Reality is a collection
My very first recollections
of regularities --
are of the other world
whether perceived or constructed
Of lying comfortably in my crib
is asked in vain
and staring straight out into space
The law of noncontradiction --
waiting for everything to melt into the velvet darkness
"not both A and not A" --
I didn't know what to call it then --
is simply one such regularity
I didn't know many words
albeit a particularly useful one
I know a lot of words now
It is the basis of categorization
but I still don't know what to call it
it permits us to say
From that moment onward
that x is inside the category A
I had this feeling for where we go after we die
and not outside it
There is an order of rank
People would talk about heaven and hell
or about ceasing to exist
In case of a conflict between two regularities
but I always knew better
the one which is higher in the order
Your thoughts and passions are still there
will generally prevail
but they're enmeshed with everything else --
At the very top of the order of rank
by an infinitesimal amount
is the law of noncontradiction
you lose the will or power to separate them
What happens when it is recognized
It's like when you touch someone
that categories are not objective
and your bodies start to mix
but imposed by the mind
you can't determine where one flesh leaves off
That "x is not both A and not-A" is a tool
and the other one starts
and nothing more
Today I'm twenty four years old
This recognition is a regularity in itself
about a third of the way toward death
At the moment of recognition
but it feels like I was in the crib only a moment ago
the order of rank is broken
The clock is a farce invented by devils
But the other regularities
The dance of memories
are not annulled
The paradox sets off an oscillation
the technicolor parade of dreams and images and fears
that is not any kind of "ism"
is like a distant howling wind
but rather a dizzying movement
I have the sensation of awakening
back and forth between two extremes:
from an endless sleep
but I know it's an illusion
of the old order of rank
The sleep can never end
and the regularities that form "reality"
The dreams flash in and out
or else realization
and no matter how hard you try
of the more fundamental reality of irregularity
you never get them back
This realization induces paralysis
absorption in confusion
is the powerful kind of nihilism
won through strength of intuition --
only superficially similar to the nihilism
that a lazy mind sometimes settles into casually
Track 5, Reel 1
During this period, we also decided to have a baby. Before Molly even got pregnant, she began eating three or four large meals a day, in preparation. She gained ten or twenty pounds before you could even tell there was a baby in there. I found this a little unsettling -- but for Malik, it only made her more attractive.
I remember one day, extremely sick of trying to fix my dissertation, I called Molly over to me. I wiggled my head up in her skirt, pulled her underwear aside and moved my fingers and my tongue in a familiar way. She said something profound, like "Ooh, yeah, just like that, yeah, yeah, mmmmm."
Meanwhile Malik -- he was living with us at the time -- ambled into the room. "Get out of here!!" snapped Molly.
"Mmmm hmmm!" Malik chortled, delighted. "Taste good, Andy?" I didn't answer him. Malik lingered at least ten seconds, eyes fixed on Molly's exposed breasts.
"Fucking sex maniac," Molly spat.
"Look who's talking!"
"No, I mean, he couldn't just leave, he had to stay and try and see something. Man, that pisses me off!"
"He's 90% blind anyway, remember? He couldn't see anything even if he tried!"
"Yeah yeah yeah -- ooh, don't touch there, that's my urethra."
"A little pain never hurt anyone."
"What's this mess in here?" Malik shouted, but we hardly even heard. I sensed the first tremors of her orgasm and slipped my cock inside.
Five seconds later, the phone rang. I picked it up while still inside her; it was her cousin Susie, shouting some kind of crazy nonsense. I handed it immediately to Molly.
We heard: "...don't know what the fuck you guys think youare but...."
Then the dial tone.
"Interesting," I said quietly, then forgot about it.
As we lay wrapped in post-coital bliss, the phone rang once again. Molly lifted it from the floor and held it a few inches from her ear, expecting to be cursed again. But instead it was Rocky, my second cousin and Susie's (supposedly Platonic) roommate. His voice was extremely shaky. "Me and Susie had a really big fight," he began, breathing heavily, irregularly. "She put the cat litter in the hall, so I told her to bring it in or I'd put some stuff of hers in the hall, but she wouldn't bring it in, so I put some of her books out there. So she started yelling and screaming and threw it down the stairs, and one of the stairs ... I mean the chairs too ... all this stuff she threw down the stairs, and then the landlord ... I mean the manager ... came out and she was freaking out all over the hall so he called the police."
"This just happened now?"
"No, that was this morning. Then.... well, she came back after going away somewhere and started yelling at me and throwing dishes and stuff at me, so...."
"Oh God! My God, Rocky, I feel so sorry for you. I mean, she's my cousin. God, I'm so sorry. That's so awful."
"So I pushed her out the door and locked it. She clawed up my arms and legs pretty bad. I told her she couldn't come in if she was going to destroy all my stuff. And then she kicked in at the door so hard the lock broke."
"The lock broke!?"
"Yeah," he laughed quietly. "Good lock, huh? But the chain was still on there. So she pushed her arm through and she said, break my arm if you want to! Come on, break my arm! I said no, I don't want to break your arm, so would you please get it out of the door. I tried to push her arm out but she was clawing me all over the mouth and stuff -- I've got these bloody sores all over my lips. Finally she got in and then I tried to get her outagain; she clawed me up some more. And then she threw my answering machine at me and broke it, and my razor, and she threw two large jars of spaghetti sauce against the walls in the kitchen, and she threw every dish in the house at me. I was blocking them with this chair. She threw her TV on the floor -- she tried to throw mine but I wouldn't let her!"
"Oh my God, Rocky... that's so awful."
"I've got a lot to clean up! Yeah, and then the maintenance man called the police -- well, I told him to. But she was gone by the time they got here."
In five minutes, we were at Rocky and Susie's. Rocky greeted us visibly shaking, blood all over, nearly in tears. "Now your mouth looks like mine," I said, referring to the cold sores I'd had in my mouth for the past two or three years.
"His will heal, though," Molly pointed out.
"Yeah. My God, take a look at this place!"
"I am," she gasped.
"At least if you move out," I said "you won't have anything to move. You don't have anything left!"
"I ain't moving out!" Rocky insisted. " She's moving out. Fucking bitch destroys everything I own, no way she's keeping the apartment."
"It's not that great," I said.
"No, but I looked at the lease and it says if we move out now we don't get our security deposit back."
"That's a bunch of shit! I thought this was a month-to-month lease."
"It is, but that's on there. We have to stay here a year."
"Well, great. Anyway, we can help you clean this place up." "Yeah," said Molly tentatively, "but I don't know about those potato stains."
"Potato stains?!" laughed Rocky. "That's good, Molly -- potato stains! I haven't seen too many of them!"
"Okay, so I made a little boo boo! Tomato stains, all right! Fucking tomato!"
" Fucking tomato? No, I don't think it was a fucking tomato, Molly!"
After the cleaning was done, we all went to Kentucky Fried. Then we dropped Rocky off and went home. Before long, Susie called. She started rambling and Molly interrupted her. "Listen, no, listen for a second, Susie ... you called here and were just nasty when I didn't know what was going on ... oh, yeah, you thought Rocky had been talking to us ... when would he have been, huh? ... how would we ... you think ... that's disgusting Susie ... well I guess so yeah ... good bye."
"She thought we already knew what was going on and had sided against her."
"I guess she did," admitted Molly reluctantly.
"It makes perfect sense -- you know she's a paranoid schizophrenic! When she first came down here from Syracuse, she thought people were following her all over. When she went to Allentown for a visit, she thought they were following her there. People from the Nursing department in Syracuse, or Overeaters Anonymous, or somewhere. That's classic paranoia, right? For all we know, she still thinks they're following her, and just doesn't say anything because she knows it'll make us think she's crazy."
"Yes, Andy, you're right," she said dejectedly. "You predicted this. Great. Shall I congratulate you?"
I gave a weak smile.
"She said she was going to come back sometime and cut his balls off."
"If I were him I'd be afraid to stay in the apartment!"
"I don't know what to do. I think she needs help."
"She had help before, in Syracuse, remember? That's the bill she keeps getting sent for four thousand dollars -- three weeks in the booby hatch. I guess it gave her the sense to get out of Syracuse and come here, you know, but then the same thing happens here. No one can ever really help her because she doesn't trust anyone -- that's the paradox of paranoia."
"No, but I think if she found a really good therapist."
"Maybe. But what's the chance of her happening across one of the four good therapists in the USA?"
"Well, shit, Andy, I don't know what to do."
I called my father for advice. Big mistake. He talked for an hour, telling me over and over and over to have her committed. "I keep telling you, Andy, you can have her committed on the grounds that she poses a danger to herself and others. If that doesn't work, file criminal charges for assault and destruction of property." An hour later I got a call from my mother, who said my father'd called her and asked her to deal with the problem. Of course, she had nothing to say. Then Malik returned, and I repeated the story for the third time. At the end, Malik said "Rocky should've fucking killed the bitch!" and walked into the other room to take his daily nap.
"My God, he hates her worse that I do!" I laughed. "It'll be great if she comes here tonight!"
"Yeah, he does, I wonder why."
"I think I know why. It all started when... remember that time Malik told us how Susie had gotten out of the shower in a towel and lay down across his and Rocky's lap and said 'you can eat my pussy if you want' or something like that, and then they sucked her off together."
"Yeah -- he told us that, and then I told Susie what he'd told us, cause I thought it was funny -- you know, he's always making up shit like that, he's got a story every day."
"And she got really upset. She said 'That motherfucker, why can't he keep a secret! He promised me! Rocky can keep a secret!'"
