The Memories Remembering Me
That’s the ones you’d like to forget. The ones that eased your path from ambition to success. The ones that secured possessions and status. The ones that delivered partners, the ones that seemed so willing when your shine was bright and promising. The ones that cut some corners, the ones that etiquette could do without. The dispensable ones. The ones that could easily disappear in the daily charge to connection and convenience. Now it looks more like getting ahead while standing still. Or the spiral that really was a circle. Oh, how I deluded myself! Was it just bald ego barking its demands, or maybe more that education I absorbed without thinking? You ponder, you wonder, you analyze.
First image up for grabs: I seat myself in his office, the appointment arranged by my kindly prof from the status college, who acted in my interest from an impressive five-year degree performance, but who was really being rewarded for his perspicacity. Seeing the eager overachiever that reminded him of himself. The one who was hungry for more. Even if that more was not much more than debt repayment. College as candied slavery, tenure as chains on the mind and imagination. The power divorce that left him not quite penniless but somewhat prostrate in grief. The grief of growing old without the love of children, poisoned by convincing lies. He said, smiling: We’re the guys that get you places, places of comfort and convenient flexibility. We’re the company that can arrange things, things that will move smoothly through their stages, pleasing everyone on the way. Making allies from potential enemies, deals that deal equitably with seller and buyer, deals that flatten the playing field. And can sometimes yield holes in one. No question: his rap was smooth, polished, convincing. I said I was impressed, Tell me more. Having already been prepped by my prof at the stylish rooftop hotel bar, surrounded by bemused chuckles and languorous gestures I’d already passed though the eager stage, that frisky racehorse ready to run. I was ready to lap up the warm milk and was pretty sure it was not the milk of human kindness. But you never know, let’s not prejudge.
The following week I was sent to a profiler whose training in psychology, all those years and papers and conferences, she sighed, had been slimmed down to the task at hand: could I be patted in shape for the journey? Could I be trusted to obey the law yet transcend ethics? Those petty moralities mouthed by the pious and those needing to be elected? The way of the boy scout, kindergarten, and parliament? The sellers of transparency and carefully weighted studies? The passionate deniers of policies passed in secret. The meetings swept free of surveillance, at least for a few seconds before the backup system kicks in? Catriona was certainly persuasive as she led me through what was really an initiation. The gang, the brotherhood, the secret society? There was no password or handshake but only an assumption of shared values, hinted at, etched around but unspoken. Rampant greed masquerading as laisser-faire capitalism masquerading as liberal democracy. The religious myth of the free market where all can have hand in the game, a seat at the table. And like all myths, useful for the propagation of the game. Of course, there’d be winners and losers. Nothing new about that. Life, the game, thrived on it. And the point was not just to be a winner and stay one, but to be a player with skin in the game. Play the damn poker don’t whine about your broken ankle. Ankles can always be mended.
Catriona’s I use of, you know, feminine wiles, was quite something. Like a high-class call girl without the come on. She knew just how far to go and where to cool it. I’d seen it before, dinners, clubs, parties, but never so smooth. The dress, the shoes, the hair, just right. I was handed reports, files, orientation papers. Get to them when you can. I promised. What was next? A month’s training: Let me schedule that. How about the twelfth? I made a joke about the twelfth of never: she missed it. Oh dear, serious types. Well, I could handle that. My occasional stand-up sessions gave me some kind of outlet. Folks laughing in the dark, letting the cork out of the bottle. Maybe that would have to do. Back home, still in parent’s basement, but you know, the generous upgrade from the year before, not too hard to take. Comfortable, far from shabby. Dad still decimated from being downsized. A sweet little buyout but no more decisions to divine or dinners with clients. Down to golf and kayaking. Mum still moving real estate like a champ. Sis still d-jaying every other weekend and bravely resisting the pull of pregnancy. A household like no other I used to think. With me launching my cruise to much applause. The training month: plenty of red flags that I chose to ignore. Many hints as to how it was going to go. The visits, first class with all the bells and whistles, fancy hotels in the best part of town, tickets to concerts and galleries, the meetings with the local movers and shakers, some business, some government, some diplomats, some a slice of all three, often a blend of granddads, cousins and mistresses with connections. Plenty of market savvy even when they’d lost their shirts. The interlocking networks of the influential, the clinking of crystal wine goblets in dining rooms with wandering violinists. Trading the talk of loans and investments, all above board, nothing even remotely illegal. The arrangements, the contracts the fine print. Who gets what and when. Outline of repayment plans, should that ever be necessary. We have to cover ourselves. Of course. Terms like pampered elites, activists and cartels never used.
Ladies and gentlemen of the night casually offered. Cautious little Quaker I stuck to the masseuse, who was awesome and offered topless, which I politely declined. Deep tissue massage, no? You have not lived, let me tell you. Sleep? Oh my, the best. Daisy fresh to do the deed the next day. Darn near frisky on occasion. Did not take long to get the hang of it. We skirted around the bald facts of business-like diplomats conveniently circumvent the poisons of geopolitics. The training month could have been slimmed down to a week. Schmoozing came easy to me. Polite chat with shared passwords. The winners make all the smart moves while the losers lick the bottom of the barrel and beg for more. Everyone stews in their own juice and lives to fight another day. This was my chance to make the team and I knew it. But I also sensed this was not the major leagues, not by a long shot, but merely one of a few very unofficial but closely watched farm teams. And I do not mean that Snowden surveillance scenario. Do they archive dinner dates and tennis games? Are they that anal?
I mean: you arrival in some ethnic elite is noted, but usually with cocktail chatter and coffee house gossip. Some of them might be agency assets on a small monthly stipend but their main gig is the local network, often a family compact that put down its roots centuries before: those who survived the storms and tides of the Spanish Conquest. I don’t know, I’m not a historian, I just got that vibe.
Moving Right Along
Of course, I noticed behavior patterns in all this schmoozing and negotiations, but nothing so radically different as to be seen as specially corrupt, as the world might suppose. Business is business and always has been as far as I can tell. The distance from leather pouches with gold coin to brown bags with paper cash, invisible transfers, key-stroke magic and long-distance calls from secured locations is not as far as some suppose. Human nature is infinitely corruptible, the prideful and the pious become two sides of the same coin. Name your price but make sure it’s not a bribe. I was actually told that in training. As an aside, during a walk in a park, right by a fountain. That splashing is a very useful audio shroud. Really screws up those satellites.
