The Deity Is Not Up For Discussion
by Gordon Phinn
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Chapter Three – Monday
The freshly pressed pajamas turned out to be next to useless, as carefully laid plans often do. Well, perhaps not that carefully laid, but still.
I seemed to be watching a baby breastfeeding. At awfully close range. So close, in fact, that my rather large left breast and its warm grapefruit of a head were as one. Each suck of the seeking mouth sent me into another small ripple of blissed out raptures. I was propped up in a bed much like my own, in a bedroom with significantly more, shall I say, frilly, taste than Gerry had decisively applied to our shared berth in the barracks. My mind, somehow extended from the bliss of the moment, which, by the way, was as palpable as a sauna, calmly surveyed the day leading up to this night.
My sister Sheila, superbly turned out as usual, had left a couple of hours before, slipping into her gold Lexus with the gay abandon of a teenager to scorch the highway home. The envy with which I watched her departure through opened door of my home was one of long standing. I could see I was really quite at ease in it. Her next-to-executive status, spelled out in sojourns in several corporate endeavors, titillated me more than any romance novel or daytime soap. Condos, lovers, jet-set lifestyles and a variety of intrigues constantly vied for my attentions. Sheila reveled in the lot. An adventuress by vocation and a babe to boot, she wandered the pathways of her self-constructed maze, challenging all comers with her charm and ambition.
Careful to the core, I had married Michael just so I could inhabit the drift of numbing domestic schedules and hide from the harsh winters of the economic grind. My literature degree had enabled me to do precisely nothing but read with an opiated vigour, while Michael’s professorship, gained fifteen years previously during the first wife’s childless tenure, kept him at a conveniently comfortable arm’s length during most of the year. He’d called just after Sheila’s departure: the second day of the conference had gone smoothly, his talk well attended, and the third day looked like a snooze, as his two favourite speakers were scheduled before lunch. He missed us terribly and would be back Monday lunchtime for sure. Kimberley and I had spent a near perfect day together, the ideal couple on an endless date, and the details of it clustered about my heart like a bouquet of sweet smelling memories.
All this was easily available to me, images and emotions coursing through me unimpeded in the briefest of intervals between one suck of bliss and another. I was Ann, but Sheila called me “my sweet Annie”, and Michael, for some reason, like to call me Annushka.
When I stirred it was ten minutes to two. I dutifully reached for the notepad and pen, scribbling a rough version of what you’ve just read, chuckling in a sort of relief. Well it could have been worse, I thought, juggling shame and anxiety and probably more than a little fear.
At about two-thirty I passed, once again, into that wonderland of alternate realities that was so rapidly becoming my home away from home. Only this time I lapsed into a pleasing darkness that rocked me in its arms until dawn, a rather pleasant sing-songy affair as I recall, with no snorting wife to stamp outside the bathroom as I shaved.
The morning went well, with nary a sign nor twitter of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or strange sudden notions that I could fly through the air with the greatest of ease. The car started, the office was populated with the usual personal agendas, and I had a pleasing number of emails and messages to answer.
Funny how the things you normally despise can become, with a modicum of otherworldly pressure, great sources of sensory pleasure. Eric didn’t phone till nearly twelve, and by then I’d already had several flashes of elegant flight paths over a variety of landscapes, both antiquated rural and sci-fi urban. Eric insisted I scribble notes before lunch. What lunch? The lunch he was buying at Sclerotic, a new place he’d been dying to try out. He’d pick me up at one.
Ever heard of simultaneous incarnations? No, neither had I, but Eric was all boned up on the subject. Seems an increasing number of new-age types felt, usually after a series of past-life regressions, that they were in two or more bodies at once. Apparently your soul, well not exactly your soul, for it seems like there’s this other character they call the higher self, who, as he gets more adept at this incarnation thing (Eric’s term) can project more than one beam of life energy onto the planet at once. And why would he do that, you ask. Well, apparently just for the experience. Or, in mountain climbing terms, because it’s there.
So I really was this Ann character? Good chance. Were we the same soul split somehow? Not really: every projection from this higher self was a soul, complete and indivisible. She was more like some spiritual twin or cousin, who I could check in with once in a while. Two or three of his coffee klatch amigos had them too apparently. One of the young guys had just seen his ‘cousin’ die in Palestine. Eric himself had yet to make that kind of contact, though he was certainly open to it.
And how did I feel about this Ann? She seemed eerily familiar. If I shut my eyes for a minute I could see what she looked like in high school. Too weird. The whole thing felt so natural, that’s what I didn’t get, probably never would. Eric shrugged and said, Well, you never know.