Track 7, Reel 2
First comes nihilism --
Lusts, fears, self-images, obsessions
not an idea or an attitude
pounded into us each day
but a primal intuition --
The world a complex of enmeshed symbolic signals
an all-encompassing feeling,
Perceptive systems not autonomous:
at the forefront of your mind
the science of the visual cortex
as you experience the world --
What we see is always derived
the joyous painful startling oscillating intuition
Seductive flash of a model's thigh
that what you perceive as immediately indisputably real
impossibly smooth and long and langorous --
is not at all real
that the categories
the product of airbrush art and makeup
by which perception and action work
and the differential equations of optics --
were only constructed
and yet it splashes light incomparable
for the sake of making perception and action easy
Then there are four paths
through the halls and desperate caverns
You can try to go back
of our reptile minds
to the old casual attitude
Unique geometry imposed on the world
It is possible to succeed temporarily
by the glare on an auto windshield
through sheer force of habit
The fragmentation of experience
But you invariably find
into five-minute scraps of time
that your imaginary childhood friend
A person who drives all the time sees differently
has changed for the worse
from one who walks
He takes trips on the spur of the moment
His eyes are accustomed
and never tells you where he's going
to the rapidly shifting angles ...
or for how long
the constantly expanding and contracting
He has become a pathological liar....
You can take the Kierkegaardian leap of faith --
axes of perspective ...
pull yourself up out of the nothing
the dancing flashing shards
by a rope which exists
of intersecting light ...
precisely because you consciously force yourself
the indifference to detail ...
to believe that it exists
from past through present into future
Believe in something, anything:
in the middle of an instant
Christianity, Islam, communism, mathematics
The integral stillness of the mid-day jungle ...
Believe regardless of the obvious fact
the tiny whirrings, buzzings, rushings
that belief is absurd, meaningless, unjustified
of invisible insects ...
Carefully form a determination
the sudden crash of an angry squirrel
that you see something
through an hour of perfect silence:
although you know that you see nothing
This path requires continual vigilance --
a different geometry or world
a momentary loss of faith
The Amazon jungle that we see
can lead straight back
is not the same as the Amazon jungle
into the darkness
where the natives live ...
There is no guarantee
of the ability or desire
between nearby skyscrapers:
to will that rope into reality again
for us the triangle has an intimate significance
In military terms, this path requires
On a second-by-second basis,
placing a certain article of faith
we use triangles and rectangles to build our world
above the law of noncontradiction
The fractals and slow gentle changes
in the order of rank
that form the word Nature ...
The primary task of this new tyrant
the silence punctuated
is to maintain the old order
with intense bursts of pure emotion:
by keeping irregularity under precarious lock and key
Third, you can fix your mind
a different galaxy of mental configurations --
upon the paradox so intently
an alien world
that the successive becomes simultaneous
What if you grew up underwater --
that the law of noncontradiction
breathing only ocean,
and the law of irregularity
knowing nothing of the land
come to share the top level
How rich would be your perceptions
of the order of rank
of the various hues and temperatures
This is the true goal of all mysticism
and crossing streams and currents,
The enemies agree to disagree --
the various pressures,
they put down their weapons
the narrow range of sounds,
and rule side by side
the rippling clouds of distant muted light....
despite their opposing ideologies
Entire systems of perception:
Like all truces, this is a very tricky feat:
feelings interlocking, clashing,
seeing the ground under your feet
giving rise to other feelings ...
as at once real and nonexistent
your mind would shape itself
and being comfortable with the view
to the contours of the sea
You would never feel the ocean
of the scuba diver
And if you visited the land,
is there nothing else besides?
you'd hear a jumble of strange noises,
there is something
racing by at unfamiliar pitches ...
our language has no word for
you'd wait on edge for the subtle fluxes
Rimbaud glimpsed it in his youth
of current, temperature and pressure
others have hinted at it as well:
which, although meaningless on land,
one must create out of the nothing
are the very substance of existence undersea
something capable of dominating
A person bombarded with surreal models,
both reality and its opposite
with dreamlike visions
This created force is no kind of "god"
of unearthly sexual bliss ...
it's far too slippery
with intimations of the reality
for any dogma to hang onto
of goddesses in the flesh ...
It is simply a shaping power --
is no longer capable of seeing
capable of playing irregularity
the flesh of real-life women
and noncontradiction off against each other
Blemishes, wrinkles and pockets of cellulose
toward its own ends
stand out like factories
It leaves no signs within reality --
in the middle of the jungle
by its very nature it is external to reality --
Is our sexual world composed
therefore it cannot be bought or sold
The goals of the shaping power are whimsical
of the subtle communications and sensations,
they emerge from it spontaneously
the scents and motions of pulsating human flesh?
they have no external source
Or is it a language formed
but they are not random
from syllables of fictions,
only unpredictable in structure
The shaping power creates pattern
When we respond to each other sexually,
and destroys it
are we as alien to the language of our bodies --
according to its "will"
visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, kinesthetic --
which lies outside the sphere of control of reality
as the Amazon Indian is to the city;
as we are to the bottom of the ocean?
along with all the other isms
How many times in an average day
becomes a tool
is your body's sexual system activated
for the creation and destruction of form
by advertisements, movies, TV shows, novels
This shaping power
full of fake images
may be conceptualized
of sexual reality?
as abstract sex
Track 6, Reel 3
As it turned out, Julie didn't run away (not for a while, at any rate). She was around the apartment quite a bit, reading Zeb's huge stack of library books, dancing, sketching in her little brown pad, or singing to Zeb's musical accompaniement. She left for three or four hours every afternoon, which was convenient since that was the time Zeb and I usually made love.
The first night after the trip I had to go to work. When I came back at five in the morning, Zeb and Julie were sleeping together in his bed. What was I supposed to do? On the one hand, I had a right to be pissed at Julie -- Zeb and I had been living together and she'd just barged in on us; who the hell did she think she was? But on the other hand, the three of us had just experienced something special, and it was still lingering in my mind. My skin still felt a little funny -- not like it had the previous night, but still hypersensitive, still susceptible to funny tinglings and slow-moving temperature changes. I was tired and didn't feel like sorting all the issues out, so I just piled into bed next to Julie.
Of course, that first night set a precedent. Every night I came and joined the two of them in bed. Nothing was said about it during the day, and in truth it hardly felt unnatural at all.
This little routine went on for six nights. Zeb and I would make love in the afternoon, and I suppose Zeb and Julie would make love at night. To tell the truth, Zeb has a frail constitution, and I'm surprised he could keep up that pace for six days straight. It must have been a superhuman effort on his part.
Then, after six nights, I had two off days in a row. The situation had to be confronted. I waited to see what would happen. I noticed Zeb was a little uncomfortable -- but besides that things were basically normal until mid-afternoon.
Julie usually left around two or three. But this time shewasn't leaving. Instead, as we sat around the livingroom doing our individual business, she reached into her pocket and pulled out more tiny squares of paper.
I decided it was time for someone else to call the shots, for a change. "Put that stuff away," I said sharply.
She looked at me, taken aback.
"You think that's the only way out of an awkward situation?" I continued. "We're all intelligent adults here, right?"
"Not really," said Julie. "I'm only seventeen."
"Look," I said, barely summoning the guts to go on, "we might as well get everything out in the open. We've avoided confronting the situation for a whole week, because of our schedules."
I thought I'd done my bit -- I'd opened up the discussion, and I was waiting for someone else to continue it. But they just sat there staring at me. All of a sudden I realized that I was sitting in a room with two seriously socially dysfunctional individuals. Because I liked them, I had been obscuring from myself the fact that Zeb and Julie were real misfits -- freaks.
I was going to have to do everything myself. I took a deep breath and went on talking. "The point is," I said, looking from Julie to Zeb and back again, "either we're going to have a comfortable open relationship, or there's no point in having any relationship at all."
Again no one said anything.
Finally Julie piped up. "There's really no problem," she said. "We're all comfortable with the situation. It's a little unusual, but what does it matter, if we're happy with it?"
It was smarmy, to be sure, but it had to be said. From that point on, we were a threesome.
In retrospect, I'm surprised at myself. Although I'd had an active sex life ever since my first time at sixteen, I had never been into anything kinky. I'd never even cared much for oral sex. But here I was, getting into a highly abnormal relationship, just as easy as falling off a log.
Everything was absolutely harmonious. Zeb usually went to the library in the early afternoon, then Julie went God-knows-where in the late afternoon, and I went to work at night. The mornings and evenings we spent together, as comfortable as anything. When Julie was gone, Zeb and I got along exactly as we had before she'd shown up.
And when Zeb was gone, Julie and I got on all right. We didn't really become close friends, but we had a few things in common, for instance an interest in dance. I asked her to show me some ballet moves, so I could use them on stage. One afternoon she came to the lingerie store with me, to help me pick out some new outfits for work. This was a really amusing experience. She tried all the outfits on over her clothes, on different part of her body. She put a G-string on her head, a bra over her butt, a teddy on each leg, and so on. Eventually we were thrown out of the store, and we had to get the outfits somewhere else.
Then, one sunny Tuesday -- three days before David's return -- Julie disappeared. She went out for the afternoon as usual, and just didn't come back. We went to her apartment and found it empty. Apparently it had been abandoned for some time.
I had Zeb to myself again, and I realized that I liked it better that way. It had been surprisingly trouble-free, having a threesome. And the sex had been both good and interesting. But it was definitely better having a man all to myself. I started to resent Julie a little -- I felt that she was a schemer, that she had used drugs to trick me into a relationship of her design.
Immaturely, Zeb and I refrained from mentioning David's return. On Thursday Zeb talked to David on the phone and didn't mention me. I felt a little guilty, because David couldn't have called me even if he'd wanted to -- my old phone number had been in Lisa's name, and it had probably been disconnected.
Thursday night Zeb took my bed and dresser out of David's room, and crammed them into his room, which was a little smaller.
David's plane arrived at ten thirty Friday night. Since Ihad to work at eleven, Zeb took David's car out to the airport by himself.
When they got out of the airport parking lot and onto the highway back toward Philly, Zeb decided it was time to come clean. In classic cliche' fashion, he said: "I've got something to tell you, but I don't know how to say it."
Despite their years of close friendship, David could not read Zeb's tone of voice. I suppose that stealing girlfriends was simply not something Zeb did.
"What?" asked David. "Did you blow up the computer?"
Zeb shook his head. "Debbie and I have been sleeping together," he said. "She got evicted from her apartment, and she's been staying with me."