Plenty of talk about favors being for friends. Let me fix that problem for you, no-one needs to be inconvenienced. I actually never fixed any issues, just reported them and waited for the kink to be straightened, which it always was. Or so I thought. I suspected corners were being cut but the efficiency of the operation caught me short. Naivete was my ally for a while, that Santa Clause syndrome that snuffs out the darkness at the edge of town, but eventually that human drama demands your attention.
Mariella, as I’ll call her, was the daughter of one of my contacts, an adoptive daughter as it turned out. From a cousin who slipped onto the wrong side of the tracks, or so I heard. A highly strung gal, as we used to say, hyper and nervy, a life of the party even if there wasn’t one handy. Tobacco sticks and wine spritzers. Straight from the cast of some Aldomovar movie. The type that jars the nerves of us dull Anglo-Saxons sipping our lattes and checking the headlines in that week’s Economist. People who don’t seem to believe in down time. Always texting someone. But as the visitor on a friendly mission, I minded my P’s and Q’s and kept my cultural assumptions to myself.
In that part of the planet, you find way more fervent Catholics than chilled-out Quakers, but those quiet cathedrals make for great oases to seek that still small voice of God that will speak if you listen. You only have to look like you are praying. In the cool of the morning, after mass, the hush descends and you are there, looking to either find your conscience or salve it. As the months went by, I was most often doing the latter.
Mariella was flying by then, making wild accusations and veiled threats against family members. This one was fucking her boyfriend behind her back and that one screwing up her investments to pay off his gambling debts. As far as I could tell he was also shifting significant amounts of the white stuff, pacifying her with some high grade while he was at it. The collapse of the coke head: I’d seen it at college more than once, although others opined that it was actually crystal meth. Someone you partied with on occasion is reported to be in rehab and when you see them, they’re pale, wan and thin and looking to fail their year.
I was concerned with Mariella, sad really, but I was required elsewhere on another set of upcoming negotiations and possible contracts. While I was away polishing my performance for a set of the unusually skeptical, I heard she’d been found dead in her bathtub. In days a doctor, friend of the family, announced her heart attack, likely from blow. An autopsy was considered superfluous and an elaborate funeral quickly arranged. Rather too quickly I thought, but then what did I know, burrowing in three thousand miles away?
I’m not much for dreaming, the odd one here and there, but there she was, right beside me, talking murder and would I help her get vengeance. She seemed just as hyper as before, and I wondered if there was blow in that world, wherever it was. Myself I’d be happy if they kept a stock of good single malt.
Returning to my parent’s comfy basement for some r&r, with only a few emails from the office to distract me, I kept a low profile, played golf with dad, saw a couple of movies with mom, chewed on some pot cookies and helped out with the fall gardening. After all that high flying, a perfect little staycation. Mariella showed up twice, each time making her pitch for righteous vengeance. I felt no compunction to obey her demands. We had only been friends, not lovers or anything close. I didn’t owe her, but somehow, she thought she owned me.
I can be as kind and helpful as the next guy, but her insistence felt more slap than caress, and the business negotiations being completed, at least my part, I thought the smart money would be on distance rather than intimacy. Besides what could I do? I’m no shaman or voodun whatever they call themselves. I don’t mess with spirits.
My next assignment took me east, far from Latin America and its catholic vibe. I landed in Muslim Town, though not the tight assed sort. Fancied themselves as western and hip. But underneath those flowing whiter-than-white robes they still farted like princes. And they needed to upgrade their infrastructure big time and that’s where we come in. With me as the front man making nice double time. The learning curve hadn’t been as steep as you might suspect, and I found saying the right thing at the right juncture not too trying. There were five basic scripts, and you adjudged the most appropriate for your client on your first power breakfast. The robes sheltered the usual body language that’s so easy to see in suited westerners, but heads, necks and shoulders give away just as much if you’re paying attention, which I was. Acting young, trusting and slightly flirty helped to shape their buried fantasies, always a plus in those repressed cultures. Nothing came of anything, I made sure of that, accepting no invitations that smelt of intimacy. Had I always been such a shrewd schmoozer, and just never noticed? Self awareness can be such a bag of squirming kittens, you assume you’re tight and secure but then one little rascal jumps out and shows you up in public. Then you’re a marked man, a potential victim, a pin cushion for the guys to quietly scorn and the girls to pity. Not that you’d chart too many girls there. All hiding behind curtains and service staff but for the trafficked ones in bars, where, when invited, I felt more pity than lust.
I let the days go by, bided my time while the details were sorted out, well hammered out really, they drove a hard bargain, shaving off decimal points at every turn. It was a culture of control and assumed superiority and I learned to play around it. Without that damning pride poking at your ribs you can play around almost anything. It’s all a game, right? Just keep your cards close to your chest and play. Praise your opponents as partners and it will all work out.
Three weeks later I returned to the family home an settled in for a few days. Mariella seemed to follow me there and kept up the dream pressure, more pleading than demanding now. The pleading bordered on pathos and I found that easy to deal with. In one dream I told her to just get a life and she retorted, Where I am now? You’re kidding right! There’s no life here. It’s all just floating about. I woke up at three am with that conversation in my head. She hadn’t actually said floating about aimlessly but that’s what I took from it. Didn’t sound like any heaven I’d heard about.
On an indoor driving range with dad, I asked if I’d always been a schmoozer. He laughed: You? Not that he’d noticed. Too fair minded, too well behaved if anything. He’d secretly wanted me to be the rebel he’d shied away from in himself, the Quaker who wouldn’t quake at the responsibility of conscience, shoulder the burden and laugh it off. Mum said I’d always been such a sweet boy whom she’d tried to toughen up for the harsh world out there. I said that perhaps it had worked better than she suspected and that I was quickly becoming a man of the world. She gave me one of those indulgent sweet boy looks and chuckled. Then she saw a text from a buyer.
A couple of days at the office rather brought me up short. Apparently, I was coming on a little too soft, being outmaneuvered by those I should be netting on the third meeting. But I was not to worry, bitching over terms and time limits had been dialed down by one Amelia, who was not the boss but was allowed to act like one as her husky tones had proved irresistible years before. I never did meet her and sometimes wondered if she actually existed or was some kind of magical software. Oh no, I was told, she worked from home, which kept her anonymous and ever more useful. Was she some kind of great actress? Yes, and had trod the boards in many a theatre until age and travel had soured her ambition. Voice overs for commercials had helped but these business applications had given her a new lease on life.
But I was made aware of potential shortcomings and shifted my focus. To say ‘no more Mr. nice guy’ was overstating it but I did trim my sails. But how exactly do you trim your smile? Mirrors are useful until you start to giggle. And giggling is not good for a guy like me, all business and bespoke charm.
