ALL TIMES/DATES ARE PDT (Pacific Daylight Time Zone). PDT is 8 hours “before” Greenwich (England). (As long as Britain is also on Daylight time.) For example, when it is noon PST, it is 8 pm in England. The “World Clock” in the right margin gives you some clues. (You can also Google “time zone converter.”)
START NOTHING: 3:49 am Sun. to 1:52 am Mon., 7:21 pm Tues. to 2:42 pm Wed., and 1:20 pm Fri. to 2:34 am Sat.
Well, I tried what for me was a huge move – putting my fiction on this blog (in the “Afteramble,” below the Weekly Forecasts). I’ve got to admit, reactions were mixed. Some readers didn’t even know the first piece, “Hello Mr. Stranger,” was a story; many thought it was a personal confession. A friend called to say, “You never told me about THIS love affair!” I suspect some of you see – saw – me as a sweet, innocent, monkish astrologer – a persona I surely cultivated – and were shocked by this tale of madness and desire. How could I descend into this? One reader — Sam — called it “porn” and “filth.” But the story is not porn – the “sex scenes” in it (if you can call them that) take up a mere 5 % of the story. (Gee, Sam, if you want to rail against porn, why don’t you picket “50 Shades of Grey?”)
In this story I was trying to explore personalities that an astrology column can’t handle. The poor guy in “Hello Mr. Stranger” has a major flaw: he can’t commit; yet 30 years later he is drawn to the very thing he couldn’t commit to. He’s so bored by the isolation his lack of commitment has trapped him in, that he becomes addicted to the thrill of flirting with madness. (Seen another way, he would rather commit to a memory than to a real person.) He tries to reconstruct his long-ago night of “connection” in his fantasy by renting and furnishing her former apartment — but destiny has an ultimate switch in store. The woman he gets involved with while chasing his fantasy, turns out to be the very woman he’s been fantasizing about. It’s a love story and a horror story all in one – “Outer Limits” for the heart.
(All madness resides in narcissism, I’d like to say, though I’m probably wrong. In “Strangers” the hero – a bad man – seems to be in control the whole time; but in the end – the hallucination and his chest going cold – we realize he is not in control at all. People are scared to surrender to love because they fear losing control. But surrender is control. Every Pisces instinctively knows this. If you think about it, the hero of “Stranger” is pathetic: so insulated from others, so unattractive, that he has to chase a memory of a 30-year-ago one-night-stand.)
We all become what we are. I am what I am. If I surprised you, I’m sorry. Goodness and horror lie within me, as they do within us all. Next time, I’ll put in a “nicer” story. This one was about a narcissist searching for love; the next one will be about a family man searching for himself.
And, hey, listen: if you don’t like the “Afteramble,” don’t read it. That’s easy!
Well, I told you years ago when Harper was first elected PM of Canada, that the civil servants would rebel against him. Today I’m watching a demonstration by federal scientists protesting Harper’s policies.
So far this year, gang violence has killed over 1,800 people in El Salvador. This tiny nation is now per capita the most violent in the western hemisphere. Look at the name: E (the Gemini letter) and S (the Capricorn letter). Capricorn is the 8th sign after Gemini, so Capricorn is Gemini’s “8th house.” Almost any astrologer will tell you that the 8th rules death, especially death by violence.
On a similar note, why is North America so successful, compared to South America’s constant warring with insurgents, political upheavals and financial crises? Well, look at the names: N.A. = Virgo-Aries. Like El Salvador, this is an 8th house set-up, and there is much death in N.A., but also much research, innovation, determination and financial success. (Other attributes of the 8th house.) But S.A. = Capricorn-Aries, two very competitive signs who especially don’t like each other. (Aries is Capricorn’s 4th sign, or sign of home, security – which frustrates Capricorn, as Cap is the sign of boundless ambition, OUTSIDE the home.) So S.A. tends to be fractious, tumultuous, hard to control. Business seldom thrives in such an atmosphere.
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, after a young boyhood in the southeastern U.S. If anything, Vancouver is more pristine than ever. A brand new city, filled with millionaires and a pestilence of new buildings, boulevards and shops. (The downside is, you cannot be poor in Vancouver. It’s a ghetto of the rich and professional. Oriental women walk its blocks like lionesses, their brilliant billionaire husbands dealing deals in China.) It’s hard, when you live here, to imagine the ruin that prevails in many American east coast cities. A few years ago I drove to Philadelphia, and suffered a kind of culture shock: whole streets, even main streets, were lined for blocks and blocks with old three-and-four story row houses which were obviously occupied, but were literally crumbling: stairs were missing or fallen down, windows broken, entire façades peeling, wood and plaster falling down. It looked like a segment of hell had been sliced off. (Later, I saw this crumbling streets vision in Inception, the sci-fi movie filled with dreamscapes of massive, falling old buildings.)
