The Silver Year: L’Epilogue est Sans Issue

L'Epilogue est Sans Issue

 

 

I watch​​ her. She​​ commands​​ the bar with the stoicism of a field surgeon and the grace of an ice dancer.

“Whadda​​ you​​ want?”​​ She​​ mentally notates each answer with a nod, sawing​​ down the front line of patrons as one bites​​ corn​​ off​​ a​​ cob, mercilessly bypassing​​ any​​ kernels​​ with drink orders​​ unready.​​ Her hands move with​​ deeply​​ satisfying rhythm and​​ automation. In one,​​ a​​ cocktail​​ shaker pumps, in the other, a bottle tips to a​​ wanting​​ line of shot​​ glasses.​​ She​​ chews off three more drink​​ orders​​ in the process, keeping tally of the beers filling under​​ the​​ taps​​ behind her, then with balletic bravado, she cracks​​ the shaker​​ over two​​ glasses,​​ pirouettes to stop​​ the​​ three running​​ taps,​​ and​​ returns with four totals for​​ eleven drinks.

“Sixteen . . . twenty-four-fifty . . . forty-two . . . twenty-one-seventy-five.”

As the​​ front​​ line of​​ patrons procure​​ payment, she​​ tops off the beers,​​ delivers them​​ to the bar, and​​ begins​​ the process​​ all over again with the line​​ behind them.​​ She never stops. The whole night is her ballet, battle,​​ and opera.​​ They say true multitasking is impossible, but Jade​​ has​​ made a perfection of faking it. It’s a shame no one​​ sees her brilliance​​ the way I do—not​​ even she,​​ so I’m documenting it here, hoping for perpetuity.​​ In fact, everyone​​ I’ve​​ documented​​ here is​​ a hope for perpetuity,​​ but​​ especially you.​​ 

I’m sorry. I still find myself talking to you.​​ I’m still adjusting to​​ a​​ reality​​ where I can’t do that.​​ It’s like​​ reading​​ a good book​​ and​​ never knowing the ending, or maybe it just feels that way because​​ I didn’t​​ see the end coming.​​ Our​​ brief​​ time together​​ seemed to​​ pass​​ so​​ quickly​​ while in it, yet​​ it​​ feels eternal​​ now from the​​ effect.​​ 

But as an​​ almost​​ outside observer of​​ my​​ life now, I​​ think I​​ can​​ see​​ why​​ in retrospect; nothing​​ made time move faster than habit and nothing​​ held​​ it​​ down​​ like novelty, and you, you were the most novel thing to come into my life. You changed my life for the worst and best.​​ However, novelty always​​ comes with some​​ discomfort. Without​​ discomfort,​​ nothing changes, and change is the ultimate arbiter of time from the mind’s perspective. Change is what makes time.​​ 

Speaking of​​ novelty,​​ the​​ newscasts have been apocalyptic​​ lately. It’s been raining in Southern California for three days and every television screen at the bar is filled with images of the deluge​​ now that the sports games are over. Floods, mudslides, power outages,​​ idiots in cars being swept away at​​ water crossings;​​ I​​ pretend to watch, but my mind is elsewhere.

Fortunately these days I don’t get noticed here too often. Then again, I don’t look much like myself these days either. Over time I guess people have just gotten used to me sitting in this corner by the trivia machine, sipping wine—the last of the spirits I haven’t made enemies with,​​ documenting their sordid romances and tragedies into my notebook. I’ve sort of become one with the old trinkets adorning the walls. Every now and then somebody finds me novel, but for the most part I’m free to be the surveying ghost I always wanted to be.

I think this bar is what I’m going to miss the most​​ when I’m gone.​​ I know that sounds alcoholic, but Perqs has been my​​ only place of novelty​​ during​​ my years of​​ mostly​​ habit—not​​ by​​ choice of course.​​ I​​ also​​ see​​ why​​ it​​ was so special to you;​​ one of two buildings left on Main Street over a hundred years old, forty of which it served as a brothel. You always did like a place with​​ some​​ history.​​ The real value,​​ however,​​ is​​ the​​ people and​​ stories on display every night​​ here, many of​​ whom and​​ which I’ve​​ borrowed for​​ our story.

I only say “our story”​​ now​​ because so much of your story has become mine, and​​ I’m not sure if I’m ready​​ to be alone again​​ yet.​​ I always asked​​ you​​ if you thought I was going crazy, and you always reassured me, “only in the most lucid way.”​​ But​​ now that​​ this last remnant of you​​ is​​ going to be​​ gone, who’s going to be around to substantiate that?​​ You’ve become​​ so​​ fixed​​ in​​ my imagination​​ I’m beginning​​ to question​​ if any of it​​ really​​ happened at all.​​ But I’ve got to move on.​​ I’ve got to​​ leave you in this locket of time,​​ because​​ I no longer​​ have​​ time to hold onto​​ time. Only​​ death can​​ hold onto time forever.

But​​ so can a​​ great story—well, maybe not forever. But longer than I​​ surely​​ can in the limited time I have left.​​ 

So​​ as the love of your life,​​ simply because you had no others​​ and I had no others—we​​ didn’t have the​​ “time”,​​ I’ve now done my due diligence​​ in​​ trying my best to make​​ sure the world​​ remembers​​ Walter Huxley. Because​​ if you weren’t love, you were surely love’s muse.​​ And​​ if there is any practical purpose for love, it’s having someone who can tell your story​​ in case​​ you’re no longer around to—or​​ in my case,​​ finish the ending, the ending I​​ accidently​​ took away from you​​ that fateful early Christmas morning.​​ I never did get to hear that second verse.​​ 

Although we​​ only​​ met​​ a mere few seconds in this​​ existence​​ Mister Huxley,​​ maybe we can really​​ fall in love​​ in another.​​ I guess I’ll find out soon​​ coup de​​ foudre.

Love,​​ 

Amber​​ ;-)

 

The Silver Year: Chapter 23

Chapter 23

Grateful For The Dead

 

 

“Is this the best of all​​ possible worlds?” Walter asked​​ the statue of​​ Voltaire from the crypt floor.

