Tell you a story – it’s about God and me.
I’m chilling by the river, on a park bench; nice breeze, sun glinting off the waves like those proverbial diamonds, the sky is endless and azure. Blue heron standing by the shore, ducks paddling about; I’m alone with my thoughts and appreciation of the beauty of the moment. It was idyllic. One of those scenes you see in paintings or a photograph and hope to experience some day.
Like all idylls, the peace was broken. Dude sat down next to me. I got up…I’m not a social kind of person and I certainly didn’t want to share my special moment with a stranger.
“Sit down, Karen.”
Whoa…guy knows my name. I look at him, he looks familiar and then he doesn’t, then he does…then he doesn’t. I’m thinking “Uh oh…sun stroke!”
“Seriously, sit down.”
“Nah, I’m done. I’m heading home, thanks anyway.” I’m backing away, slowly, trying not to make any sudden movements. I’ve heard that’s what you do with crazies, mean dogs and skunks. Had no idea if it actually worked but figured, it was worth a shot.
“I would really like to talk to you for a few minutes. Look at me. Do I look dangerous?”
I take him in; he was right, didn’t look dangerous. Old dude, long hair, beard, a few beaded necklaces, leather wrist band, jeans and sandals – looked, kind of, like a Grateful Dead fan. Nice teeth, blue eyes…or green…or brown. Made a mental note to make an appointment with the optometrist as soon as possible…Then there were voices in my head; I could hear my husband, my kids and my late parents, in the back of my mind; “DON’T DO IT! You KNOW you are a Weirdo Magnet!” I sat down anyway; I can be a bit of a jerk like that.
“So, Karen, how’s it going? I see you appreciate my work.”
“Meh…going pretty good, I guess. Could be worse, could be better…what do you mean…Your work?”
He gestured toward the lake.
“You do the landscaping for the city?”
The guy laughed, “You could say that. Landscaping. Yeah.”
We both sat, looking out at the water although, I kept giving him side glances, just in case…I didn’t want to end up on the evening news, found in the trunk of a car or a sleeping bag attached to a concrete block, in the canal.
I thought I was being discreet…apparently, not – he noticed me watching him.
“You’re safe. You won’t end up in the trunk of my car. I don’t even drive and that whole sleeping bag thing was a dismal failure.”
Shocked, flabberghasted, astounded – pick a word, none of them really describes my reaction. I decided that a little offense was needed here; I could do the defense if required, later.
“Look, do I know you? You look familiar but, I’m really sorry, I guess at my age, names and faces don’t always connect.” And thrust and parry.
“Sure, you know me. You know me pretty well; although, you usually pretend that I don’t exist. I’m more convenient that way.” He grinned.
I was getting a bit fed up. I’m a Taurus; I don’t do the whole head game thing. Give it to me straight or shut up, is my philosophy.
“I said I was sorry but I don’t really recognize you. And what is with this existentialist shit? If you know me, you know I have no patience for it.”
I started to get up. I’m not into being rude but this guy was trying my patience and I was kind of pissed that he had ruined my “moment” by sitting down. Messed with my Chi and I was disgruntled.
“Seriously, it’s been fun but I have to head home. Take care.”
I turned and started to walk away. Next thing I knew, Deadhead Sr. was beside me. I stopped and turned, he was smiling. I sighed and shook my head…this one was persistent, I’d give him that.
“What do you want? Where do you live? Can I call someone?”
I pulled out the trusty cellphone.
“No. I don’t need to you to call anyone; the long distance charges would be murder.”
He started to chuckle and then laugh, until he was doubled over. My temper started to flare; this guy was really making me angry. Messed with my nirvana, now he was laughing at my offer to help. He was way past the point of what I tolerate in a stranger but I was at a loss.
There was no way he was playing with a full deck, I didn’t want to leave him alone, to, maybe, wander into the river or piss someone off enough that they beat him up. I was thinking of 911 as an option when Mr. Deadhead managed to get himself together.
