Bai flipped the wall light switch with her elbow to light her bedroom.
Lee looked over her shoulder at a contraption. “What’s that?”
“It’s my exercise machine.”
“It’s looks like a headless mechanical bull.”
“Sort of. A horseless bucking saddle.”
“How does it work?”
Bai set the drink cups on her dresser. “You sit on it and I’ll tell you.”
Lee threw one leg up and straddled the device. “Like this?”
Bai snickered. “No. You’re backwards. But it might work. Grab the handle and hold your legs up in the air. I’ll turn it on.”
As the saddle rocked forward and backward, Lee tried to hold his balance, sliding from his butt and onto his back, his feet pointed toward the ceiling. “Whoa, Nellie! How do I stop this thing?” When the saddle started rocking side-to-side, Lee lost his grip and slid, falling flat on his coccyx.
They both laughed at Lee’s ridiculous position on the floor as Bai bent over to turn off the machine.
Lee pushed against the machine as he slowly stood up, feeling a stinger in his lower back, scrunching his face in obvious pain even though he kept laughing uncontrollably.
Bai reached out to steady Lee and stopped laughing. “All you all right?”
“Sure.” He stood up straight. “I think you may to start over on me.”
“I can do that, if you’ve got time.”
Lee looked down at Bai. “Thanks. Give me a minute…”
“You know, I’m surprised you didn’t ask.”
“Didn’t ask what?”
“Everyone who sees the machine asks me if I’ve tried to have sex on it. And…”
“Well, I guess I…”
“…you can see why I haven’t. It’s not that kind of machine.”
Lee felt a jolt of pain and his voice fell to a whisper. “Maybe later…”
“Are you sure? You saw what you just did.”
“Practice makes perfect.”
“But I just said…”
“Oh, yeah. I see what you mean. Sorry, I guess I can try it again later after another massage.”
“If that’s what you meant…” Bai seized her cup and finished all the water. “I’ve gotta pee. You can look in my room but don’t try to make my bed. Alaur can do that for me.”
Lee looked around the bedroom. A paisley suitcase and a pink Helly Kitty makeup case were open on the futon bed. The pair of folding closet doors, painted robin egg’s blue, were pulled open and the closet light was on.
In the middle of the closet stood a shoe shelf, every hole, meant for a pair of shoes, stuffed with four or five pairs of shoes — sneakers, dance shoes, dress shoes, sandals, boots — about eighty pairs in total. To one side of the shelf were three special hangers designed for scarves, including the handmade ones Bai had shown Lee and his wife the last time they had visited.
Next to the scarves were six or seven party dresses.
To the other side of the shelf hung pants, blouses and coats, hidden in shadow because of a big box blocking the closet light.
On the floor were more boxes, some with the lids off, containing belts and yarn.
Lots of yarns. Yards and yards of yarn — thin yarn like wire, yarn with thread as thick and hairy as a cat’s paw, shiny yarn, dull yarn, matted yarn and yarn neatly wrapped around a spool.
Lee stepped forward and one of the spools of yarn moved.
At first Lee thought the yarn had merely fallen.
He leaned over to put the yarn back in the box when it rolled out of his reach and into a dark corner.
Lee felt a hand in the small of his back and almost jumped.
A voice from nowhere whispered to Lee. “Whatcha doin’?”
He thought it was Bai and turned as he stood up, planning to put his hands on her shoulders and ask about the yarn.
No one was there.
Lee shook his head and turned to see if the yarn was still in the corner. It was gone.
He walked over to the measuring cup and finished the water, which tasted sweet and cold as if fresh from a mountain spring.
The bathroom door opened.
Bai stood silhouetted by incandescent light from the bathroom.
Draped around her neck, the multicoloured scarf hung down from both shoulders.
The pink cashmere scarf was tied around her waist.
She wore brown boots with leopard print cashmere lining folded four inches over at the top.
Lee felt light-headed — the image of Bai seemed to float toward him.
“Did you finish your water? Do you want more?” Bai took the measuring cup from Lee’s hand.
Lee noted that Bai had removed the barrettes from her hair.
“What do you think? Do you like my hair? Thanks for letting me take the time to work on it. Did you have fun in my room while I was gone?”
Lee stood motionless, as if he was frozen, although his insides felt like they were warming up. “You…uh…”
“Uh-huh? I what?”
“You’re wearing the scarves.”
“You noticed! You aren’t a zombie after all!” She spun around and around several times, sending the multicoloured scarf out like bird’s wings from her neck.
In his daze, Lee thought he had never seen so much of Bai’s body before. He had yet to capture and record a good label to describe the colour of her skin which was brown, but brown was too generic, it didn’t describe the angelic figure in front of him who still floated like a spinning top, a gyroscope pirouetting down on an imaginary rope.
The brown of her hands was different than the brown of her forearm, upper arm and shoulders, different than the brown of her face and her neck, different than the brown of her back and her waist, different than the brown of her legs, calves and feet.
If there was a rainbow made of brown colours, then Bai would be the essence of the rainbow — from light browns like the dry soil of an ancient forest, medium browns like an oak tree, to dark browns like a mug of hot cocoa.
Highlighted by the best colour that accented her face — blue eyeshadow.
Lee was losing his train of thought — purple, blue and brown seemed to fill his world.
Like a tornado, or the Tasmanian Devil, Bai swirled into Lee and pulled him into the piles of yarn in the closet.
Lee had already lost track of time, not able to synchronise the time Bai said she had spent in the bathroom with what felt like the few seconds Lee had looked around her bedroom.
The swirling continued.
Blues, browns and purples mixed with reds, yellows, greens and blues.
Feathery boas tickled Lee’s nose.
Spools of yarn awoke from a deep slumber, dancing in Lee’s face, rolling down his arms, bouncing up and down his legs.