“God, I hope not,”​​ the statue​​ replied​​ back. “But​​ you​​ should​​ always​​ be grateful​​ for​​ a​​ garden​​ that needs cultivating. Boredom doesn’t come from an absence of happiness,​​ but​​ from an absence of suffering,​​ because without suffering,​​ eventually​​ philosophical speculating—aka​​ those voices in​​ your​​ head—will​​ drive​​ you​​ to suicide.”

But​​ still,” Walter said, “what an​​ absurd​​ way of​​ looking​​ at life.​​ I need​​ suffering​​ to make​​ life​​ fulfilling?​​ And how​​ much​​ uncultivated garden can​​ one person​​ handle before it’s​​ better to​​ just​​ put down the plough and pick up the gun?”

“That’s a question only the person can answer because it is the only​​ question​​ everyone must answer,​​ whether or whether not​​ to​​ commit suicide​​ in the face of life’s absurdity.”

“Okay​​ Camus, no one asked your opinion.”

Well,” the statue said, “you’re the one who brought up absurdity. And you don’t think I’ve kept up with the progression of philosophy in the afterlife?​​ But regardless, the conclusion to​​ his​​ and​​ my​​ opinions are the same.​​ A mountainous journey contains many more miles than​​ a​​ flat one​​ because it offers the perspective of a new dimension. And perspective​​ is​​ where​​ the​​ beauty of suffering can be​​ seen​​ and how one can appreciate the​​ absurdity​​ of the​​ journey—or their garden.

Or in other words...”​​ Walter rubbed​​ his chin​​ “...enlightenment through​​ suffering​​ . . .​​ You know​​ Voltaire,​​ everyone pins you as​​ optimism’s adversary,​​ but​​ I​​ actually​​ believe you’re​​ one of its biggest advocates.​​ You just believe​​ optimism shouldn’t be blind and idle, but instead​​ be​​ the​​ fertilizer for​​ our​​ gardens.​​ Because only through the shit of life can we grow a new perspective on it.​​ And while I’m not​​ certain​​ of anything anymore, I am​​ certain​​ of this: insanity certainly​​ hasn’t been​​ boring.​​ So cheers to you​​ Monsieur Arouet,​​ or​​ shall​​ I say,​​ santé!​​ 

Sat upon the ground, leaning against a marbled wall,​​ Walter​​ raised his​​ CamelBak backpack​​ to the statue​​ like a hobo​​ raising​​ a flask,​​ then stuck the straw in his mouth and sucked the last of his​​ whiskey-water​​ mixture down.

“Don’t tell Rousseau or the Curies I said it,”​​ Walter​​ continued, “but in this ‘temple of every god’,​​ you’re mine.​​ If there was anyone I’d want to​​ sit​​ down and have​​ a drink​​ or joint with—actually you know what, let’s go 18th​​ Century style and​​ get loaded on caffeine​​ and find a salon to theorize in.

“Yes sir, please​​ do,” the museum security guard​​ said. He then turned​​ to​​ the statue. “But I’m sorry Voltaire, you must stay here. However, I believe it will make no difference if you want​​ to​​ still carry on this conversation​​ elsewhere.”

“What?” Walter said. “I don’t understand.”​​ 

Monsieur,​​ vous devez partir, s’il vous plait.”

Quoi—I mean, what?​​ Je ne comprends pas français—I mean,​​ I don’t understand French.”

The guard exhaled politely.​​ “You must go.”

Cinq minutes plus s’il vous plait?—I mean,​​ can I have five​​ more—”

“Can you please stop that​​ sir?​​ Please, just French​​ or​​ English. And no,​​ I already give you five minutes. The other guests, they complain. You are not​​ here​​ alone.”

“Oh.”​​ The audience​​ of​​ tickled​​ and​​ uneasy​​ faces​​ suddenly appeared​​ before​​ Walter’s eyes.​​ When he first entered Voltaire’s tomb, he​​ was​​ alone, but in the two hours since and​​ a​​ CamelBak’s​​ worth of whiskey-water​​ later, apparently it had filled without his notice.​​ 

“I’m​​ calling the​​ police,”​​ the​​ security guard said.​​ Walter jumped up quickly.

“No-no.​​ Not necessary,” he said.​​ It’s time for me to​​ go​​ anyway.​​ I have other people to see—or not see.” He​​ then​​ turned​​ to​​ Voltaire​​ one​​ last​​ time.​​ Merci​​ moi.​​ Merci.

 

Taking a taxi, Walter​​ told the driver to​​ take a lap of the city past the Eiffel Tower,​​ then​​ to do​​ a few rounds​​ on​​ the world’s most famous roundabout​​ around​​ the​​ Arc de Triomphe.​​ Looking out the windows​​ as they drove,​​ he​​ had never seen anything like​​ Paris​​ before. Flat pastures of​​ neoclassical architecture​​ barnacled​​ the earth like​​ an endless palatial​​ garden, and in the distant,​​ hazy horizon, a small cluster of​​ skyscraper​​ islands,​​ fenced in distinct districts​​ of modernity.

After a sleepless night in his Amsterdam hostel, he’d taken the first train​​ to Paris. And as much as he tried​​ to​​ sleep then drink himself to sleep on the train,​​ his mind wouldn’t​​ give him peace, and especially​​ not after​​ he was in the city.​​ So​​ after dropping his bags off at a​​ hotel baggage check, he​​ immediately​​ began consulting the dead​​ he knew in Paris​​ before the living​​ since​​ the dead​​ had been of more help​​ lately.​​ But after​​ speaking​​ with Descartes​​ in​​ the Saint-Germain-des-Prés abbey​​ that morning,​​ then​​ with the​​ Curies,​​ Rousseau,​​ and​​ his longest​​ visit,​​ Voltaire,​​ that afternoon in the​​ Panthéon,​​ he found the​​ consultations​​ lacking compared to​​ his one​​ the night before.​​ And as hard as he tried to​​ take​​ himself​​ out of the conversation​​ with​​ whiskey​​ and believe he was hearing their​​ voices,​​ he​​ really​​ knew​​ he was only​​ consulting​​ himself​​ through the​​ dead. But​​ really,​​ was there any difference?