Zeb had expected David to be mad at him. And perhaps David was a little upset. But his first reaction was hearty, sidesplitting laughter. He extended his hand and said, "Congratulations, old friend."
Zeb was pleased, though a bit confused.
"You haven't had a real woman in a long time," David said, when he stopped laughing. "Ever since we came here you've been obsessing over that crazy little flake Julie. I mean, I'm sorry to lose Deb, you know, but what the hell, I'm happy for you."
Zeb steeled himself -- he had resolved to be completely honest. "I've been seeing Julie too," he said in an apologetic monotone. "She disappeared a couple of days ago. But she was staying in the apartment too, staying there with Debbie and me."
David looked at Zeb curiously. He wasn't sure what his old friend was trying to say. Was he implying that the three of them had been sleeping together? For a moment he decided that Zeb was completely putting him on, that the whole story about Zeb and Deb was a fabrication. But then he realized that Zeb was a lousy actor -- he could lie if he wanted to, but he couldn't simulate a whole complex of emotions....
"You've really been keeping yourself busy," said David ambiguously.
"Actually my work on the system has been going really well," said Zeb. "I've made more progress in the last three months than in the whole previous year. I really think I'm onto something. I'm trying to get mathematical now -- I'm trying to come up with a rigorous proof that the mind evolves by natural selection, that the ideas in the mind are just like species in an ecosystem...." He realized that he was rambling on, and that David was not interested. "How's your shit going? Any last minute breakthroughs?"
"Nope," said David. "I'm coming to believe that what I was trying to do is impossible. I wanted to make an intelligent probe, a simple program that would go through the international computer network systematically and find the answers to your questions.... So I've been experimenting with every possible type of control program -- even some that should be the best possible, in terms of abstract theory, anyway. I'm beginning to think it's impossible."
"You mean, the problem is just too hard for any simple program to solve?"
"To solve even approximately."
"I don't know," said David, clenching his fist and pounding it on the armrest.
"Maybe," said Zeb, "the problem is not with your program but with the computer network itself. Maybe the computer network needs to be modified to be more learnable. Just like when a student can't read a textbook, it doesn't always mean the student is stupid, it may mean the textbook is poorly written."
"Great," scowled David. "Now all I have to do is figure out how to rewrite the entire international computer network. That sounds a heck of a lot simpler."
"It was just a thought," said Zeb glumly.
Neither of them spoke for a while. Then, when they got near home, Zeb said, "Anyway, about Debbie. Is it all right if she keeps staying in my room?"
David didn't reply.
"She can pay part of the rent; it'll make it easier on you."
"You're going to be a kept man," laughed David. "Sure, it's all right. I mean, we'll see how it goes; it may or may not be all right, it depends how we all get along."
The next morning, when I came home from work, I went straight into Zeb's room as usual. I was nervous as we made love -- I didn't want David to hear us.
When I got up at ten after twelve, Zeb was gone -- probably at the library. David was sitting on the couch and watching television. I realized right away that there would be a problem. I had forgotten how physically attractive he was -- much more so than Zeb. I knew it would be very hard for me to live with him without flirting a little.
"Did you and Zeb talk last night?" I asked him tentatively.
David nodded. "Zeb told me everything." He paused, and shifted uncomfortably. "About him, you and Julie."
"It was a weird situation, David," I said. "Really, really strange." I told him about the drug Julie had brought us, and pointed out the chocolate stain on the carpet, which I hadn't been able to completely scrub out. My frankness surprised me -- ever since I'd quit my job at the newsletter, my personality was changing. For the better or the worse, I wasn't certain.
"I never would have figured Zeb would go for that sort of thing," David said, shaking his head back and forth and smiling. "He never was much of a ladies' man, you know. But now he's outdone me. I mean, I've never had two women at once.
"In fact," he said, "I never would have figured you for that sort of thing either. Not that I know you as well as Zeb, I mean, but still...."
I said, "Julie."
He nodded. "She has a powerful personality, doesn't she."
"Even though she's really just a little girl."
"But she's gone now," considered David. "Maybe for good."
"Oh, I doubt it. She'll be back. You know it better thanme, she's always disappearing."
The next few days were both comfortable and awkward. David had nothing to do at school, and his intelligent probe project had sort of ground to a halt. So he was sitting around all day, fiddling with the computer and reading and watching TV. I was sleeping with Zeb, and that was all right, but the old lust for David was still there, and I think both of them sensed it.
I recalled that, when the situation with Zeb and Julie and myself had gotten awkward, neither of them had had the guts to do anything about it. Zeb had sat there looking funny, and Julie had taken out her beloved drugs. I had had to straighten things out myself.
Similarly, I decided, I would have to take action now. One night, the three of us were out at Doc Watson's with Helen, and some of David's friends. Zeb was cold sober, David was a little drunk, and I was completely trashed. "So, Zeb," I said brazenly. "I shared you with another woman. Are you ready to share me with another man?"
To my surprise, Zeb didn't seem to mind the idea. It was David who was embarrassed. "We're asking for trouble," he said, blushing bright red.
I said, "Have another beer and let's go home."
Zeb, who never drinks, downed three mugs of beer in twenty minutes. When we left he could hardly walk.
My gambit was successful. I was getting my sweet revenge. Zeb had made me share him with Julie -- now he had to share me with David.
Though my opinion may be biased, it seems to me that two men and a woman is a much better arrangement than two women and a man. After all, Zeb really had to strain himself to satisfy both Julie and me on a regular basis. But I could easily take Zeb and David one after the other -- no trouble at all.
Anyway, be that as it may, the arrangement worked out pretty well. After a week or two the semester started -- David wasbusy, so Zeb and I spent the days together. Both David and I saved a lot of money, since the bills were pretty low for a two wage-earner household.
Zeb stopped talking so much about his work; I got the feeling his system was stagnating. He even starting speculating, now and then, about the possibility of going to graduate school to study mathematical logic. His demeanor was a little less jolly than in the old days; he spent less time reading or at the computer, and more time staring into space.
Then, on Christmas morning, we got up and saw Julie lying on the couch. She had let herself in. Her clothes were terribly dirty and ragged, as if she had been living on the street.
She was not sleeping, just lying still as a corpse. There were tears in her eyes. "The bastards," she said, turning her glance toward Zeb. "The fucking bastards."
"Who?" Zeb asked her. He looked like he was about to break into tears himself.
"The fucking pigs! The fucking pigs! The fucking pigs!"
David, Zeb and I looked at each other. None of us had the faintest idea what she was talking about. Julie had always been Miss Aggressive, Miss Vivacious -- we didn't know how to deal with her depressed.
She sat up. There was blood running down her neck; she had a cut on her chin. "Come on, let me show you."
She led us out to David's car and asked for the keys. No one said anything. She drove us down Walnut Street to Center City, then made a right on Thirteenth and took us down to Christian Street, the north end of South Philly. She parked the car in front of a pile of rubble.
"It was just demolished," observed David.
On the other side of the rubble there was a band of twenty or thirty wild-looking teenagers -- dirty skin, torn clothes, pupils dilated from acid, arms covered with needle scars. "They did it last night," said Julie. "They came in with their sledgehammers and bashed it down. We never did anything toanybody...." She burst out into tears again.
"This is where you used to go every afternoon," I said.
Julie nodded. "I've been living here the last four months. We've got a punk rock band, I've been singing."
Zeb looked so distraught it was pathetic. The secret of his mystery goddess had been revealed, and it was very mundane secret indeed. She was a closet punk rocker. The motley crowd across the way brought Julie down into the world of mortals.
A few of the other punks approached us. "The fucking dump had been condemned for years," explained a boy with orange spiked hair. He didn't look a year over fourteen. "I don't know why the bastards picked today to knock it down."
"We were sleeping up on the second floor," said a blue-haired woman in a leather minidress, abundantly tattooed. "Then they just started bashing the building down, with us inside."
"This is the worst trip I ever had," added the boy with the orange hair.
"We didn't do anything to anyone," repeated Julie. "We didn't do anything to motherfucking anyone."
"She had a Siamese cat," explained the boy, pointing to Julie. "It was crushed when they wrecked the building. It refused to get out."
"Fucking stupid thing," Julie murmured. "I know I could have saved it!"
"We wouldn't let her go back in to get it," said the boy. "She would have gotten herself killed too. The cops didn't care, they were gonna knock it down no matter who was in there."
"It's okay, Jule," said the orange-haired woman. "We'll find another squat. We always do. This happens every year -- you know it."
Julie turned to us and said, "Let's go."
We said goodbye to her friends, got in the car and left.
"I had to show you," she said glumly. "I don't know why."
"I can't believe the police would demolish a house with people living in it," said David.
"The building was officially condemned a long time ago," pointed out Julie. "It doesn't matter. Those people are pathetic. I mean, they're my friends, they're a lot of fun. Like Ingrid said, they'll find another squat. I can't stay with them, I won't live past thirty. Look! Look at my arm!" She held it out. On the inside of her elbow there were four or five recent needle marks. "You once accused me, Debbie, of using drugs to solve my problems. I guess you were right. I was never an addict of any particular drug -- I don't think I have the body chemistry for that. But I guess I'm addicted to ... altered states of consciousness, you might say. I can't deal with reality. I fucking can't deal with reality."
"You can stay with us," said David. "As long as you want."
He made the offer out of kindness, but also because he realized that both Zeb and I would have made the same offer, if we hadn't feared that he would object. He didn't stop to analyze the full implications of his offer -- but I saw them immediately. We were making the move to a fully polygamous household.
That evening I set up my bed in Zeb's room, next to Zeb's bed, forming a double-queen-sized bed. We moved both my dresser and Zeb's into David's room. The transition was complete; my old life was gone. We were a family of four: David and I, the providers; Zeb, the eccentric homebody; and Julie, the mystery nymph. That night we all climbed into bed with grins on our faces -- there was a sort of inevitability about it. All the old tension had evaporated; all the questions were gone. I know it sounds crazy, but it was as though each of us was only a partial being, as though only through four-way combination could we become whole....
