With a Gin Vermouth in her hand, Harper sat down at the kitchen table. She took a sip, and licked the rim of the glass, eyeing the two Valium pills on the table. The lingering aftertaste of love-making was soon washed away, as she heard a voice behind her. “Not letting go deforms you, and the truth sets us free. Joe is gone, Harper. You should be gone, too.” She recognized the voice being her own, she recognized the thought being a product of her own mind.
“I am crazy,” she thought and a tear came flickering down her face. “I am crazy, but I am free. However, freedom comes at the price of being alone. No more men hiding under the bed, no more travel agents organizing imaginary trips No more men organizing anything anymore. No more threats and no more fear.” The newly discovered prospect of an emerging liberation delighted her. But where to go, then? Alone. Again she was afloat. Sexual healing, she thought and smiled to herself. “And being loved for who I am!”
Harper gulped down the entire drink and stood up to fix herself another one, when she heard her own voice again coming from the bedroom. She was having an argument with someone else. She was having an argument with Joe!
“We can’t live like this anymore. I don’t want to be your best buddy anymore. I want you to touch me, and to look at me when we have sex. I don’t want you to think of Louis and other men. Stop crying!” She could clearly hear herself speaking. Joe was sobbing. “You need help and you need to let go! You can’t change and you’re making us both miserable. You are pathetic.” Joe was still sobbing.
Following the voices she went to the bedroom, but it was empty. And it was quiet. All she could see was the moving shadow of a person underneath the bed. Again she looked around, and only when she was certain Joe had really left the apartment did she stretch out her hand towards the knifed man, who had been lurking underneath her bed, quietly observing her and Joe making love. “Come closer,” she whispered seductively, “people lack the sense of intimacy. The fear of loneliness stiches us back together. From throat to belly.” He did not move, however. The fear had gone, and she sensed the invisible shackles loosen their grip. A wave of placidity pulled the soft carpet underneath her bare feet and bent her to her knees. So, she laid down on the floor to level with the man and struggled hard to catch his eyes.
“You know,” she said, startling herself as she spoke, “all this time, I believed you were here to frighten me, to drive me INSANE! Over a year I tried to paint these walls!” She laughed. “Paint these walls and make this apartment my home! IMAGINE! All this time I pretended supernatural forces were trying to prevent me from being happy. I had it all in my head. I yearned to be a tragic character like Rosemary Woodhouse, where everyone conspired against me.”
Slowly she felt with her hand underneath the bed, reaching out for the man, who was evidently pulling back. Harper turned on her back, spread her arms and looked longingly at the ceiling. She couldn’t help but think of Joe. Joe had gone to see his lover, and denying him his wretchedness would have been a sin! The circular chandelier seemed to be descending upon her like the heavy hand of god.
“You wanted change,” she heard the faceless man say at last. “Your insides are dirty and knotted up. Thousands of little vessels in your brain have conjured up this wrath and the true meaning of life eludes you, just like this illusion you perceive as reality. What are you going to hold on to? Your heart is an anchor and the shackles of marriage are evaporating.”
“I thought you were Joe.”
“I am Joe. I am every Joe. My face is the face of every little boy that grew up under the iron thumb of religious fundamentalism. My head has received many blows with the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Book of Mormons My story is one of suppressed sexuality, teenage angst and emotional disability. I clench my fists and grind my teeth whenever desire floods my being. I’m a social reject. Peer inside the floating entity of my body and you will see a rotten pit. I’ve tried to untangle the bunch of my insides. In vain. Tell me, Harper, how do people change?”
“As I stood in the rain today, I saw a little girl break the sky open with a harpoon. Grayness spread throughout the sky, and more rain came pouring out. Pouring down on me. And the little girl turned to me and pointed to my shoes. They were inappropriate for the occasion. I took them off and stood there, laughing at my own ignorance. I will be born again. The girl shrunk to the ground, became a fish and flapped into the river. I guess that is how people change,” Harper mumbled disinterestedly, biting the skin around her finger nails.