Now someone in Baltimore has suggested that they should tear down all the old ghetto buildings. That this would somehow cure the rise of anger that the recent police murder of Freddie Gray revealed. (The murder didn’t cause the anger; it revealed it.) But I don’t know about this suggestion. It only takes a year, and an attitude, to turn a new neighbourhood into a ghetto.
There are two economies in the U.S. – a white-latino economy (which itself is two, rich and poor) and a black one. In many cities in America, I can buy a nice house on a charming, tree-lined street for, say, $ 300,000. Two or five miles away, I can buy the same nice house on a charming, tree-lined street for $ 50,000 – in a black district. I think poor white people should start buying houses in the black districts. This way, you solve a few problems: Poor whites have an opportunity to buy an affordable house. With the influx of whites, providing they get along (which could be aided by community meetings, outside counsellors, etc.) property values in the African American neighbourhoods would gradually rise, benefiting black home owners. And as neighbourhoods and their local businesses became integrated, the stark lines separating black and white neighbourhoods might slowly soften. Intermarriage would increase, and society would slowly grow more homogeneous – and less prejudiced. At present federal law prohibits realtors from steering black clients to black ‘hoods, or white clients away from black neighbourhoods. I’ve negotiated perhaps 20 house purchases in the U.S. since 2006, in many states (bought none). In 9 of 10 instances, when I tried to buy something in a black neighbourhood realtors – without saying anything – just refused to co-operate. They became unavailable. So the law is good, but the enforcement is zero. You can’t blame only the realtors. Racism is the U.S. is a many-splendored thing, composed of a hundred “less than racist” attitudes. It weaves through the fabric of life and infects even compassion.
(Anyone who thinks there is less racism in the U.S. than, say, twenty years ago, just has to look at white, republican Congress’ hatred of their first black President. The same Republicans who spend their valuable time trying to deny blacks and poor people a vote in elections. Though there is another side to this: the “I’m your teacher” arrogance with which Obama speaks down to Congress (and now the Senate). But as I predicted, this irrational animosity has quieted down in 2014 and 15.)
This house/neighbourhood idea would need courage on the part of the “migrating” whites, and tolerance from the black community – which, from my mostly Canadian viewpoint, is every bit as filled with racism as white society – with one major difference: they have ample reason to be so. (This is general, of course. Many whites and blacks are not prejudiced at all. But many are, and don’t even admit it to themselves. In my experience, the best anti-racist program in the states is the military.)
ARIES March 21-April 19
Start nothing new, major before June 11. The main accent lies on errands, communications, casual friends, news media, short trips, paperwork and details. Make a list before you shop, etc. Double-check figures and addresses. Long-lost mail might finally arrive. You’re friendly, talkative and likable now, but you can also be too impulsive about life’s small daily business – try to slow down, or you’ll waste time in wild goose chases. Former acquaintances return, or you run into them on the street. Remember, your main luck – until August – lies in love, romance, teaching, creative and speculative ventures. These are highlighted Sunday. But don’t start anything new in these; instead, embrace what/who you have. (Don’t rewrite an essay or creative piece before June 11 –you’d make it worse.) Tackle chores Monday (very carefully; misdirection and frustration abound) and Tuesday (charge ahead, all’s good). Eat, dress sensibly. Stick to routine early Wed. – this pm through Friday brings relationships, relocation themes. Nice people, potential mates, fresh horizons, negotiations – all bring easy co-operation Wed., Thurs. daytime – and a mild struggle, some confused thinking, Thurs. night (PDT) and Fri. Life’s depths, finances and “fate” bless you Saturday in home, security and intimate matters, but not in romance.
TAURUS April 20-May 20
Start no new projects nor relationships before June 11. The main emphasis this week and the next three lies on money, earnings, buying/selling, possessions, sensual attractions and memory. If you have something going in these areas, protect it from delays, missed appointments, indecision and second thoughts, etc. Your money flow is very swift now – more money than usual will flow your way until June 24, but make sure you bank it or pay down debt, for your urge to spend is very high – and unprofitable (lemons abound). Someone from the past, a friendly, sensual person, might return – but if this link bored you in the past, despite some good sex, he/she will in future also. Your gift of gab and writing skills are high and gracious now, so answer all queries that you put aside the last month or two. Sunday’s for home, food and shelter, kids, garden, Mother Nature – remember, this is your main source of “big luck” until mid-August. Romance, beauty, pleasure, creative and gambling urges visit you Monday (beware!) Tuesday (all’s fine, charge ahead) and Wednesday am (stick to routine). (Don’t rework a creative project from the past – you’ll make it more complicated, awkward.) Tackle chores Wed. eve through Friday. Wed.’s good, to mid-afternoon Thurs., then irritations might arise (e.g., you’re a janitor and they locked the offices you’re supposed to clean) – proceed slowly, diplomatically. Saturday brings an exciting meeting that raises your hopes!