After breezing past​​ the​​ Eiffel Tower, his taxi​​ crossed​​ over​​ the​​ Seine, then​​ entered​​ the​​ Arc de Triomphe​​ roundabout​​ that was​​ ten unmarked lanes wide with twelve intersecting streets.​​ Cutting​​ into this circus, it​​ seemed like everyone was in a game to get to the center​​ of the roundabout where its stone overlord stood​​ like the​​ Kaaba​​ to motor vehicles.​​ Tour buses took polite, lethargic turns around, while small cars and scooters stung and squirmed through​​ open​​ gaps. There was a constant cheeping of​​ horns, not so much in discord, but in communication like bats echolocating​​ each​​ other. Taxi cars​​ were the most common​​ worshiper,​​ crammed​​ with​​ people​​ craning their necks and cameras up to capture the colossal creature in the center​​ standing​​ taller than any surrounding building and resembling​​ a gigantic, gaudy anchoring pin​​ dedicated to “winning”.​​ But as​​ Walter​​ orbited​​ this​​ triumphal​​ arc,​​ all he​​ could​​ think about​​ was​​ the​​ defeats​​ it​​ played a role in, however,​​ a monument​​ erected​​ to the ego in the center of your city​​ is​​ just asking to be​​ made​​ a mockery of.

The​​ irony​​ of this​​ “triumphal” arc​​ and​​ its​​ circling circus​​ was making​​ for very comical surrealism in Walter’s​​ liquored​​ head. He began to gush with laughter​​ which​​ soon turned to hiccups. Then the lack of oxygen and spinning began making him feel​​ dizzy​​ and​​ suddenly his whiskey wanted out.​​ His taxi driver​​ hearing his dry heaving as​​ it​​ climbed up​​ his​​ esophagus,​​ raced to the center just in time for Walter to​​ expel it out​​ onto​​ the​​ arc.​​ The taxi​​ then​​ skidded away, but​​ Walter​​ easily found another sucker​​ at​​ a​​ nearby taxi lane​​ and continued on his way​​ to​​ Père Lachaise Cemetery.

 

Dans ces​​ derniers jours!”​​ a​​ stoutly​​ woman​​ vagrant​​ was shouting​​ at the​​ gates of the main entrance of the​​ cemetery​​ like​​ a​​ retail​​ department store greeter.​​ Although​​ Walter​​ was only able to decipher the aforementioned​​ phrase​​ which followed almost every sentence,​​ it was clear she​​ was trying to scare the uncaring​​ sightseers​​ walking past her​​ into repentance, and​​ he​​ couldn’t ignore her.

 ​​ “…dans ces derniers jours!” she​​ shouted in his face​​ after some muddled French.

 “Quoi?” he said, but got the same response. She then reached out and put something in his hand. It was a map of the cemetery.

 “Oh.​​ Merci,” he said​​ to her. “Où est Chopin?” he asked pointing to the map, but​​ got the same​​ dans ces derniers jours!​​ response.

Using​​ the​​ map instead,​​ he​​ easily​​ located​​ Chopin beneath his impressive​​ and gated​​ tombstone​​ which​​ not only​​ had​​ his​​ portrait​​ carved into it, but a life-size sculpture of the muse of music,​​ Euterpe, weeping​​ on top of​​ it.

Sitting at the steps of​​ the​​ grave,​​ looking at​​ Chopin’s​​ face,​​ little was said​​ from Walter,​​ but​​ much was felt,​​ just like​​ Chopin’s​​ music.​​ Then like Euterpe,​​ Walter​​ too​​ shed deep sobs over the short and somber life​​ which​​ was Frédéric Chopin’s.

Tormented by ill love and health all his life and estranged from his Polish homeland and heritage, the vulnerability, intimacy, and​​ emotion​​ which​​ fed his compositions​​ listens like​​ a​​ diary,​​ as if​​ written​​ for his hands and ears only, which in a way,​​ they were.​​ Unlike the many prominent​​ and​​ showboating Parisian pianists of his time, Chopin hated the spotlight and rarely performed publicly, preferring the privacy of salons​​ instead. The ultimate and original romantic, he died young and broke at the age of thirty-nine, but​​ composing since the age of seven, his artistic output was that of a man who knew he had little time on​​ Earth.

Once finished with his weeping, Walter opened his​​ backpack​​ and​​ took out a small bouquet of violets he’d purchased​​ from a flower shop that morning and placed them on​​ the​​ grave,​​ then continued on.

 

Not far​​ from​​ Chopin’s​​ was​​ the much more modest​​ tomb​​ of​​ Marcel​​ Proust,​​ just​​ a​​ forlorn​​ black​​ platform​​ etched​​ with​​ his​​ name.​​ Sitting on it,​​ Walter​​ ran his hand over the​​ letters cut into the polished​​ black​​ marble​​ and thought about Amber. Even though​​ he was there because she asked him, he’d grown a​​ great​​ appreciation for​​ the writer​​ because of her.

Inspired by his father who had been responsible for eradicating cholera in France,​​ Marcel​​ Proust​​ wanted​​ to​​ write a book that would do as much good for humanity as his father’s work.​​ The subsequent result was​​ a​​ massive​​ masterpiece called​​ In Search of Lost Time,​​ a​​ story about a​​ man’s journey​​ to​​ find the​​ meaning and purpose​​ of life​​ in​​ an​​ effort to learn how to best appreciate existence and​​ make the best use of​​ time. In it are explored three possible answers.

Fame?”​​ Walter said to the grave.​​ “If only I had read your book when I was younger maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time seeking​​ it because​​ it’s​​ exactly as you said:​​ a​​ fraud.​​ Anyone who thinks​​ fame​​ will​​ gain you access to some extraordinary stratum of​​ happiness​​ will​​ be sorely disappointed.​​ No​​ amount of money, celebrity, or titles can​​ ever​​ save you​​ from​​ misery,​​ loneliness, and stupidity.

“So what about love?​​ I mean,​​ that’s why I’m​​ here​​ in​​ Paris—I think.​​ But however honorable​​ love​​ may​​ advertise​​ itself,​​ fulfilling​​ your life through​​ the love of​​ another has only a vacuum of meaning​​ once that love abandons you, a lesson Amber​​ unfortunately​​ taught me all too well, but so did Shiva.​​ We will always be lonely​​ islands​​ within the sea of​​ ourselves,​​ and​​ until​​ you can get comfortable living there,​​ no one else will.

