Four Electric Ladies ... Contents
Copyright Ben Goertzel 1996 -- All Rights Reserved
I didn't plan to go to the University of Canterbury and announce my presence in New Zealand for at least a couple months. I wanted to play the tourist. To somehow empty out my mind. Nothing empties the mind like tourism. Even meditation is a distant second. I knew I had a lot of grief to deal with, somehow, and I didn't think getting involved with my computer science job right away was the way to do it. Also, the idea of being a computer scientist was fairly repellent to me, and I wanted to put it off as long as possible.
Since I seemed to have no idea what I wanted to do, Julie suggested signing up for a tour. This was something I would never have done on my own -- I'm not the kind of traveler who likes to be guided around -- but under the circumstances it seemed like a decent idea. So we took a nine-day tour of New Zealand. Mostly the South Island, but also the Bay of Islands and Rotorua on the North Island. It was certainly amazing. We walked on glaciers, went white-water rafting and skydiving, rode helicopters through narrow gorges, explored tree-lined fjords in canoes. We even went black-water rafting: something I'd never heard of before, where you float through a subterranean river in a wetsuit on an inner tube. The walls of the cave are lined with phosphorescent larvae which are poetically called glow-worms. As the tour guide pointed out, "glow-maggots" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
I enjoyed the tour, but Julie was mesmerized. She'd never been out of the US before, nor had she ever been to any of the big natural wonders in the US -- the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Carlsbad Caverns, etc. I have no idea what her view of our relationship was at this point. The fact that I was footing the considerable bill for the trip didn't seem to trouble her; as far as she was concerned, my resources were endless. However, she was sure to lavish her erotic attentions on me on a regular basis. I couldn't tell if there was any passion there, or if she just considered it her obligation. But it really didn't worry me one way or the other. I wasn't attentive to her at all, I was totally abstracted, trying to absorb my mind with the details of the countryside, looking at the treeferns, the dense undergrowth, the tiny streams and pools, the endless succession of unfamiliar birds. There wasn't much native wildlife -- we didn't see any wild kiwis; apparently no one does. Lots of possums, mostly dead along the road but some alive as well. The flora was the striking thing. it was the lushest country I'd ever seen. Constantly raining, which was a bit of a drag, but the up side was that the rain made the countryside incredibly green. You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Well the grass really was greener in New Zealand, no kidding. A brilliant, glowing shade of green you couldn't take your eyes off of. What a constrast to the murky grey sky. (The Maori name for New Zealand, Aotearoa, means "Land of the Long White Cloud.")
Most of the others on the tour were ten or twenty years older than us; wealthy upper-middle-class or upper-class Americans, Japanese and Germans. Neither Julie nor I had much to say to them. She was shy, and I was not in a gregarious frame of mind. We just talked about ourselves. She told me lots of stories about her brother and her father, who were limo drivers, and had driven around all sorts of famous people. I told her a little about physics, a bit about my childhood, and a lot about my marriage to Diane.
I told her about our big acid trip together, and all our various fights. It was interesting for both of us. I'd never really discussed Diane with anyone before, not in any detail -- it would have seemed indelicate, while Diane was still alive. And with Sophia, there had never been that much time for serious conversation. Sophia had liked to hear me sound off about various topics: she liked my "professor mode." Julie was generally bored by that side of my personality. Like Diane, she could sometimes get a lift from my intellectual enthusiasm. But she was less educated than Diane, and so she had never been taught to appreciate abstract ideas. However, she loved it when I shared concrete anecdotes from my past with her. Then she perked up and listened. Her ears stood up like a rabbit's. Whenever I told her about a fight with Diane, Julie would question me incessantly -- trying to discover Diane's point of view, I guess. Which was largely a futile exercise. Diane's point of view was gone, never to come back. Part of it had been there in her rambling, intermittently vicious diaries, which I had sent to the flames.
Along the way, at various places, we ran into a great number of backpacking tourists. They were much more interesting to talk to than the old farts on the tour. We decided that, after the tour was over, we would try our hand at their kind of travel. The nine days of the tour had given me time to think, and I had decided that an extended retreat into the woods would probably do me good. Only, in New Zealand, it was "bush" not "woods." Into the bush it was, then!
When the tour finished in Auckland, we bought some camping gear and set out along the road. I had decided to try the Coromandel peninsula, a little up-jutting that formed the northeast corner of New Zealand. All the tourists went to the main peninsula in the northwest, the one with Auckland at its based, and with the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga (the northernmost point of New Zealand) on it. Only locals went to the Coromandel, or so we were told, and not too many of them. Julie had never been backpacking before, but she liked the idea. I found she was game to try anything.