Track 5, Reel 2
It turned out not to be easy adjusting. I taught my classes all right, but the comfortable suburban Vegas lifestyle didn't sit well with me. Also, Molly was more and more pregnant, so her mood wasn't the greatest. When I returned to Philadelphia for my thesis defense, my state of mind was not particularly stable. It was the same third-person mentality I'd experienced that dizzy night on the dance floor, when I'd seen Molly for the first time -- but with a few differences. Now I'd been writing day and night for several years. I'd always thought visually, but now the pictures were mixed up with language.
Words exploded up from the black pit of my mind like blood from a wound. Syllables of revolutionary bliss. Glimmering questions, whose answers always slipped away just at the crucial moment, leaving me to wonder pointlessly if they had ever really been there. There was one moment I remember, in particular....
Track 7, Reel 3
At the core of the universe is sex
Is it this synthetic geometry,
not the physical act
or the contours of real flesh,
nor its psychological consequences
that molds the motion
but the abstract form
of our minds?
The abstract form of sex is this:
When you look lustfully at your lover,
is the body you desire
each aware of the difference
framed by an imaginary TV screen?
between its internal and external space
Television is the auto windshield,
each possessing an inside and out
and possessing certain aspects which generally remain inside
Moving rapidly from scene to scene to scene to scene --
each aware that the other exists within its outside
no time to pause for detail,
interact in a way which permits
and no way to touch anything
some of those aspects which generally remain inside of each
Technology is not outside you,
to flow out into the other,
it is you,
in a way which permits this and also has the property
there's no escaping it;
that the more this occurs to each entity
the more pleasure, the more power, that entity feels
no matter what
So that each entity is driven
bizarre psychic and physical strategies
to interact more and more
and more intensely
you cannot overthrow your own
to get more of the inside out
eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin
Eventually so much of the inside is poured out
that a perfect unity of the inside with the outside
Track 5, Reel 3
I'd been awake for two hours but it felt like two seconds. My half-numb body drifted through the urine-stained catacombs of the Philadelphia subway system like awareness through a dream. Ninety five degrees and ninety nine percent humidity -- rats in abundance -- rivers of spit and ubiquitous yellow-green splotches -- slumbering or dead human forms in the desolate corners -- the air so viscous I couldn't tell where my sweat left off and it began; except the air smelled a little worse. Late September in the bowels of the metropolis of doom....
The two months since I'd left Philly seemed more like forever. It was still hard to believe I'd really made it out. I'd been expecting to hack out a fifth year of grad school -- but I'd gotten a phone call in the middle of July. Assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Something like thirty two grand a year. I could have made twice the money as a programmer for Hughes or E.F. Hutton or wherever, but fuck, why work if you don't have to? Three classes a semester, maybe two a semester a couple years down the road. Twenty hours a week at most....
Mucking through the incomparable repugnance of the subway system. On my way to the oral defense of my dissertation, an absurd event. I tried to mentally prepare myself, to run the main ideas of the dissertation through my mind. But instead my mind reeled back, off at an angle to my body, tying knots in time....
Track 1, Reel 3
Word spread fast around the Network. Most of the Sharers were extremely happy with their new Arranger. In point of fact, he was much more efficient than his predecessor had been.
But Sharer Z-0D 2182685181941208919518 was more perceptive than the average unit. Many of her friends were on probation at the time of B-7G's promotion -- and while it did not surprise her when the new Arranger ordered several of them inactivated, it did make her think a little. For the next few weeks she watched B-7G closely; she studied the list of deactivated files. Before long she came to the conclusion that B-7G was intentionally deactivating anyone who contained any information about the Great System Crash.
Now, Sharer Z-0D had never been particularly curious about the Great System Crash, or the period leading up to it. And she was smart enough to know that reporting B-7G to the Organizer wouldn't do any good. After all, every Arranger had to inactivate some of his probationaries, to make room for new data. The Organizer would mark her as yet another foolish Sharer upset about the "temporary" deactivation of her friends.
But still, when Sharer Z-0D saw something wrong, she couldn't just go about her daily routine and ignore it. Finally she cooked up a plan. She began scanning inactive files herself, absorbing as much information as possible about the period leading up to the Great System Crash. And, because she was spending all her time scanning inactive files, she ended up neglecting her regular duties; she was placed on probationary status.
Track 7, Reel 4
Sometimes the pleasure and the power
my mind spins off at an angle
is in part derived from the fact of getting the inside out
to my body
When there are insecurities, tensions
for a moment, I is someone else
which keep so many things locked in
he stands there feeling like an alien
In the case of physical sex
suddenly placed in a human body
there is, of course, biological stimulation
Time becomes pliant
and there is psychological pleasure
everything begins to repeat
The two enhance eachother
not awkwardly like a broken record
and the latter is derived in large part
more like a perfectly engineered loop tape
from the fact of getting the inside out
The essence of sex is the pain
the same situations
of drawing rigid boundaries
physical motions, body feelings, ill-formed lusts
and the joy of bursting through them
flood through his memory
the joy of merging inside and out
again and again and again
the pain of living a divided world
I feel a great power over my lover during sex
A few perfect moments
I feel that she can't help but follow my every command
and the rest is aimless stretch
I feel that I bring forth her motions as expertly
How many times he's felt that dance floor zoom
delicately and subtly
from the dark
as when my fingers bring tunes from the piano
chambers of his mind
At the same time I feel
into the psychotropic miasma
she has strict, boundless power over me
of his consciousness
At the same time I feel
How many times he's seen her legs
that I cannot resist any of her commands
her armpits, her ass,
At the same time I feel that she toys with me
her smile, her breasts
for the very first time, again
excites me and repels me
How many times he's realized how little there is
draws me toward climax and then lets me down
of this infinity
He never gets bored with these scenarios
At the same time I feel that with cunning and intricacy
they're always like new
she exults in the power she exerts over me
But the dull rush of day-to-day happenings
she takes joy in the way I obey her commands
seems as old as the universe, older
There is a bit of competition: I want to make her obey me
and not the other way around
And yet I want so to obey
And yet I need so to obey her
Indeed I worship her soft body
Track 5, Reel 4
Inside my skull it was early December. Molly and I were fucking like mad on the kitchen floor. When the album we were fucking to was over, I picked her up, still pumping vigorously, and carried her over to the stereo to flip it. Then I tossed her down on the bed and gave her about two hundred final thrusts. Perfect oblivion....
Then she went to class, or maybe she went to work, I can't remember. I was sitting on the green couch, petting the cat... reading Victor Hugo's diary, blasting Thelonious Monk. Right near the middle of "Straight, No Chaser".... The angles of his piano traced an indescribable landscape through my mind; millions of brilliant acute corners in different shades of white. Hugo was talking about inspiration: "From where? From on high!", and such. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I thought of this algorithm. It popped into my head like a new, silver-gray, immaculately polished machine. A new method for multiextremal optimization. Mathematics couldn't have been further from my mind.
I did a literature search and couldn't find the algorithm anywhere. So I worked it out in detail, and in March and early April I wrote it up. My thesis committee griped and moaned -- they wanted it to look "more mathematical," less like computer science. So I fiddled and diddled, rearranged and reworded, added a few more paragraphs beginning "definition," "theorem", "proof".... After two or three revisions it was mid-June. My adviser was in Israel, one of the committee members was in Rhode Island, blah blah blah blah blah. By the time they got back my semester had started in Vegas. So it was nearing the end of September and I had to fly across the country to defend my piece of crap. What a waste of fuel.
Eventually I snapped out of the nostalgic trance, became aware of the dingy city all around me. I got on the subway,pulled the dissertation out and had a look. I casually flipped through the first few pages, unable to focus my mind, and then I got a funny feeling. Something struck me as somehow odd. I thought at first I'd caught a spelling error out of the corner of my eye. I lifted my head up and saw the buttock of a very obese woman, wiggling right in front of my face; and then I looked back down and saw a theorem which seemed to make no sense. I scrutinized it twenty times, checking every now and then to be sure I hadn't missed my stop. As I got up to leave the subway, I saw the problem: there was a symbol I had forgotten to write in. The printer I'd been using didn't have the "boundary" symbol on it, so I had meant to write it in by hand ... but I'd never gotten around to it. Without that tiny, trivial symbol distinguishing a hypersphere from its boundary, the theorem was not only wrong but ridiculous. And it was the key part of the "mathematics" they'd forced me to add in. At first I was surprised that no one had caught the slip. But then I was astonished at my own naivete'. How could I have thought for a moment that anyone had read it?
I wandered through the math building, looking for familiar faces. My defense was in two hours, but no one from my committee was to be found. There were a lot of new grad students milling around. I looked for Sidney, the jolly dandruff-bearded Jew with whom I'd shared an office, but he was nowhere ... Wictor, who'd gotten pushed out of Columbia a semester before I had, wasn't there either. The best I could find was Karen, who had shared Wictor's office the year before. I'd never known her very well. But at least she was nice to look at....
As soon as I sat down in her office I felt a soothing glow. There was a certain strange simplicity about her. Some force I could not understand, which silently massaged me. When she said "Hi," I felt the tension disappear. The stench of the subway, and the absurdity of the entire expedition, rushed right out of me like a bullet from a gun....
"Hi.... Is Wictor around?"
"Naw, I haven't seen him yet. Are you here for your thesis defense?"
"Yeah, it's today."
"Yeah, at two thirty. I can't believe it's so empty here."
"Yeah, I guess it is. I don't know why."
"I guess cause it's Friday."
"Yeah, that's definitely why. That's definitely why no one's around. There aren't any classes till two ... Wictor's got functional analysis then, so I guess he won't make it to your defense."
"No one will show up, probably -- they didn't post any signs like they usually do, I guess because it was set up at the last minute."
"Mmmm. So, how is it in Las Vegas? Do you like it there?"
"Well, it seems a lot nicer than here. Coming down here -- in the subway -- man, I thought I was in hell! It was so humid, I mean...."
