Persistence chapter two

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Last night took its toll on him. He never felt more like not getting up then at the moment. He had only drank milk with dinner but the conversation with his family, combined with the bland taste of food and the confrontation of a pretty neighbor intent to glue herself to him, felt like several intoxicants working at once. He did not know what the time was and he did not care. He could stay in bed all day.

Suddenly, his cell phone rang. He waited a few rings before answering because he knew who was calling him and he did not want to leave the impression she could take advantage of him merely because she bought his house.

“Hello?”

“Hello, honey. I was wondering if you could go to the store again and get me some soda.”

“Mom, I didn’t go last time. You’re sounding like Charles.”

“Haha. I guess I am. But I do have a sweet tooth once in a while and I’d like some soda to help me quench my thirst. Last night’s dinner wore me out.”

“It wore me out too. I don’t want to get up yet.”

“I know why you don’t want to get up yet, son. You’re thinking of that woman. I’d be careful about her.”

“What do you mean? Do you know her? Does she act like that with other people?”

“Never. She’s always been reserved and polite. In fact, I’ve seen her shake hands with other men before and she’s always let go right away. She looked possessed like another part of her was doing what she did.”

Lewis was intrigued. What could have made Julie pick him? Was her behavior something she did once a year? He wondered about other things also like her clothes. Was she usually more prone to wear dresses? Were jeans a one time deal?

“Mom, I’m wondering something. How often does Julie look the way she did last night?”

“Why are you asking? Are you saying you’re interested in going out with her? I would advise you to find someone else. Why didn’t you have a girlfriend back in your old neighborhood?”

“It’s not easy to find anyone nowadays. Plus, none of the women there would talk to me. Even if they did, they didn’t look like Julie.”

“There’s more to a woman than just looks, honey.”

“Okay, but I’d like to know how often does Julie wear jeans?”

“There’s other women around who wear jeans.”

“Please answer the question.”

“She always dresses like that. She always wears belted jeans and her shirts are always tucked in. It’s like that’s a part of her routine. Women have routines. My routine is cleaning my teeth with mint dental floss.”

“Okay. Since you answered my question, I’ll get your soda.”

“Thanks honey. Now, if you see her again, walk away quick. You have to discourage her. What if I’m not around with a pot of hot water?”

“Well, there’s always Uncle Charles with a potbelly of hot air.”

“Very funny. Get going. My soda awaits.”

He hung up the phone without saying goodbye. He wanted her to know that she was not going to do to him what Uncle Charles did to her. He got out of bed, slipped on a T-shirt and jeans, put on a pair of moccasins and went outside.

As soon as he was out the door, Julie approached him. Her hand reached out and she said, “Come on. We’ll talk.”

He made sure not to get too close. He said, “We can talk.”

She approached faster. “You know how it has to be.”

He noticed she was wearing another tucked in top, green-blue shirt with stripes and rolled-up sleeves, and belted blue jeans. If she succeeded in catching him, he would probably enjoy it. However, their relationship, if that was what it was, needed less surrealism and more conventional conversation. So far, that seemed extremely unlikely but something about her intrigued him and he was not quite willing to dismiss the idea she and he were compatible. Maybe after he went to the store and did the errand for Daphne, he would let Julie hold his hand. He had not found out if she would have let go, after enough time had passed yesterday. If she could wait about ten or fifteen minutes, he might accommodate her.

She walked faster, clearly intending to snatch his hand as soon as possible. She said, “Don’t delay this.”

He said, “If you can wait ten minutes, that would be great.”

“There can’t be any waiting. I need energy. Slow down.”

“I’ll slow down if we don’t have a repeat of yesterday.”

“Time is a continuum. There are no repeats. Everything moves forward.” She walked faster and her hand reached further.

He decided to not pay attention, at the moment. His pace was quick enough so she would remain a few steps behind. He preferred to think he was just on a casual walk to the store, even if he looked like he was almost running, and a woman happened to go in the same direction. If she wanted to hold out her hand, that was her business.