“So​​ what? Are​​ we just supposed to​​ be content in our​​ suffering​​ then, cultivating​​ our​​ gardens​​ on our​​ lonely​​ islands?​​ And the​​ answer is yes. As children,​​ our gardens and islands​​ were all we needed. And it’s​​ not​​ so much we grew out of them,​​ we just forgot​​ how​​ big​​ and extraordinary​​ they​​ actually​​ are. But​​ what reminds​​ us​​ is art. It can make​​ even the most mundane​​ novel again.​​ And whether we​​ consider ourselves​​ ‘novel’-ists​​ or not,​​ we’re​​ all​​ writing​​ at least​​ one​​ story: our life, and doesn’t that story deserve​​ to be novel?​​ Should it not be​​ the medium for​​ our​​ greatest​​ masterpiece?​​ Yet so many of us​​ copy​​ in​​ fear of failure​​ and​​ surrender​​ our childhood powers of creativity and curiosity​​ to the stability and predictability of habit, then wonder​​ why the time seems to pass​​ us by​​ so​​ quickly or why life always feels so empty.​​ The purpose and meaning of life is finding​​ purpose in meaninglessness​​ and​​ meaning in purposelessness, and for everyone that​​ answer​​ is​​ different, but it can only come from​​ questioning yourself. However,​​ that’s​​ a​​ hard​​ thing​​ to do​​ if​​ you​​ don’t love yourself​​ or​​ are afraid to be​​ with​​ yourself.​​ Yourself shouldn’t be a stranger.”

Walter​​ stood​​ up from the​​ tombstone​​ in astonishment. Although he knew the story,​​ he had never understood​​ it​​ so clearly until now. But the arrow of time​​ is​​ often​​ what finally​​ zippers​​ the cogs of knowledge and experience​​ together​​ into understanding.

He​​ took out a metal spoon from his backpack and found a small​​ patch of dirt next to the tomb​​ and began digging. Once he had a small hole, he took out Amber’s suicide note and placed it in​​ it.

“Thank you,” he said. “I hope you can forgive me. But even if you don’t think I deserve forgiveness, I will always love you for what you​​ always​​ gave​​ me:​​ love.​​ You didn’t deserve to die alone​​ feeling​​ unloved, and​​ I’m so sorry​​ for that​​ Amber. I love you.​​ I love you.”

He then took out his lighter and​​ lit​​ the note, and once it was ashes, he buried them​​ in the dirt​​ and​​ continued​​ to​​ his final grave.​​ 

 

The air seemed to suddenly chill as Walter​​ neared​​ Jim Morrison’s grave,​​ his purposeful​​ final destination. It was​​ hidden in a dense thicket of headstones,​​ but​​ he​​ knew he was​​ getting​​ closer​​ by​​ the growing number of young people​​ around, but​​ also​​ a faint​​ voice​​ prickling​​ his ears​​ telling him​​ so.​​ Stopping to listen, he then heard what the​​ voice​​ was​​ saying—or more so,​​ singing:​​ “Harvest​​ Moon”. His​​ hair stood​​ on end.​​ 

“No, it’s not,”​​ Walter​​ said, but it sure sounded like it.​​ He​​ had​​ never heard another voice like it.

Tremoring,​​ he​​ moved​​ slowly​​ toward the​​ singing,​​ the volume​​ of the voice​​ increasing.​​ Then​​ after​​ cresting​​ a hill,​​ he​​ at last saw​​ the grave he’d​​ been seeking,​​ and in front of it,​​ a​​ brilliant​​ red​​ beacon​​ beaming​​ in​​ the sunlight, the same red he had seen​​ on the pillow.​​ However, whoever was beneath this​​ red had her back to him and was​​ sitting with a guitar, playing to​​ the grave.​​ Around her was a small crowd listening under a gum-and-graffiti-infested tree that had been decorated by Jim’s admirers.

Continuing​​ forward, Walter​​ started singing along.​​ Hearing his​​ voice,​​ she​​ turned around and roused to her feet in surprise, dropping the guitar on the ground, but neither​​ of them​​ stopped​​ singing.​​ Her​​ gray​​ eyes were​​ tinted​​ by​​ rose-colored glasses​​ and a​​ royal blue summer dress​​ hung​​ over​​ her​​ black canvas Doc Martens.​​ They​​ stepped toward him.

Once within reach,​​ Walter​​ touched​​ her​​ face, expecting​​ it​​ to change​​ like the others,​​ but​​ it remained.​​ He​​ then​​ took off​​ the​​ glasses and​​ her​​ big gray​​ eyes​​ smiled​​ at his, brilliantly shining like they had during their moonlight dance.

I want to see you dance again”​​ they sang as they​​ took each​​ other’s arms​​ and began​​ dramatically​​ dancing around the tree​​ like they did on the boat deck. Then after​​ dipping​​ her,​​ Walter​​ kissed her, and only​​ then​​ did he become entirely​​ convinced​​ of her existence.

“How dare you start our song without me,”​​ he​​ said.

“Who​​ said​​ I didn’t know you were coming?”​​ she​​ replied​​ smiling.​​ “How else were you​​ supposed​​ to find me?”​​ 

“Shiva?”​​ he​​ asked. “Are you​​ really​​ her? Are you​​ really​​ here?”​​ 

“Yes,” Shiva said, her smile turning into a grin. “I’m​​ really​​ me, and I’m​​ really​​ here.​​ I’ve been​​ here for quite some​​ time​​ actually. It’s the only place I knew you’d be in Paris.​​ Is​​ it​​ really​​ you​​ Walter? Are you​​ really​​ here?”

Yes, I am—well, I think I am.​​ Je pense,​​ donc je​​ suis.

They both then fell to the ground​​ crying and​​ laughing​​ madly,​​ kissing​​ ever inch of each other’s salty​​ cheeks.​​ 

“I love you Shiva.​​ Maybe it’s premature, but you​​ wouldn’t believe what​​ I had to go through to say it.