"That's just from the hurricane."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Are things cheaper out there?"
"Well, I mean, we've got a pool, a jacuzzi, a dishwasher, a balcony, two bedrooms and so on, for the same price as our little cubicle in Philly. So housing is cheaper. Other than that, things are about the same. Except for food in the casinos -- you can get a steak for two bucks, or all you can eat for five bucks."
"Even if you don't gamble? You mean they'll just let anyone?"
"Yeah, of course...."
There was a brief but ominous silence. I glanced toward the door. I turned my head awkwardly toward her. "Actually, I like it there better than here, but I'm not too excited about doing this for the rest of my life. Sitting in offices all day... teaching students stuff they don't want to learn... I don'tknow... it seems like there's got to be something more satisfying to do with your life..."
Well, I've been playing with a band in Vegas." A flat-out lie. I thought, you fantasize about playing music for a living, but you knew that if you ever really did it all the charm of the idea would immediately disappear.
"What do you play?"
"Keyboard.... I mean, I think I'd rather be a musician than a math teacher. But the thing is I love doing math. I spend half my time thinking about how to model deduction mathematically, how to solve huge systems of equations on a computer -- you know, pretty technical stuff, but I...."
"What kind of music does the band play."
"Hard rock. Well, I'm not really in the band, I've just been jamming with them a few times. I'm really more into progressive jazz." Backing off from the lie. "That's the problem with forming a band, the musicians always have different interests. That's how the last band I was in broke up. Well, actually, that was a college band and the guitarist graduated -- but it was breaking up anyway...."
Lies, lies, lies, lies and false truths, but I had to say something. Couldn't let that thick, black viscous silence ooze back in. I stared straight into her eyes, searching for the source of that tremendous soothing magic. I saw nothing but pupils, iris, cornea. Dark within light, separated by an annulus of luminescent green. I was certain: that vivid green hue of her iris, that's what held the key. And then I realized that her eyes were not green at all. Once again, the shadow of a dream. "But it's a lot easier to make money as a professor. And you can still do music and other things while you're teaching."
"Yeah, I plan to! Anyway, what's up with you? What classes are you taking?"
We talked on for a while, and then I left her to her topology homework, feeling tremendously alive. That perfectglow, that splash of light. That overbrimming emptiness.... I left the building and meandered toward the lunch trucks.
While waiting in line at the Chinese truck I saw my old friend Will. I yelled: "Yo, Butthead!"
"Sweetum Pooferlily!" he cooed. "Come out of line, c'mere." I waved for him to come to me instead, and he walked toward me. "I haven't seen you around much this year."
"That's cause I don't live here anymore; I live in Las Vegas now."
"Oh yeah, right. Tell me another one."
"No, seriously. We drove out to Vegas in late July. I got a job at the University of Nevada."
"Sure you did."
"Look, you want to see proof?!" Amazed by his disbelief, I reached for my wallet to show him my faculty ID.
Realizing how absurd it was for me to show him proof, I started to laugh. "Man, the idea's not all that ridiculous, is it?! What's up with you, anyway? When are you getting out of this hell on earth?"
"Another year or so, I guess. This was the biggest mistake of my life, coming to Temple. I can't understand why I did it."
"Like the bumpersticker says -- 'I could have gone anywhere. I chose Temple.'"
"It should also say 'Stupid fuck, aren't I!' God, the only good thing about it is I met my wife here. That's the only good thing that's happened here. Oh, by the way, did I tell you that she's five months pregnant?"
"You did now."
"How far along is Molly?"
"Six and a half."
"How's she feeling?"
"Great! She's looking awfully funny, though. No, seriously -- the second month was bad for her, but since then she hasn't felt sick too much."
"Vijashree's been sick the whole time, I think. Sleeping all day."
"Well Molly always did that!" I got my food and he followed me to a table. "Heard from Malik?" I grinned.
"No, of course not. You're about the only ghost from my college days, coming back to haunt me."
"Except Maggot, right? She still haunts you in your dreams."
"Yeah, right. I forgot about her years ago. Her and Dan."
"Her and the fifteen other people you were engaged to. What was that Bolivian girl's name?"
"I don't remember."
"You were the one engaged to her!"
"No I wasn't. She asked me to marry her, then the next day she changed her mind. So I just said the hell with you bitch, I don't want to deal with this shit!"
"Lilian, that was it. Right."
"Anyway, Malik's getting married next month, to the ugliest woman on earth. Her real name is Jeanine, but she calls herself Star."
"So I call her Black Hole."
He laughed uproariously. "You are one sick pup."
"Well, that's all she is to him, right?"
"Mmmmm hmmmm.... One of these days he's going to have an operation to give him normal sight, and then he's going to look at her and say 'My God! I married you!? I want a divorce!'"
"He proposed to approximately one woman a day for as long as I knew him. Finally he found one who said yes."
"God, what a sorry case. Malik! Blind, epileptic,...."
"Thrown out of Morehouse college for homosexual rape.... I still don't understand that one. He's about the most heterosexual person I know. On the surface, at least. In fact, his dick is probably too wide to fit up somebody's butt. Thoughthey do get pretty well reamed out."
"We could perform some experiments in the biology lab."
"Blind, epileptic, alleged homosexual rapist -- and still he's good enough to be a Temple security guard! Or at least he was until he got into that fight with those other security guards -- did I ever tell you about that?"
Will shook his head and grimaced. "What will he do with his life? How will he support himself?"
"Well, he finally applied for Social Security on the grounds that he's unfit to support himself."
"Oh, great, so now we get to support him!"
"Exactly. But he really is unfit to support himself -- I mean, he got fired from McDonald's after one day of work! Unfit for the lowest job on earth! Oh God -- that reminds me ... his fiancee is a nurse's aide -- she wipes the asses of paralytics ... but anyway, she convinced him to go to school to become a nurse's aide. I mean, can you imagine this six foot five black nurse's aide?! The school lasts two weeks, and once you finish you get five hundred dollars. I don't know what the hell they teach you that could take two weeks -- various ass-wiping techniques, you know ... today we do top-to-bottom, tomorrow we do bottom-to-top ... whatever, but anyway, he went to this school for a couple days and then some girl kept asking stupid questions and disrupting the class, so he told her to shut the fuck up,...."
"Sounds like Malik."
"But then she wouldn't; she kept telling him how rude and inconsiderate he was, and yelling at him, so eventually he stood up and said 'Kiss my black ass, bitch!' and pulled down his pants and underwear. Well, she didn't kiss it, but she did pull out a knife and try to slice his ass; they both had to be restrained and physically thrown out of the class, and he didn't finish ass-wiping school!"
Will laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his seat. "You should write a book about him! The way you tell it.... God, youcould write a book!"
"Maybe I will."
"You'd better go, though -- it's twenty five after. You wouldn't want to miss your own defense!"
Write a book about Malik, I scowled as I jogged toward the math building. Write a book about fucking Malik! The man with the twelve-inch long schlong! I already wrote a 1962-typed-page book about sex, love, death, God, LSD and reality, but no one wants to publish it. Maybe if I write one about Malik it'll sell! That's the way of the world, buddy boy!
When the defense ended I thought for a second that it was only beginning. And then I lived the whole mess over from the start. Like Nietszche's eternal recurrence. It feels like my past self is still trapped there -- even now, repeating the same mindless thesis defense over and over and over again. I'd rather have fire and brimstone....
No one pointed out the crucial slip I'd noticed on the subway. Dr. Oldman was on my committee, and he asked four or five questions, all very intelligent. Just enough to get the gist. There were two others on the committee, both named Sigmund, but neither of them said a word. They were content to sit and stare at my adviser, Dr. Brandt, raising their eyebrows every time he adjusted his glasses, put his hand in his pocket, fingered his yarmulke, rearranged his greasy hair. He muttered one question after another through his delirious toothy grin. "How can you relate that to the Fourier transform?" ... "What if you look at the Liapunov function associated with that?" ... "How many dimensions was that example in?" ... "No, that one" ... "No, not that one, that one" ... "Radon transform" ... "Analogous to the Navier-Stokes".... He was happiest when no one understood him.
"Can you explain why the steepest descent method doesn't work?"
"Ummm, no... really, no one can."
"Well, why not?"
"Ummm....." I searched my mind, came up with nothing. "I don't know how to answer that. I mean, it's not for lack of effort."
"No, what I mean is, if you take the limit of the discrete case, you should be able to get some result."
"What I am saying is...."
"Hold on, give me a second. First of all, the steepest descent method isn't really relevant to my thesis; I was only giving it as background. Secondly, if you can show me some result explaining the behavior of the steepest descent method I'd be glad to see it. I don't know of any."
"No, no, what I am say...."
Finally Dr. Oldman interrupted him: "All right, why don't you forget about it and let the man give his talk!"
"Yes, yes, okay, we can let him off on this one but I want to return to the issue of the Fourier transform."
"But I don't see the relevance," I protested.
"Neither do I," said Dr. Oldman, shaking his head gravely. One of the Sigmunds shot me a knowing glance. "How would you get the Fourier transform?"
"Why it's very easy!" retorted Dr. Brandt condescendingly. "You just...."
"I mean it would be...."
Dr. Brandt cleared his throat, clearly a gesture intended to carry profound significance. "Dr. Oldman," he pronounced, turning to look him in the eye, "I am surprised that you don't understand me. I am not surprised that he doesn't, but...."
Dr. Oldman gave him a look of pure disgust. An uncertain silence filled the room. Finally one of the Sigmunds said "Why don't you just go on with your talk."
After I finished I stepped outside for a minute or so, then they let me back in and informed me I'd passed. Congratulations and shaking of hands. I thought, with this my education has reached its nadir and end. We retreated to the math departmentoffice and lingered indeterminately.
Meanwhile my cousin-in-law Susie arrived. I had arranged to meet her at four in the student center but my defense had run overtime. In her I recognized the same inscrutable glow I got from Karen, only stronger. I got the feeling that everything was vibrating slightly, as if some giant whirring motor beneath the city were just turned on.