The more I hung around with Julie, the more she began to remind me of Diane. She wasn't as well-educated as Diane, but she was plenty sharp. She seemed very easy-going, but I wouldn't have been surprised if, at any moment, she'd displayed one of Diane's week-long fits of temper. She had a similar slow, brooding quality about her. And as time went on, our lovemaking assumed a more romantic, sensual rhythm. I wondered now and then what I was doing with her -- was it a serious romance, or just a casual, temporary fling? I hadn't thought out our relationship at all. If I was going to work in New Zealand, as was the plan - - I didn't have any other decent career options -- then I would have to either dump her or marry her at the conclusion of our travels. Her tourist visa would run out after six months and, lacking a college degree, there was no way she could get a resident visa. Dumping her seemed needless; we got along all right, I liked her pretty well, and without her I'd have nobody. On the other hand, the idea of marrying her seemed crazy. I hardly knew her, after all! And after my experience with Diane, I wasn't so keen to marry again.
Hitching to the Coromandel was easy. Compared to people in any other country I've ever seen, Kiwis (slang for "New Zealanders") are astoundingly willing to pick up hitchikers. Having taken the bus to the outskirts of Auckland, we only had to wait five minutes before being picked up and taken to Thames. In Thames we got some fast food for lunch -- really disgusting meat pies - - and went back on the highway. Ten minutes later, we were on the way up the coast, crammed into an ancient Morris Mini, cruising at 130 kilometers per hour along a tortuous but tremendously beautiful oceanside highway. The speed at which the Kiwis drove on these curvy rural roads was truly frightening. However, they seemed to be adept at avoiding one another. About two and a half hours up the coast we reached the small town of Coromandel, which was the end of the line. Past here there were nothing but dirt roads and walking tracks. It was still early in the afternoon, and our limbs were aching from sitting in the Mini. The town of Coromandel was nothing, just a few stores and a thousand or so houses set among the ferntrees by the Firth of Thames. We had three weeks worth of backpacker food, a shitload of campling supplies, a bunch of maps and some manuals on local flora. We decided to set off into the woods at once.
As soon as we left the town we realized that what we were doing was totally insane. I hadn't been backpacking in years, and Julie had never been. We were in a foreign country, ten thousand miles from home, setting out into the rainforest for no particular reason. But neither of us suggested turning back. We were both trying to escape -- and we were doing a damn good job of it. We couldn't have gotten any further away.
The treeferns formed a green canopy overhead, blocking out most of the sun and some of the rain, when it was raining, which was about half the time. It was damp and poorly lit, but life was everywhere. Moss, grass, all manner of ferns, native New Zealand trees and European imports, bushes and vines in an intricate variety that defies description. Occasionally a kauri tree rose overhead, sticking out of the surrounding rainforest with solemn majesty -- much like the Southern Alps rising steeply from the Canterbury Plains, on the South Island. There were no animals, but for the occasional possum -- no squirrels, much to our surprise! But birds and insects were everywhere. The birds, unused to humans, would flutter right next to you, so close you could almost reach out and grab them. Much of the ground was muddy, and more than once we found ourselves knee-deep in slime. By and large, though, the trails marked on our maps were easy to follow, and we proceeded steadily north. By the time the sun began to set we were so tired and achy we couldn't believe it. We hadn't seen another soul since we'd left the town. We pitched our tent, cooked up some food, and went directly to sleep as the sun set. It was the first night in New Zealand that we didn't have sex.
For three or four nights, things were great. On the fifth night of the trip, though, I woke up at three AM in a terrible sweat. I had a high fever. This had happened to me before, but not for years. I was terrified. I took my temperature on the thermometer in my little first-aid kit: it came out nearly 106 Fahrenheit. I should have been rushed to the doctor. But it wasn't plausible, under the circumstances. I felt woozy and distorted. She saw it on my face when she woke up in the morning. We knew we weren't going anywhere that day. She found a small creek about a hundred yards away and I struggled there and lay down. The cool water felt wonderful. By the evening I felt better, but I was still delirious. I kept talking to her deliriously about the Logos. The fever was so bad it almost felt like an acid trip. I kept calling her Diane.
"I'm not Diane. I'm Julie."
"Is there a difference?"
"I'm alive," she said, smiling, cradling my head in her lap.
"You're just like her," I said. "I don't know how I happened on you."
"It's God's will. Shhh...."
I sat up. I was feeling inspired, all of a sudden. The blood rushed out of my head. I just about fainted. I lay back down in the creek again, staring up at the treeferns. A big idea occurred to me. "Where do you think these recurring patterns come from?" I said. "You know, these things in our lives that seem to keep happening the same way again and again? It's just like the patterns that make plants grow, isn't it? Minor variations on the same themes? I think the ancient Greeks called it the Logos -- the hidden realm of forms, from which mind and reality are built. The ancient Chinese had some other name for it. The realm of forms and patterns. Everything else just spins out from there."
She stroked my hand. "Okay."
"And we wonder and wonder why things seem to happen in streaks, why there seem to be so many coincidences, why everything that happens to us seems to fit together in a certain way. It doesn't make sense, it doesn't follow from the laws of physics. But the laws of physics themselves are just a reflection of this other order, this deeper order underneath. They're just a specific manifestation of the forms that govern everything. We like to focus on these particular manifestations, these 'laws,' because they're more certain and consistent. But if we only pay attention to the certain and consistent forms, we lose an awful lot. We lose everything that makes life meaningful. All of human life is based on those emanations of the Logos that aren't certain or consistent."