“I love you​​ too​​ Walter.​​ And​​ believe me, I know. You​​ also​​ wouldn’t believe what I​​ had to go through to say it.​​ It’s​​ been a long strange trip​​ since​​ Red Rocks.”

He​​ sat up​​ stiffly.​​ “What did you say?”​​ he asked.

“Red Rocks,”​​ she​​ said​​ sitting up also, then​​ putting​​ a​​ sympathetic​​ hand on his shoulder.​​ “You still haven’t figured it out​​ yet. You still think you survived.”

Survived what? . . .​​ Oh my God. The lightning strike​​ . . .​​ I’m…​​ I’m​​ dead?!

“Surprise!” she said smiling. “But​​ it’s not all bad.​​ Really, you could have had it much worse.”

He scoffed and began violently shaking his head no.​​ 

“You don’t believe it?”​​ she​​ said.

“I don’t know what to believe. I mean, this could be a dream. This​​ is​​ a dream. Yes, this is a—"

She took his hand again and put it to her chest. “Does it feel like a dream?” she said. “Like I told you before, this is not a dream, at least not one you’re going to wake up from.”

“I don’t know,” he said still panicky. “Death was just so much simpler being nothing. So what? Does this mean there’s a God?​​ Is​​ He​​ Kurt​​ Vonnegut? And​​ where am I? What is this?​​ Is this really Paris?​​ And​​ what about all the people I’ve met​​ since​​ Red Rocks?​​ Were they dead or alive?​​ What about Squids?​​ What about Amber?​​ Does this mean... does this mean​​ she didn’t​​ really kill​​ herself?”

Shiva laughed. “I’m not sure who’s running the show,” she said, “or if anyone is running the show. Also, if there is a God,​​ He​​ would most likely be an​​ It. No gender pronouns in the afterlife since every soul has lived as both sexes throughout existence. Plus, the x chromosome goes on to out evolve the y chromosome in future generations of humans anyway. And everything else, well, that all​​ depends on your perspective​​ of​​ time.​​ Here,​​ there is no such thing as​​ time, and​​ no such thing as dead or alive.​​ We​​ souls​​ live in the world of Schrödinger's cat​​ you could say, and like massless particles,​​ we​​ are​​ unaffected by​​ time​​ and space,​​ and therefore,​​ can exist at all possible​​ times​​ at all possible​​ places.​​ But this shouldn’t surprise you. It all falls within the laws of physics.​​ And Amber...​​ well,​​ you’ll find out soon.​​ But for​​ now,​​ we’ve got a​​ joint to smoke​​ and a bottle of wine to drink​​ with Jim,” she said pulling both out of​​ a bag.​​ Then​​ I guarantee​​ all​​ of this will be​​ easier​​ to​​ comprehend.”​​ 

“Like​​ with his—I mean its soul?”​​ Walter asked.​​ 

“Oh no. Just​​ his dead​​ body.​​ Last I heard,​​ Jim’s​​ soul​​ was​​ almost finished​​ redoing​​ its​​ life over as a writer.”

“You can do that?”​​ 

“Yes, many times over. And​​ you​​ already have. But guess what?​​ You​​ no longer have to.​​ You made it.​​ Today we leave​​ purgatory​​ together.”

He​​ began shaking his head​​ no​​ again. “So purgatory is real?”​​ he​​ asked.

“Nothing is ‘real’,” Shiva said,​​ “but yes.​​ We’re​​ in it. But not for much longer.”

“So what’s next?​​ Paradise?”

“So I’ve been told.”

“What’s it like?”

“Hopefully like paradise, but I’ve​​ never been.​​ I’ve been waiting for you.”

“You’ve been waiting for me? For how long?”

Oh, about​​ a year in ‘living’ years, but that’s nothing in purgatory.​​ I kind of got a hall pass on​​ it,​​ but​​ I wasn’t​​ going to leave without you.​​ That’s​​ why I gave you my hall pass, the​​ Ace of Cups.​​ It entangled our souls​​ together​​ and that’s why you were quantum-tracked through purgatory.

“Like quantum entanglement?”​​ he​​ asked.

She​​ smiled.​​ “Now you’re getting it,”​​ she said.

“So​​ was I​​ supposed to be​​ in​​ purgatory​​ much​​ longer​​ then?”​​ he asked.

From​​ a​​ four dimensional spacetime​​ perspective you were.​​ But you’ll eventually learn to see things outside your​​ lower-dimensional​​ bias.​​ Here...” she said lighting the joint then passing it to him,​​ “...this should help.”​​ 

Walter​​ brought​​ the joint​​ to his lips, but​​ then thought to​​ ask:​​ “So​​ were​​ you​​ dead​​ or alive​​ when I met you?”​​ 

Shiva sighed.​​ “You’ve really got to let go of being​​ dead​​ or​​ alive,”​​ she​​ said.​​ “In​​ reality,​​ we’re​​ all​​ just being.​​ However,​​ yes.​​ I was​​ ‘dead’​​ just like you. I​​ just​​ didn’t know it at the​​ ‘time’, just like you.​​ I also didn’t know the Ace of Cups was​​ a​​ hall pass,​​ but somehow, I still​​ knew I had to give it to you.”

“What did you die from?​​ Huntington’s?”

“No​​ the disease never had​​ ‘time’​​ to get me.”

“What did​​ then?”​​ 

“Well,​​ essentially I killed myself by entangling us together.​​ ‘Time’​​ had to be adjusted so that you and​​ I​​ died​​ at the same ‘time’ in the past, but still met​​ at​​ the same ‘time’ in the future. In order to do that,​​ the past and future​​ had to be​​ layered​​ on top of one another.​​ But this happens all the ‘time’​​ to ‘time’​​ because ‘time’​​ is nothing but a construct of our​​ lower-dimensional​​ four-dimensional​​ perspective.​​ But again,​​ this shouldn’t​​ be a surprise to you. After all, it​​ is​​ what you theorized.”

“Yes…” Walter said,​​ but​​ his head​​ was​​ still​​ saying no.​​ “But theorizing about the universe​​ is much easier​​ than accepting it.”

“Don’t worry,” Shiva​​ said​​ caressing his face, “you’ll adjust.​​ And again...” she took the joint from his hand and put it to his lips, “...this will help.”