Next adventure was Brazil, where I assumed kickbacks and bribes were endemic to every transaction. The elite, left and right, had been knocking back the accusations and denials for years, whether in power or out of it, and nobody seemed to take any of it seriously. Sure, we were all following the money, but not to bust the source but to tap it. They kept it all under wraps when I was around, and the negotiations went without a hitch. Almost too smooth. Garden parties, with a side of ballet and opera. Then a yacht cruise around some islands and back. A sizable beast she was too, though humbler than some oligharcs. Plenty of babes hired for the day by the look of it. Some claiming to be wives and girlfriends but not too convincingly. I lunched and wandered about, surfing the vibe and careful to keep my powder dry. No-one at the office had ever advised abstinence in the line of duty but it was assumed discretion would remain uppermost. Not to mention that ghostly Mariella, who took on some protective mother role, commenting on every charmer who sidled up for a few moments. Slut shaming was just the beginning. Mentally, without any facial gesture, I told her to back off. Aaw, was she cramping my style? She was saving me from the crabs.
I did not wish to be saved, I could save myself thank you. But Mariella had my number and wouldn’t give up: niggle niggle niggle. Two tipsy gigglers passed by, smiling, and asked if I’d care for a threesome. Mariella stood behind them, waving her arms, all clown girl. It was a challenge to keep a straight face while warding off their witchy spell. They mimed disappointment and moved on. I mimed something I thought socially acceptable and growled inwardly at Mariella who seemed to giggle and then fade. I strolled the deck and chatted amiably, somewhat relieved to be following only one line of communication at a time. This was something I would have to master I suspected. My ghost mom was going to be hovering.
Maybe she had patented some kind of homing device, but she managed to appear in the most unlikely places. Even my occasional morning Quaker silence in a cool church not far from my hotel. Sensing her next to me in the pew I turned to see a familiar form, strangely without a hint of mockery. Maybe she thought I’d converted and was praying my way to forgiveness, catholic style. Maybe she’d just go away and leave me alone. Later I had a massage appointment, available through my hotel. She watched from the corner, warily. Or at least I thought I saw her there. Surely she knew a massage when she saw one.
The masseuse was not topless nor anything but completely professional, but hints of suspicion wafted about the room. I dressed and left for a business lunch. Mariella was good enough, or maybe just bored, to leave me to my chores. And they were getting that way. Was I that good at schmoozechat I was looking for fresh challenge? Laurel resting did not seem to be in my backpack. Perhaps in spite of the five-star travel glamour it was a job like any other job. You played the game as the training had set out, with only the pre-approved script variations allowed. No loose cannons or cowboys: those had been summarily dealt with years before and I was quietly made aware of what could happen. The prompt gentlemanly non-disclosure dismissal.
So rather than toss the best opportunity to ever come my way I worked on the fresh challenge angle.
Maybe I should start thinking about settling down. But both my recent ex’s had married so no loose threads to pick up there and the whole clubbing scene just turned me off. Maybe squash was the answer? My connections with the arts community had shriveled the moment I’d entered the MBA program. I was treated like some traitor to the cause. Pointing out that my BA in history and literature served no practical purpose was not acceptable. That Gang of Four song To Hell with Poverty Let’s Get Drunk on Cheap Wine was a theme song for those folks in their snarky backchat get togethers in those smelly canvas filled ateliers. My own creative enterprise died on the vine of non-consummation. At the very least my novels were not trendy and at worst just plain dull. I decided not to get my gender reassigned or fake some indigenous credentials. My exit from the arts community rather soured me on any community. I could see I did not need to be a card-carrying anything. I liked being me, especially this new well-off me. My Quaker practice was quiet and unassuming: that’s the very nature of the beast. Surrounding the psycho babble of the brain with silence gave me what I needed. It was what everyone else needed to but try telling them that.
Looking back at all this from my current vantage point is quite fascinating. Were my choices wise? Did I too easily tilt to taking the easy way out? Some acquaintances here tell me I did, others say it hardly matters. Everything broken can be mended, every transgression can be forgiven. Or so I’m told. As I’m still kinda new here and finding my way, I take all opinions on board. Self-judgement, its innate destructiveness and limitations are often discussed. Many catch themselves doing it and wish they could let it go. I don’t seem to be so ensnared. Like the singer sang: no regrets coyote. And I owe mom for that. Big Joni fan from way back. Can sing most of Blue after two glasses of Merlot.
Maybe it’s all that quiet time embracing the silence and letting go the need for god to be there. Even if you are not in communion it sure feels like you are. The point seems to be not questioning but going deeper. And going deeper seems easier here. Couple of musician friends tell me it’s the same with their playing: here you are more fluid and less clumsy. That’s piano and flute. Oh, there’s a percussionist too. And opportunities abound: as the percussionist reported, he never got anywhere near Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, but here there are more orchestras to join. No funding or performance space issues certainly helps.
Writing? Well, I’m writing this. What do you think so far?
Recalling The Arrival
How exactly did I get here, you’d maybe like to know. And now that I’m here, what do I think of it all? Well, not as simple to answer as you might think. Before I, you know, got settled, I had a couple of visits. Kinda vague but visits is the best way to approximate. For years, off and on anyway, I’d slipped from my Quaker-ish quiet time into some sort of inner vision. A dream wide awake as it were.
A stunning river valley with snow capped mountains both sides. Somewhere in the Rockies maybe. And yeah, I am floating through, unperturbed, bemused, charmed. The valley twists and winds and I flow, following some strange inner directive. A settlement appears as the valley widens about the river. Then I’m strolling between buildings, nodding and greeting strangers as if they were neighbours. Then I am back in my silent space, seated, the wood of my chair reasserting its texture.
That was the newest version, there’d been others, some urban, some citified, all fading. A while later the valley and friendly village again. Where was I going? A puzzle with a pleasant lining, a dream with a lack of documentation I called it. Back home for a few days r&r. Got the bike out of the garage. A quick tune up. A ride round the old hood, avoiding the major roads, going past the graveyard. A delivery truck in a hurry and I was a goner. Back in the valley, strolling through the village as someone I vaguely recognised says Hello and gives me a quick hug. I likely looked nonplussed.
My new friend said: Looks like you’re here for good this time.
I had to say something: Looks like it. He looked at me. I had to say something else: I guess you were expecting me.
Well, you mentioned the transition a while back. You weren’t specific but you seemed ready to make the move, at least to me.
You know about these things?
He grinned: Yeah, I’ve been here some time, I know how things go.
I felt emboldened: What things?
His grin widened: People visiting, liking the place and then deciding to settle here.
