Saturday, July 09, 2005

Beautiful Girl - a fiction, a remembrance

I have never told anyone that I am capable of teleportation: I can move through time and space as easily as moving from room to room in a house. It’s actually quite simple. Easy as stepping through a door. In fact, that’s how it’s done. It’s a matter of thinking the right thought at the right moment while passing through a doorway. Thing is, few people ever give much thought to something as a mundane as a doorway.

I have never told anyone about my ability. Firstly, it just never comes up in conversation. Secondly, it’s a fun secret to keep.

As with any great discovery, I made this one accidentally. One night, coming home from the bar with a hearth-glow beer buzz on me, I stepped through the entrance way to my apartment building. There was no elevator and I lived on the fifth floor. And as I passed through the doorway I thought, “I wish I was already in my bedroom.” A moment later I was standing in my bedroom. And I would have paid that lapse in time little thought—I mean, after a certain number of beers the night fills up with little blank spots and so long as you make it home all right, you’re not much bothered by those blank spots.

I had taken a step toward my bed and then stopped, looking around the bedroom located on Cameron Avenue in Windsor, Ontario. Nothing unusual in that, I had come home many nights with a few beers on me, stumbling around in the dark. Except there was one strange detail—by that night, I had been living in Dublin, Ireland for more than a year.

I had turned round and round in the bedroom, blinking hard, suddenly breathing hard, trying to grab hold of my thoughts that were running through a laundry list of explanations: I was dreaming, hallucinating, mistaken, crazy...

No, actually. I was standing in my old bedroom in my parents’ house, three and-a- half thousand miles from where I had been standing only a moment before.

I flicked on the light and there was no mistake. Shutting the light off again, I had sat on the bed. I reached into my shirt pocket and found the ticket stub from the nightclub I had come from that evening. I could read it in the streetlight glow coming through the window: The Kitchen, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland... with an 01 Dublin telephone number beneath the address. The handstamped date on the stub was that day’s date.

There’s no sense wasting time describing my shock—it was total and complete.

I eventually moved from the bed, made my way out of the room, stepped past my parents’ room where I heard the slow, rhythmic breathing of them sleeping. I went downstairs to the main floor. I clicked on the TV in the living, quickly lowering the volume. Switched on an all-news channel. After a moment a weather update came on... in the midst of the forecast the announcer stated that day’s date.

After shutting off the TV, I walked toward the kitchen, stunned, sweating, bewildered, my muddled mind crazily puzzling over just how I would explain my sudden appearance at home to my parents in the morning. And passing through the doorway into the kitchen, I had thought, “I’ve got to get back to Dublin.” And when I stepped into the kitchen I was standing in the kitchen of my Dublin apartment.

Never being a quick study or easily convinced of even more rational ideas, I went to bed that night and gave the strange experience not another thought, deciding in classic-movie-cliché, that it had “all been a dream.” What the hell else was I going to think?

Except that it happened again, and again. While stepping through a doorway with a very particular thought the same moment my foot passed over the threshold. I found myself appearing in all sorts of places: my old high school in the middle of a busy afternoon hallway, in empty sports stadiums, at concerts, in the houses of strangers...

Although I cannot put my finger on the exact time and date, there had come a moment when I figured out what was happening. And then began experimenting. Not all of the experiments worked. It was like learning how to drive a manual transmission car—I was so conscious of thinking a particular thought at just the right moment, that I often missed it altogether and passed through the doorway uneventfully. But after a while I got the hang of it.

Crazy thing about making such an extraordinary discovery is that it didn’t change my life at all. Sure, I was shocked and amazed, questioned my sanity every step of the way. But sane I remained. And my life continued its relatively uncomplicated course.

I continued to experiment, going to other countries, getting home quick from the bar or from work. I had learned early on that little happened externally when I teleported. There was no clap of thunder, no puff of smoke. And the people around me were either too wrapped up in their own day or simply unmindful of their surroundings to pay much attention to my comings and goings. Anyhow, no one would ever really believe somebody had simply “disappeared” right in front of them. The human mind’s ability to doubt its own perceptions is probably my single best ally in this regard.

I found it an ironically amusing situation that when it came time for me to go home to Canada to spend Christmas with my family, I had to buy a plane ticket.