“Can we just sit back down on that bench, just for a while and chat? I promise not to do anything weird. Just give me a few moments of your time. I am not selling Amway and I’m not a Jehovah Witness.”
He started to sputter, suppressed laughter, tears started to roll out of his blue/green/brown eyes.
I was walking away from this one; in addition, sitting near the river, listening to the waves lap up against the rocks made me want to pee and made me, simultaneously, thirsty. I needed to get home.
The guy started to cough, probably from trying not to laugh again and thereby weirding me out. His face turned red while he coughed and he didn’t seem to be able to catch his breath.
Man, I really needed to go; on so many levels…but I couldn’t leave the old guy to, potentially, expire on the grass. He continued to cough and went down on his knees. I whipped out my trusty God-device, and had already punched in the 9 when he waved at me, to stop.
I stopped and the old guy wheezed himself back to a less disturbing facial colour. He motioned for me to come closer. I ran through some scenarios in my head, none of which had him coming out victorious, so decided that I would be in minimal danger by moving closer.
“Give an old man a hand up, would you?” He held out his arm to me and I re-examined my previous scenarios of him vs me and I was still the victor. I helped him up.
“Can we sit on the bench, please?”
What could I do? I couldn’t leave him there but damn, I had to go to the bathroom. I initiated some “mind over bladder” and agreed.
“Just for a few minutes and then, I really have to go. If you want, I can come back with my car and give you a lift or walk you to a bus stop. Your choice.”
“Don’t worry, I got here under my own steam. I can leave the same way. I promise not to take any more of your time than you can spare me.”
He just seemed so sweet, so cutely elderly, I felt guilty for thinking he may be dangerous.
He was just an older person who wanted to talk. Maybe he didn’t have friends or family. After caring for sick parents, I have become very sensitive when it comes to older folks and loneliness. My parents had family so they were never alone but it made me realize how many were and how impossible, how sad, life must be for them.
Yeah, I could hold my water and give this man some time.
We walked over and sat down on the bench; the place where all this had started. We were looking out at the river and sighed, at the same time, in the same tone. I had to laugh and so did he. My DEFCON level lowered to about a 4.
“You know my name, so what’s your name?”
Safe enough topic.
“My friends call me Eli.”
“Eli, you said we knew each other but I have never met an Eli. It’s a cool name by the way and that’s how I know we’ve never met. I would have remembered.”
“You just know me by another name, a lot of people do but I prefer Eli. You’re right. It is cool.”
We kept facing forward, toward the river. I was doing my whole sideways glance thing.
“Eli. You know you aren’t making much sense. If I don’t know you by Eli, then what name would I remember?”
He turned to look at me and I looked at him. His answer was ….
He turned to look at me and I looked at him. His answer was ….
“Chill..we’ll get to that. If I told you; you’d think I was just another whack-job and head home for that pee.” He winked and grinned.
I don’t know about you but I’ve learned when someone tells me that they are not a whack-job? I figure that’s the first option on a multiple choice. That he knew I had to pee was not something I hooked onto at that moment. It took a few seconds and even then, my suburban white bread upbringing wouldn’t allow me to discuss my urinary needs with a stranger.
“Life has been pretty good to you, hasn’t it? I see you’re healthy, except for that whole smoking thing. You really should cut that out. You obviously have enough to eat…”
Whoa!! Line crossed! “Hey!! Look here, I’m in my 50’s. I’ve had kids. I come from a long line of …. Robust women.” Old guy or not, he was heading toward a good smack territory. “Maybe you should get to the point now. What is it you want to talk about? My waistline is off the table as a topic, okay?”
“I find that easing into the conversation with small talk has a better chance of success.” He didn’t look, the least bit, contrite over his social faux pas.
“Dude, discussing a woman’s weight is not small talk. It’s just rude. I don’t do small talk. I suck at it so let’s just get the point of why you wanted to talk to me.” No way was I raising the pee question now. Guy had no boundaries, obviously. Older folks are like that; it can be charming but in this case, not so much.