That how you got here?
He changed tack: Listen why don’t we get settled somewhere and have a drink? You look like you need one.
I nodded: Sure, show me the way.
The area seemed part residential and part commercial, easy on the eye, beautifully landscaped, a funky upscale neighbourhood in a tourist town. Café’s, gift shops, plants and flowers in tubs, houses that turned into emporiums on closer inspection. I mentioned that I felt like I was on vacation. As we took our seats in this resto cocktail spot my friend said Well you are kind of. Here is a vacation from there. I wondered where there was but escaped into focusing on the cocktail selection and fab looking appetizers.
My new friend brought me up to speed on the developments I’d passed on. They included many visits to this vacation spot, making friends here and there, carving out a bit of a comfort zone and advertising my exit from life.
Which life would that be?
The travelling negotiator guy. Oh yeah him.
I said it like it was someone else I’d briefly met and wasn’t impressed by. That triggered images of his family and friends. My family. Suddenly I was standing by my weeping mother trying to call my father who’d likely forgotten his phone on the golf course. Then she called the club house number and asked if he could be contacted, it was a family emergency. Shit she’s talking about me!
Then I was back with my ‘friend’ and raising a glass to my lips. I asked him: What just happened?
You slipped away and then returned.
How long was I gone?
A minute, maybe two.
What a shock! I couldn’t really cope. My mother’s grief. Was I really there?
Sure. That sort of thing is easy here. Flashes of thought and flushes of emotion, they’ll carry you away until you learn to control them.
That’ll come with time I take it?
Yeah. He sipped at his drink and grinned. Just wait till you can be in two places at once.
Some kind of cloning?
Cloning, hologram, thought form, take your pick. I know folk that can do three or four at a whim, and others who think it’s an unnecessary complication.
I must have looked puzzled. He added, many are quite happy to be just who they are, you know, happy campers in paradise.
Suddenly I was gone again. In some hospital setting, staring down at some body being operated on.
To be more exact the skull. With surgeons leaning over there was not much to see. Okay, I got it, it had to be me. A last-minute desperate attempt to revive? It felt like it. Back at the resto, nibbling at something.
I was gone again?
Yeah, about 45 seconds.
Was in some hospital O.R.
Present at your own departure. Bit confusing huh?
I don’t know what to think.
He chuckled: try not thinking at all. Just accept the mystery.
No! Struggled with it and then gave up. But I know what you’re thinking, it’s hard to completely let go. The urge to wrap yourself around it and burrow in is always lurking.
We took a stroll outside the village and into the hills. Gorgeous, relaxing and somehow familiar. My companion, and I dunno, guide, began to seem like some old friend just returned from a long stint abroad. We were catching up.
I spent the night in his spare bedroom. I didn’t know what else to do. Not that there’s much might there. More a sort of restful twilight. When I awoke there was the usual potpourri of dream images and feelings swirling about. No change there, just like a normal morning before charging into the day. But no charge here. I considered shaving but my chin was smooth as glass. Eric appeared with some coffee. The previous evening, he had suggested when asked, that I call him anything I pleased, as he had lost the attachment to his birth name. I’d tried on Alexander and Damian, but neither seemed right, and besides I was quite comfortable with Paul.
After coffee and a delicious toasted bagel I showered and changed. Eric had plenty of extras and it was a while before I found out that you could change your clothes by just wanting something different.
Did I recognise him yet? Were some memories falling into place? I tried to please but no luck.
Sometime in the new ‘later’ of this world I found myself at my own funeral. Eric had advised detached observing, but I failed on that front. Too much grieving in a family where excessive emotion had not been the norm. I was overwhelmed and had to leave.
Visiting with my grandparents was a whole lot easier. They’d been settled here for a while, had passed when middle aged and hardly knew me as much more than a three-year-old, my sister as a baby. It was like making new friends. Grandad had been in banking in the 50’s and 60’s when most played by the rules and had yet to be tempted by the megabuck profit madness of the 80’s. At first, he been shocked and then disgusted. As a church and community service man all his life, he now looked onto a world he did not recognize. His initial enthusiasm for visiting the earth world for updates soon soured and he and grandma settled into the Christian heaven favored by Episcopalians. Never hectoring righteous bible thumpers, they still adhered to the teachings of Jesus and tried not to see their heaven as some reward for good behaviour. They seemed to respect my lukewarm Quakerism, as they had with my father, but did not really get it. Was silent communion prayer? I wasn’t sure myself and did not really care to debate it. Why bother. Let’s tolerate each other. Let’s be charitable, granddad added. This in the beauty of their garden by the pond. A lily pond as calming and beautiful as I’ve seen. On expressing my admiration, he told me it had been quite a project, a creative effort beyond anything he had attempted, but now that it was completed to his satisfaction some days he got bored and went for a long walk.
Looking for new challenges, I asked.
Could be, he mused. Living in these rewards of faith can be very gratifying but there’s something missing. Maybe the faults in me, your grandmother seems satisfied with all her hobbies and outreach organising. I knew Christ’s paradise was at hand, I never really doubted it, but now that I am here, I feel the need for something more. As to what that might be I cannot say.
He’d been gazing at his pond as he said this, but now he looked me in the eye. Of course, that need not be of concern to you. The joys of arrival, of really knowing the reality of eternal life is yours for the keeping, that is your due and I do not wish to detract from that. I some ways I still feel like the old man who wasted away and then got here relieved of his bodily burdens. Regretful, but regretful about what exactly? Maybe I miss the game of money, investment and profit. Maybe I want to be a philanthropist. Maybe one day I will. Here I’m always receiving. I think I want to give.
When I sympathised with his dilemma he waved his hand and muttered, No matter, it’s all a bit of waffle. Still getting adjusted, I guess.
When it comes to settling in, eternity turns out to be just another place to be. Getting around sure is easier, and let’s face it more fun, and some of those annoying issues that we had to cope with are just gone. All those bodily functions for a start. No nose blowing or sneezing. No burping, farting or that other messy thing. You can eat and drink to your heart’s content, but it just seems to disappear on the way down. I puzzled over it but soon learned to accept it as the new normal as pretty much everyone else does. Of course, it’s a relief to be done with all of it but does no one wonder where it all went as I do? It’s not as if it’s taboo to talk about it, but no one seems to actually do it.
There’s a lot of quiet celebration of the new life, born of relief I suspect. All the silent doubters doing their best for decades, working away raising a family, watching suffering and tragedy all around and wondering why god allows it. No suffering here, least not that I can see and not much wondering why god allows that. Father always said it’s about accepting what come at you and absorbing whatever power it has into yourself. Whether secular or sacred, angelic or demonic. And looking back on that now I think I took that on. Sometime in high school, I now reckon, when girls took up more of my attention than they deserved.