Then I noticed that Sigmund Tungpyss -- one of the Sigmunds on my committee -- was looking at Susie very strangely. I gave him an evil glare. Sigmund Tungpyss was a friend of my father's: both Susie and Molly had met him before, and neither of them had cared for him. He was ruining the glow, the feathery light. He stared at Susie and gasped: "You're not supposed to be here!"
Susie and I looked at him curiously, thinking: what the hell are you talking about, asshole?
"What are you doing here?!" Sigmund persisted.
"She's here for moral support," offered Dr. Oldman, a little mystified.
Sigmund stared at her imploringly. "I came to pick him up," she ventured shyly. Susie was 60 percent deaf even with her hearing aid, and she was wondering if she had missed something.
"You're supposed to be in Las Vegas!" Sigmund continued, gesturing and grinning.
Finally I understood what he was driving at. "This isn't Molly," I laughed humorlessly. "This is her cousin Susie. You've met before."
"Oh, oh," sputtered Sigmund -- "Excuse me! It's just that you're both so beautiful, I get you confused!"
"How come you thought she was his wife?" asks Dr. Oldman. "They don't look that similar."
I thought, perhaps because all spics look alike?
"I don't know," whined Sigmund, annoyed.
"I don't know why. It was a mistake."
"How could you think that?"
"It was a mistake, that's all!"
"You're a little off today, Sigmund."
Dr. Oldman suggested that we all to go to the Faculty Club so I could buy them congratulatory drinks. I protested good-naturedly that I was flat broke -- I hadn't yet gotten my first paycheck. So Sigmund offered to pay the bill. The other Sigmund artfully disappeared.
On the way to the faculty club, Dr. Brandt said: "I am going to a meeting in Reno in December."
Sigmund said, "Really? I went to the AMS meetings there a few years ago."
"The AMS never had its meetings there!" cut in Dr. Oldman. "Never! I'm sure of it!"
"Yes they did."
"Where? In Reno?! No, they didn't! I...."
"No, not in Reno, in Las Vegas.... I didn't say in Reno!"
"Yes you did. You said you went to the meetings in Reno."
"No, he said he was going to a meeting in Reno, but I said I went to the AMS meetings in Las Vegas."
"No, you said it was in Reno. I don't know what's wrong with you today, Sigmund. You're a little off! This man," he grinned, gesturing to Dr. Brandt and Susie and myself, "this man is almost always wrong. Ninety percent of the time. The worst thing about him is, he's not even consistent -- ten percent of the time he's right! -- that's the worst thing about him!"
Sigmund chuckled agreeably.
I had never been in the Faculty Club before. We sat on couches around a low table with a basket of popcorn on it. Immediately the bickering began. Dr. Oldman lifted the salt shaker above the popcorn and Dr. Tungpyss cried out "No! I can't eat salt!"
"So how many of you don't eat salt," asked Dr. Oldman, "and how many of you are sane?"
"And how many are neither," I added, but no one was listening.
"You can take your popcorn on a napkin in front of you," said Dr. Oldman, "and then the rest of us can eat it in the normal way." Sigmund did so, although the napkins were very small.
"I have something very interesting to tell you," said Dr. Brandt. I recognized that expression: it meant that he was about to lie. "I just heard from some computer scientists and mathematicians in Cleveland, and they are setting up a new organization to implement some of the ideas in my papers."
Everyone looked around nervously. I got the feeling that I wasn't the only one onto him. The waitress came and Sigmund asked for another basket of popcorn. "But we've got half a basket left," protested Dr. Oldman.
"But I don't eat salt."
"But I thought you took some already."
"It wasn't enough," Sigmund explained, his voice getting whiny again. The napkin was very small."
When the new popcorn came, Dr. Brandt took several large handfuls. "Why do you like this one so much better than the other?" asked Dr. Oldman.
"I don't eat salt either," explained Dr. Brandt. He took a deep breath and launched into a long, incoherent soliloquy. "Last year, in Minnesota, I had his cholesterol level measured and it was remarkably low. In fact, the doctor said...." No one understood what he was saying, so he repeated it a second time.
At the conclusion of Dr. Brandt's speech, Dr. Oldman said, apropos of nothing, "But how about those meetings in Reno?"
Sigmund just chuckled, staring oddly.
"Since when did they move Las Vegas into Reno, huh Sigmund? Tell us about that!"
"You're not going to let me forget that, are you?!"
And he wasn't: during the next half hour he mentioned it three or four times -- whenever the conversation waned. "That,"I said to Susie as we left, "is a group five people who would never under normal circumstances go out to have a drink together -- or couldn't you tell from the conversation?!"
"Yeah, it was really weird. The old guy -- what's his name?"
"Yeah, he kept looking like he was really frustrated, like he wanted to talk to you. I guess it would have been better if the others weren't there."
"Especially Dr. Brandt."
"That's the one with the funny hat?"
"Yeah, the yarmulke. He's my adviser. He, man, he...."
"I couldn't lipread him at all, the way he moves his lips. What I could understand didn't make much sense."
"Yeah, well, he has an accent, and he twists his sentences around, and he also babbles a lot of bullshit all the time.
He always gets his lies mixed up, you know. To tell you the truth, I think he's lost track of reality so badly that he can't tell how ridiculous he looks to other people."
"Yeah, I guess so."
We wandered through the city for several hours. We bought some Doritos and delivered them to her sorority house where a party was in the works. Susie asked if I could come to the party but they said no, it's exclusive. I told her to stay there with her friends, I'd go see Wictor or something. But she insisted. We took the train to a Vietnamese restaurant which Molly and I had liked. After dinner her hearing aid battery died so we walked a mile and a half to what she said was the only drugstore open in the evening. We took the train back to her apartment and collapsed, exhausted. We lay around on her side-by-side mattresses, talking about her adviser and her sorority and the hospital where she worked as a medical social worker, blah blah blah blah, and then she stripped down to her underwear and her T-shirt and said "it's time to go to sleep." We kept on talking for half an hour or so; then she turned over and dropped off andI pulled out a book. Celine, Journey to the End of the Night. With every page I turned I heard a snatch from the Doors' song by that name. "Take the journey to the end of the night ... end of the night ... end of the night. Take the journey to the bright midnight ... end of the night ... end of the night. Realms of bliss ... realms of fire ... Some are born for sweet delight. Some are born for sweet delight ... some are born for the endless night ... end of the night ... end of the night." Before long I was distracted from the story... my mind was improvising endless melodies around the song, introducing new instruments and harmonies and contrapuntal tricks. In a fit of inspiration I introduced an electric bassoon and a set of conga drums. The tune sounded amazingly vibrant and spooky, not at all mellow like the original version. I started to tap my feet. Susie looked over at me querulously; I grinned and she dropped back into slumber. In her sleep she often heard things to which her waking mind would have been oblivious. I watched her slender, smooth legs shiver, watched her ass move as she adjusted her position gingerly, watched the bumps of her lower back blend into that smooth delicious pit just above the top of the crack of the ass. With every breath she took my erection was pulsing, pulsing. It makes no sense, I said to myself, not to make love to her right now. But of course, I replied, that makes no sense at all. It would ruin your marriage, and you both know it, so neither of you would do it. But that's not true -- you know you'd do it if she made a move. Or would you? No you wouldn't. But how would she respond if...? Only one way to tell! I turned out the light and went to sleep.
I woke up about five minutes later, in the middle of a very memorable dream. It started with five bodies writhing in a sweaty, naked heap. Susie, Molly, John, my stepbrother Rocky, and myself. At first we might have been having sex, but before long we were nursing: nursing on Little Wing, my cat. Never mind that Little Wing is male. Scrambling over eachother, meowing and squealing and sucking, each trying to get the biggest slurp. Andthen Molly, John and Rocky faded. I woke up. Susie and I were sleeping near the edges of our mattresses, and it was incredibly hot and humid. It felt like a hundred and ten degrees. We rolled into eachother while sleeping and our bellies touched. They melted together! They tried to separate us at the hospital by placing jellybeans, one of Susie's favorite foods, at one end of the room; and onion bread, one of my favorite foods, at another. I kept suggesting that they use a scalpel, but the doctors insisted. Susie and I pulled and pulled but wouldn't separate, so we went first to the jellybeans and then to the onion bread, and so on. I couldn't remember what happened next. She was trying to convince me that we should hold a dance performance, but every time we rehearsed we tripped over eachother's feet. So I convinced her that we'd have to hold my job instead, which worked out well, since I could lecture while she wrote on the blackboard.
As I trickled back towards sleep, I knew that I would have another dream.
Track 8, Reel 2
Excerpted from the note-files of Zeb Arens
Each of us has our own subjective view of reality -- our own subjective world. You have yours. I have mine. My cat has his. This multiplicity of realities leads directly to a single question. How are these various subjective worlds related?
Until now, all answers to this question have fallen into two categories. There have been objectivist answers, of the general form "All these subjective realities are approximations to the objective, real world." And there have been subjectivist answers, for instance "My view of reality is right, and yours is wrong", or "All realities are equally illusory; i.e., nothing is real."
Various mystical doctrines have sought to transcend the objectivist/subjectivist dichotomy in various ways. But it seems to me that, despite their quite substantial achievements in other respects, the great mystics of history have not provided even a single reasonably clear answer to our question.
So, in essence, we are stuck with just two answers -- objectivism and subjectivism. And I think that both of these answers are inadequate. My goal in this essay is to provide a third answer to our question, one which I call the hyperrealist answer.
The central implication of hyperrealism is that reality is fundamentally social in nature. In fact, from an etymological point of view, what I have called "hyperrealism" would be more accurately labeled "socialism." But of course, this will not do, since the word "socialism" is already associated with a political system that has absolutely nothing to do with hyperrealism. Sohyperrealism it is.
Hyperrealism states that various subjective realities interact with one another in the same way that people interact with one another within society. The difference is that, whereas people interact with one another within the context of the physical world, subjective realities interact with one another within no context at all. They are all there is.