GEMINI May 21-June 20
Your energy and charisma – and popularity – reach a two-year high, Gemini. Get out, mingle, impress people, etc. But DO NOT start new projects nor form brand-new relationships, before June 11. Instead, turn that energy and magnetism toward any of 3 goals: impressing others; protecting ongoing projects from delays, supply shortages, missed appointments, indecision, etc.; and/or reprise past projects and/or relationships. It’s not so much that you will meet an old flame in the next few weeks; rather, you’re the old flame. (Tho’ it comes to the same thing.) In reprising past projects, land, home, family, seem to be top choices: repair that furniture, or re-dig that garden. Sunday brings errands, friends, news, books/magazines, coffee, paperwork, details – but in all this, relax. Enjoy rather than accomplish. Your domestic arena, home, kids, spouse, garden, security, offer problems Monday, but solutions Tuesday. (The problems might involve higher-ups, bosses or authorities who don’t like you being so assertive, humorous or speedy – that includes tickets for the same.) Stick to routine chores Wednesday – this eve through Friday brings romance, beauty, pleasure, creative and gambling urges. Yes, you could fall in love, especially with a Libra, but remember, no new major relationships – they would end in confusion and lack of commitment. Be cautious Thurs. night and Friday, when you and another might be on very different wavelengths. Tackle chores, protect health, Saturday – all’s well, you’re emotionally inspired (about career, too).
CANCER June 21-July 22
Start no new projects nor relationships before June 11, Cancer. Until then, protect ongoing projects from delays, shortages, misunderstandings and second thoughts. You have just entered a “rest period” until June 21 – don’t overexert, and withdraw from competitive situations. Although it’s still too early to plan (before June 11) do contemplate how you got here, where you’d like to go. Contemplate your soul, karma, spirituality and all that. You might hear from the government or an institution, about a chore or paperwork you neglected. This is a good time to deal with civil servants, but treat them respectfully, for, in your present position, they can bite. You might be invited, at work, to resume or assume a management role. (This might only last a few weeks, so reserve your permanent “yea” or “nay” – see what evolves by mid-June.) In general, stay away from belligerent people, and quick, sneaky ones, until June 24. Sunday brings money – or spending. Stick to routine. A fine day. Errands, casual friends, siblings, communications, short trips, paperwork and details fill Monday (careful, stubborn lovers and con artists lurk) Tues. (fine, charge ahead) and Wed. am (stick to routine). Your domestic situation pleases your heart Wed. pm into Thurs. afternoon. But Thurs. night is confused, someone might be lying. By Friday’s afternoon, you feel comfortably ensconced in family joy. Saturday’s for romance – but considering your low energy, stick with “old faithful,” or enjoy love’s imagination.
LEO July 23-Aug. 22
Remember, Leo, start nothing before June 11, in any area. Until then, old hopes, old optimism will return, as will former associates or a special group. Welcome all from the past, friends and lovers. (If you’re married, make that friends.) Someone from long ago might contact you from another continent. Be a wee bit sceptical of this person – let them prove their worth, love, whatever. You’re in a very social period until late June – one you meet in a group might even prove to be a life mate. Still, don’t “chase this” before June 11. Your popularity, happiness have seldom been higher – don’t ruin it with a fight or pursuit of secret aims (pleasure or career/status/ambition goals). You’ll draw many second glances Sunday, as your energy and magnetism soar. Chase money Monday to midday Wed. Careful Monday – a friendly person might be trying to talk you out of your money, or, perhaps innocently, gives you wrong investment advice. Friends disagree with your goals or are bothered by your secretiveness. Tuesday’s fine. Wednesday eve brings errands, communications, casual acquaintances, paperwork, short trips, news. Be curious, explore, ask questions. All’s great until Thurs. night, when a bit of alienation and confusion enter. Rumors are untrue. Friday’s disruptive early, but fine. Head for home, putter around your ‘hood, Saturday – great day to fix plumbing, research, nap in the garden.
VIRGO Aug. 23-Sept. 22
Start nothing new in any area before June 11, Virgo. You’re starting to feel indecisive, especially about career, community standing, finances, investments and debt, intimacy, a possible physical attraction. You might be thrust into a past role in any of these – for instance, a former career role might return briefly, an old lover calls, an investment opportunity returns. In all these, but especially in financial and sexual arenas, proceed with some scepticism. Otherwise, just plod along, support your end of things, and let others screw up, especially in career. Be ambitious without starting any project or proposal. Don’t grow determined, aggressive or angry in career or in dealing with authorities. Double check all instructions, commands, figures, facts, money and schedules. (E.g., order in extra supplies rather than be stranded on the job by shortages.) Lie low, contemplate and rest Sunday. Your energy returns Monday to midday Wednesday. Careful Monday – spouse, partners, even your “public” might act unpredictably. The cause lies within you: somehow, you’ve mixed lust and love, or secrets and trust, and are giving (and now getting) mixed signals. Tues./Wed. are fine. Chase money, try to collect from late payers, and pay your own neglected bills, Wed. afternoon through Friday. Buy nothing more major than socks or underwear. Be cautious Thurs. night, Friday – someone you want to approach doesn’t understand your efforts. Saturday’s for errands, short trips, news media, casual friends. A little nudge of fate might cause you to meet someone special, someone who would make a great emotional/social partner, but perhaps also makes you fear something.