I suppose with a lot of planning I could have simply stepped through a doorway here and appeared in Detroit Metro Airport, but I was stopped by the thought, “What if the flight I’m supposed to be on is delayed?” I could rely on peoples’ distracted perceptions only to a certain point. Had I come to meet my parents in the terminal before my plane had arrived... I didn’t want to even begin to try to explain that.

My folks arranged the plane ticket, mailed it to me and home I flew. I don’t mind flying.

And though I was home for only two weeks, having nothing more on my mind than seeing old friends, visiting old haunts, something happened that was as extraordinary as discovering I could teleport myself: I met a girl. Her name was Christina Finley.

A friend of a friend’s wife, Christina was a fourth-year Visual Arts student at the university. She was quiet, reserved, well-spoken. And beautiful beyond any reasonable or outlandish expectation I could ever conjure. I was captivated immediately. And troubled as well: I was leaving in two weeks and that would be that.

But I enjoyed her company while I was there. And New Year’s Eve night found us back at my friends’ apartment. Enough drink had been consumed to preclude anyone driving, and calling a taxi on such a busy night was out of the question. No harm. No one was in any hurry to leave or end the night. But sleep soon claimed my friend and his wife, and Christina and I were left in the living room—her lying under blankets on the folded-down futon, and me sitting in a recliner. After a few moments of nervous debate I had asked if I could join Christina. She had said yes.

So, I lay down with her. Then she wished me good night, rolled over and was soon asleep. Which was fine with me. And as she slept I made sure she was well covered. I had curled up behind her and took the chance of placing my hand on the firm sure curve of her hip. She didn’t stir, and I was glad.

The next morning I drove her home. We said a casual goodbye and that was that. And driving home I suddenly wished I wasn’t leaving for Ireland the next morning. I wished I had more time with Christina. I really liked her. But I had a job and friends and an apartment to return to in Dublin—had a plane ticket that just wouldn’t allow it.

That night as I was packing my things, it began snowing. It snowed all night. In fact, weather forecasters were calling the storm the worst of the decade. I couldn’t believe the amount of snow that had fallen over night. No one was prepared for it—not even Detroit Metro Airport.

And as I listened on TV to the news that all flights in Detroit were cancelled, suddenly realising I wasn’t going back to Ireland that day, my frown of worry and frustration vanished. Because a thought occurred to me: to call Christina.

It was a crazy thought. I mean, being snowed-in bought me a day or two more at home, not the extra weeks I’d wished for the previous morning after dropping her home. But it was enough.

And after a day of pacing around the house, wondering if I should just leave things as they lay, I picked up the telephone and called Christina. She was surprised to hear from me, but glad too.

We went on a date the next night.

And miraculous as my ability to teleport may be, what took place during that date was, in fact, the definition of miraculous: how she and I had meshed; how we laughed and talked like old friends; an unaccountable feeling of recognition and familiarity developing between us. We were both aware of it, speaking about it, laughing together over it, both very glad for it.

When I kissed her later that evening, that went beyond miraculous. This is the point where words really begin to fail me because they cease to keep pace with my actual feelings and memory of that kiss—those many, many kisses. Our time together became very malleable, seeming to pass painfully quickly, but also seeming very long—as though it was actually days—because we were getting to one another so well, so quickly.

The next morning I had to leave. And with the memory of her kisses still fresh on my lips—with the memory of our chat in the car as I drove her home the night before; the memory of every kiss at every stoplight; she and I had fit the emotional content of months of date into one night—I had boarded my plane for Dublin.

I returned to Ireland and missed Christina with that same unaccountable depth that our conversation and kisses had taken on the night of our date. I telephoned her from Dublin that night. We began exchanging e-mail messages. We exchanged more telephone calls. Letters arrived and were sent. And distant as I was from her, as every day passed I got to know her better; my affection for her seemed to grow its own legs and began to run its own unmapped course.

It was as though God had grown her in His garden just for me.

And missing her as terribly as I did, and much as I so often wanted to teleport home to her, I just couldn’t do that. It was too strange. I was at such a loss to explain to myself how it all worked, I feared its strangeness might put an unbreachable wrinkle into my relationship with Christina.

Time passed and I made plans to fly home in April to visit her and my family. We continued with the phone calls, letters and e-mail and our affection for one another continued down its path at a quicker and more exhilarating pace. I remember putting the phone down after one particular call, nearly levitating with happiness and said to the empty room, “I love that girl.” I’d said that three times, in fact. Because it was true.