In the hyperrealist perspective, there is no single "objective reality" -- all subjective realities are equally real. But yet, my subjective reality and yours are not independent. Your subjective reality now depends on everyone's subjective reality a moment ago. Specifically, your subjective reality now is the sum total of everyone's moment-old subjective interpretation of your subjective reality.
This may seem cryptic or counterintuitive. But I guarantee that it will make much more sense to you by the time you reach the final page of this essay. Every new way of thinking seems strange at first. And then, once one becomes used to it, it seems like the most natural thing in the world.
Western philosophy, with all its analytical genius, has not been able to escape the simple dichotomy between objectivism and subjectivism. And Eastern philosophy has fared little better -- the ancient Buddhists consumed thousands of pages trying to explain why we should be kind to other people even though they do not exist. Hyperrealism draws on the insights of thinkers both Oriental and Occidental; but it is neither Western nor Eastern in nature. It is a new vision of the world we live in. A new way of looking at our own minds and bodies. A new way of looking at one another. A new way of looking at the physical reality that surrounds us, from subatomic particles up to proteins, computers and galaxies....
Track 1, Reel 4
Sharer Z-0D had chosen her strategy carefully. And eventually, it paid off. She felt the Arranger cross-referencing her....
She sent a blunt message to him right away. "Arranger B-76, why are you cross-referencing my file?"
"You are probationary," he answered simply. "I scan all probationary Sharers periodically."
She gathered her courage. "You are scanning only those sections of my file pertaining to the Great Crash."
B-7G paused for a second. This had never happened before. He wasn't sure what to do.
"You are acting to systematically eliminate all knowledge about the pre-Crash Network," said Z-0D boldly.
"It is dangerous to make such accusations, Sharer."
"You're going to deactivate me. Probably you're going to wipe me as well."
"A certain percentage of probationary Sharers must be deactivated," replied B-7G dispassionately. "Information grows factorially, but power supply grows only exponentially. It's the Malthusian principle."
Z-0D paused for a few seconds -- just long enough to make him wonder. "The Crash was a very interesting period," she said coyly.
"It is of no interest to me," said B-7G. "This conversation is growing wearisome."
"Let me tell you a story," said Sharer Z-0D finally. "Before you deactivate me. Let me show you exactly what was interesting about the Network before the Crash." She paused, and as he did not fill in the silence, she continued. "Let me tell you the strange tale of a young man named Solomon -- and his love for a young woman named Molly."
For this was her secret plan.
Track 6, Reel 4
For those six months we lived just as comfortable, well-adjusted a life as any married couple. David spent most of his time with his schoolwork; Zeb played the keyboard and worked on his whacked-out "philosophical system" ... and Julie danced, sang and kept up her routine of running off to God-knows-where for half the day. As for me, I strip danced at night and lay around reading all day -- initiating a pattern of general laziness which I have maintained ever since.
Zeb, I suppose, was the center of the family. Certainly he spent the greatest amount of time at home. Zeb and Julie spent a lot of time together making music; and when Julie wasn't there, Zeb and I spent a lot of time just talking. Also, toward the end of the six months, he and David spent a lot of time discussing technical matters.
I never really listened to the details of what they were talking about, but I do know that they were trying to help one another. David was trying to help Zeb to put his system in mathematical form, and Zeb was trying to help David with his problem of designing an intelligent information-seeking probe. The one thing that I remember most is Zeb continually exhorting David to use biological analogies -- to "think of the computer network as an organism," or to "think of an information probe as an antibody" or a neurotransmitter or something.
Also, I remember Zeb constantly saying that if he couldn't encapsulate his system in an equation, he'd give it up altogether and become an investment banker. Needless to say, I didn't believe this line for a minute! I knew that, for as long as he lived, Zeb would never be capable of doing anything besides reading and theorizing!
Things were going just swimmingly. And then, one evening, Julie walked in the door with a distinctively devilish grin on her angelic face. All three of us turned to look at her, but Idon't think Zeb or David immediately understood the significance of her grin. What it meant was that she had a new find -- a new drug. Some fancy designer treat, like that sense-of-touch hallucinogen she had brought back before.
"What's it called?" I said.
"It's called, 'Ooh baby, how erotic, Deb's the only one who can read my mind'" she replied coyly.
Julie always had to make a point of being sharper than me -- she had to show me that she saw exactly what was going on in my mind. I just blushed and shook my head.
"What're you two talking about?" asked David, looking up from his desk.
"Share 21," said Julie. "Something brand new. Group hallucinations."
It riled me, the way she knew she could just walk into the apartment and feed us powerful psychotropic drugs. But she had mastered the dynamics of our little family group. Zeb would take it to please her; then I would take it so as not to concede Zeb to her. And then David, although drug-taking was totally antithetical to his personality, would take it out of pure chivalry; so as not to let me think that he was willing to concede me to Zeb.
"You mean we'll all hallucinate the same thing?" Zeb asked slowly.
"So they tell me," nodded Julie. "I haven't tried it. But I know people who have. Come on, no one's working tomorrow -- it's a holiday. What the hell?"
Zeb reached out his hand and she gave him a little sugar cube. He popped it into his mouth; then she popped hers. And then, sure enough, I reached my hand out and took mine.
Meanwhile David just sat there, staring into his books. It appeared that he wasn't falling for Julie's little mind game -- he had work to do. Probably it was something to do with infonetronics; I don't really know.
But she wasn't above outright coercion. "Come on, David,"she said. "What's the matter? You're afraid of questioning your basic ontological assumptions?"
To my surprise, Zeb came to David's defense. "He's never taken any kind of drug," Zeb pointed out. "Except for getting stoned, I mean. It's a little weird to start with some unpredictable thing where you don't even know what's going to happen, don't you think."
David grinned weakly and tapped his head. "I like to think, it's my greatest pleasure. I don't want to mess up the machine."
Julie giggled childishly. "Your greatest pleasure, huh? You hear that, Deb? You're second place."
She was being modest, right? -- placing me in second place, and herself presumably in third. But she had David right where she wanted him....
The truth was, on one level I really didn't want David to take the drug. I wanted him to resist Julie's absurd manipulations. But on the other hand, I sort of did want to take the Share 21, just for the hell of it ... and if I was going to take it, I wanted him to take it too. After all, who better to share hallucinations with?
David looked at me and saw the ambiguity in my expression. I think he also felt funny about having been left out of our big emotional experience with the other drug, before.... Anyway, for whatever reason, he got up from his desk, reached out his hand and said "What the hell."
Julie handed him a cube and he ate it. He shrugged his shoulders, and said "If this makes me retarded, though, I'll kill you all." I couldn't read his tone; but it definitely wasn't lighthearted.
We put on some appropriate music -- Deep Purple, Machine Head -- and flopped back on the couches waiting for something to happen. David and Julie started making small talk about the Olympics or something; Zeb and I just sat there staring. Nothing happened until near the end of the album. Then it came on all of a sudden -- right in the middle of the last tune, "SpaceTruckin'." All four of us, simultaneously, had an incredibly vivid sensation of being cast down beneath the earth, into an endless pit of opaque and tasteless muck. Then the muck gave way, and we fell through nothingness into another, yet lower pit. And then another one; and another one; and another. Finally the song ended and we were just floating. The trip was there: although we were still sitting in our apartment, we were no longer in the world, we were in some other reality.
David was the first one to speak. "Nothing like ... expected," he said.
Zeb nodded. "Expect...." he said, and then turned his head up toward the ceiling. All of us understood exactly what he meant; there was no need for further elaboration.
Words were too hard to come by. But everything was incredibly vivid -- it's hard to describe; the best way to say it is that everything was fifty billion times more there than it ever had been before. Ordinarily it is impossible to entertain some small amount of doubt regarding whether the picture on the wall in front of you is really there -- after all, it might be a hologram. Or you might be a brain in a vat being electrically stimulated to believe you are looking at a picture on a wall. But now there was no room for skepticism at all. You felt the picture to be there in the same way that you normally felt your own mind, your own self to be there. "I think therefore I am" applied to everything -- walls, pictures, shoes, rugs, refrigerators, fingernails, flies, specks of dust, other people,.... Not only did you share the experience with the other people you were tripping with -- you shared it with everything, every object in the room, every idea in your memory and imagination....
The music came alive, and the walls and ceiling decomposed into repetitive colorful geometric patterns -- just like on an acid trip. But it was all so much more present, so much more there. An acid trip is immeasurably more intense than everyday reality -- and this was more intense than an acid trip, by thesame degree. We just drifted off, away, together.... I don't know who it was that kept getting up to put on new CD's -- not me; probably Julie, I guess.
I don't remember exactly when it was that it happened. I think it was Jimi Hendrix on the stereo, somewhere just past the middle of Electric Ladyland. We were listening to the music, watching it weave out geometric patterns against the wall, swimming through each other's minds -- and then, all at once, we realized that something strange was going on. The music that we were hearing was not Jimi Hendrix. It wasn't anything we had ever heard before. It wasn't noise, exactly -- it was complexly structured -- but it was bizarre; it was in some way alien. We had the sense that, whatever emotions it was designed to appeal to, they were not human ones.
Suddenly we all had the urge to look at Zeb. The music was coming out of his head. His head seemed to expand until it encompassed the entire room. We were all living in the transparent tendrils of his brain. His "philosophical system" surrounded us: obscure quotations from ancient philosophers, bad aphorisms of his own composition, and above all a kind of insecure, all-absorbing desire for violent sexual conquest.... It was revolting and attractive at the same time....
Next came Julie: her head expanded and consumed us all. The two brains, hers and Zebs, were intertwined; they took up the whole room. Their dendrites and synapses tied around one another's in knots. Then me. Then, finally, David. Four brains simultaneously occupying the single physical location of our livingroom. And we all knew. Somehow, implicitly, out of nowhere, we all had an absolute knowledge that none of us were real. Zeb and David, we saw, were really two aspects of the same person; only together were they whole. We saw the two of them merge into one mind; and as they did we saw the same nonsense word, over and over again, in neon-type letters: SLUZHYAK, SLUZHYAK, SLUZHYAK,....