The flying stuff was apparently, just that. You could fly in your astral body no problem. Eric did it all the time. Not that he could always remember mind you. But I should never forget that the spirit world was made up of all kinds of levels and societies. Every type of landscape you could imagine, and several that you couldn’t even conceive of. That would be that sci-fi urban scene I thought. Something for everyone it seemed. Suddenly I recalled standing in line outside some church, shaking hands with a minister. He seemed very pleased to see me. But shit, I said, looking at my watch, I’ve got houses to sell and people to see.
It was Monday, Eric reminded me. I was to show up at Starbucks and tell my story. The gang would be all ears, he promised. Well, I’d think about it.
And truth to tell, think about it was exactly what I did for most of the afternoon. One minute I was gangbusters for going all the way and baring my untidy soul for all to see, and the next I was laughing at the very idea of shlepping about with all those herb tea crystal gazers.
But show up I did, and judging by the rapidly parting waters of their upturned gazes, Eric’s fanfare had only just died down. Any thoughts of having to do a sales job on this crowd were quickly dispersed by the steady drip drip of intrigued questioning. These people knew their stuff, they just hadn’t experienced much of it. Eager understudies waiting for the stars to sicken. And guess who the star was.
Eric moderated the ensuing discussion without the least bit of talk show smarminess. Even fake humility was off bounds for the evening, and that surprised me as it was generally one of his star turns. And it didn’t look as though any of the ladies present had proofread any of his hammy lines. “A humble boy is a happy boy”, he always used to say at parties.
Clea asked if I’d done any past life regressions, and upon hearing my shy demur, offered to conduct one. For free. Two or three nodded encouragement, but Eric wondered if maybe I didn’t already have enough on my plate. Of course my birth sign came up, and when I recalled the hour of my birth, someone in a dark green shawl opened a notebook and started scribbling away.
Ted, one the younger men, perhaps twenty-five, seemed a bit miffed. In a lull between rounds, when a couple or four were off at the loo, he quickly launched into his regression. Things were finally falling into place apparently. Those medieval foot soldier lives had culminated in some kind of captain of the horse extravaganza, complete with a chorus of swooning damsels and swaggering duels, after three of which, victories naturally, he’d retired to a monastery to contemplate the clouds.
No, I am not the maker and poker of fun, those were his exact words, contemplate the clouds. Eric chuckled so I felt safe in following suit. Further discussion seemed to suggest that this was the general ball-park attitude: a bemused ambivalence to one’s own past foolish pride. There was no point getting attached to it Eric ruled, just see the patterns and learn from them. Ted and his buddy Derek agreed. Clea, rejoining the group, emphasized the cartoon qualities of our old conniptions, and said we were only doing the best we could with the knowledge available at the time. We were not, I understood, to beat ourselves up in remorseful self-recrimination. The horse being flogged seemed ever so much like our old pal guilt, but as everyone seemed so much hipper than I, I decided against clashing with the consensus reality.
I wound up driving Clea to a small and slowly deteriorating bungalow in Port Credit, one I had actually eyed with a reno and substantial resale in mind. We idled outside as she explained her current dilemma. A bisexual husband in Barbados with his boyfriend, a teenage son with gender identification problems and a nutty housemate with five cats and a cholesterol fixation. The money from the divorce would come through eventually, but till then things were tight, so if I wanted a regression eighty bucks would do the trick. We arranged for Sunday morning and parted the best of friends. She wished me luck with my lucid dreams and begged me to call her if they needed any interpretation.
I smiled a gratefulness only slightly tinged with lust, and drove north on Mississauga road wondering why any of my experiences needed interpreted. Weren’t they downright strange enough without adding the weight of human intellect to the pot? Sure she meant well, but one Eric was enough. I didn’t need any more navigators for now, but her green eyes and short honey blonde hair looked like they could hoist flags any day of the week. Maybe I’d enjoy saluting them at dawn, who knew? I mused on the therapeutic value of the ritual as Eric’s ‘surely you’ve got enough on your plate for now’ raised a few half-hearted hackles.
Bed was beckoning almost as soon as I entered the empty home. No wife, no phone messages, and no regrets, interestingly enough. I lay in the dark, counting the surprising large number of threads of my sanity. This was good: I still made sense and showed evidence of balance. No voices seduced with sociopathic advice, no lace curtains waved faces in the night air. A certain curiosity, equal parts carnivore and ascetic, nibbled at the sugar gates to dreamland. I remembered that ad, melts in your mouth not in your hand.
Chapter Four Coming Soon…