“Yeah. I figured you’d be a little hard to reach. No big deal, I’ve dealt with far tougher.” He shifted his position and raised his legs up on the bench in the lotus.
I had to admire that. At his age. Pfff, if I tried it? They’d have to call the paramedics. Along with the disappearance of my, once, staggeringly thin waistline, my flexibility; like socks in a dryer; they were sucked into another dimension. Nature hates a vacuum. They were replaced with crow’s feet and a bad back. I am not happy with the exchange.
“Stay with me here, there is a point to all of this. I’m trying to lay down some foundation. You love that analogy. You’ve used it enough. Talking about that whole Pagan thing. You have to have a foundation…you can’t just walk in on the second story, the whole building collapses.”
He chuckled and ticked me off even more. I was kind of proud of that bit. The way he said it made it sound…childish. Offensive line was benched; time for the defense to take over.
“I liked the comparison. It was a good visual. Worked for some people, you know. What pearls of wisdom would you have liked?” I wanted to add “Smartass” but the white bread thing can be a powerful force to overcome and I took a higher road.
“But it was all bullshit, wasn’t it? You were trying to paint a turd.”
Ah…so this was going to be a religious discussion; okay – fine. I opened my mental armory and loaded up.
“I needed something to believe in, at the time. Paganism was about as egalitarian as I could find. I was raised Christian and I thought THAT was bullshit.” I surmised that if this guy was a fundie, that statement would smoke him out or at least, that has been my experience.
“Oh…it’s all bullshit, my dear. All of it. Created by man to explain thunder and earthquakes, famine and flood. It even came in handy to justify wars and all kinds of horrible human behaviour. They invented the original white knight and black knight scenario. Inventive but still bullshit. As if the universe is as simple as god and the devil. A friend of mine finds the whole thing an insult to intelligence. He’s always looking at that bible book and getting his nose out of joint. He did like that piece you put together on who, actually, won the war, which one was really which. You see, nothing is that simple. Man is supposed to be so all-fired intelligent. Top of the food chain, inventors of fire, the lightbulb and Spanx. How could this ultimate good and ultimate evil thing go on for so damn long?!”
He shook his head and looked out at the river. Seemed a bit tense at this point. The conversation was getting too deep for my current state of bladder and I was getting antsy. Not just because I was immersed in trying to figure out if there was a public bathroom on my way home because, I didn’t think I was going to make it…but this kind of discussion, with a virtual stranger had no definitive timeline for termination. I needed to hit the road. I pulled out my years of manners by rote…
“I love this discussion and I would enjoy going into it further with you but I really have to head home. I have a lot to do. I’ll give you my phone number or you can give me yours; we’ll get together for coffee or you can come by the house but I seriously have to leave.” Polite enough. Mom would have been proud that her efforts weren’t totally in vain. I had retained some social graces.
A grunt of frustration from the other side of the bench; “Jesus!! Okay, look – I’m trying to talk to you about something important and all you can think about is the bathroom?!”
He reached over and grabbed my arm. I guess, for point emphasis. I was not impressed. Space invaded!
“There?! Feel better now?”
Holy Crap!!! I suppose there’s no point in mentioning the obvious. Yeah, I was, suddenly, comfortable in my bladder but there was more to it. There was a flash in my mind; a lightening effect and I could see answers, I had a brief sense of knowing. I saw stuff and then? It was gone. It left something though. Something that I needed to process but he started to talk again and to tell the truth, I was struck dumb; ask the friends and family; this is nothing short of a miracle. I am rarely without words.
“Where was I? Oh right, the good and evil thing. I don’t get it. For a species with such tremendous potential, something so simpleminded is accepted as gospel – one good guy and one bad guy, controlling everything. Even those RPG games have more than one protagonist and one antagonist. You have free will but the devil made you do it. A loved one dies and it is god’s will. Now, if the devil caused someone to kill; you’ll get a lot of hemming and hawing if you ask if this too, was god’s will.”