LIBRA Sept. 23-Oct. 22
Start no new relationships nor projects before June 11, Libra, especially in legal, intellectual, import-export, educational, publishing, advertising, far travel, love or religion. You’re in the mood to charge ahead in these areas, but your initial impulse can meet irritating, defeating headwinds if you jump on a new venture. (For example, if you fell in love with someone new now, you’d spend years in an indecisive, inconclusive relationship.) So spend your time protecting ongoing ventures, or reprise projects from the past – in these very areas: legal, intellectual, travel, etc. An old flame might appear; if so, this link could become a significant one. Bosses, parents and authorities favour you until June 5. Sunday’s optimistic, flirty – you’re popular! But in terms of practical efforts, stick to routine. Retreat, rest and recharge Monday to midday Wed. Be careful Monday – your health needs attention, and others/events (co-workers?) seem determined to pull you into a fight. Tuesday brings solutions. Your energy and charisma soar Wed. pm through Fri. – act early, as success lasts until Thurs. afternoon, then barriers arise – a bit of confusion, a bit of opposition. Chase money Saturday, and shop – but not for anything major.
SCORPIO Oct. 23-Nov. 21
Avoid starting any new projects or relationships before June 11. Instead, protect ongoing interests and/or reprise something from the past. An old “lust” flame might return, a magnetic, volatile person. Look back to judge whether to re-enter this relationship or not. Was it always just lust, or is there a way to turn this into a more ethical, socially acceptable union? Might be a co-worker, or former one. Love favours you now, until June 5. Sunday’s for ambition, worldly status – but not much of future significance will come this day (unless you live in Asia, Australia or India, etc.) so enjoy the respect you get. Your popularity rises Monday to midday Wednesday: hope, fresh air, flirtation, happy friends, entertainment and social delights buoy your mood. Despite your ebullient spirits, though, Monday needs care: romance doesn’t work (it’s more like fantasy romance anyway) neither does anger or assertiveness. Wait until Tues./Wed. to try to figure out a puzzling relationship. Retreat Wed. afternoon through Friday – rest, contemplate, deal with government, with head office and institutions. Charitable, spiritual concerns need your attention. Thursday eve forms a dividing line: smooth sailing before this line, choppy waters after. Your energy and charisma soar Saturday – chase someone you already know!
SAGITTARIUS Nov. 22-Dec. 21
Remember, Sage, start no new projects nor relationships before June 11. Instead, protect ongoing ventures from indecision, second thoughts, delays, missing personnel, etc. A former partner in business, or mate in love, marriage, might reappear. If so, as stated last week, this could be a quite significant relationship. Intimacy could be reached rather quickly, and the sex is good. The part you have to decide on (provided you’re single and looking) is whether the romantic side is a gift, obtainable with work, or just a permanent frustration. Someone is more assertive than usual – this could be the one. Despite the Mercury retrograde (until June 11) this could be an important May/June, one that can even bring you to marriage by August. It is a “figuring it out” period, a delay that makes you slow down, think, and decide who and what you do value. Sunday’s for love, profound thoughts and international concepts – a lovely day. Be ambitious – or at least duteous – Monday to midday Wed. Careful Monday – sharp words, confusion, threats to your security, these demand a level, cool head. Tuesday onward, all flows well. Your hopes soar Wed. eve through Friday. Wish fulfillment, flirtation, entertainment, social joys and popularity bring happiness. But it’s better before Thurs. afternoon than after. Retreat Saturday: rest, contemplate.
CAPRICORN Dec. 22-Jan. 19
Don’t start new projects nor relationships before June 11, Cap, especially in work, employment, machinery and (daily) health zones. Instead, work to protect ongoing ventures from delays, misunderstandings, supply and people shortages, etc. Or, reprise ventures/links from the past. Though you might yearn to, do not buy machinery or tools. Others treat you with grace and affection until June 5, so even if you ask for a date and are refused, you’ll be rejected so nicely and warmly that you might wonder if the answer really was “no.” Sunday’s for mysteries, research, sexual desire, and large finances. Go slow, only commit to anything if you live in Europe (all forenoon) or Asia (all day). Intellectual horizons broaden for you Monday to midday Wednesday. Higher education, religion, publishing, advertising, legal, cultural and far-travel developments call you. But take care Monday, when a disagreement at work, or a rash, or other disruptions can irk you. Tues./Wed. are fine. Wednesday eve through Friday emphasize your career, ambitions, dealings with authorities or parents – these flow well to Thurs. afternoon, then meet resistance, confusion – time your actions accordingly. Wish fulfillment, optimism, popularity, freshness and social happiness visit you Saturday!