Suddenly, she was right next to him. She grabbed his hand and held tight. Her composure became calmer. She smiled and said, “Okay.”

He pulled as hard as he could but her grip was firm. “This is completely crazy.”

She shrugged and laughed. “Sorry, but it has to be this way.”

“I guess I have to forget my mom’s soda.”

“You could buy her vegetable juice.”

“That’s not my point. I’m supposed to do an errand for her and now I can’t.”

“You can.”

“Okay, I can… but I want to forget it right now.” At that moment, his phone rang.

Julie smiled. “I bet I know who it is.”

He answered the phone. “Yes?”

“Hi, honey. I just thought of something. Could you also get me a tub of cottage cheese?”

“What size?”

“Small curd.”

“I mean, what size container?”

“Large.”

“Okay. Well, it’s going to be quite a while before I can go to the store.”

“But you asked me what size of cottage cheese I wanted. Why would you ask that if you didn’t plan to buy it?”

“I’m doing something.”

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, it sounds like you’re not doing anything and you can get my cottage cheese.”

“I told you I’d get it later.”

“You’ll get it later after you finish doing whatever it is you’re doing, which is nothing because you don’t know what you’re doing.”

He hung up the phone. “You were right. That was her.”

Julie nodded. “I didn’t even say who I thought it was and you already knew who I meant. That’s why we need to stay connected. We are like one person.”

Her statement overwhelmed him. What was she talking about? They just met yesterday. Attractive women like her could go out with anybody. However, maybe her situation was like his in the old neighborhood. Perhaps they had both been snubbed by others. Her momentary behavior could be a reaction against loneliness. Her strategy was far-fetched but, somehow, Lewis did not feel threatened. He figured she needed to trust him to stick around before she could assume he would stay on his own. He figured he might as well spend the day with her.

He asked, “What would you like to do?”

“We could go somewhere for tea or we could hang out at my place.”

“Maybe your place sounds good. People won’t think something’s weird if they don’t see us.”

“I don’t care what anyone thinks.” She squeezed tighter.

He shrugged. “Can you tell me more about Feng Shui? It sounds like a food dish.”

“It means you place things in your life that you want.”

“Is that how you think of me, as something you want?”

She squeezed even tighter. “I had no purpose until you came along. I saw you and I knew. It was automatic. I must keep in physical contact with you every single moment of every single day.”

“That’s not true. You let go when my mom almost poured hot water on us.”

“That was a freak exception. If I didn’t let go then, I might not have had a hand to hold yours later. But she’s not here. She’s bad for you.”

“How do you mean?”

“Remember when you were younger and she wanted to buy you a tooth brush and you wanted a toy racing car? She said she didn’t have the money and you cried because you thought she was lying. She slapped you on the face and said that if she heard you ever asking anyone for anything ever again, she would slap your face.”

“That never happened to me.”

“Yes, it did happen. It’s in my cosmological memory bank.”

He was nervous. “Maybe we shouldn’t go to your house.” He tried letting go.

She squeezed so tight her grip was hurting him. “Don’t think you’ll regress. We’re going.”

They reached her house. They went inside. He decided to try his best not to upset her even more. He asked, “Should we sit down and relax?”

She shrugged. “Sure.”

They sat on a sofa in the living room. He studied her appearance. He imagined how, every day, she tucked in her shirt, tight, making sure it never came out of her jeans until she got undressed. He looked at her waistline and saw how the shirt was smooth, perhaps meticulous, showing the signs of her perfection. Since her thoughts were a bit unconventional and maybe scattered, she made sure one thing in her life worked as the constant element of control and order. He then looked at her hand, the one joining his, and how persistently firm it fit on his hand, like a statement in itself. Maybe she did not trust herself to be functional without him. If that was the case, it was apparently something new. Daphne said Julie was always composed before. Perhaps Julie could no longer keep up the composure. Lewis could have been her last glimmer of hope to maintain a type of behavior close to, if not exactly, normal. Without him, she could go completely beserk.