I was back in the space of my first acid trip. The one that had led me to the octonions. I knew I was onto something. I tried to explain it to Julie. "This Logos. I saw it before, when I took acid with Diane once. Now I'm right here inside it again."
I tried to explain it to her as best I could remember. My voice was forced and shaky. Just like Diane always had, Julie drew things out of me; simply and step-by-step. Finally she seemed to understand. She just stood there looking at me. We listened to the wind in the treeferns; the symphony of New Zealand birds.
"Take off your clothes," I said.
She shrugged, and stripped. I lay there looking at her. "You're beautiful," I said.
"No I'm not. You're delirious."
"You're beautiful and I'm delirious."
She giggled. "Okay."
"I'm trying to understand something."
"This vision I had about the Logos."
She gave me a baffled look.
"About another world behind this one. About the world of form. This world of form that gives me my physics theories. And then the vision I had during my second acid trip. The trip I had with Sophia, in Vegas."
"What was that trip about?"
"About women. Diane. Sophia. You."
She looked at me expectantly.
"Women are the weavers of forms."
"Women are birth. Making love to a woman is plunging into the source of birth."
She screwed up her face in thought, trying to make sense out of what I was saying. "I've heard it said that men are more creative than women because they're trying to compensate for not being able to have babies."
"That's not what I'm thinking of."
"Well, what are you thinking of?"
"I can't put it into words." I exerted my mind for a moment. The green branches of the ferntrees swirled through my awareness. I couldn't clarify anything. "The point is, women are Logos. The Logos isn't a God, it's a Goddess. The birth of forms is from the body of woman. The universe is a women, giving birth to us.... And when we create, it's like a process of fucking."
"You really are crazy, man!"
"No, you just don't understand."
"All right. Women are the other. Simone de Beauvoir. You can read it for yourself. Women are the force outside. Inserting hidden pattern in the mental and social fabric. That's just what the Logos does."
"Vic, you're fucking delirious."
"No, listen! Of course I'm delirious. That doesn't mean I'm not making sense. Physics is a form of sex. You move into the Logos, and out of it. And then back in again. You're thrusting, man! You're fucking! You're fucking fucking! And that's the downright truth! You're going in and out of the Goddess! Creative thought is the same thing as loving a woman. And you have to be nice to the woman, you have to woo her and soothe her, if you want to get good sex. To get good ideas, man."
She laughed at me. "Christ!"
"Come here. Sit on my face."
"Not now, Vic. You're sick." She giggled. "Vic, you're sick! Vic, you're sick! What a poem, huh? If the Puppies were still together we could make it a song, eh?"
I laughed, just to humor her. I wasn't in a humorous mood. "I'm not too sick to worship the Goddess. Come here, Julie, sweetheart. Let me suck your beautiful pussy. Let me pay homage to the creator of the universe."
She giggled and blushed. "Well, if you put it that way."
I ate her out furiously, lying there in that tiny bush creek. And the amazing thing was that, as her vaginal mucous soaked down my throat, the sickness vanished away. I'm sure it was purely psychosomatic -- I'm not claiming her pussy contained a biochemical healing agent. But there it was. I got up from the creek with nothing more than a moderate headache. She looked at my face and saw the difference. "Jesus Christ, Vic! That really made you better!"
I grinned. "Amazing, huh?" Even I was surprised. "They should employ you in hospitals."
The next few days were idyllic. We fucked morning, noon and night. It was a rainforest fuckathon. I was elated with my insight. The fever still lingered in my brain. The two big things in my life, physics and women, were really exactly the same. The Logos was a woman. The Goddess I had seen in my trip, the Goddess elicited by Diane and Sophia, was exactly the Logos, the source of all forms from my first trip. When I thought, I was making love. This was why, when I fell for a woman, she became the whole universe. Why I was so woman-obsessed. Because in many ways, my relationship with a lover was analogous to my relationship with the universe.
Whoa! This was a kind of mad delusion, I suppose. But it had a core truth to it.
I was elated; I was a man with a vision. But eventually I settled down. My dick got tired. I started to think about practicalities again. How far we would be able to get on our hike. Soon we would have to turn around. What would we do once the three weeks were up? What would happen with Julie and me? God damn, how was it I had lost Sophia?
I guess I was melancholy. So I did what I always do when I get a bit down: I started to think about physics problems. I took refuge in the Logos, the abstract world of forms. I guess I got quieter, started staring out into space a lot. Whatever I was doing, it got on Julie's nerves somewhat, and eventually she confronted me. Like Diane, when she was upset, she had an instinct for saying the most hurtful possible thing.