AQUARIUS Jan. 20-Feb. 18
Start nothing new, Aquarius, in either projects or relationships, before June 11. Usually, this is a good time to reprise the past, but you’d be wise to leave old creative works alone. A former flame might appear. This could be a significant relationship. But if you have to travel to it, or there’s a lot more talk than action, or you dither within yourself about it, then take a second look before leaping/committing. Co-workers treat you affectionately until June 5. Sunday’s for relationships (NOT new ones) – all is fine, co-operative. Life’s secrets rise to the surface Monday to midday Wednesday. Lifestyle changes, medical diagnoses, research or detective work, large finances, and sexual yearning fill these days. Take care Monday, when you can be fooled about money, or possessiveness can suffocate romance. (Thurs. night’s similar.) But Tues./Wed. flow with ease and solutions. A wise, gentle mood floats into you Wed. eve through Friday – higher learning, law, far travel, intellectual pursuits, publishing, culture, international dealings and gentle love, all or any are possible. These succeed before Thursday afternoon, but hit headwinds this eve and Friday. Head for home Saturday (or for a local swimming pool) – family, gardening, plumbing, money, earnings, all please and bless!
PISCES Feb. 19-March 20
Start no new projects nor relationships before June 11, Pisces. In fact, don’t even end a relationship now. (You’ll feel differently later.) Protect ongoing projects in partnership, relocation, public interfacing, negotiations, and in domestic, property, gardening and similar areas. These are the zones most likely hit by the present slow down. Romance continues to wind its sweet relief through your days, until June 5. The general emphasis lies on rest, hibernation, domestic concerns, security and retirement. Take plenty of naps; eat sensibly. Show family you still love them. Tackle routine chores Sunday (in Europe, Asia, tackle self-improvement or electrical or computing chores). Relationships could enter a wind tunnel of opposition Monday, as home, family, might fight your desires, or a lover has a wee tantrum. Be flexible, forgiving. Tuesday and Wed. bring relief, and solutions. You veer into life’s mysterious side Wed. eve through Fri. – study your finances, reduce debt, research, investigate, try to live a healthier lifestyle (though it won’t last) and send a sexy note or call. These succeed until about Thursday afternoon, then meet some resistance into Friday. The resistance might stem mostly from a misunderstanding, so don’t take it too seriously, nor try to “squelch” it. Saturday brings wisdom, intuition, gentle love and understanding.
Twenty years before, Todd would spend an hour in any ordinary restaurant with a calculator, calculating the eventual result – least and best – of a bond investment, a mortgage commitment, or his wages. All that calculating – or luck – had proven profitable. Now, at 58, he was comfortably affluent, and did little work. But he missed the guts. Now he would go into a café, order a pie and coffee, and know the rough answer even before he drew his calculator or his pen out (or for that matter, lifted his fork). It was an empty exercise. He had nothing to gain, no strong impulse of greed or security, and he felt the vacuum of this. It felt like his life was lazily sliding over warm ice. Not in any danger, but without traction.
He’d grown up poor, but somewhere, somewhere physical and psychic, he’d picked up a level of sophistication that allowed him no comfort from driving a big Cadillac, or wearing loud clothes, or speaking loudly in cafes, or showing off his modest wealth. So he drove a tin-box Tracker, five years old, and dressed in jeans. (Though here, as a tourist, he had a shiny red rented compact car, a Yaris.) And he was too aware – or perhaps too passive – to slide into deeper forms of decadence. He was too close to death, at 58, to welcome or seek any exotic degradation of his soul. And he found repulsive any vision of himself as, say, a haunter of brothels in his slack-skinned grayness, or a ravager of rear ends, an oily porpoise perched on some brocaded couch. The lust, the selfishness, the egoistic use of another—none of these appealed to him. Other avenues of passion had closed years and months ago – he couldn’t locate the exact door, now that it had closed, the quiet clink, light as the tendril of breeze that swims the bedroom space, or lifts the kitchen curtains; but a clink still, or perhaps a click, but definite, the admission to himself that he knew the difference between love and lust. So he couldn’t with clean, burning heart – heart justified with the high octane of rebellion, or biology, or a rationalizing philosophy of love’s permission– he couldn’t chase young lust, or, as he had in his twenties, a married woman. He knew what love was. He loved his wife, married three years; and he loved his children: one, Nancy, seventeen and almost gone away to school, and Joseph, nineteen and Tony, twenty-two, both gone already. To top it off, he was Catholic. His fear of hell, his suspicion that an afterlife existed, kept him from obvious forms of decadence.
Despite all these reasons for satisfaction, for contentment with the arrangement, he had felt clearly, lately, several times in the last few months, a large, fluid, not painful, not fearsome, but bothersome emptiness. It sloshed inside him like a light, floating liquid, so that at the oddest moments, while he was rounding a mental corner, it would slosh up and surprise him with its cool, light touch.