He inhaled deeply and blew a smoke ring out.​​ She then took the joint and did the same.​​ 

“Now,” she said, “just imagine if our​​ universe—which is in truth just​​ a​​ fraction of the universe—was shrunk​​ down​​ to the size of an atom and someone tried probing in. Do you think that being could even fathom our idea of​​ ‘time’​​ from their perspective?​​ No, they’d​​ see an entire timeline of the universe​​ playing out at all possible places and at all possible times​​ just like we do when we​​ probe​​ into the world of the atom.​​ However,​​ when​​ you’re unaffected by​​ the fabric of spacetime and​​ no longer bound by the rules of light​​ and ‘time’​​ like​​ we​​ souls​​ are, you realize our world and the world of the atom​​ are​​ one in​​ the same.”

“Okay,” he said more​​ at rest, but still not fully​​ in​​ peace.​​ “But​​ you​​ still​​ haven’t​​ explained​​ how you died.​​ You died on our four-dimensional plane in​​ some​​ way and at some ‘time’ to be here, right?​​ And again, what about Amber? Can I see her? Where is she?”

She​​ looked at​​ him​​ sideways and smirked.​​ “That’s​​ another story for another​​ ‘time’​​ my love.​​ But right now, let’s just enjoy this.”

 

 

The Silver Year: Chapter 3

Chapter​​ 3

à La Recherche de L'amour Perdu

 

MAY​​ 2011

“‘You are what you love,​​ not what loves you.’​​ Do you think that’s true?”​​ Catherine​​ asked​​ as credits rolled on their second Saturday movie​​ night.​​ Movie night used to​​ be​​ on​​ Monday when Walter didn’t have a show, but​​ Perfect Crime’s​​ residency​​ at The House of Blues​​ had​​ recently​​ been​​ promoted from​​ first​​ Monday​​ every​​ month​​ to​​ every​​ Monday​​ every week. Also, since the​​ success​​ of their West Coast tour, they no longer had to do covers.

 “No,”​​ Amber said little-spooned into Walter on​​ her mother’s chocolate brown living room​​ couch. Love​​ exists between​​ people, not between yourself. It’s just clever wordplay pretending to be​​ substantive—a lot like this movie. Mom,​​ I know youre just starting​​ to explore​​ film and have​​ taken a liking to​​ Kaufman, but​​ I think you’ll eventually realize​​ his​​ films are​​ for hipsters who pretend to be intellectuals because they​​ can​​ understand​​ irony,​​ and​​ Adaptation​​ is​​ the​​ epitome of​​ it.​​ Strip away all the ‘irony’​​ and​​ this​​ movie​​ has​​ nothing. Just wasted time.​​ Inserting yourself in​​ your own story is​​ such a​​ creative cop-out.

But​​ isn’t that​​ pretty much​​ what Proust does​​ in​​ In Search of Lost Time?” Catherine said.​​ And that’s your favorite​​ novel.

“He didn’t insert himself​​ literally​​ in the story. And​​ In Search of Lost Time​​ is​​ actually a​​ story—one of the​​ all-time​​ greatest, not Proust’s story of the story.​​ Unless you’re Vonnegut,​​ who Kaufman is nothing but​​ a poor man’s version of, writers​​ shouldn’t be characters in their own story,​​ and​​ a story shouldn’t be a story of​​ a​​ story.

I beg to differ,” Catherine said, then paused as if trying to restrain herself, but couldn’t. “Also,​​ if Proust is one of the all-time greatest storytellers,​​ I don’t believe he should need​​ over a million words to tell a story. But since I’ve​​ honestly​​ never been able to​​ make it through even​​ Swann’s Way,​​ I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt. However,​​ no matter how beautiful the music,​​ you can’t deny Proust​​ is​​ also one of the​​ all-time​​ greatest windbags.”

Walter felt Amber’s body​​ tense​​ and heard her throat swallow.

“But regardless of story,”​​ Catherine​​ continued, “you still have to admire the cleverness of the film.”

“He resorted to​​ using​​ every​​ cliché he​​ believed​​ against,” Amber said. “How is that​​ clever?”

“Because​​ beliefs​​ can​​ turn​​ against​​ the principles​​ they​​ profess to​​ hold​​ sacred​​ when​​ taken​​ too​​ literally.​​ That’s the message I took away from the film, not so much irony.”​​ ​​ 

I​​ think​​ that’s your Buddhist leanings​​ authoring that message...” Amber nodded to​​ her mother’s​​ bronze Buddha​​ sitting on​​ the​​ Cocobolo coffee table​​ in front of her,​​ “...not Charlie Kaufman.

“Perhaps,” Catherine said,​​ “but​​ that’s​​ the​​ beautiful thing about art:​​ interpretation, not meaning.​​ Everyone has the right to be right because they are right. So, can we just leave it at that?”​​ 

Yes, but as a​​ writer,” Amber continued the argument,​​ I can tell you Kaufman just took the lazy, solipsistic​​ approach​​ every amateur writer eventually takes,​​ and irony doesn’t excuse it.​​ Creativity is​​ supposed to be​​ inspired by life, not copied from it.”

“Yes...” Catherine again tried to restrain herself, but​​ again​​ couldn’t.​​ “But​​ creativity​​ sometimes​​ can’t compete with​​ the​​ master,​​ and​​ isn’t​​ life​​ the master of all creativity?​​ Is it not​​ drawn​​ from​​ the​​ setbacks​​ and​​ successes​​ of life? Creativity​​ always​​ feels copied​​ to me,​​ even​​ prophetic​​ at times. However, that usually just means I’m on the right path.”

“Because​​ in science​​ that’s how​​ creativity works:​​ by Mother Nature’s rules!” Amber nearly shouted. “But​​ in art there are no​​ underlying rules or correct paths.”

Catherine sighed and chomped her lower lip, but​​ a muffled​​ “So why are you​​ trying to define​​ them​​ then?”​​ still crawled out of her mouth.​​ 

Belly laughter blew against Amber’s back.​​ She jabbed her arm back at​​ it.​​ “Ow,”​​ Walter​​ said.

“Why do you always take her side?”​​ Amber​​ said​​ to him.