We were walking along, and she tried to call my attention to a bird in a tree. Meanwhile, I was thinking about twenty-four dimensional lattices. I was trying to understand how to better integrate Ashtekar's theory of quantum gravity into my discrete Feynman checkerboard formalism. I guess maybe I'd had enough of being a vagabond. Dying women aside, my mind was ready to get back to work. The physics component of my brain was powerful and ruthless. I heard Julie talking, vaguely, but I didn't respond to you. "Hey Vic," she said playfully. "What's the matter, are you getting deaf?"
"No!" I said gruffly. "I'm thinking that's all. Is that some kind of federal crime?"
She stopped walking and threw down her pack. "Fuck you up the ass, Vic! Fuck you up the fucking ass!"
I looked at her in amazement. "I guess it is a crime, huh."
She raised her finger at me in pure rage. "Don't say another word, Vic. Don't say another fucking word." She put her pack back on and we kept on walking. After an hour or so we spoke again, perfectly cordially.
But that night, she was still angry. Just as Diane would have been. "You know," she said, as we sat by our tiny little tent, "I think your wife was right. I think you do hate women."
I took a deep breath. Obviously Julie had inherited Diane's talent for saying the most hurtful possible thing in any given situation. Obviously it had been a mistake to talk to her in detail about my fights with Diane. The rule in relationships was, I concluded, the Miranda clause. Everything you say can and will be held against you. I didn't know how to respond. But I didn't need to respond. She just kept on talking.
"I mean, you worship women, that's clear. I understand everything you told me about your vision. About women and physics. It's weird, but I've felt it, too. You have this ... this really intense passion. It's really something."
"You don't like it?"
"No, no. I love it. It's incredible."
"You worship women, you think they're your Logos, goddesses, everything. And that's exactly why you hate them. You hate them because they take your will away. Because they make you worship them. They don't mean to, necessarily -- it's all in your reaction to them -- but that's what they do to you. You enjoy it while you're all worked up, but when the feeling runs out, then you seem to feel embarrassed, and you just want them to disappear." She took a deep breath. I almost thought she was going to start crying. "And look at me, Vic: I'm here! I'm not your goddess anymore. I'm just plain old Julie. And I'm not disappearing."
I shook my head disparagingly. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"Yes I do."
"Fuck, Julie...." I cleared my throat. "You're so much like Diane it's frightening."
"Maybe I am. I never met her. But that doesn't matter. Diane didn't understand you. It was a different situation."
"What would you know?"
"I can tell from the way you talk about her. She must have enjoyed your sexual attention, your enthusiasm for her body and her mind. Your sex and conversation. You're an exciting guy, Vic.... But when your excitement wore down, how did you treat her? Like you've been treating me? Ignoring her all the time; snapping at her when she interrupts your train of thought? You hate me being around. You want me to be a love goddess on command, then disappear so you can think. But I'm a human being. I'm not gonna do that."
"I haven't snapped at you."
"Well what would you call it?"
I looked down at my knees. I could see she had a point there. All of a sudden it had gotten much darker; night was beginning to fall. I turned on my big flashlight. It didn't do much against the darkness. Suddenly I felt all sour. "I don't know. I guess my tone of voice hasn't always been friendly."
"You got that right. Vic, your moods are all over the place."
"So? Yours aren't? Just 'cause I'm moody doesn't mean I hate women. You make no more sense than Diane did."
"It's easy to dismiss things that way, isn't it? Easy to say it's all my invention. And her invention too."
"But how do you know it isn't? How can you say that what I think I feel isn't correct, whereas what you think I feel is correct, is what I really feel?"
She scowled at me, and shook her head. "Your logical arguments aren't worth anything."
I shrugged my shoulders. "And your illogical arguments are?"
"You always want to escape with cleverness."
"I can't help myself."
She pulled her back straight and stared at me. "You wished her dead, didn't you? Tell me the truth. I can tell from how you talk about her."
I didn't say anything.
"You fought with her and you wished her dead, and then she went and died."
I looked down at the ground. I couldn't face her stare. The dark forest was threatening. I knew there were predators in New Zealand, but something inside me didn't believe it. I half- expected a lion, or tiger, or jaguar to leap out and rip off my arms.
"Admit it, Vic! Admit it!"
I paused, distraught. I had reached the end of my line. "So what if I say yes, I did, Julie? So fucking what? What difference would it make? People think things when they're mad at each other.... God's sakes, it's not like I tried to kill her."
"No, of course you didn't; you had nothing to do with her death. I understand that; I'm not trying to implicate you in anything.... But you admit it, though."
I was silent for at least a minute. I didn't know what to think. I wanted to think about physics but I wasn't even capable of it. I wanted to run out into the rainforest. The wind was picking up and it felt cool on my hair. I wasn't thinking about lions and tigers as I had been a few seconds ago. I was thinking about space monsters. Suddenly New Zealand felt frighteningly alien. It might as well have been another planet. I was far, far, far far from home.
I gathered a strength within myself. There was only one thing to do. "All right, Julie. Suppose I admit it.... I admit it; I admit it. I wished her dead now and then. So motherfucking what! She probably wished me dead a hundred times more. It was a difficult marriage. You wouldn't understand!"