At the moment he sat, ankle on knee, on a black iron-slatted bench in the sunshine, at a downtown corner of Cobourg, Ontario, an obvious tourist in his duck shorts, while Margaret went poking about in the local stores, hunting for souvenirs for the kids – his three and her two, all grown except for his 17-year old Nancy, the bouncy baby of the family – and the one who resented her step-mother.
He might easily live to 88 – 30 years away. Too long, if the emptiness continued. He was even bored by his life’s favorite hobby – looking at real estate.
“Hi!” he said breathlessly, rising, as if he’d just arrived, standing ready. Margaret advanced on him like he was a plan, a scheme she had to unfold quickly.
“Hi. Look. I want to go to that dress store. Here’s a realty thing.” She handed him a local real estate home buyer’s sheet. “Can you give me another fifteen minutes?” She waited impatiently for his answer. Lately she often showed a mild, hidden impatience toward him. He assumed it was related to his quiet passivity, to the circling wafts of emptiness he had begun to sense.
The next day, he decided to look at a piece in the “realty thing.” Fifty acres at a bargain price, but strange directions. He drove a half hour north of Cobourg to, as the directions stated, a dead end road. Walk past the railway tracks. He didn’t see the tracks, and the road wasn’t a dead-end, but continued, not paved, water gullies running like emptied veins down its middle, but broad, graveled, obviously drive-able. There was a “No Exit” sign and a yellow sign stating that this was an “non-maintained” road. One of his greatest fears was being stuck in some back trail, unable to turn the vehicle around, and the embarrassment of reporting to the rental agency that he was a schmuck. So despite the drivable appearance of the passageway, he parked the car off the paved intersection, and set off on foot.
After the road climbed a hill through treed cover, almost a forest, it leveled out and large abandoned agricultural fields lay on either side. Knee-high grass and weeds grew in sudden, isolated clumps, and here and there clumps of green bushes had grown up, like oases in the dry fields, green mirages promising something sweet and aromatic in the desert of sandy, rust-red dirt. There’d been a recent rain; the soil, compacted by the falling drops, baked softly in the September sun.
The road was long, wide and very open for an un-maintained passage. It surprised him, cast a spooky whisper over his journey. As he walked, two vehicles approached from the distance before him. He waved as they passed, the country wave, a hand held peaceably up, open-palmed, but neither driver, nor the one passenger, a grim woman, waved back from the first white car. A black SUV with tinted windows followed. He trudged along, considering whether to turn back. But a native stubbornness kept him going.
A half hour later the road entered between two bosomy swells of green, nodding trees. Fifty feet before him a wide steel-and-wire gate, solidly locked and flanked by a wire fence, blocked his way. No realty sign. Just a “KEEP OUT.” He was half tempted to hop it anyway; it promised much more than the poor second way to his left. But remembering the grim people who’s driven past him, he decided not to push. The left fork grew into – actually, dwindled into – a much more modest clay track, the width of a car, that ran at first through a grassy clearing. It was a small, lush, sunlit clearing, and the bordering trees were warm and shining in the sun, so he turned quietly and wandered into that road, watching the trees. There, twelve feet up a tree, obviously up there because vandals had trashed earlier, bigger signs that now lay scattered, rain-curled, rotted and sun-faded in the grassy verge, high up there was a small realty sign, less weathered but only half readable, almost apologetic – and cryptic: “For #ale – 905-#43- #2#3. Mat# Besoig##e #0 acr##.
He contemplated whether to go further, or to back away from this place, which scared him slightly. To give himself time, he stood and tried to absorb the goodness of things, the lush meadow, the bright, shiny grass coming forth from the fertile earth, growing, blossoming – but it didn’t get rid of the spooky feeling he had.
His mind jumped to an internet movie he’d watched some weeks ago, a crude documentary that insisted Christianity was merely disguised sun worship, and Jesus was a myth, based on the progress of the Sun (“son” exchanged for “sun”) the 12 disciples, the 12 astrological constellations, Jesus’ birth – born at winter solstice, just as the Sun was reborn, and that Jesus was simply another in a long succession of prior Sun-man-gods, Mithra, Horus, Orpheus – all born of virgins, all born around Dec.21, all with 12 disciples…
Intellectually he agreed with the proposition, but his heart missed being encompassed (he was born Catholic) by the boundaries, the arms, of a nurturing, protecting invisible thing, by the promise that if he were good, all would be well, forever…
I am good, he thought.
Not really heartened, he ventured further, diffidently, wondering where the 50 acres lay. Soon the road thinned to a deeply rutted cart path, now dry and hard as stone. The ruts were so deep and narrow that he had to walk on top of the hard clay peaks, a foot above the ruts. The thin-limbed trees, which seemed to wrestle with each other, so closely embraced the road that he stopped himself from falling into the ruts by grasping their branches. The peaks and furrows constantly interchanged, so he had to leap nimbly from peak to peak. He tried walking in the narrow furrows, but gave up after scraping his ankles painfully on their hard, unforgiving sides – he grew afraid, too, that his foot would lock in a furrow and, losing his balance, he might snap or twist an ankle. So he stumbled awkwardly along the bruising road. The trees closed in even more, their weak, leaf-swathed arms brushing his face or bare arms with the tentative grasp of lovers. It had cooled, gnats swirled lazily in the dankness. The sunlight, though he saw it above, didn’t lie in the path. Something made a sound in the brush, and he jumped.