“I’m not.​​ She just righteously checkmated you. You’re not going to beat​​ your mother​​ in an argument. Logic​​ is​​ her​​ day​​ job.”

Amber glowered​​ back​​ at him.​​ “Oh right,” she said sitting up,​​ “what was I thinking? Logic trumps anyone else​​ from expressing​​ an opinion.”

“I​​ didn’t mean it like that,”​​ he​​ said sitting up and putting an arm around her. She pushed it off.

“Yes you did,” she said.​​ “But both​​ of​​ you have never tried writing a novel,​​ have you? What help is logic​​ when there’s nothing to checkmate?”

Amber,​​ I’m sorry,”​​ Catherine​​ said. “I didn’t mean to belittle you. I was just also trying to express an opinion.​​ And you’re absolutely right.​​ I don’t have the same type of creativity you have.​​ Creating​​ a story long enough to fill a novel seems impossibly complex​​ to me, let alone making​​ it​​ something people​​ would​​ want to read. But youre​​ truly​​ gifted​​ at​​ it. You know it. I know it. All your​​ teachers and​​ professors knew it.”​​ Catherine​​ then​​ tried to stop herself​​ again, but​​ again couldn’t. “That’s​​ why... That’s why​​ I wish you’d​​ finish​​ your​​ novel​​ so the world can finally know it.

Amber exhaled and rolled her eyes. “Here we go again,” she said. “Can we go one day without you lecturing me about my unfinished novel Mother?”

“Then can I go one day without you​​ complaining about it?​​ Talking about a novel isn’t​​ writing it. Writing it is, and that’s the only way you’ll ever finish it—I’m sorry, I need to stop.” Catherine stood from her​​ armchair and began walking out of the room.

“No, I’m sorry Mom,” Amber said walking to her, then hugged her. “I’m sorry, you’re right.”

“No,​​ I’m not,” Catherine said shaking her head. “This isn’t an easy time for you and I need to be more sensitive of that. It’s just difficult when you haven’t lived her since high school,​​ and sometimes you can be so stubborn for no good reason.”

Walter cleared his throat. “Kind of like her mother?” he​​ said​​ lightheartedly.​​ 

Catherine smiled at him. “Yes,” she said, “exactly like her mother.”​​ They all laughed, then sat back down.

“So Walter,”​​ Catherine​​ said​​ again in her armchair. “Have you made your​​ choice on a label?”

“I have,”​​ he​​ said, “but​​ I can’t tell anyone yet. Also​​ getting​​ my bandmates​​ onboard​​ has​​ proved​​ more difficult than I​​ assumed.​​ Really,​​ it’s just one​​ person, but without his approval, it’s hard to get the others’.​​ Ultimately, it’s​​ still my​​ choice,​​ but​​ I​​ would​​ like their​​ support.​​ I’m hoping the showcase will​​ make things​​ clear​​ once they actually meet the reps in-person.”

“What’s the hang-up?”​​ Catherine asked.

Hang-ups. But I don’t want to talk about​​ it.​​ I’ve​​ been ‘talking’​​ about​​ it​​ all week.​​ Another​​ beer​​ anyone?”​​ he​​ asked​​ standing up.

“I’ll have another if you are,”​​ Catherine​​ said. “But let me get​​ them,” she said standing. “You guys stay comfy on the couch. You want another glass of wine Amber?”

“No thanks,” she said. “Remember,​​ I have to work at a decent hour tomorrow​​ now​​ that​​ movie night​​ is​​ on​​ Saturday.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Catherine said. “How much longer are you​​ at​​ the airport​​ again?”

“Indefinitely for the moment.​​ I should’ve been done a month ago, but​​ with​​ so many new hires at the local branches they’re keeping people in the​​ ETP​​ longer than ever​​ before​​ because​​ they don’t have anywhere else to put them.”

Amber stood​​ and​​ stretched​​ her arms.​​ But​​ I’m​​ exhausted​​ anyway,” she said. “I’m also​​ in the middle of a good​​ book​​ I’d like to​​ get back to before​​ I get too sleepy. I need​​ to​​ cleanse my memory of that movie.

“Okay,” Walter said kissing​​ her. “I’ll be​​ joining you soon.”

Okay, if I’m asleep, love you​​ and goodnight.​​ And really just one​​ more​​ drink​​ Mother.​​ I don’t need him​​ stumbling in​​ at​​ 3:00 a.m. and​​ snoring all night​​ like last​​ week.

“No worries,”​​ Catherine​​ said. “I learned my lesson. That hangover​​ last week​​ was​​ the worst​​ I’ve​​ had in some years.”

“Me too,” Walter said.​​ “I​​ think we just got carried away because it was the first movie night we didn’t have to work the next day.​​ I​​ promise​​ though, just​​ one​​ more​​ beer. And maybe a little​​ more​​ weed​​ too.”

“Yes,​​ I’ll have a little more of that myself,” Amber said​​ picking​​ up the pipe on the coffee table,​​ the bowl​​ still​​ loaded with mostly green herbs.​​ She lit it​​ and inhaled,​​ then​​ unloaded the hit into Walter’s mouth, something that was becoming an affectionate ritual between them since he found it sexy. Greg forbade her from even smoking.

“Love you,”​​ Walter​​ said after.

“Love you,”​​ she​​ echoed​​ and​​ kissed him again. Amber​​ then​​ kissed​​ her mother, then went upstairs​​ to​​ her​​ bedroom.

 

“I didn’t want to say it in front of Amber…” Walter said to​​ Catherine​​ as they sipped on their beers while listening to Chopin—the joys of which​​ she​​ had​​ just​​ introduced​​ him​​ to​​ the week before, “...but the​​ hangover​​ last week​​ was​​ so​​ worth it. I​​ haven’t​​ had a volley like that since college, or maybe even ever.​​ And it​​ takes a lot to blow my mind.”