My last few sentences were spoken with a venom that I immediately regretted. But she wasn't concerned with that.
"So, that explains everything. That explains why your grief is so ... so intense, so weird and twisted. You feel responsible for her death. It's written all over your face. You have to let go of it, Vic. It doesn't matter what you wished on her. You don't believe in that supernatural nonsense. You're a scientist. You didn't put a curse on her."
"Or maybe I did," I said darkly. "I don't know what I believe, really."
"You thought you could solve your problem by finding a woman so wonderful you'd worship her all the time. Didn't you tell me that? That's what you saw in Sophia. But she was anything but perfect."
"She was a sex goddess," I pointed out. "She was perfect in that regard. You'll never find anyone more seductive than Sophia. That's what everyone always thought, looking at her in the crowd. She was an ultimate sex goddess. Everything about her was perfect."
"But they didn't know her. That's how come she was perfect to them. As soon as you got to know her you saw all the flaws. Christ, Vic, she was a junky! No one can worship a fucking junky! Junkies are the most pathetic creatures on earth."
"I guess you're right." I sighed, and at the same time a huge gust of wind raged past. The treeferns waved back and forth in their quiet, gentle way; their trunks, six-to-twelve-inch thick bundles of reeds, were incredibly flexible. They sounded like some horrible voice. I felt terribly empty inside.
I waited for Julie to say something comforting. But she wasn't about to. Finally the silence got sickening. I had to open my big mouth and speak. "So you understand me, Julie. Great. Diane understood me too. Not the same things you understand, but a lot of things. Different things. She knew me pretty well. A fucking fat lot of good it did her."
"Diane was bound up with you. I'm not. Not yet."
"So I understand you first. I know what I'm getting into, beforehand."
I sensed the tables had somehow turned on her. The conversation was getting ever stranger. "I don't know...."
"Think about it, Julie. What exactly are you getting into?" I had been waiting to get this topic out in the open, but had been afraid it would be too difficult to deal with. Now that she was making things rotten for me, I decided to make them tough for her as well. "What's our future together? I'm staying on in New Zealand. But how can you? You don't have a resident visa. Your tourist visa runs out in a couple months."
"I can stay on if I marry you."
I didn't know what to say to that. Marrying Julie? Just a few weeks ago the idea had seemed ridiculous. Now it seemed almost plausible.
It would be just like marrying Diane again ... but not quite.
"You don't know what to say to that, do you?"
"No Julie," I said, sighing again, "I guess I really don't."
"What's the matter, Vic, don't you want to marry me?"
Suddenly things were getting tremendously surreal. "Is this a proposal, Julie?"
"It's a question."
"I don't fucking know, Julie. I don't motherfucking know."
The look on her face turned all of a sudden. It was a phase transition, just like Diane used to have. She slapped me in the face, hard. "You don't fucking know, Vic? You don't motherfucking know? That's a fuck of a way to answer me, isn't it, you goddamned asshole."
"Julie -- calm down."
"Calm down? What I should do is to get up and walk the fuck out of this forest and leave you ailing here. You can fucking die here for all I fucking care, Vic! You and your damn crazy fever!"
I didn't like the sound of that at all. "All right, bitch. See ya. Don't forget your plane ticket."
"Fuck you, Vic! Fucking fuck you, man! You're so fucking callous! I've never met anyone who could be as much of an asshole as you!"
"Well," I said, getting into it, "I'll have to introduce you to my dad someday. He lives in Cleveland. He's such a jerk that even I haven't been to visit him in two years. Compared to me, I'm a fucking Mr. Rogers...."
"Shut up, Vic! Just shut up, will you? Didn't they teach you that in graduate school -- how to shut the fuck up?"
"As a matter of fact, no."
"Ooh, the dry wit! What a clever, clever man! I'm sooo fucking impressed, Vic! I'm sooo fucking impressed! You just can't stand it that I see what your feelings are! You just can't stand it, can you? You've got to be in control! You've got to be the king of it all!"
"Come on, Julie. Just cut it out."
"Cut it out? I don't think so. Cut out is more like it."
She got up, shaking violently, and started shoving things in her backpack. "Come on, Julie! Just cut it out! What the fuck are you doing! I'm sorry I used the word 'fucking' for Christ's sake! I should have just said 'I don't know', right? I should have just said 'I don't know.' But my brain has been fried over the past half a year, not to mention the fact that I'm just getting over a high fever, and I've sort of forgotten my tact. Well, fucking excuse me! Is it that fucking bad, saying one goddamned word wrong, that you have to run off like this?"
"You just keep making it worse and worse. Why don't you shut your fucking mouth?"
"Why don't you stop walking away?"
"Fuck you, Vic! Fuck you to fucking hell!"
She was walking down the trail. I followed after her, pathetically.
There was only one thing to say. "I'm sorry, Julie. Of course I'm sorry. Of course I'll marry you! That's what you want, right? I'll marry you, okay?"