He asked, “What’s your favorite type of music?”

She answered, “I like the metaphysical types of sound generators like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Edgard Varese, Bela Bartok. Once in a while I like to take my mind off of metaphysics and listen to a Walt Disney soundtrack.”

“Okay. I’m more into jazz like Miles Davis, Stanley Turrentine, Oliver Lake, Eric Dolphy… When jazz was cool and there wasn’t a fake category called cool jazz.”

“They call it, and anything, cool to advertise and exploit the freezing of communication. Human beings are warm and generate heat and they need the polarity of the cold in order to function correctly but too much cold can cause a distancing of interrelated communication between humans and other species and life forms. Big business knows this and takes advantage of the marketing potential. We have misunderstandings and wars because of this. The media loves it because it means big profits.”

“Is this all because something is called cool?”

“Everything starts with just one thing and then becomes multiplied and expands until that one little thing affects everything. The solution, though, is to not pretend it’s bad. The solution is to invite the consequences and the crosscurrents of pollination. Media makes it happen but urges people to fear it. Media and commercialism have concepts of repression. We need to embrace the elements of mixing everything together. That’s how marriage is like. Two people accept the union as one.”

“Is that why we’re like this?”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Are we accepting some combination of something?”

She sighed. “The media has conditioned you too. That’s not a bad thing if you embrace it.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you.”

She shook her head. “If you offended me, we wouldn’t be holding hands.”

He shrugged. “It’s just that I’m trying to understand where you’re coming from. Forgive me but it’s difficult.”

“There’s nothing to forgive. If you find it difficult, that’s the situation. I accept it, just like you except me.”

“Okay.”

She closed her eyes. “I’m going to relax right now. You might want to, also. We have every day to think about this. There’s no rush.”

He closed his eyes also. He figured he might as well try whatever it was she wanted from him. Perhaps she was speaking of a certain logic he would understand later. Maybe her education level was higher than his and he would know what she meant when his vocabulary got bigger.

She said, “Tomorrow, we can explain it all to your family and maybe mine. I’m not as concerned with my family getting it as you are about yours. Don’t worry though. I’ll relate it in a way so everyone will know what I mean.”

He decided not to respond. If she said more, he would merely listen. However, she did not do so. Hopefully, if he was correct, his plan would work.

First a few minutes and then a few more and so on… He was patient. If she kept her eyes closed, chances were, she would fall asleep. He waited approximately ten minutes longer then he figured he needed to wait and then he lifted their joined hands. He turned his hand, slowly but surely, in hers, as if examining details of the sculpture. So far, so good. She showed no apparent reaction.

With his other hand, he slowly tried lifting up one finger of the hand of hers that was holding his. Her finger moved. He was nervous. If she woke up before he got free, there could be major trouble. However, progress was successful.

He lifted up the next finger. He felt like his hand was in a corset and he was untying it. He wondered if she really was asleep or if she was playing a role hoping he would understand his part in the play. If she was playing the captor, he played the escape artist.

The third finger also moved. He knew he could go home soon. Maybe the explanations she gave him were purposeful nonsense. She looked too attractive and well dressed to be crazy.

The fourth finger could be lifted also. She shifted a little bit in her sleep so, instead of lifting her thumb, he worked his hand out of the thumb hold. For a split second, he thought he saw her open and close her eyes, as if she really was not asleep. However, he did not want to screw up the momentum. If this was a play, he needed to fully embrace the role. He could not be a magician who revealed his tricks or a director who explained the movie’s special effects. He just needed to leave.

As he left her house, he felt strange. He was glad his plan worked but a part of him wondered whether or not he interfered in the momentum in the same way his mother did. He was not sure of anything. He would just see what else the day brought.

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