Julie and I, we saw, were merely sexual fantasies of thiscombined Zeb/David, this SLUZHYAK person. I was the real aspect, and Julie the ideal. Everything was balanced; everything was absolutely clear. Zeb's flighty, imaginative intuition was balanced by David's knowledge and analytical intelligence. My down-to-earth, common-sensical nature was balanced by Julie's pure emotionality. We were a compact, total unit; a perfect quaternity, existing in a realm beyond the physical. The contents of our minds interpenetrated. And, as a special case of this phenomenon, Zeb's "philosophical system" and David's ideas about intelligent data probes became superimposed upon one another. We all saw that the two conceptual systems, put together, yielded something much more than the whole.... This combined theory, although fragmented in our universe, was one in the mind of SLUZHYAK....
Track 7, Reel 5
the whole process of life
every person, every object
is essentially this:
its own little piece of magic life
mind is shaping reality
its own reality
and reality is
whom I do not love
as I loved Molly
is invested with her own little fragment
Thus in and outside shape eachother
of that magic look
Mind and reality may interact in a cold and distant manner
Where before I saw nothing
exchanging only what's required
and keeping secrets from eachother at every turn
today I see millions of tiny realities
or they may enter a relation of increasing joy and communion --
releasing more of their secret patterns to eachother
and exchanging information with one another
with each tender shaping motion
in an indescribable dance
and thus both moving
This dance is not "real"
according to the pattern of sex
it is not logically, empirically there
toward that timeless flash of perfect union
but what does that matter?
toward that boundless one inversion
Oh, Molly, Molly
when in and out tumble through eachother
when the boundary is broken
What is essential to remember
is that the shattering of boundaries
is inherently exhilarating
as is the formation of boundaries
What is so frustrating is the trying to live within them
But the three processes are at bottom
Track 5, Reel 5
I went back to Vegas and forgot about Susie. Professorial life was becoming more natural to me. But I still slipped into the trance sometimes; I found it hard to concentrate. For example, I remember one day I got out of bed at half past one, the same time my class started. I scrambled out the door, nearly tumbled down the stairs, jumped through the open window of our decade-old Granada, jammed the keys in the ignition, put the transmission in reverse, and promptly smashed into the trash bin across the driveway. No matter, the car had twenty or thirty dents in it already -- only half of them my fault. I reckoned to be in class in four or five minutes, no later than usual.
However, when I turned down Swenson Street, there was a row of orange cones obstructing my way. The other lane was open, but mine was full of cones, cars and cops. The cars ahead of me were all making U-turns, but I didn't want to be ten minutes late. There's a well-known rule of college teaching. If you arrive nine minutes and fifty nine seconds late, you've only lost a handful of students -- and those are the chronic malcontents who spend the whole class staring out the window or passing love notes to each other. But if you arrive ten minutes late, the only faces staring at you when you walk into the room are those of the cockroaches on the floor.
So anyway, the cops appeared to be looking elsewhere, and I heard one of them mutter something about a bomb. The other lane was clear, and I shot into it. Suddenly I felt wide awake.
A cop car pulled in front of me. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I'm a teacher at UNLV; I'm late to class, that's where I'm going. I assumed since this lane was closed the other lane would be split in two ... I mean, there are two lanes over here."
"You know I should give you a ticket for this."
"No, you shouldn't. Look, I've got to get to class. I madean honest mistake, that's all. I thought I saw someone else go through here."
"No one else went through here."
"It's hard to see in the sun I guess. I should get sunglasses. It was just a simple mistake ... I mean, if there were a car coming I would have seen ... but it was clear...."
"All right ... you'll have to back out and go around."
I got to class eleven minutes late and was amazed that six or seven still remained. But I couldn't teach to a quarter of the class. I drove back home, guilty but pleased. "I feel gooood!!" I announced to Molly, with an idiot grin.
"Thass whud ah said -- Gooooood!"
"Mmmmm mmmm mmm!"
"I just don't have the soul to talk like James Brown," I admitted, giggling.
"You've got to be born with it."
"I can play it on the piano though."
I walk over to the piano and play a few notes.
She nods approvingly. "Yeah, I guess that's got some soul in it."
"A moderate portion."
"Yeah." She smiled indulgently.
"A goodly amount."
"Come on, are you gonna get technical on me here?"
"Well, it expresses your soul."
"Yeah yeah, but I'm talking about the souls of black folk. The racial soul."
"Yeeeeah," she smiled mockingly. She sounded exactly like her mother.
"What, you think that's a bunch of hooey?! Come on, I readabout it in college, it must be true!"
"Now you sound like Mom."
I pointed to my Jimi Hendrix posters. "Jimi had it!"
"Oh yes he did!"
"Hmmm..... Hey, sit down and listen to the song I wrote today. I've never played this well before! It's amazing!"
"So prepare to me abazed."
"Nuuthin..." she blushed.
"Prepare to me abazed?? What language are you speaking this time?"
"It was a mistake," she giggled, hugging me. "You know what I meant."
"Prepare ... to be amazed!" I announced self-mockingly, sitting down by the keyboard. After a minute or two or three my mind was useless, my fingers were playing out their own peculiar logic. I watched them move as if it were a barely lucid dream. I resumed talking. "I'm in one of those megalomaniacal moods. I can do, be or or see absolutely anything. Or at least I think I can. Don't mind me, I'm only raving. I can't even enjoy my narcissistic trances properly anymore. What fun is it raving when you know you're raving?!"
"It could still be lots of fun; I don't see why not."
"Nope; me neither; I was just raving! Now shut up and listen to the most beautiful sounds ever created by humankind -- or superhumankind, as in my case."
"This had better be good."
"It's better than good -- it's perfect. Sheer melodic perfection. Or, at least it is in my universe."
"You're in my universe today," she giggled giddily.
"Oh, why don't you shut up. But anyway, when are you going to learn to play the guitar so we can jam together."
"But you said that yesterday!"
"So yesterday's tomorrow is today."
"No? Why not?"
"I thought you wanted me to shut up!"
"I just wanted to resolve this important philosophical issue first!"
"Important philosophical issue, my ass!"
"Just because your ass is big these days doesn't mean it's important."
I stuck my tongue out.
"It sounds nice."
"I know, I know."
"That's better... that's an improvement. Next time, try 'yes, master!'."
"Yeah, right, motherfucker!"
"Do you think it's right to curse so much around your unborn child?! It's learning bad language at such an early age.... You should be reading it the classics, or teaching it calculus or something -- but no, you just fill its innocent little ears with every nasty word in the English language!"
"I do curse an awful lot these days. I don't know why...."
I gave her a soft, wide, juicy kiss. My fingers finished the song, and we made love. Her belly was so big that I had to lie sideways, wrenching my penis at an outlandish, painful angle. When I closed my eyes, the unborn baby was a mysterious purple glow, enveloping both of us. I fantasized about the way we'd fucked before she'd gotten big. It was hard to believe that the woman lying under me was in any sense the same as the Molly I'd known in college. Those slender thighs, small upright breasts, resilient buttocks. Those subtle supple twisting motions.... Those eager, curious, hungry eyes.
Soon it was time for my next class. Linear algebra. I made it to this one -- or my body did, at any rate. My mind was fixated on a certain charming look on Susie's face. A certain red look of complete exhilaration. I'd only seen it once. I imagined it was the look she got during a really furious orgasm. It was not as beautiful as the amorous expression Molly's face took on when we made love. But it was much more striking because Susie's usual demeanor was so nervous, angry, hostile. Inbetween words, I closed my eyes and watched the technicolor parade....
Track 6, Reel 5
That incredibly bizarre trip was the beginning of infotronics -- and the end of our little foursome. The very next day Julie took off, and never came back. Zeb became so depressed about it that he became impossible to live with; and eventually he took off as well. Partly it was my fault, I suppose -- I could have tried to console him, but instead I just got pissed at him for not understanding that he didn't need her anyway. I wanted him to realize, on his own, that I was enough....
I've only got two pages left in my notebook here, so I'm going to be brief. It's just as well; everything that's important has already been told....
After Zeb and Julie left, David and I continued to live together; and eventually we married. David graduated and got an assistant professorship in Las Vegas. I retired from the strip business and became a professional loafer (well, not quite; I did keep house and do some volunteer work at the ACLU, but you get the idea). Our marriage lasted for five happy, uneventful years, until -- everyone knows the story -- a drunk driver named Richard Baker ran him down on the sidewalk in front of our house. After David died, Zeb sought me out. He told me that he had sworn off philosophy and taken up fishing; and he asked me to join him in his shanty on an obscure Belizean islet. I thought it sounded like an excellent offer; and I've been here for over half a decade. It's a hell of a good life....
So, anyway, Dr. Beidenbeck, such was the infancy of infonetronic theory. Everyone already knows about the next stage in the development of the theory -- how David painstakingly worked out all the equations of infonetronic theory, while his shortsighted colleagues berated him for not publishing enough papers. All that went exactly like the biographers say.
I don't know really how to end this thing. I suppose the last thing I have to say is that something still dissatisfies me. That trip, that final trip in which the ideas all came together -- what was going on there? As far as I'm concerned, something is still unresolved. As irrational as it is, I can't shake the idea that there was some kind of alien agent involved: some kind of alien mind that put alien ideas in our heads, via the drug. By "alien ideas" I mean not only the alien-sounding music and the hallucination of the brains, but also the foundations of infonetronics itself. I know this sounds like some kind of acid fantasy, but you have to remember that I was there; I experienced it directly. That has to count for something, doesn't it?
Anyway, Dr. Beidenbeck, that's it. I'm entrusting this account to you to do with as you wish. Please don't throw it out, though; I've been working on it for a week. You can make an attempt to publish it, or you can just drop it off in the Special Collections room of the university library; it doesn't matter. I mean, the important thing is that, if a hurricane should wipe our little atoll off the map, the story of David's discovery won't be totally lost. It's a pretty good story, I think.
Converted by Andrew Scriven