She turned around jerkily. "You think I want to marry you?"
"Yes." It occurred to me that I didn't know what I was doing. Did I really want to marry her? I knew, at least, that I didn't want her to walk away. "I do."
"Fuck, Vic, of course I do. Can't you see I'm madly in love with you?"
She took off her clothes and we fucked like two animals, down on the rainforest floor. We had had lots of wild sex before, but this was qualitatively different. We were running in a higher gear. After we finished, and lay there for a while, relaxing, I made love to her again, this time slowly and sensually, the way I used to do with Diane. I kissed and massaged her all over, till every inch of her body was humming with energy. I massaged each part of her pussy with loving attention, until it was throbbing and bursting with excitement. I took her toes in my mouth and sucked each one lingeringly, while massaging the bottom of her foot with my palm. Finally I sat up and moved her on my lap, cupping her buttocks in my hands. I moved her around and round slowly, keeping her up in the air, kissing her neck, ears, breasts, shoulders. She had always been quiet in bed before, but now, all of a sudden, she was the loudest lover I'd ever had, moaning, cooing and bellowing almost continuously. "God," she said, "you make me feel so good. Ohhh.... Christ! My whole body is tingling.... " Her verbalizing grated on me at first, but I soon became attached to it. It was great to get this constant positive feedback. She really appreciated the treatment I was giving her. The look on her face when we finished was one of pure gratitude.
Over the next few days, as we hiked along the coast, we made slow, passionate love every night. We also talked about our relationship several times more. I tried to change the subject, but not always successfully. Like Diane, Julie had a very limited attention span for talking about physics or science in general; and she didn't care much for politics either. We would talk about music, or about the incredible natural beauty we were walking through.
The trail wound down right by the ocean in many places. The brilliant blue-green of the ocean made a wonderful collage with the shadier green of the treeferns. We were endlessly pointing out things to each other. We had a great time swinging back and forth on the numerous vines. "Me Tarzan, you Jane!" But eventually, despite all the distractions, she would always turn the conversation back around to her favorite topic. She couldn't stop thinking about the two of us.
"It's not going to be like it was with Diane," she would say brightly, smiling, out of the blue.
"Why not? You're turning out to be awfully similar to her. I'm thinking you might be her long-lost sister."
"I know the way you are from the start. Like I said before. I won't get angry at you for being callous or not showing respect. Because I know it's just a defense mechanism. It's just a defense against the strength of your feelings. I understand how much you love me, underneath."
"You're quite the psychologist, aren't you?" I laughed. "Diane was never like that."
"So then we're not the same."
I told her what she wanted to hear. "No, you're not the same. You don't make love the same, either. She didn't care for oral sex much."
"Seriously, though. It's easy to say you won't let something bother you. It's a lot harder to do in practice."
"Once you get in the habit of letting something bother you it will bother you forever."
"Julie, you're really weird."
"You love me, though."
"I love you, sweetie."
"So, I'll put up with your moods if you put up with me being weird. Deal?"
I smiled, warmly. "Deal."
She was so naive. The idea of marriage enthralled her. Like Sophia, she was impressed by the degree to which I had my life together. I had a professional career, money in the bank, a huge fund of general knowledge. I'd been all over the world. I knew about food and wine and culture. But Julie had no idea what building and maintaining a marriage involved. She was hung up on this idea that love was enough. "We love each other," she'd say, bubbling over. "Isn't that a wonderful thing. This is going to be so terrific!"
I was still tired and jaded inside. I tried to explain things to her. "Julie," I'd say, "the one thing I learned from my years with Diane is that love isn't enough to make a marriage really good. It's enough to hold a marriage together forever, but it's not enough to keep you consistently happy. You need to...."
"I don't need to be consistently happy," she'd say, perkily. "Don't be so negative, Vic! Do you realize how little of my life I've ever been happy? I've been happier these last weeks with you than I ever was before. If we can have a few good weeks like this every year, then I'll put up with just about anything the rest of the time. I'm serious."
I had to grin. There was no way to argue with her. "You'll be a dream wife, Julie."
One day, when we had just turned back south toward civilization again, we deviated from the trail a little bit following a stream, and we happened upon a beautiful waterfall. New Zealand is chock full of waterfalls, and this was probably not one of the most impressive, but it had the power of surprise, and isolation. We were the only ones for miles and miles and miles around. It was like happening upon a gigantic jewel in the middle of the desert. You walk along through the forest, never seeing more than twenty feet ahead due to the dense growth, and then all of a sudden there's this clearing; the sun is shining through. And there's this laughing, dancing, bubbling spray of water, pouring down ahead of you. The light reflecting off the falls weaves all kinds of crazy patterns, circles and spirals and wobbly curves; the spray looks like tiny stars leaping up and dissolving in the air. The pool at the base of the falls, crystal clear to the rock-lined bottom, reflects the trees all around, forming a kind of distorted mirror of the whole rainforest. The falling water provides the pool which reflect the rainforest, and at the same time smashes into the reflected image, rippling it into impressionistic forms. A creation and annihilation operator. A fertile, malicious goddess.