Life can be so easy here, pleasures, joys, socialising and relationships. It can turn into merry-go-round
With almost no effort. You just fall into it. And after Eric helped me get my own place, in this mountain valley village of rare beauty, sort of what I imagined Colorado might be like once upon a time, I fell into it myself. A woman who came along with Eric to a couple of lunches took a fancy to me, and as Eric said he didn’t mind there was plenty to go around, I soon began to spend some quality time with Jill. Her free-flowing sensuality uncorked my bottled up energy. Not that I knew it was bottled up. It took Jill to wiggle it out bit and bit.
Our intimacies were out of this world. Sometimes I felt myself disappearing for a few seconds. I went someplace marvelous and misty and when I came back, I asked if she’d noticed. She chuckled, Noticed what exactly? Later she insisted we sit crossed legged on a mat and while gazing in each other’s eyes, project love from our hearts. It seemed a bit girly-silly to me, but I had come to respect her notions. Turned out to be the smart choice, this male surrender.
I acted as suggested, wondering what the actual energy of love was like, and then, as it overcame me, giving up the quest. No heavy or faster breathing as of old, more a willing drowning in some kind of bliss. A calm bliss, somehow centred on us but descending from some above like grace. The grace you read about and thought you knew. Jill smiled and I smiled too. Maybe I cannot convey this. Maybe you will only understand when you get here yourself. But maybe not, I barely understand it myself. Maybe I could say we expand in moments of joy. True for all but even truer here.
When I attempted to explain my experience to Eric he chuckled, bobbing his head from side to side. Wait till she has you do the same with your third eye. Complete annihilation, the ego, the self, whatever.
Do I get to come back renewed?
Oh, you’ll come back to earth alright, but this isn’t earth is it, it’s heaven.
Coming back to heaven means you went somewhere beyond, if only for moments.
Yeah. Lotta folk here don’t want to think about that.
Gees, I can’t wait.
I spent a couple of what seemed like days thinking that over. The implications were implications that could not be avoided. I must have seemed introspective or moody as when Jill tracked me down, she teased me for being such a bore and insisted we go swimming. Immediately. You can do that here. Go from one activity to another in a flash. And with someone like Jill it’s impossible not to.
But I am drifting here. Meandering from one issue to another here is so easy. Not much pressure to be focused. No jobs, payments, schedules. Free and easy would be a fine description. Some folk make it complex but it feels like a bad habit from the old days. There’s just so many shifts and changes they can’t quite cope. Have to admit I had some issues of that nature myself. Lost without a purpose I guess. I tried with my grieving family first. Accompanying dad on a round of golf with his pals. Trying to be this guide with the good vibes, but he had some cloud about him that kept me shrouded, cut off. I first thought it was the cloud of grief, and then it seemed like the cloud of fencing off that grief.
Then I joined him in at several Quaker meetings. His long practice of silence within and without became our practice as I sat next to him, trying to harmonize. I felt that he felt me. Feelings, yes. Maye not to be totally trusted. So I tried telepathy. The thinking of thoughts that required answers. Simple stuff like Tiger Woods latest dumb shit move. And then some local politics. Guy stuff. It sure felt like a conversation. At one point I telepathed, Dad you know it’s me, right? I felt a nod and heard a yes.
Sis was often so high when she deejayed she could see me. First time she said, You’re so wiggly and wobbly! I answered I was doing my best. Don’t forget, this is the externalised brainstorm of flashing lights and EDM noise. How could I hear anything? Good question. The next day, at lunch with mom, I listened as she tried to insert her vision into the chat, which was mostly mom’s latest great deal. Mom’s response was almost immediate. Yes, she had seen me too. In some kind of half-asleep half-awake dream the previous night as dad snored away. First, I’d heard. Could I somehow be in her mind without knowing it? Well, I was still sleeping in my new life, not that one needs to, but habits like that die hard, so maybe I was dreaming there to, traversing the dimensions and returning without knowing it. Jill was away somewhere, didn’t say where, testing my commitment maybe, so I asked Eric and he answered, without thinking it over, Sure, you can project while asleep and not know later. You can do it while wide awake too, but maybe not right now. He gazed at me, There’s no rush, one step at a time.
I felt he was hinting at much more. He picked up my thought. Yeah, there’s was much you could do here that seemed magical at first but eventually was old hat. Just going back to earth and hanging with family and friends was enough for now. Pretty soon, he suspected I would be visiting with them at night as they rose out of their sleeping bodies.
For what exactly?
Refreshment really. That astral body really needs to get away from the heavy physical vibration. All that density and gravity gets them down.
That’s what we’re in now. Yes, you and me, the dead. Some call it the resurrected body, others the radiant body. Call it what you like, it’s the body hiding inside the one you used on earth. Hey, not that I knew that then. Had a few pretty wild dreams in my day but never twigged to where I was when I had them.
Then things got complicated. Some dreams were brain products and others were journeys in the body we’re in now. Eric attempted to explain all the subtleties and variations. I made out like I got it.
Some time later I laid out my confusion to Jill. She told me not to sweat the small stuff, adding that she had a much more exciting adventure planned. I know you think I’m some kind of good time girl, on some romp through paradise, but I do have serious side. As she uttered this with a wiggle of the nose and a cheeky grin I chuckled and insisted she tell me more.
Long story short we were about to go down a few levels and see some of the unfortunates and deplorables who lived there. Why did not appear to be on the list of acceptable queries. My education was being rounded out. There’d be no profiling, background checks, training seminars or nondisclosures to sign. She grabbed my hand and off we went. A brief, dizzying ride through flashing images and sounds. Brief as in seconds.
A chilly damp landscape. Stunted trees lacking leaves. Must be winter. So unlike the warm radiance of my little town in the valley. Here seemed like late November. Really? Why this, I asked. Trust me she replied. She started to walk, tugging me into compliance. The soil and grass was squelchy. She was a witch leading me to my doom in a swamp. I’d be at her beck and call forever. She laughed, I heard that! Don’t be so paranoid.
Yes, I had to admit she had never dealt me a bad hand. At least not yet. I was told to be patient, that all this came with the territory. What this mist too? It felt like some grade b horror film. She said, Where do you think they get their ideas from? The whirls of mist made it difficult to see more than fifty feet ahead. Somehow, without any warning we were entering a village, an abandoned ruin by the looks of things. I turned to Jill: she looked as if she’d gained thirty years and kitted herself out at some nearby thrift shop. I looked down: I still had my jeans and tshirt.