He DEFINITELY has my attention now; magical stuff involving the urinary tract will do that to me, every time.
“I love how this one god is all powerful but couldn’t stop a snake from convincing a woman to eat an apple. Or stop a brother from braining another brother. Prevent millions of his own image from dying in gas chambers. Or stop two skyscrapers from disaster and save thousands of lives. The theory just doesn’t hold water, yet there are billions who believed and still believe it, regardless of any proof. Hell, they kill, maim and torture over it.”
I needed a smoke for this. I asked him if he would mind if I smoked.
“No, go ahead but take my word for it; you need to give this whole smoking thing up. You’re on your way to some pretty serious shit.” His voice had taken on a dark tone, far different from his storytelling voice. I lit up but I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it.
“Have you ever wondered why women are treated like second class citizens by virtually, every country on your planet?”
“No. I don’t wonder; I know why. The whole Garden of Eden thing. Religion.”
“That’s just the justification. The truth of it? Envy. Jealousy. I think it was Freud who decided that women suffered from penis envy. He was way off. It is totally opposite. Its men. They suffer from womb envy. Ever since the moment that men realized that their penis was more than just an integrated plaything; they have been drawing pictures, erecting monuments – pardon the pun, and sticking the damn things wherever it felt good. It looked like a rod and a rod was a weapon, so based on this information, the phallus became a symbol of power. Think about the ludicrous nature of that, for a second. You ever hit a man in the pills?”
“Well, yeah. It works like a charm.” I didn’t like where this conversation was going. Penis discussions are not my forte; I don’t have one so my frame of reference is limited to being a user and bystander; not a possessor and I was, well, all I can say to describe it is that I was off-balance.
“Exactly. While it is a multi-use tool; it has, definite, limitations and before Viagra, a shelf-life. It isn’t the giver of life; it is necessary, of course. Like baking powder in a cake recipe but it doesn’t make the cake. Women are the creators of life. They carry that life and give it to the world. They withstand all that goes with pregnancy and then they give birth, anyway and happily. They expel a living being from their bodies. Even the slightest blow to the testicles renders a man helpless, yet a woman withstands hours of excruciating pain and then gives up a live human being. That is true power. True greatness. Women could do what the men did AND give birth. That kind of omnipotence drove them crazy. The problem was that men were physically larger and they could subjugate physically. That wasn’t enough though. Stories around evening fires turned into myths and these turned into religion. Stories based in wishful thinking and envy. Somebody gets stoned from eating the wrong berries or fungi. Bushes start talking, rocks start singing…Nobody has the nerve to call the story out and it starts to grow. Down the road, someone decides this stuff needs to be written down because it’s funny material. He has no idea what lies ahead for his anthology. Others pick up the idea and it just gets totally out of hand. Instead of a storybook, which is how it starts out? People start believing it. Same principle as the internet; if it is written down, it must be true – if it’s on the net? Well, it must be true because books and the internet don’t lie.”
I have to admit, the guy has me hooked. I’m late and I have a lot of things waiting at home but there’s no way I can just walk away now. The guy is funny, he’s interesting. He’s weird. I like that in a person.
“The world is the world. Nature is nature. Shit happens. Volcanoes explode, comets flash through the sky. Viruses jump species. People get greedy. And folks always want an explanation. When things get rocky, they want answers. Gods were the source of, pretty much, everything. It started to get complicated…you got time to hear a good one? It is pretty funny and always gives me a laugh.”
“Sure, I guess. I do have to get going soon though…”
“Understood. Okay, so there’s this guy – his name is Moishe and he’s with a group of friends. They’re all young with a plan for their own Utopia. Like the hippies and their communes. They set up camp one night, get into some henbane one of them had picked up from a Greek dude.”
My cell started to ring and he stopped while I answered.