We stripped off our clothes and waded into the pool, looking up at the falls all the while. I ran my hand along her buttocks and back. She seemed so perfect and natural, blending in with the environment -- an animal in the wild. New Zealand had no native large mammals -- well, here was the first one: the Julie. She said this was the happiest time in her life; and indeed, she seemed to fit in the rainforest, somehow. Out here she wasn't shy or awkward; she was bold and relaxed. Away from society, she shone. For the first time I really felt a totally certain love for her. I knew it wasn't just her similarity to Diane. Diane had love nature, but she had never quite fit in with it. It was just too uncomfortable for her. She liked her nature in small doses. But Julie was a Nature Goddess, a forest child.
Never content to experience nature passively, I had to explore a little more. I clambered up some rocks under the falling water and discovered a cave behind the falls. I called Julie to join me. She was as thrilled as I thought she'd be. The base of the cave was muddy, but it was filled with flowers: purple, yellow and green flowers, winding around each other in a tangled but somehow regular latticework. There was moss behind the flowers: brilliant, bright green moss. I was walking on rocks, staying out of the mud. She jumped right down in it, laughing at my squeamishness, and pulled me along with her. We were both still naked; she sat on my lap and started working my cock with her hands. All of a sudden, this past week, she was as horny as Sophia. She mounted me and we did it to the rhythm of the falls. I figure it was about five minutes: the quickest orgasm she ever had with me. She was absorbed in the falls and the forest; the falls and the forest were absorbed in her. There was an unbroken continuum between her surroundings, her body and her mind. She was a being in harmony. "You're my nature Goddess," I said to her. "God, I love you!"
"I love you too," she said.
We just sat there for a while, looking at each other. My head filled up with thoughts. "This is it," I said. "This the real thing. The present moment."
She smiled at me. "Yeah."
"In my physics theory, I have this algebraic structure called the octonions. It captures the structure of the present moment."
"It has seven elements. Just like the seven elements we can hold in consciousness at one time. The structure of the present moment."
"Just like the seven notes in the harmonic scale. Western music matches up with the structure of the moment. Sophia's music escapes the order of time.... The seven parts of the woman's body! Two eyes, one mouth, two breasts, navel, vagina. Look at you, standing there! You're living proof of the power of the Logos!"
"Vic, you're still delirious, aren't you."
"I'm understanding everything for the first time. The patterns are beyond our comprehension. We try to comprehend things by way of science but we can never succeed, not fully. We just draw patterns out of the Logos and weave them together in attractive, useful forms. But there is always something hidden. This is the feminine principle of the universe. The universe is seductive; it always leaves something to the imagination."
"You never stop thinking, do you. Can't you just stop and look. Isn't it wonderful?"
I threw my arms around her. "I look and think at the same time. My whole mind is alive! My body's humming!"
She kissed me softly, on the lips. "I can hear it."
"Nature, too -- look at it; this rainforest! What is so wonderful about nature. It puts you in the middle of the present moment! Nature destroys the false order of time. It is large and unchanging. It contains processes of change on all time scales. It destroys our idea of linear time, rebuilds time as a fractal. Nature puts you in the present moment."
"I understand you there. Since we've been in this rainforest it's like the rest of the world doesn't exist. Everything has ground to a halt. And yet it stretches out forever."
"Yes! Yes! And sex is the same way. Sex puts you in the present moment. Just like thinking about physics. Moving in and out of the other, binding yourself with the other then pulling apart -- this creates an order outside the order of time. It creates a present moment spanning several points in illusory linear time. Each time you are inside her is the previous time you were inside her. Each time you pull out is the previous time you pull out. Each time you are inside the Logos, understanding forms and ideas -- is every time you were inside the Logos. The order of time is broken. Each acid trip is every previous acid trip. Fucking, creative insight, acid -- they all bring you outside of linear-time reality, into another world! The other world where time is a sphere. Time is a living, moving body! I'm fucking time itself, man!"
"You are crazy, Vic! You're so fucking crazy!"
"I'm not at all crazy. I'm understanding everything. Do you understand? This world is not all there is. There's another world, beneath it, on top of it, beside it. The Logos is just an intellectual way of talking about it. It's pussy-land, fuck- land, the Empire of Woman. It's LSD-land, Ecstasy Universe! There is no time, really. What we feel as time is just the building up of a timeless moment. The arrow of time is the irreversible construction of a reversible state of perfect, boundaryless awareness!"
"Enough, Vic. Enough, enough."
I hugged her and kissed her again, then stood up and rinsed off in the falls like a gigantic shower. It was tremendous. Then I saw something interesting: a series of rocks winding up the edge of the falls, like a stepladder. It seemed that perhaps one could climb to the top of the falls -- from behind. I was filled with an over-brimming energy. I had to move, act, live, conquer! "Look at this," I said, beginning to climb up. Being a pretty good rock-climber, I made it quite high in just a few seconds. Some of the rocks were slippery with moss but I had no trouble keeping my grip. Julie decided to follow me. "You'd better not," I said. "It's kind of mossy. You might fall."