Two skinny, bedraggled men came tumbling out of a doorway, mid-wrestle. I wondered of the building might be some divey bar but none of the usual hints were visible. We watched as they tussled. The half expected move from Jill did not come and we wandered onward, the grunting and cussing fading behind us. I wanted to ask what her interest in all this was, but I held back, curious about our next encounter, which I was sure would arrive any moment.
An old lady was squatting on an even older log. She did not look up as we arrived. Jill greeted her by name. She raised her head slightly and peered up, eyes more closed than open. Jill asked how she was today.
Same as yesterday and the day before.
You look like you could use some exercise. Why don’t you come and walk with us?
She was too weak and tired. The end was not far off. Why delay it with strutting about? Just let me die in peace. Jill crouched close to her face and told her she was already dead. The lady sniffed haughtily and muttered under her breath. Jill pecked at her cheek and then stood. Her parting comment was one of I’ll see you soon then, and we moved on. Strolling like some courting couple we should have been on some boardwalk by the sand and waves or some winding mountain path, but no, we were sunk in this hellhole of misery and self pity.
A group of men in tattered uniforms sat around a picnic table sipping beer from steins. They were making plans for something or other. Their words had the tone of grumbling, the little that I could make out. I heard comments about retaking something that rightfully belonged to them. Jill asked if they’d like some good food. One guy raised his head and assured her they would. She left me standing and went behind the building they were seated in front of, returning in a moment with a large platter of what looked like a barbequed turkey with roasted potatoes. When she placed it in front of them they stopped talking long enough to grab hunks and, to be frank, gobble.
We walked on. One day they’ll thank me. I asked where they got the beer jug. Oh, she left that on her last visit. And they didn’t finish it in seconds? Oh, she replied, it’s one of those automatic refill jobbies.
Of course, there was an explanation, but was I going to get it? Full disclosure later apparently. Yes, it was some village of the damned. There was plenty of them on that level. The selfish, self-pitying and obsessed gathered in such locations, irresistibly drawn by their own predispositions in that time honoured misery-loves-company style. Unlike us, in our slice of happy paradise. And how did we deserve all this, I asked waving my arm around. Simple: we weren’t angry, jealous, vengeful, resentful.
And that was it? Yeah, far as she could tell. One’s inner state determined the outer one. It wasn’t so much ‘deserve’ as knowing the inner and the outer were one.
Well, I’d always felt, at least for years, that we all made our own lives, our own reality, and that blaming others or society or whatever, was useless. Yeah, indulging in the blame game was what a lot of them down there did. So why not let them stew in their own juice? Jill thought compassion was a good idea. Plus, there was something quite marvellous about getting any of them to smile or say thanks.
When we debated the issue for a bit Jill seemed to rest on the idea that charity was just natural. I could think of a few over the years who’d found it the last thing on their minds. Enough to make me wonder why I thought it a blessing instead of a failing. Ethics 101. Jill poo-pooed all my points. I was justifying selfishness. Well, she was boosting selflessness. She squealed with laughter and took me flying. When I say ‘took’, the concept of an invite was nowhere to be seen. Soon we were doing loops and figures of eight through what looked like big puffy clouds.
Some days later, not that we have days here, I accused her of having a philosophy of pleasure joy and service. She denied it outright, insisting that she did what she felt like in the moment. And no, she didn’t care to analyse her motivations. The she threw me onto the bed for a tussle. Despite my giggling compliance she accused me of resisting. I should quit trying to preserve some ancient notion of dignity.
Well, maybe I did have some antiquated notions of personal dignity. I’d observed it in my silent times but assumed it came with the territory. That civilised zone with its formalised etiquette of you-do-this and-I-do-that. Jill said she’d outgrown that, and I should too.
I flipped onto my back and groaned. Jill asked how long I was going to pout. I answered As long as it takes and then regretted it. Insufficient self-assertion. She was obviously adept at maintaining the upper hand. Well, we’d soon see about that. She asked if I was planning a rebellion against chick power. Then she padded about the bedroom, showing off her fab figure, pushing provocative to the limit, sticking her ass in my face and thence to the kitchen to prepare snazzy drinks and snacks. She insisted that she kept it there for old times sake, never really feeling the need to eat or drink, but others, newbies like me, still did, so why not cater to them.
Some time after this I made a return visit to my grandparents. Their laid back lifestyle had a calming effect on me. The excitement of complete freedom of movement here needed to take a back seat for a bit. Relaxing in the garden reading novels and snoozing was just what the doctor ordered. They did not lack for friends, mostly of their generation who shared memories of their times and new of grand-children and great-grandchildren. Looking at them all as they were now, youngish and vibrant, as almost everyone is here, it was odd to imagine the four and five years olds at kindergarten recess as they described. When I looked in the mirror I saw basically the same guy who died a while back, thirty going on thirty-one. It’s the zone that the old and the young are drawn to after some time here. Seems to happen whether you want it or not. Twelve morphs to twenty-five or thereabouts and eighty firms up to about the same. How long a does it take? A matter of some debate here, that. Time.
Like its pal distance it seems to shrink. Not to disappearance but certainly more manageable. Canada to Japan: no problem. Poland to New Zealand: about the same. I’ve been told Mars and Jupiter are a quick transfer and some, a little leery, practice up by flipping to the Moon and back. Get’s your confidence up Grandad told me as he cleaned out the pond. There’s also loose talk of what folks call ‘others from elsewhere’ camping out for some kind of planetary vacation and orientation. But they look like us and its hard to see any kind of alien-ness in them. They’ll tell you about Sirius and Andromeda if you dare to ask, which most, including me, don’t. But you do hear stories.
I was curious to revisit my head office and see how the chain of command worked when you were listening in. No-one seemed to mention or miss me. My replacement, another natural schmoozer by the looks of things, had taken up the reins without a hitch. No one is irreplaceable and life goes on: everyone knows that but it can still be a shock to see it in action. You were there and now you’re here, all ghost-like and to tell the truth a bit envious. Why? With all that eternal reward stuff swirling about you, you can still miss being on the team, a player. When I asked Granddad’s opinion he replied You’re a player here too but you don’t know it yet. I took that to be a bit of the old inscrutable bait to keep you hooked until you finally got bored with getting everything on a plate for free and were keen to hustle some more. Was I keen? No, not even close. But I did wonder about Mariella.
