Because a cynic told me the best is yet to come.
-The Rapture, “Down So Long” (Pieces of the People We Love, 2006)
I’ve clocked many days in ‘Iao Valley, but the scorched day in question shot vapors of decocting detritus up over the ridges’ edges like rapids upended.
Gorgeous but foreboding, everything and nothing was right. Maybe it was the heat (which I guess really wasn’t so bad, for August, but it was hotter than it’d been in awhile so I humored the baked road enough to rename it for a day: Fata Morgana).
So though already in the Promised Land, I wandered “de roads of creation” praying to Bobs Marley and Dobbs. And albeit being clam-happy, I was as anxious as a poor kid waking-up to Christmas, sanguine despite having precious little to hope for.
But then, a miracle! And one better than Pollyanna’s mission-barrel crutches: the fuel-injected apparition of a strange, sage man.
Umber bare feet, terracotta T-shirt and the precise mannerisms of my mother’s brother salved with my father’s friend’s round tone. I knew this wild-haired man like an uncle–but I did not. Not at all. He was like a quilted dreamtime stranger pieced of people I knew well enough to plagiarize in REM.
Yet he was there, standing in front of me, livid and lecturing. At least, I think he was. Because from the first moment I saw him, I began to suspect I’d conjured him just to tell me a few things I needed to hear and learn.
But that’s crazy, even for the likes of me.
See, I’ve long cleaved to the mangled, misappropriated adage that only crazy people claim they aren’t. So in desperation I’ve made it my mantra, “Yeah! I’m batshit!” in the hope that it might not be true (though it is). However, when it comes to reverse psychology, I worry about self-fulfilling prophecies; and when talking to this man I was exhausted from exercising the pains of Frost’s filled cup, “up to the brim and even above the brim.”
The closest he ever came to facing me was perpendicularly. He would not tell me his name. Pleasantries were replaced with cryptic warnings to not blab about our encounter from my soapboxes (artful ambiguity notwithstanding, I hope).
When the conversation crested and plunged again to strike bone, a sudden redness inked his sclera and he made his verbal advance.
“It’s people like you who think you can tell us guys about [this or that]!” he croaked.
People like me? What kind of people am I? Who’s you guys? I don’t think I tell anyone about [this or that].
“It’s people like you who think you know everything about [this or that]!” he crowed.
I don’t think I know anything about [this or that]. And whatever little I think I know isn’t mutually exclusive of what anyone else thinks they know.
“Just love,” he said.
Am I not loving?
“Just love,” he said like a stone.
And all the meanwhile he schooled me. He schooled me like a truant trapped in a summer session of miseducation, “singing my life with his words.”
Look, I pride myself in unabashed self-depreciation. (It’s my river MO, if you haven’t noticed.) But braddah cut deep where I needed letting, and I bled in ways I can’t bear to divulge here. So, dear readers, I hope me-and-this-man’s most superficial moment illustrates one of the ways I found myself wanting:
“If you see a kid in line at the store,” he told me, “and the parents are telling him they can’t afford the thing he wants–buy it for him. Give him quarters for the gumball machine.”
Oh, yes. Gumball machines are my favorite, I said. If I see keiki looking longing, I’ll stick the quarters in the slots and walk away.
“Don’t do that!” he chided my so-called Samaritan sly. “You’re placing him in a moral dilemma where he must assume and steal to get what he wants! Put the money in his hand and he can instead choose to save or spend.”
A few days later I met Mr. Blue. He’s a fan (if I can dare such boastful words) who’s been trying to give me a rather thoughtful “artifact” for sometime now, and I finally made some time.
In the course of our long talk, Mr. Blue stitched up those aforementioned wounds-I-won’t-speak-of with horribly kind words that would rot me to repeat; and in so doing he shared his Matrix-esque philosophy.
He professed that he was a figment of my imagination–and I a figment of his. Merrily, merrily and whatnot. And to quote The Universe Is A Dream, a book I’m reading by his suggestion, “You are a mind lost in a dream of duality—a dream that [was] dreamt in opposition to nonduality.”
But that’s crazy, even for the likes of me.
Still, I remembered the valley sage and thought, OK.
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