Monday, December 18, 2006

the maP

He found it in an old book at a used book store near the wharf in a seriously weird neighborhood, with yuppies and bums, Mercedes and skateboards. All the stores had bars on the windows. He never went there at night.

The paper had yellowed considerably, but it was still intact, missing a corner, illegible on the creases, but readable enough when spread out between demitasse and croissant. Julie joked about "buried treasure" and "X marks the spot", but there was no clue about what it referred to or how to get there. Nevertheless, he knew in his bones it was a map of something important and he could almost hear it calling, "Here, kitty, kitty! Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!"

Before he fell asleep that night some door seemed to open into his world with an odd breeze blowing through it. This feeling was vivid, but he soon discounted it and watched the lights move on the ceiling as the cars passed his house, wondering why he had never noticed those glimmerings before.

Then he thought about the map and almost got up to look at it, but plumped his pillow instead, took a deep breath and anticipated the morning. The night wasn't finished with him and he woke smelling perfume in the air, something out of the ordinary, but pleasantly so, queerly and pleasantly so.

Later he went to the bathroom, voiding the wine he drank that evening (more wine than he was accustomed to drink) while pondering his unsatisfactory sex life. Julie was talking about marriage, but she never seemed to climax and this worried him considerably. Should I commit to someone who apparently doesn't care for sex, he pondered? In other respects they were compatible enough, but the erotic chemistry just didn’t seem to be there, which was OK now, since relationships can change like the seasons, but what about post wedlock/deadlock, he wondered.

However, these concerns, so heavily relevant, vanished as he flushed the toilet and wondered, not for the first time, about the counter clockwise turning of the water in the commode, remembering it had something to do with the rotation of the earth in the northern hemisphere. "Christ," he thought while putting himself back into his thongs, "what a tangle life is, and what's the story about that goddamn MAP?" He bumped into the doorjamb on the way back to the bed and didn't compliment God for it.

Sleep absorbed away his worries, but dreams nibbled at his psyche, dissolving momentum regularities, these dreams of the night, the dreams, the dreams, the dreams . . .

The alarum penetrated him like a spear, returning things to business as usual land. The map hadn't gone anyplace, so he picked it up, looking for hints of seabirds. Basically he hated his life, but didn't whine about it or dope away his frustrations. His life had become an ocean of cold oatmeal in which he was going down for the third time, so far from being annoyed with this cryptic paper visitor, he welcomed it like a starving tiger smelling fresh meat.

Something rustled in the other room, the kitchen probably, and he cocked his ear to locate the sound, but suddenly found himself on seashore at night, alone with the stars and the wind. He blinked, and was back with the map, which had become thicker and so dense with mass it was too heavy to hold, so he dropped it on the rug. "What the hell," he started to say, but then began to whistle Beethoven's Ode to Joy from the 9th symphony, he didn't know why. Anyway, he forgot the map and went to work with his pants unzipped, but whistling and happy.

"Uh, better check your crotch," tittered Julie as they met on the elevator on their way to work at the advertising company. "So what?", he said, protective of his manhood, but then caught his shirt in the zipper and had to walk to his office holding a folder in front of his pants with Julie smirking beside him.

"Well, TELL me, did you figure it out? Where and what's the treasure?" Julie waited until his office door was closed before asking her questions. "Jesus, I forget the goddamn thing," he replied, surprised at his spacing out, since he had planned to spend the morning surreptitiously examining the map.

The advertising business tumbles in skies of indifference, advertising nothing to nothing. And yet this story keeps emerging from the belly of an invisible spider, capturing mind flies.

That evening, they went to his apartment, anticipating food, sex, and the map, but the map had evolved in the meantime. When they opened the door the world wasn't there, something else was there . . . just like something else is here, but it never stands still long enough to end up thought's butterfly collection.

But wait, the story's not dead, stories are hard to kill, in fact they're almost IMPOSSIBLE to kill, these stories we whistle in the dark together, these stories dreams leave.

Julie examines the map, putting on the proof reading half glasses she uses at work. "You know, this has got to be a map of SOMETHING. I mean, that's what maps do, right, tell us how to get around in dark continents, how to find pots of gold, you know, and all that good stuff." He agreed and was surprised at their agreement, since they generally didn't agree about much of anything, but here, at least, they seemed to be of 'one mind' -- odd turn of phrase, he thought. "Well, enough of this prevaricating," he said, "let's kicks some ass!"

This shocked Julie a little, since he usually didn't talk like that, plus they really hadn't been prevaricating anyway, it's more like they were confused and disorientated. She didn't say anything, though, but folded the map and began to strip in front of him, slowly. And then they made love . . . oh, how they made love.

After love making everything was different. They looked at each other differently and their bodies seemed to glow in the dark. They were happy and happy together. Julie picked up the map and kissed it. "Why'd you do that," he laughed. "Beats me," she said, "I just felt like it." Then they made love again, surrendering to abandon, forsaking preconceptions, dying to time.

Story black holes emit what can never be found. Language is a fart of intelligence -- sweeter breezes blow. The map is whispering to us all. The advertising company can be left. Everything can be left, WE can be left.

When he took Julie home that night they looked at each other frequently. They didn't talk much, but held hands like the lovers they had finally become.

The next day the world balloon reinflated and Julie sucked her pencil, coining phrases for a new church account promoting drive up marriages. They both laughed at that and he suggested they set up a divorce vending machine across the street. They laughed a lot these days.

On the other side of the planet, a tsunami drowned over 300 people in one night, nevertheless Julie's car started the next morning and all the stop lights functioned on her way to work. When she learned about those tumbling, terrified, soon to be corpses she sighed with compassion.

A young man who drowned in the tsunami had made arrangements to come to the United States to enter a Buddhist temple in San Francisco. He had his ticket and was going to contact his family when he arrived, but the ocean intervened. As for the airline, his empty seat was a statistic, an unexpected bonus for the woman sitting next to it, ideal for carry on luggage and lap tops.

During much of the flight, the surface of the ocean was midway between the plane and the bottom of an ocean teeming with life forms indifferent to Wall Street, clock time, and synagogues.

Drowning is off the map -- but so is living when we're not in it. Mind trains have tracks only when we're on them. The problem is no one believes there aren't any maps, but that's ok too, since that's part of a map which isn't. Why throw life jackets to what's not in the water?

"Oh, can't you tell me anything," he entreats the map. The map exists. Julie lies intertwined with him that night and he sobs in their embrace. He says, "I know you've learned things from the map I haven't, my love, but I'm so afraid, I don't want to drown, I want to keep going on with things, I want to LIVE."

"Sweetheart," she whispers, "there's nothing to worry about, you've got to believe that. We're together, we've got the map, but you're mistaken if you think I've obtained some transcendental candy. That's just what I DON'T have. That's why I'm so happy."