I say, beaming.
"You'll all be back next week?
Shall I get sushi again?"
"Oh, next time we should potluck, don't you think?"
says Mira, looking around the group.
"Shouldn't we all bring something?"
"Yeah," says Jaime, "We'll all try to pick up something, okay Profe?"
"Okay, that's fine by me."
I say, "But my food is yours, so there will be something here to eat regardless.
You just come ready to think and discuss and we'll all be cool, right?"
"You're not going to pick on us in class are you?
I mean, we feel more prepared, but you know… you can't act like you made experts out of us yet."
You will not receive special treatment in class.
I will pick on you just the same as always, no less, no more.
But on the other hand, you should push the bar up a little higher in your mind.
There's never any harm in expecting more of yourself.
You may surprise yourself with what you can do if you let yourself loose with a little understanding.
But let's keep this whole thing informal.
Yes, you're getting class credits, this class will help you graduate a little bit earlier, but we're just going to keep a family atmosphere going, okay?
Don't overthink it, buddy."
Sure thing, Profe."
They all step out the door, Mira and Sandra offer their right cheeks for a kiss as they leave, the men stretch out their hands for a handshake and a backslap, and they're off.
None of them seem to be surprised that Vaharo is in the kitchen still, washing up.
Scherzo is walking in between her legs, rubbing his hips up against her ankles, and she smiles down at him and talks cat talk, unable to pet him with wet hands.
"Stop begging, you shameless thing."
I tell Scherzo and nudge him away with the toe of my shoe.
He moans and trots off to his food bowl, belly flap swinging.
He drinks some water and then starts bathing by the glass of the patio door, looking up occasionally as if wishing for sunlight.
I am feeling warm and well-regarded and my internal censor has shut off.
I am singing a few bars of a popular radio song under my breath and taking a good look at Vaharo's ass as I gather up the remainder of the cups and chopsticks and set them beside the sink.
"Oh," I say, as I notice she is using the dish soap liberally and using the sudsy sponge to scrub down the soiled dishes.
"Here, let me show you how I do the dishes."
I rinse out the sponge and hold it up for her to see.
"So, you take the sponge or the scrubber," I say, picking up the scrubber as well, "and you scrub off all the food and soil without soap.
Then you set them aside for the moment and finish the others."
She has not said a word, is just watching, and her body language is sending me some sort of danger signal, (peligro!), but I blunder on, injecting a little bit of false bravado in hopes that this cheerfulness will somehow make up for whatever offense I am in the process of committing.
"So then, once all the chunks and other stuff are off, you go back with a soapy sponge, but you don't need to use as much, you see?
And you wash them, rinse them and then set them aside to dry.
I am now almost feeling frantic.
No doubt I have insulted her in some subtle way.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.
You were doing a great job.
I just had so many lessons from my mother in the 'proper' way to wash dishes that I guess I'm ruined, I just have to do it this way.
But really, I didn't mean to be picky."
She smiles a little bit, but there's still a furrow to her brow.
She takes the sponge back and steps to the sink, stepping closer to me, but with the effect of pushing me aside.
I have spoiled our intimacy.
I just never knew there were so many rules to washing dishes.
I will do my best to save soap.
But if I may…" she asserts herself at the sink and I step back.
"Oh no, don't worry about the soap.
That was just a side benefit.
It really doesn't matter to me, I shouldn't have said anything.
My mom was just like that, with the dishes, with the toilet seat.
She always said that the toilet should be left completely closed, with the lid down.
She always said, 'If the lid is never left down, then why do toilets have lids in the first place?' So I follow that rule, too, but out of habit.
My mom went a little overboard with sanitation, I suppose."
I am standing there, awkwardly.
Vaharo does not respond.
Lost in her own thoughts she washes the dishes methodically, I notice that she rubs her fingers over the surface of every dish as she rinses, very careful to detect any residual soil.
She is so careful in her dishwashing and yet I had the nerve to criticize.
I am such an ass.
I can't be theorizing about every damn thing.
Some things don't need a theory.
Maybe its some kind of control issue.
I need to have some guiding concept for every little piece of my existence.
I should write a damn essay on dishwashing.
Then I should move on to "The Manner of Use Appropriate to the Household Light Switch" and then I could discuss the exact placement of Venetian blinds in the average window and their precise adjustment to correspond to meteorological phenomena.
Like I said, I'm an ass.
I hear her thinking, "Maybe Sandy is right.
Maybe I should stay away from older men… they have too many issues.
I don't know, maybe he's just one bundle of hang-ups, like Luis was."
I hear her thinking, "Well… more so, given that performance.
But God he seems so hot in front of class.
I don't know what's wrong with me…"
Oh, my God, I hear her thinking!
I feel my heart pounding and beads of sweat sprout up on my forehead.
I gasp slightly, "Excuse me.
I'll be right back."
I walk hurriedly to the bathroom and hold my head in my hands.
"Oh… I hope he's all right… asshole.
Guess I'm too much for him.
No dick tonight.
Maybe he's one of those principled types…."
I force myself to block it out.
I count backwards from fifty.
I breathe in, I breathe out, I focus myself.
I calm my mind.
I leave the bathroom.
She's drying her hands.
Of course I knew that.
Don't ask me how, but even without the thoughts invading my mind, I knew what she was doing.
"So, Vaharo—I apologize, but I suddenly don't feel too well.
But I don't want you to think I'm rushing you out.
Do you need a ride anywhere?"
"Well, actually I do, but I was going to call a friend to pick me up.
Can I use your phone?"
Her beautiful face has a fierceness to it now, her jaw is set, her nostrils flared slightly.
I have angered her.
How easy it is with women.
With the best of women.
"Oh, fuck it."
Her eyes look up at me.
There is a softening to them due to the surprise.
"I am far too attracted to you and I can't seem to control myself around you.
It really doesn't matter at this point.
I can't be smooth and erudite.
I can't teach you anything when it comes to love.
I am a lonely old bastard with only a cat to keep me company and right now I just want to get shitfaced.
I don't want you to leave.
I know that may not be your idea of a romantic evening, but will you come get lit with me?
I know a bar outside of town with pool tables.
We can wash all this theory out of our heads and knock a few balls around, okay?"
She looks down a bit with a sly little smile on her face and reaches her hand out to finger a button on my shirt.
"Yeah, we could knock a few balls around at the bar, Profe.
Or we could knock a couple around right here and get drunk later.
Besides, with the washing done, I think I have some ironing to do.
There's a few lumps and wrinkles I got to smooth out, right here."
With this last bit she has grabbed my crotch and slid her finger up the fly of my pants and drawn herself in closer to me, lifting her lips up to kiss my neck, nipping me like a deer picking leaves from a tree, and I didn't even hear her think any of this at all.
It all catches me by surprise.
It's all so blessedly sweet, and soon we are in the bed and I am finding myself consumed in her.
I turn and writhe and plunge myself, entangled in her, and shells of my former self shed away like a lobster's carapace, a lobster infinite in years, and I am momentarily new.
Rain falls softly on the desert and the petals of plants whose parched cells have waited one hundred years burst forth into the sun to be burned away, for this is the fate of all petals.
For now they spread themselves beneath the sun's rays where they have sex and they bloom, just like we do.
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Content © copyright 2004 by Joel Sebastian Moody. All rights reserved.