A grin stretched across​​ Catherine’s face.​​ “Hey, you blew my mind​​ a​​ few​​ times too,” she said. “And I’m just as hard​​ to impress, if not harder.​​ I​​ haven’t​​ debated​​ someone like that since probably college myself.​​ But​​ let’s keep track of the drinking and time tonight. It doesn’t look good when​​ Mom​​ gets​​ the​​ boyfriend shitfaced drunk​​ after being​​ left​​ alone with him​​ for the first time. I was so embarrassed. Amber hardly spoke to me when she​​ came home​​ from work​​ the next day. She didn’t say anything​​ about it, but I could tell it bothered her.”

“Yeah,​​ she gave me an​​ angry​​ earful of silence also,” Walter said.​​ “I​​ finally​​ just apologized, but she acted like it wasn’t a big deal,​​ even though​​ I could tell it was. Sometimes I just wish she’d say what was on her mind instead of—”​​ He​​ bit his lip. “Let’s​​ not talk about it.”

“Yes.​​ Limiting our​​ time​​ tonight to just one beer is going to be difficult enough,”​​ Catherine​​ said shaking her​​ already​​ halfway empty​​ can.

“Yes,​​ especially​​ since last week​​ toward the end​​ left​​ me​​ with​​ so many questions, questions​​ I never thought I’d be having​​ about religion​​ . . . What was​​ that Hindu concept again?​​ Broman?”

Brahman,​​ Catherine​​ corrected.

Thats it.​​ Refresh​​ my memory​​ on it​​ again?​​ When I said​​ toward​​ the​​ end, I mean the end of my memory.

She​​ laughed.​​ “Brahman​​ is the source of all things in the universe including reality and existence.​​ According to belief,​​ everything comes from Brahman and everything returns to Brahman. Brahman is uncreated, external, infinite,​​ and all-embracing.”

Wow, it​​ really is​​ just​​ the​​ first and second laws of thermodynamics,” Walter said.​​ “But instead of energy, it’s​​ Braham.​​ The​​ world’s oldest religion​​ had a​​ grasp​​ on them​​ thousands of years before​​ science​​ did.

“Hindus​​ also invented the number zero,” Catherine​​ said, “so you could​​ also​​ argue​​ they​​ had​​ a​​ handle on the third​​ law​​ before anyone else​​ too.​​ But it’s not surprising​​ in my opinion. Religion and science​​ are​​ just​​ offspring of philosophy,​​ and at one time,​​ they​​ all​​ coexisted​​ in​​ ‘relative’​​ peace until salvation came​​ into the game.​​ But even​​ then,​​ cooperation between​​ Christians​​ and​​ Muslims, especially when it came to science,​​ was​​ common​​ in the beginning. Much of​​ the​​ principles and​​ techniques​​ we​​ still​​ use​​ in science and medicine​​ today​​ are a result of that​​ cooperation.​​ Science owes a great debt to​​ religion, or in a wider context, God.”

“But​​ is that​​ reason​​ enough​​ to believe in​​ him?”​​ Walter asked.​​ 

“Or her. Or it. I can’t imagine God having a​​ defined​​ sex just because the​​ culture​​ I​​ grew up​​ in​​ told me​​ so—although​​ ‘God’​​ definitely has​​ all​​ the hallmarks​​ of a man. But truthfully,​​ I don’t know.​​ I​​ just​​ find a deep sanctity​​ in the rich diversity of the​​ world’s creators as much as I do in the scientific observations of it,​​ because​​ no one captures humans quite like their gods.​​ But​​ like with Brahman, I​​ also​​ think​​ some​​ clues​​ to answers science seeks can be​​ found​​ in religion if science is openminded enough to look.​​ For instance,​​ I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if dark energy​​ turned​​ out​​ to be past lives​​ from​​ reincarnation.”

Walter scoffed.​​ “How so?”​​ he asked.

“Because quantum mechanics​​ proves​​ it’s possible to have an infinite number of paths exist within one,”​​ Catherine​​ answered,​​ then finished her beer. “Unfortunately, however,​​ I’ve reached my​​ time​​ limit​​ for tonight, so we’ll​​ have to​​ pick up on this​​ next week.”

“But it feels like we only got started,”​​ he​​ griped, then reluctantly drank the rest of his beer.

“Don’t worry,”​​ she​​ said picking up their​​ empty cans​​ and taking them into​​ the​​ kitchen. “We have plenty more nights​​ ahead,”​​ she​​ said out of sight,​​ then returned​​ to the couch.​​ But tonight,” she said softly. “We must​​ make up for​​ last week.”​​ Catherine’s​​ eyes moved upstairs to Amber’s bedroom.

“You’re right,”​​ Walter​​ said, his eyes following. “Otherwise we may never get to do this again.”

“Exactly,” Catherine said,​​ then bent forward and kissed​​ Walter​​ on the​​ crown of his​​ head​​ as if he were her son. “Goodnight Walter.”

“Goodnight Catherine,” he said.

After turning out the lights,​​ they​​ went​​ upstairs​​ together,​​ then​​ separated at the top to​​ go to their​​ separate​​ rooms​​ at separate ends​​ of the​​ hallway.​​ Before opening their respective doors, their eyes​​ turned to each other.​​ 

“Goodnight​​ Catherine,” Walter said​​ again. “And​​ don’t​​ know if it’s​​ too soon to​​ say it, but​​ love you.”

She smiled​​ at him. “You should never feel ashamed​​ of​​ love,” she said.​​ “Goodnight​​ Walter,​​ and love you too.”

They both then​​ opened their doors and​​ separated. ​​ 

 

Amber​​ stirred​​ when​​ Walter’s​​ body rumpled the mattress.​​ She​​ awoke​​ in a rather horny mood as one​​ sometimes​​ does​​ in the middle of the night,​​ so they​​ did the​​ deed and before she went back to sleep she said,​​ “I love you.”

“I love you too,”​​ Walter​​ said, and for the first time it felt​​ in no​​ parts foma.​​ Maybe he really was beginning to love her.​​ 

They kissed, then she​​ cradled​​ her​​ lovely​​ tushy​​ onto his hips​​ and was quickly snoring, but​​ it was adorable,​​ cooing baby​​ type of​​ snoring.​​ She then farted on him, but​​ that​​ too was an adorable, baby type of fart.​​ So this​​ was love, Walter thought,​​ for making​​ snoring​​ and​​ farts​​ adorable and baby-like.​​ Walter loved Amber’s snoring and farting.