"Oh, bullshit," she said, her voice still full of orgasm. "God, this place is wonderful! I could live here forever."
"Kinda damp...." My head was lost in the falls. I'd decided against actually climbing through the sheet of water, and had begun to come down. "Really, Julie, don't come up here. It's not safe. I shouldn't have come up myself. I'm coming back down."
She clambered up, grinning. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. We were caught up in ecstasy. About five rocks up, she slipped on some moss and tumbled down, screaming. I was fifteen feet above her; there was nothing I could do but scramble down as fast as possible. In my haste I slipped myself and bounced down a couple rocks on my knees, but I managed to stabilize myself. After her initial shriek she hadn't said anything at all.
I had an urge not to even look at her, to simply plunge into the water and drown myself. But still, there was a chance she was alive. I bent down and studied her carefully, taking her head in my hands. I didn't want to move her, in case she had broken her back. Of course, if she had, I didn't know how she would survive her without food while I hiked the two days minimum back to civilization. But as it turned out, she had fallen directly on her head. The back of her head was indented three or four inches. Obviously her skull had split. She wasn't breathing and her heart had stopped. I tried to resuscitate her, using what little I remembered from high school health class. There were no paramedics this time; it was all up to me. But it seems quite clear in retrospect that even the paramedics would have been helpless to save her.
The happiest days of her life, she'd said. They hadn't lasted very long. The Vic Tymanski curse had struck again.
I don't know how or why I made it out of that forest. I just stumbled along with one thought in my mind: I am the Devil. I am the Goddess-Killer. My impure feelings have spilled over into reality. I have killed all the women I love. I love the Logos too much; the flesh-and-blood women too little. I am guilty of their death, by the limits of my love. The brilliance and beauty of my vision by the waterfall was vanished: turned into a black, fiery knife, twisting into my heart and soul.
Had I been in a reflective state, I might have been shocked at the totality of the change in my mind. From an exalted understanding of everything, to total inner desolation, in only a few minutes. My spiritual insight -- my communion with the Logos -- was strong, hearty, and powerful. It could have survived almost anytthing. But if there was one thing my psyche couldn't take at that point, it was the death of my woman.
They went and got her body out by helicopter. I flew back to New York, to my mother's house, and tried to make myself alive again. It didn't work.
Deep down, I understood myself better than ever before; in a way I was comfortable, inside. But I couldn't quite reconcile myself to the events that had happened. I was stuck in a strange loop, a weird mental tangle. Some things just can't be accepted. I had come to this big realization, that women and physics were the same thing. That the Logos was a woman, a goddess. That my two big peak experiences, my two big acid trips, had been telling me the same thing. Woman was the other; the big force outside; the shapeless shaping force; the web of propensities. I had come to this big realization. But what had it bought me? Another dead woman! I seemed to have a way of killing the shaping force, the source of all life! And what did that make me, exactly? I was stealing ideas from the the Goddess, with one hand, and killing her with the other. I was a warped being. A sickness in human clothes.
I went to a drug dealer out on 125'th Street and asked him how many quaaludes it would take to kill me. He told me fifteen. The contrast between New Zealand and New York was almost enough to kill me anyway. I had come from the mind of the Goddess, the Empire of Logos Woman, the enchanted rainforest of mystery and death, into this ugly, disgusting world again. The world of homelessness, filth, litter and money; of teeming human stupidity. For years I had been ignoring New York City; not even thinking about it at all. I had been living in a world of the mind and the heart and the cock, totally oblivious to my physical surroundings. All of a sudden I noticed the place I had been living. It was profoundly repulsive. It screeched and grated; got on my nerves.
The dealer sold me fifteen ludes and I went home and took them.
It didn't do the job. I wound up walking around my room at my mom's house, stumbling around in a stupid quaalude daze. I fell down and broke my wrist. It still hasn't healed quite right today. I tried to slit my wrists but my reflexes were gone, so I just botched it up and got blood everywhere. My mother found me and fainted from shock. When she came to, she called an ambulance, and checked me into the hospital for psychiatric observation. I didn't mind at all. At least, there, the women of the world were safe from me. And there was plenty of time to think about physics. That's what I told myself, anyway. Not that I actually did any thinking about physics. Physics was lost to me. I was just floating, floating. The doctor came to chat with me every morning. He was a pleasant guy.
Something inside me told me I'd have to pull myself together quickly, or else I'd just sink into nothingness forever.
But something else inside me said: No hurry.
I'm not going to write about my time in the hospital. It isn't interesting, and I'd rather not reflect on it. I didn't think about Diane, or Sophia, or Julie. For maybe the first time in my life, I didn't think about anything. Even the Logos was lifeless and distant. Everything was a faded dream. Go to Next ChapterBen Goertzel (firstname.lastname@example.org)