I'm living in L.A. now, after spending much of my young life in Western New York. It's been hard to find a job, and Squid, I don't want to lie to you, so I won't tell you what job I found. But I wear a green and red stone on a black shoelace around my neck. The stone, as far as I remember, is good for the midsection of your body, the fourth or fifth chakra. Bowel functions and fertility, maybe; it's not one to wear around your neck. Yet this stone is one of those round, flat ones, with a hole in the middle, like a coin of some foreign currency. I bought it as a pendant, so I wear it, even though the neck is the second chakra. Yes probably the second.
So last week a guy called my number - it's not really my number, I only sublet - and he started asking me questions about where I was from, and if I were an actress and what kind, and he says he's been to Buffalo and actually knows the street I lived on during my junior year in college (just before I left).
The next day we met for coffee - I don't drink coffee, I have kidney stones - and we talked about these trying times, and he said that in times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these. I couldn't have agreed more. So I said, "No one knows what he can do until he tries. To which he said, "Learning is finding out what you already know." Adam — that was his name, not his real name, but good enough — wore a blue shirt with white pineapples and palm leafs printed on it, off-white shorts and flip-flops. His hair was so carefully cropped, it really frightened me.
I said, "The best way out of a difficulty is through it."
He replied, "You cannot teach a man anything; you can help him find it within himself." Then he sipped his white mocha. His neck was too thin, and chest hair was sticking out of his collar and it was black and curly.
I took another sip from my lemony gunpowder and said, "Trouble brings experience, and experience brings wisdom."
He said, "Experience is a good school, but the fees are high."
I replied, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
"But what is education?" he said, took my hand and kissed it. "That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Now, one of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say. I finally replied, "Anyone who has begun to think . . . " and here I touched my red and green stone for emphasis, "places some portion of the world in jeopardy."
He raised his eyebrows ever so slightly, then countered, "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."
By this time we had arrived in his apartment, a two-bedroom off Wilshire Boulevard. Everything was empty, except for a bed in one room, and a wooden bench in the other.
"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly," I said. "And there is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your way."
To which he replied by saying, "The risk of taking action can be less than the risk of inaction."
As I slipped out of my dress, I said, "Honor and rewards fall to those who show their qualities in action."
He said, "A man dies still if he has done nothing as one who has done much."
"But what a new face courage puts on everything," I replied.
"Half a man's wisdom goes with his courage," he said.
"Courage is grace under pressure," I said.
He replied, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."
I let him know that, "the greatest test of courage is to bear defeat without losing heart." And I added, "Honest labor bears a lovely face."
He switched off the light, the only light, a small blue lamp near his mattress. "The carpenter is not the best who makes more chips than all the rest," I heard him say. "My success is measured by my willingness to keep trying."
That night, Squid, I went to the bathroom without switching on the blue lamp on his nightstand, and I heard the red and green stone fall to the floor. I stooped, one hand following the sounds of the skidding stone. With the other I felt for my neck; the shoelace must have come undone, I thought. But the shoelace was still tied around my neck, and when I found the stone and inspected it in front of the bathroom mirror, it wasn't broken, not even chipped. Squid what does it all mean? Can we create a tomorrow by what we dream today?
This reminds me of a time, long ago but close at hand, briefly after I ceased to work for Rock Hudson, when-in I found briefly employment at the Rolling Hills Water Park, working the long bright time as a lifeguardian residing beneath the waterslides, keeping watch upon the succulently slippery corpi of schoolchildren and their parents. It was a time of moderate leisure and great interest, as I took in a large volume of observations pertaining to the development of your species and its behaviors, especially as pertain to the bathing and the courting and the eating of iced creams and other frozen treats, rendered drippingly mutable by the hot, terrible day sphere.
But matters for another day are my tails of guarding life (So ironic, considering the matter in which that tale found denouement! Ha!) During that interval, Doctor Teller, upon one afternoon, took me for a joyful ride in yet another of his wonderful, art deco antibathospheres, so that I might greater understand Souther California, her allures and fearsome drynesses. As Edward had other appointments of the day in this town— specifically, he had made promise to view and critique the design of a close bosom-friend's new atomic dymaxion house in a particular small village— I took to manipulating the joyful steering stick myself, and tooled about the town, seeing that which might be seen. The sheriff of this small village followed me incessently as I visited the surrounding streets, looking for a "watering hole" (mostly out of curiosity regarding the meaning of that turn of phrase so strange.) I wandered quite a field, anti-village-ward, and stopped my conveyance near a horse farm to have a look at the horses, which were engaged in many activities I can only guess are the much derided "horsing around" I was to prevent in and about the Rolling Hills Water Park. In truth, I found it cryptic in the extreme, as the water of the park effectively prevented any gamboling or galloping, and the patrons themselves seemed patently uninterested in clumsily riding each the other's back in the horse-manner, or lapping at their waters. As I pondered these, the sheriff appeared again, tapping with his billying club upon my thick portal. I clicked on the intercommunicator, and heard him asking what I believed myself to be doing at that time. "Why," I replied, "I am looking at the horses, as they horse around, enacting horse plays." But the sheriff wanted none of that. "Either you ask the farmer for permission to idle at the fence and gaze at the horses, or I have you arrested for trespassing. Which one will it be?" To him, as to you, Lisa, I want to reply, "He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."
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