I took to wandering about the no-fly zones Jill had introduced me to, getting into a few scrapes
with a number of unruly customers who’d made a habit of deception, duplicity and just plain nastiness. They couldn’t really harm you but they could easily trick you into thinking they might. After failing to find even a trace of her, I began to wonder why she’d hadn’t so far found me. Eric suggested that while she had a my number on earth she did not have the keys to the kingdom here. She was stuck in her vengeance comfort zone. I wondered how I might penetrate that. He advised forming an image of her as I last remembered and let that lead me. Sounded easy enough. And it was.
I sat quietly in my own place, focused on the image and felt myself drawn to it. Magnetised irresistibly. There I was watching her in some shabby den of iniquity snorting lines with some smooth talking reprobates. Jill had already chattered away about drugs not really working here, that it was all in the mind but then wasn’t everything, so basically I was none the wiser, as dad said his father-in-law used to say. A lot of my stoner sessions were in dorm rooms and cars with hyperactive students. Oh, we’d get high alright, but the thrill of the upcoming weekend, not to mention life spread out before us, kept us chattering amiably. This lot, while radiating bonhomie, seemed sullen and snarly. I didn’t have to wait long for a squabble to break out, but surprize, surprize, Mariella settled it by stroking and kissing both the contestants. Back on earth she’d been the cool flirt that frustrates the aims of others, turning off and on that sultry charm with ease. Here she’d refined her technique to trance inducing, one that I’ll have to admit I admired, and when she left the scene with both lads trailing I had to wonder about hidden agendas.
While it wasn’t a broken down shed in a favela, her place was hardly a pied-a-terre in the 14th arrondissement or Hampstead. Doors did not shut and paint was peeling. She settled the men on the ratty couch and once briefly gone reappeared with a bottle of something or other, probably not Chateau LaFitte. There were no glasses so they drank from the bottle, taking turns as befits the down at heels. Recalling Jill’s rabbit-out-of-the-hat tricks, I considered the possibility that Mariella had somehow twigged to about half of the trick. But soon I was intrigued as she bent close to them as of hatching a secret plan. I knew it would be some kind of vengeance thing and quickly got all messianic about saving her from herself. But she could not see me, that I could tell, so, in a burst of newbie courage, I thought about Eric and suddenly was sitting by him as he sat on patio sipping a beer and chatting with some friends. He calmly introduced me and no-one seemed even slightly fizzed that I had just appeared out of nowhere. They all looked interested however, as if they sensed I had a query. Eric smiled: Go on, fire away.
I explained what I thought was my dilemma. One of his friends asked if I really thought she was worth saving. Maybe she needed that kind of dead end to, you know, wake up and smell the karma. Eric asked just how connected I was to her. I set forth the business trips, the set-up of the elite families, her feeling that she’d been ripped off and her repeated pestering of me to move some kind of mountain in her favour. And I was still puzzled that she could so easily harass me when alive but lose me when dead. The other chap, who actually said, Never mind my name it means nothing, when I asked, questioned my motives. Was I doing this for her or myself? The do-gooder trip was seductive. It reminded me of talks with dad years before over the-working-out-your-own-salvation thing. Not really an item on the Quaker agenda. He even remarked Let the dead bury the dead.
Was compassion self-serving I asked of the table. Eric figure it could be either, that is, selfless or selfish. And telling the difference was trickier than you thought. Then his nameless buddy suggested the difference was negligible and that ultimately didn’t really matter. All actions, even here in paradiseland, had consequences and couldn’t be short-circuited or compromised. The other guy added Yeah a bit like chess. Then Eric: Yeah and after the game both the king and pawn go back in the box.
We all chuckled at that. Finishing my drink, a juice-like beer, I said: I guess I’ll be on my way. Eric nodded: Good luck! I felt like I was on trial but my nerve held. I transferred back to the ratty gloom of Mariella’s level. She was alone and looking lost. Maybe I could get her attention. I tried this and that: no luck. It was like squeezing toothpaste out of an empty tube. Then I remembered something Jill had advised: lower your vibration. Okay I thought, sounds good but how? When she first conducted me to that level it was over in seconds and I hardly knew how we got there, in fact I didn’t know at all and just satisfied myself by going along for the strange ride.
I took a chance and said to myself ‘lower vibration now’. A weird kind of heaviness settled on me like I’d just put on three overcoats with stones in the pockets. Hints of dizziness and nausea, but they soon passed. I wasn’t exactly at my best but thought to plough on. Brought an image of Mariella to mind and somehow I was there. She was curled up sleeping. I lay down next to her as best I could on the raised platform that passed for a bed and waited for some kind of recognition. Nothing so I gave a bit of a nudge. Her eyes opened and shock set in. As she came to, more pleased than impressed, I could see up close she looked kinda haggard, as if she’d gained a decade since I last saw her when alive.
She watched me as I sat up and moved to a rickety chair. She asked how I got there. I told her the same way as everyone else: I died. She asked if I was sure. I told her I was. Did that mean she was too?
I assured her she was though my confidence seemed something of a sham. What did I really know? I had been in a paradise world for quite some what I used to call time, one where everyone acted cheerful and quite chuffed with themselves. I asked her to just trust me. I was surprised to hear her reply of Okay. She did not ask for proof, which was a relief as I didn’t think I could come up with any.
I thought to transport her, sort of the reverse of what Jill did for me. Going on the up escalator rather than the down one. Brash confidence for sure. Maybe I wanted something to brag to Jill about. Well, it didn’t work too well. I took her hand, asked her to close her eyes, and imaged my paradise valley village. I found myself there, but alone. I returned and tried again. Mariella hadn’t noticed I’d been away. Her eyes still closed she looked like an expectant child who’d been promised a gift. I made another attempt, this time insisting her body be ready for the new world. We arrived together, but she was lying on my bed in a deep sleep as I peered at her wondering why I was alert and erect. I pulled a sheet over her and thought there’s was nothing more I could do for the time being.
I had yet to experiment with manifesting food or drink so I unwrapped some bread and poured some juice. Snacking can signal some return to normality and I suspect that’s just what I needed. Whatever passes for normal here. Then I went out for a walk. Down by the river, wider somehow than I recalled, watching what might have been a class of children in kid sized yachts, learning the ways of sails I guessed, I met up with one of Eric’s friends who asked how things were going. I was pleased to be able to tell him of my experiment. He nodded and looked pensive for a moment and then commented that she might not stay.
Why may I ask?
The vibration, she might not be able to handle it for long. That’s likely why she’s sleeping now.
It’s all too much?
Yeah. She could adjust, especially if you project some energy that could help stabilize her.
Lighten her load sort of?