With April still a month off, our excitement to see one another again mounting feverishly, I called her the other night.

It began as one of our usual absorbing chats, full of laughs and jokes that only existed between the two of us. But near the end of the conversation her voice grew serious.

She had something to tell me. I said she could tell me anything.

She told me she was part of a project that involved herself, and other female and male students, making plaster casts of their faces, hands, breasts and feet. I don't know how the old pang of jealousy found me, or exactly what fueled its spike through my chest, but it was there, and quickly coiled around my neck, and around my reason. Which was plainly stupid because the students in her art program were well used to working with nude models; often incorporating nude images of themselves into works, posing for one another when the need arose. All quite harmless, all in the context of art and blandly non-sexual.

And though I understood all of that, hearing such news ignited in me a sudden, stinging vintage of shock that surged up from my feet, collecting on its way up every fear and trepidation and bad memory I never knew I had in me. Assembling in me an equation as simple and straightforward as A + B + C = Oh shit!

Christina was surprised by my response, asked if I was okay, was suddenly worried I was turning the news into something it wasn't.

And for as reasonable as I am, for as much as I trusted Christina, for as much as I was interested in her art—for all the distance our mutual affection had bridged, for as powerful as it had grown—I gave into my shock, felt my stomach bottom-out, and our conversation quickly turned into an argument.

Had I been able to press PAUSE on the remote control of the moment, I might have better understood my own feelings, grabbed better hold of them and remained much more articulate than I had become. But there was no pausing the moment, no reigning in my shock and the sick-feeling in my stomach that turned into a mushroom cloud.

The phone call ended badly. I put the receiver down and felt like I had been shot in the chest at close range with a shotgun—as much for imagining her topless in front of another guy as for how badly I had upset her with my reaction.

The next morning when I would have normally wrote her an e-mail message, I simply left for work. That evening when I would have sent her another message, I had lay down on my bed for a fitful, unrestful nap. That evening when we would have gotten on the computer chat-line for a while, I had gone for a long walk; preferring to pound the pavement around St. Stephen’s Green than to purposefully step through any doorway—my secret likely wouldn’t have worked anyhow, my thoughts were so scattered and unfocused. Then I came home and went to bed without turning the computer on at all.

My greatest single failing is my stubbornness. I went on like that for nearly a week. I had told myself I was merely trying to gain hold of my thoughts, emotions, but really all I was doing was abusing her with silence. Striking back by not striking at all.

* * *
... I’m nearly out of breath with my story...

A week has passed and that horrible stinging shock has ebbed. My mind has slowed and I can think once more.

And I now stand in Christina’s backyard.

I stepped through my bedroom door in Dublin at six o’clock this morning and stepped into the garage next to her house. It is now one a.m. and the house is dark.

Christina’s room is around the back of the house. There are stairs leading to a deck beneath her window. The night is cool and pleasant and Christina sleeps with her window open.

I mount the stairs and slowly make my way up them. It’s a precarious climb through her window and into her bedroom because her bed is just below the window... but she sleeps soundly.

I step to the floor beside the bed, pleased that I haven’t made a sound.

And there she lies in her large bed, still as a stone in God’s rock garden. She is more beautiful than I remember; placid as a mermaid upon her lotus flower. Yes.

I bend down and untie my shoes; place them next to her nightstand. I turn to the bed. Christina is sleeping on her side, facing the wall; her long hair spilled across the pillow like a cloud in the night sky.

I slowly pull back the blankets. She doesn’t stir. I climb in next to her with the precise careful movements of a safecracker. I can hear her slow, even breathing.

Pulling the blankets and duvet overtop of me, I curl up behind her—place my hand on the sure firm curve of her hip. Yes.

And the sigh welling in me wants to become a sob. I am ridiculous. I catch hold of myself and breathe in the scent of her skin, the clean cotton scent of the bed.

And she doesn’t stir.

I will watch her sleep a while longer, as I had New Year’s Eve night in my friends’ apartment. And when finally I wake her, I will wake her gently. She will be startled, certainly. Very likely more than simply startled. But I have come to know and admire in her such intellectual and emotional elasticity: such an overwhelming willingness to accept the magic a night brings.

And once her shock and surprise and startlement pass—and they will pass—I will whisper three words to her: “I am sorry.”


After that I will share with her my secret. Then I will kiss her and whisper something else. Three other words... which are the beginning of true magic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's lovely.