With an irrational sliver of panic, he ducked into a hollowed side path from the rutted trail – it ran through a screen of bushes, then emerged in a vast, hot bowl dotted with scrub bushes. It was so large he could not see a tree-line defining any boundaries or horizon. Everywhere, paths ran up and down small ridges and hollows, and wound around. He began to walk down one. He began to fear getting lost, there were so many hard-packed trails baking in the sun, too many to remember his turns and twists. So at each fork he took the right hand one, assuming this would eventually bring him back to where he was. He heard nothing, no machines, no dirt bikes. Fear, unknown fear lay about him. They must be biker trails, but the paths were such hard clay – and in some dips so sandy – that no tracks showed. What else could they be? He began to feel not silly, but ridiculous. He feared being discovered alone by a wild troop of bikers or men or young men. It was his aloneness, and his obvious lack of reason for being here, his obvious lack of purpose, that would make him odd, ridiculous, and he knew how gangs of men, especially young men, sometimes felt a need to exterminate or thump the ridiculous, to exterminate absurdity. Absurdly, he strode on, almost brave now.
After awhile, pausing first to feel, to grope at the deep, almost melancholy thrill it produced in him, wondering what it meant, he strode left down one small roller coaster path, then right, then right again (then, forgetting himself, left) and at last, with a rising heart, a slight, light lift, he gave up trying to note which way he’d come….
The exhilaration of abandoning his right-turn plan, he supposed, would last as long as he chose to make it last. As long as he chose to be lost, that sad, sweet lift of his heart would hover strong as a silent hummingbird. But if he regretted being lost, if he wanted to go back, then fear would strike.
He stopped short and jerked upright in the twilight, heart pounding: there, at the base of a bush, were feet, and bright blue sky. He bent quickly before thinking. It was a mirror someone had propped against a bush: it was his own feet and legs. He knelt and leaned, peering, his face, oily, sweaty, his eyes overly serious, staring back to pierce him. That face was demanding, guarding his inner secrets without humor, perhaps secrets he held from himself. He stood quickly, afraid someone might be near, at his back. He surveyed the land around, though he was in one of the thousand small hollows, and couldn’t see much. Without humor – seeing its lack in his face bothered him. Twilight was approaching. He had to go home.
Then, without sound or warning, to one side of the trail, a man squatted. The man watched him. Suspiciously, or with assured violence? Todd couldn’t tell. His unkempt beard was grizzled gray. He held a large sack tightly by its closed throat.
“You startled me,” Todd said. Though, strangely, he didn’t feel startled at all. After the shock of the mirror, he didn’t feel any surprise. In fact, another human being was welcome.
“The mirrors tell me when someone’s coming,” the man said in a voice that was slightly off kilter, his tongue hanging on an eccentric hinge. “It reflects up there.” His eyes looked up at the sky, as far as Todd could tell. “And when it’s gone, the light’s gone, someone’s here. Right here.”
“Yeah, I see,” Todd said politely. “What’s in the sack?”
“Everything I need, nothing you need. No sir.”
“You live around here?” Todd asked.
“Only until someone comes. Comes home.”
“Do you know the way out?”
“Yes and no.” The madman closed his lips solidly around that.
There was a silence. A breeze flew over and through Todd. The atmosphere changed. Todd, still terrified of the intense, demanding, serious face that had confronted him in the shard of mirror, as if to ward it off, blurted out suddenly, “I just want love,” but clearly and loudly, enunciating each word, as if the madman could not hear. Then the breeze vanished. The air was still and clear again. Todd felt shamed and humiliated, vulnerable, open. Excited by having made such a pure, brave, senseless statement.
“Got to go,” he mumbled, and stumbled away from the mad man – not in fear, because he heard nothing following.
“What was that,” he thought, nervously trying to logically place the madman in this desert of clay and sand. Why was he here? But Todd’s hopes of getting quickly home reared up in disappointed surprise as he saw, several lurches down a hard-packed clay hill, that mirrors now were everywhere, large shards and small ones, well-preserved squares and circles and jagged pieces, all strung haphazardly from bush branches by string, or crooked in the forks of twigs and branches. There must have been twenty or thirty. The sky reflected crazily in most of them; some were bright, some were dark, reflecting nothing. Seeing them, Todd drew physically into himself, drew his shoulders in, his arms tight to his chest, legs squeezed together, scrotum pulled in, and half-turned, almost like a small pirouette; he shuddered, one huge shiver. He looked at the horizon, where now the tops of trees showed, golden in the late afternoon. “This will end soon,” he thought with determination. He took one step forward, then caught himself – that way lay a dream, too much exploration – turned, and headed back in – hopefully – the general direction he’d come – veering to the left, though, to skirt around the place where he’d met the madman. Generally, he hoped and guessed, he stumbled along in the direction where he’d find the road – and everything familiar. He clomped along. His legs were tired but his motivation was strong, making his steps large and clumsy.