After a minute of relieving silence he emerged from underneath the bed and started caressing Harper’s bare arm. For the first time she could see his humbly illuminated marble face, the face of a Roman god. Those years of searching for life, for love, for the helium warmth which fills every pore of the slackened body and lifts it from the ground, have appeared before her in the shape of his releasing powers. And as he towered above her, she gave herself up to the beauty of his presence and his touch. They made love ferociously, melting into each other, becoming the other and dividing again into separate entities. In the all-consuming vortex of creation, she was him and he was she. The room turned white, and Harper, pierced with a thousand little needles, fell exhausted to the ground.
She awoke, unaware of how long she had been asleep, arose from the floor like a goddess of victory, covered herself with a silk robe, and tied it around her waist. She was breathing with ease, as if her bowels were untangled. Carefully, she ran her fingertips over her belly to make sure there was no scar, and that all was intact. She could feel the tenderness of her skin, curves of her belly and her firm breasts. This is what it’s like, then, to be touched by sublimation.
Still, all her senses were heightened. Her journey was not over yet, and the presence of another messenger was imposing itself. She sat down on her bed and waited. She thought of Prior. Why hadn’t he appeared to her? They seemed connected by an invisible, but incomprehensible bond. Was she a lesbian? No, she missed Joe’s penis too much when he was gone. No. No. She raised her eyebrows, tapping the tip of her nose with her left index finger. “Was Joe born gay,” she couldn’t help but wonder. “His dad never loved him. His mother denied him any means of personal expression, and never took him seriously. Hannah should make love with the man hiding under her bed.” And she laughed again.
“I will leave for San Francisco,” Harper exclaimed determined. “I only wish I knew what it’s like there.” Her stream of consciousness was interrupted by a soft and hairy imposition, curving its way up her leg. It was a cat. Harper jumped up in surprise, but then again, she’d been expecting another visitor. She never assumed though it would be a cat. Obviously, the cat wanted Harper to follow her, and she led her to the closet.
“All right, all right.” Harper stood up, took a deep breath, shrugged and followed the cat. Slightly bored she opened her closet only to find a red curtain where the shelves and hangers used to be. “I wouldn’t have expected anything less mysterious,” said Harper bending down to grab the cat, as she pulled the curtain aside and entered her closet.
As soon as she was on the other side, a town in ruins began to build up in front of her. “So, this must be San Francisco? The city abandoned by God? Who said that if there was no god everything was permitted? It certainly makes sense to me. What do you think?” She lifted the cat and looked imploringly into her eyes.
As she was strolling around the city, she observed the ruins and the people she encountered along the way. One woman was feeding her baby rose petals, and the other was making a castle out of coca cola cans. Strangely enough, everyone was rather quiet and static. “Devastation causes people to migrate,” Harper mumbled in a trance. “Why are they still here? This can’t be San Francisco!”
Two men, who were playing cards, abandoned their game and observed Harper wandering the streets. “Young lady!” one of them demanded. “Have you lost your sweater?”
“I have lost my shoes,” Harper explained. “I took them off or I lost them. I don’t remember, it was raining. They were inappropriate for the change which was upon us. It’s not raining here. Where am I, sir?” It seemed as if the two men knew exactly what Harper was talking about, because they nodded their heads in approval. The other man, who was mixing the cards, put them now aside, stood up and lifted his arms, palms turned towards the sky and remained that way for a moment or two. “Was your journey a long one? Did you, too, carry the old world on your back across the ocean? Or perhaps in a boat?” As he spoke, his mouth formed into an upside down U, and his eyes became watery. “No, sir. My journey was long, indeed, and I have carried on my back the fading ancestry of my people. Their bones have turned into dust and were blown off into the escaping horizon. Now, I have found a new world, which I will carry with me wherever I go. Great voyages have not ceased to exist. No, sir, their time has just come. I wish you a good day. I must walk now.” Without looking back, and with the cat in her arms, she continued walking. Her anchor heart, still weighing her down, beat rhythmically to each step she was making. There was one more person she needed to see, before finally going to San Francisco, and she knew this abandoned place was where she would find him.