After a bit he excused himself and wished me well on my little project. I still had that newbie lack of confidence and wondered if I was being teased. I continued my stroll, contemplating my next move. Was I ready to chaperone Mariella into what would likely be a huge adjustment? Maybe Jill would lend a hand? Was she, even now, waiting in the wings for me to step down from my pride and ask? I thought how nice it would be to sit by granddad’s lily pond and chill out. In a second I was there doing just that. In this world of ‘think and it is so’ the pleasant shock of such shifts has to be endured, at least until you learn to control your thinking, which I and many others have not. Eric said not to worry just enjoy the ride. Hard to tell, really, when one’s thought is strong enough to get you there and sufficiently weak to be a passing fancy. My grandparents were nowhere to be seen and my quiet moments stretched out, that is until I thought to check on Mariella and I was there by the bed wondering where she had gone.
Not anywhere in my home, including closets. Hmmn. Maybe….Yes she was back in her old haunt, that shabby little shack, still sleeping. Amazed that I’d made the transfer so easily, must have pressed the ‘dismal’ switch, I took it upon myself to awaken her with a kiss. She did not turn into a princess, but she did open here eyes and drowsily whispered that she dreamed about me in some kind of paradise. I smiled reassuringly.
Want to go there now? I stopped myself from saying ‘forever’. That’d be a bridge too far. And so, with a some smooth encouragement and a silent dose of what I thought was uplifting energy work, we returned to my place, where I convinced her to have a shower and some lunch. After that, a careful repast if there ever was one, she felt the need for another nap and off she went. I looked at the pile of rags that were her clothes and thought Jill would be the best wardrobe mistress for the job. I called to her in my mind, that organ I still thought was on the top of my head and felt something you might call a response.
I rested in my easy chair, waiting. Something had been accomplished and I nodded off, rather pleased with myself. Jill was sitting on my lap as I awakened, squirming and grinning.
So you’ve been two timing me you bad boy. Or is it this charity case I’ve been sensing?
She needs a new clothes.
Planning on staying over for a bit is she?
She can stay with you if you like. In fact I’d rather.
Cute. You get to keep your hot babe and be a do-gooder as well. Are you sure you weren’t a pastor in a past life? You dug her out of some sleazy motel?
Jill could really lay it on when she was in the mood. Finally, she allowed me my explanation.
Ah, that life.
She lifted up from my lap and was gone, returning before I had time to recover. A variety of what looked like blouses and skirts over her arm.
I figured she’s the skirt type. Jeans and shoes we can get later. She threw the clothes onto the bed, they somehow managed to land in a neat folded pile. I gotta learn that one sometime.
Like some pouty model in a movie she wriggled out of her already tight jeans, revealing a thong and, you know, thighs and ass cheeks to charm an ice cube. I suggested that the show was unnecessary. She insisted the Quaker boy was still halfway in his box and desperately needed to be outed. I suggested that sublimation was not repression. She replied Bullshit, two sides of the same coin. You can guess the rest. Mariella slept through it all. Later after a twosome shower where we ran the race one more time, she said, Leave her to me. I settled downstairs, and listened to some soothing music, one ft eh many digital channels available. It was a bit too soothing, if you know what I mean so I switched to orchestral classics and got a piano concerto I sort of recognised.
Mariella continued to find naps more attractive than waking life for what seemed like a few days and then, after several invitations moved to Jill’s, where Jill promised not to seduce her. But I knew she couldn’t resist and soon they were a couple of sorts, Mariella liked the lesbian version of the refined lady lifestyle that Jill had access to on some other level I had yet to discover. I hung with Eric and joined a chess club and a theatre group, something I’d always fantasized about. I also found a Quaker community more or less the same as the ones on Earth, where communing with the silence was, how can I say, more than marvellous. I’ll resist bragging about getting close to God but that silence was full of blessings.
Over time, that thing we keep talking about, as we adjust to its lack, Jill gave some reports on her occasional visits about taking Mariella back to the lower worlds and having her lose her attachments so she could work there creatively with all the screw ups she used to pal around with. She also reported that Epstein was still a horn dog corrupting youth with various charming deceits. Up to his old tricks, she grimaced, but it takes the willing victims to play the game don’t it? There were plenty of young souls, some of them women, on the lower levels still operating on the old paradigm, not realising that creative expression was theirs for the taking. I started to see how all her talk about manifesting your own reality when I got here was no line just to impress.
Later, weeks rather than days I suspect, she mentioned Mariella was thinking about being born again. A young relative was starting a family with her new husband and It seemed like just what she needed. Jill was trying to talk her out of it and had even enlisted a guide to give more solid advice. The last thing I wanted to do was return. There was nothing that I missed and I could see my family any time I felt like it. And I was about to fill my first big supporting role. Theatre groups are much the same here; while waiting for your chance you aim to please. As we used to say, back in the old world, life was good. I guess you’d say that despite all the magic pleasure of paradise, some things never change. Maybe they will later. Jill drops the odd hint that they will, but only when I’m ready. But what ready actually entails is a bit vague. A graduation, a switching of careers, a falling down some rabbit hole? She smirks knowingly.
Let me flip over to the future, courtesy Jill and her refined abilities. Here’s what she envisioned, more than a prediction but somehow less than a reality carved in stone. Mariella would be born into her new family and have more of the privileged life she’d been accustomed to. In her late teens she would be attractive enough to allow herself seduced by the man who’d betrayed her, now an elderly gentleman not without his peccadilloes. A girlfriend would be induced into participating and then convinced money could be extracted, which through compromising shots and blackmail it was.
The new Mariella, Carisma, would not retain active memories of her previous downfall but only the furious drive for revenge. The erotic energy of young women knows no bounds and the old gentleman’s heart gave out as she hoped it would. His habits were well known to the family and smoothed over for the funeral. As usual scandal was neatly sidestepped. A share of the estate came her way and after some years of living high off the hog, she had enough left to found a small retreat for the wealthy in need of serious pampering, which soon found a ready clientele among her class in the bustling city.
Jill assured me this was a possible future, plotted out by the higher minded aspects of the soul, but could easily be derailed by what she called ‘the bad old habits of before’. The vanities of the mirror and the wardrobe could easily return. I had by that point learned to bow down to her superior wisdom and be a learner as well as a lover. To complete the picture, if the fluidity we have here can be stopped for an image, my father was, as we golfed and sat in silence together, giving signs of weariness and I readied myself, taking tips from Jill of course, for what looked very much like an upcoming transition. And me, I’m a happy as a clam in this paradise and have visited others of equal allure to wonder why anyone would ever think of taking a leave of absence. Jill chuckles: Just wait.