The way back almost accomplished itself, was surprisingly quick, easy and smooth, as if his instincts had known where to go all the time. Suddenly, there was the line of trees and weeds of the rutted road.
An hour later, back in the car, he luxuriated briefly in a sense of security. He would never tell anyone what he saw that day. Adjusting the rear-view mirror before he pulled into the road, he caught a glimpse of himself. His expression was so fierce it again surprised him. But now, rather than worry about it, he quickly looked away and pictured the road back to Cobourg.
A day later, they flew home. That evening, he sat in a booth at the White Spot Restaurant with Margaret and his son Tony and his son’s wife. He hardly knew his son’s wife. She was always quiet, but he could see intelligence in her eyes. His son was intelligent too, he knew, but he masked it, kept his voice guarded and his eyes wary. The four of them chatted without purpose, hesitantly.
He first saw her bend down, two booths away and across the aisle, all six feet of her folding with a strange, fascinating poise, as she extended a graceful arm under the booth to pick up something spilled. There was nothing remarkable about her appearance, yet an invisible magic crept and moved about her, a magic maybe only he could see (for no crowds gathered around her – in fact, later, he half wondered if she had just appeared that instant – part of him – that he would not admit to the surface – thought she was a goddess) – she seemed suspended between all extremes, neither beautiful nor ugly, fat nor thin. A healthy head of black hair, movements slow and poised, a black skirt and white blouse – she was nineteen or twenty. He turned back to his family, feeling both satisfied and intrigued. The notion of fascination – letting himself be fascinated – was impractical and inappropriate, so he dismissed it.
But several minutes later she was at the table, laying their cutlery, and he felt she’d come because she’d caught him watching her. Her body, her stance and smile radiated ownership of him, and he liked it, immensely. She laid his setting last. The cloth napkin wouldn’t lay flat; it had half opened. She opened, folded and laid it again, without hurry, and flattened it with a careful, sensual caress. Her whole hand slowly pressed the napkin. Glancing upward at this gesture, he saw her looking with soft directness at him. Her eyes stroked him with quiet assurance, with unassuming but intimate confidence. He averted his eyes swiftly, to stare down again at that strangely pleasing hand; it lingered a moment longer, pressing the napkin, signaling untold, underwater pleasures. He could tell that hand had never had children, it was too calm and certain – mothers’ hands were tentative, hovering, compassionate, alert with nervous care.
He was grateful, felt the experience was worth – everything. He had been touched by a god. He knew immediately that everything in life, everything, only equaled one moment of that invisible touch. He also surmised, immediately, that this alluring hand knew cock, it caressed that napkin to tell him just that. He could see its graceful length stroking, hypnotizing. He looked up again, but this time at the table of his family, masking his guilt. He feared his momentary obsession had become obvious to everyone at the table. He fled the goddess.
He fled because if she had said, “Arise and come with me,” he would have. He automatically chose to avoid his children’s shame, his wife’s hurt, the human wreckage. Even as he watched his son and Margaret talk, refusing to look around the restaurant for the goddess, he felt steeped in the elixir she’d poured upon him. But he could say nothing, and he did nothing, except to now look at his son and lower a bucket into the well of his store of ordinary thoughts, to that shiny, dissatisfied pool of ordinary words that, despite its opacity, must offer him something to say, a bit of ordinary conversation, to disguise his secret adventure, to disguise everything, as he felt her go away; and he knew he would never see her again. He had not proved worthy. But he failed to find anything ordinary to say fast enough, and his son stared blankly at him with opaque eyes, and Margaret said to his son, “Do you want wine, Tony?”
“Why have I been touched?” he wondered on the drive home. He could see Venus sitting in her bedroom, back straight, at her vanity mirror, contemplating her beautiful self. Regretting his earlier flight from her love potion, his eyes had covertly searched the restaurant for her as they exited. But she seemed to have vanished as completely as she’d appeared. “Does it have any meaning? Was it a signal? Am I meant to change my whole life? Am I meant to chase her? Nineteen or twenty-two maybe?”
That night, at home, Margaret couldn’t get a jar open. She dropped a knife. She exploded, began screaming at him.
“What’s the matter with you?” he said.
“I hate you! Pedophile! Pervert! I hate you!” Her words raged with anger and hurt. He didn’t understand. Of course, she must have noticed something. But he’d been faithful. He hadn’t chosen. Hadn’t abandoned her. He didn’t understand. He didn’t understand in the bigger way, either, anything. He went into his office, shut the door and sat at his desk with his hands over his ears, because her voice hurt his brains. He didn’t understand. But he felt frustratingly blessed. He seethed with delicious dissatisfaction.