Lee’s eyesight dissolved away, his five senses cooked into one extrasensory stew, touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight blended into a window onto a new universe.
Scarves talked to the inside of Lee’s skull.
Suddenly, he was a waterfall carving a path out of the bottom of the closet.
Bai was laughing in his ear like she was a horseback rider having the time of her life, riding free in the wild.
Lee wanted to be confused but he had no time, becoming thousands of water droplets cascading over a rock precipice, oxygenated by the pure air, headed toward a pool at the end of a ravine, feeding a herd of feral horses.
Lee left the ravine as a gamma ray burst, traveling across the universe like a beacon with a message searching for a recipient.
He began to feel his heart’s rhythm again, his temples pounding.
He opened his eyes.
Bai pressed the top of her hand on his forehead.
The fringes of a scarf brushed against his eyelashes.
She held the back of his head with her other hand, which rested on her lap, the warmth of her leg pressed against his back.
“How do you feel?”
Lee laughed. “I don’t know.”
“What? You mean the Great Lee doesn’t know? Did you actual lose control?”
“I told you that you were mine until I said otherwise.”
“Yes, you did.”
“You aren’t the only one who has been taught how to access ancient pathways through our universe. You aren’t the only one practicing the ancient arts. I, too, am a Mesmeriser.”
Lee closed his eyes and relaxed into Bai’s body. A fellow Mesmeriser? Lee let the idea sink into his thoughts.
Lee gave his body to Bai, every last atom of his set of states of energy was hers.
How many Mesmerisers were there?
He knew the answer.
He also knew the answer wasn’t available in a database attached to the Internet or stored in some deep cavernous treasure trove in forgotten lands.
There was only one Mesmeriser.
Lee didn’t need to hide the answer because he knew the universe was what is was, the embodiment of the Mesmeriser which in turn reflected itself in every ounce of its being, being both the parts and the sum and more than the sum of the parts.
Lee rotated his head, rubbing his hair in Bai’s palm. “I am the Mesmeriser.”
“I know. And now we both are.”
Lee opened his eyes and looked up at Bai, who was bent over, her chin just touching his stubble beard.
They smiled at each other.
Lee’s heart began beating regularly again for the first time in weeks. He was finally in synch with Bai.
For the first time in two years, he understood why Guin made his heart leap from his chest every time he saw her or thought about her. After all, she was Guinevere, the White Enchantress. She had stepped into his life or the other way around, it didn’t matter.
From the beginning, there was a familiarity with Bai that Guin had prepared him for, as if an imaginary triangle had been trying to form for millennia and found its shape when the three of them met, their friendship cemented out of reach of spacetime when Bai and Lee discovered they were each other’s Mesmerisers.
An enchantress and two mesmerisers. Magic labels for special friendships.
If labels are signposts that don’t exist, then what was magic about friendships that have labels?
Guin held out her hand across the miles and minutes, connecting her heart to Bai, Lee and a endless line of friends.
If Lee was ready, she wanted to return to Mars again and write their stories together.
Bai lifted Lee’s head out of her lap. “I think we’re done here for now, don’t you?”
Lee gripped Bai’s elbow and lifted them both up. “I don’t know.”
“And that’s a good thing!” She laughed and led them to the kitchen to refill their cups. “You need to drink lots of water…just like the doctor ordered!”
Lee held onto the kitchen counter as Alaur walked back into the flat.
She stopped and looked at him, wobbly on his feet. She upturned an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Alaur, I think it’s your turn. I’ve had just about all I can take.”
Bai laughed. “But look how much straighter he is! Next time, I’m going to work on your hips to get that curve out of your lower back. Alaur, get on the table. I’ll be there in a moment.”
As Lee pulled on his Irish winter parka, wrapping the Munster rugby scarf twice around his neck, he saw an older Orlando Jones on a TV show for a couple of minutes, then watched as Bai started rotating Alaur’s arm, Alaur’s purple-and-black eyelids shut tight as she attempted to conceal the pain.
“Lee, Bai doesn’t know it but I have two massage therapists — her and a guy who gives me the kind of massage that makes me relax…”
Bai interrupted. “Hey, I give the kind of massages that I like to get!”
Lee nodded in agreement. “That you do! So, Alaur, does he use aromatherapy and relaxing music?”
“Yes. He pretty much puts me to sleep every time. I tell him he gets me in such a mood, he could do anything to me and I wouldn’t object.”
Lee replied with a smile in his voice he directed at Bai. “I know what you mean.”
Bai looked up from massaging, texting and changing the TV channel at the same time, giving Lee another one of those mysterious messages from women he didn’t know how to interpret, which probably meant…
“Well, I better go. I’ve got things to do at home.”
Alaur looked up in surprise. “Leaving so soon, Lee?”
“Umm…yeah…I should go.” Lee was getting warm again.
Bai held her look at Lee, as if she was half paying attention to Lee and half somewhere else. There were times when her exotic, Filipina face froze Lee in place, wanting as he did to trace the outlines of her eyelids with his fingers, to get to know every pore, every wrinkle on her face, every chapped crevice of her lips, the feel of her skin above the weeping cherry tree tattoo running down her back, kiss the butterfly tattoo on her wrist and feel the touch of her skin on his lips. That is, if he hadn’t already? Had he?
He raised his eyebrows slightly, asking Bai what had just happened.
Denying him a direct answer, Bai broke their stare and glanced down at her smartphone.
He took it as a signal. “Yep. Time to go.”
“Oh, okay.” Alaur turned from Lee to Bai, as if she wanted to say something else.
Lee walked out of the flat without another word from Bai. If she had said anything, he would have stopped in his tracks and completely vanished into his Mesmeriser role, changing the direction of the major channel of the river of history.