I wander this planet in a fog, my thoughts in wonder, my eyes catching rays bouncing from stray objects that barely stand out from the background.
I contemplate the universe in imaginary silence, bounded by vibrations in the central nervous system, a repetitive process that my body interprets as rhythmic ringing inside my ears, surrounding me as in a fog.
That truly suffices.
I do not see beyond the simplest gestures of friendliness that acknowledge my existence.
Saturday morning, a woman in my age range, say…oh, 40 to 60 years old, about five feet, five inches tall, shoulder-length black hair mixed with gray streaks, wearing glasses (reminding me of a friend from long ago, Deena Ramos), while helping to set up the food line for the marathon runners who would arrive shortly, struck up a conversation with me.
She seemed determined, as if she had a plan in her thoughts to complete in action that morning, with me as part of the plan.
She quickly gave me a rundown of her autobiography, letting me know she had three children who did not like her ex-husband (it took me a while to connect that he was their father (or “sperm donor,” as they told their mother they thought of him)), a man who divorced this woman on the grounds that she didn’t make the kids’ beds in the morning after they got up, which indicated to him she didn’t care for them, even though she fed them and handled all of the school homework assignment without his assistance.
The way she pounced on me and dwelled upon the divorce, I felt that she was trying to tell me something about men who choose to divorce and the thin excuses they use as the marriage dealmaker.
She was not a man basher or man hater — she clearly sought to keep our conversation going, or at least wanted me to listen to her, pushing aside interruptions from others with a wave of her hand.
I understood she wanted more than sympathy, which I supplied by recounting my sister’s divorce stories and the divorce stories of other people I knew.
She wanted empathy.
Hadn’t I just been in a similar situation with Bai a few weeks before?
When does fiction and reality mix?
I had abandoned the love story of my life, the tale of Guin and Lee on Mars, in order to return to Earth for some me time away from the future, and here I was, getting all I asked for, and more!
I interpreted the woman’s insistence on holding my attention as a side effect of my people-pleasing personality and had learned to accept the consequences long ago, forsaking the career of a priest in order to live amongst everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.
I am not a trained mental health professional — my interest in matters of thought sets are merely amateur curiosity.
As wax from a Scentsy burner, sold to me by Guin months ago, melts nearby, reminding me of what might have been and might still be, I know my journey is neither long nor short in the discovery of what only one body can experience in one lifetime.
I am humbled that any one person or persons would want to talk with me, their pure selves, being the only people they can ever be, standing before me in their personal glory, angelic vestiges of sets of states of energy in motion, exchanging energy states freely.
Thus, as the woman continued to talk with me, I sought to learn from her what in her life would make both of our lives better now and into the future.
I expanded my inquiry into what she wanted, what it was that would ease the perceived weight of the burdens she had carried as a single mother providing for her kids — from whom did she most need affirmation of herself?
Frequently, especially here in the heart of the Bible Belt, I discover the person in front of me has been well-trained to believe that straying from a childhood of religious training is perceived as a cause of one’s ills; if a person expresses that belief, then I help steer that person toward an internal forgiveness and permission to return to childhood beliefs that had been abandoned due to feeling no longer worthy.
This woman did not go in that direction.
She seemed to want something specifically from me and it wasn’t just forgiveness.
I was at a loss for words to keep her going.
She eventually just stood and looked at me, her eyes expressing a want I could not understand as I pulled grapes off of stems and put them in a bin to hand to marathon runners as nature’s free energy pills.
This went on for a few minutes, the woman glad to stand and watch me without saying a word.
I wasn’t familiar with the arrangement of her facial features but it seemed as if her face was not in tune with her thoughts; or, perhaps, her thoughts were mixed and her face reflected the puzzled mix.
Her mouth was slightly open, as if she was about to say something, her eyelids apart wide enough to give me the impression she was mulling over words to say to me, her body leaning against the food table and her arms folded across her chest.
I had no problem with her standing there if she wanted, because she had already completed her morning duties, so I kept working until the first marathon runners arrived, which forced her to move on to her work area around the corner in the hotel hallway.
We exchanged farewells and I added her to the list of hundreds of people I met the rest of the day who made my life so much more complete than the day before, thousands of insights into why I should never have given up writing about life on Mars with Guin.
On the countdown clock in front of me, 13,290 days remain until the Martian storyline goes into full swing.
Meanwhile, back here in regular domestic time, on the way home after the marathon, my wife inquired about the long conversation I had with the woman who watched me prepare grapes.
I told her what I could remember.
She told me that she had been about to go over and tell the woman that I was married and she was my wife, to back off, that just because I looked like a single man didn’t mean I was available.
She reminded me how many times this has happened, a woman digging into my life to find out my marriage status, and how many times she’s seen I haven’t stated for the record that I’m married.
Am I that clueless in real life?
Have I been so seemingly innocent, so lost in a fog of happy self-delusion that the universe is here simply to acknowledge my existence and nothing more, driving me into fictional tales in the moments I want to keep my thoughts going as if there is more, that I’ve missed when single, available women have been hitting on me? Even if I had missed them hitting on me, what had I really missed?
I explained to my wife that I am an innocent flirt who has maintained a clear boundary between myself and others that has, for all but a couple of instances, kept me from becoming a dangerous flirt — marriage is as much a protection against sexually transmitted diseases as a social nesting habit — when I put on a wedding ring in 1986 in front of my wife, friends and family, I bound myself physically to the marriage contract that I understood meant my body belonged to my wife for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, till death do us part.
Otherwise, if that marriage contract has no validity then the society in which I was raised and the global economy in which it was supported has no validity.
And, by extension, if they have no validity, then the universe is a false front, a magician’s illusion.
If the latter, then what am I doing here writing this blog when there’s more to discover than reiterating historic falsehoods?
I did not speak with that woman at the marathon again so I didn’t get a chance to hear if she had learned as much about life in our brief conversation and the hours of conversation snippets with the runners as I had.
I hope she did.
Regardless of the number of days left in the Martian countdown, life is a learning experience, a way to maximise the exchange of sets of states of energy.
All I have is myself and these fingers that have learned to form callouses from tapping on plastic keys, a habit not anticipated by my ancestors thousands of years ago.
Yet, here I am.
I am alive, despite my worst habits.
As a person who assumes the godlike viewpoint of a writer determining the lives of fictional characters, I choose to go on with my stories regardless of how much they do or do not reflect the possibilities of a real future.
Where the writing leads me, I do not know with 100% certainty.
Uncertainty is my best friend.
Change is all I truly have to depend on.
Our short lives and civilisations based on inconsistent narratives give us an easy way to believe all sorts of forms of permanence, no matter how fleeting they really are.