October 32nd, Part 3: Personal Reality

Continued from Part 2

After hearing Carrie tell the story of Alex, the alien who became US President in this reality with an October 32nd, I sat there stunned for several minutes. Both at the radical shift in my entire concept of the universe — and at her amazingly concise summary of such an extraordinary series of events!

“Did you really just figure all that out while you were watching TV?” I asked.

She actually blushed when I said that. I couldn’t help noticing this made her several notches more attractive than I had initially thought.

“To be honest, most of that was cribbed from his Wikipedia article,” she said, looking down.

I snorted. She looked up in surprise, or perhaps offense. I smiled crookedly. “Please, don’t sell yourself short. I’ve read enough executive summaries to know how hard it is boil down the key points into a coherent story. That was amazingly helpful. Thank you,” I said, looking her directly in the eyes.

To my surprise, this time she didn’t look away. In fact, she seemed to be studying me, as if searching for something.

Finally she shrugged, as if she hadn’t found it. “Thanks. But I don’t see how that gets us any closer to understanding why we are here, and what we should do next.”

“Perhaps. But maybe…” I paused, uncertain.

“What?” she said, reaching out to brush my hand on the table.

I pulled back instinctively. “I’m sorry, its probably a silly idea.”

“Really? More silly than waking up in another dimension to discover a bug-eyed monster is President?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.

Now it was my turn to blush. “Well, maybe not, but it could sound, well, pretentious,” wondering even as I said it how she might react. Or why I cared.

To my relief, she neither laughed nor pulled away. Instead her face softened, as if connecting with my vulnerability. “I understand,” she said.

And… I believed her.

“You can trust me,” she added. “This whole situation is crazy. I believe you are simply trying your best to help us make sense of the impossible things that have happened, and I promise to receive whatever you say in the spirit you intended.”

I looked at her sharply, as if seeing her for the first time. Then nodded, suddenly sure of myself.

“Yes, exactly. That. You are an extraordinarily keen observer, uniquely qualified to understand the historical context. Whereas I…”

I couldn’t believe I was going to say this aloud, to a girl I’d just met. But something in her eyes gave me the courage to continue.

“I, well, I feel like I’ve spent my whole life preparing for this moment. While other kids spent weekends getting drunk at parties, I was surfing the Internet reading political blogs.

“Growing up in the shadow of 9/11, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the universe had been trying to tell us something important. Something profound, that would reshape our entire political worldview, if only we had ears to hear and eyes to see.

“But our institutions, our beliefs, our language and even our thoughts had become enslaved by the thousands of years of human history. The hard-won wisdom and lessons that got us here had become a dead weight that kept us from taking flight and finding a new way forward.”

I hung my head. I couldn’t bear to look at her.

“I became obsessed. People started saying I was crazy. They may have been right. I tried drugs, religion, nature retreats, anything I could think of to free my mind from these human ruts. When nothing worked I became moody, irritable. I started picking fights with my professors, ignoring my homework. My grades tumbled, my friends started avoiding me. My roommate…”

I dared to look up. Fearing judgement, I saw nothing but compassion in her eyes. I continued.

“My roommate is the sweetest, most understanding guy you would ever want to meet. I broke him. He says he couldn’t stand to watch me destroying myself like this. He gave up. Ran off to some crazy Jesus retreat with this girl he met, just to get away from me.”

I no longer saw her through the tears. I could barely hear my own voice.

“I guess I broke myself too. I just couldn’t do this anymore. The problems I saw were real, dammit. I couldn’t NOT see them. But I lost hope that I would ever, could ever find the answer. Worse, even I somehow managed to contort my brain into a shape that could grasp the truth I sought, I would only succeed by turning myself into something so freakish, so alien, that nobody would even understand me. Much less believe me. Never mind following me.”

I can’t see anything. But somewhere, as if from a great distance, I can feel her hand holding mine.

“So I decided… to give up. To partake of all the earthly pleasures I had denied myself. Get drunk, get laid… and then go jump off a bridge.”

I paused. After a long moment, I felt her squeeze my hand then let go. I never doubted she would return. But I couldn’t bear to look up and see her not there. Finally she comes and presses something soft into my hand. Tissues!

I clean myself up, then finally trust myself to look at her. Her face is full of compassion and sorrow, but also a tinge of curiosity. And maybe — though I’m probably imagining it — the tiniest bit of jealousy?

“Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out that way. The first part did: that was why I was so hung over when we met. But the girl… she played me brilliantly! Kept me enthralled all evening, then left abruptly after a quick kiss, with just enough ambiguity to make me think I might score next week.”

I avert my eyes as I say that last sentence. “I realize it sounds hopelessly shallow, but she gave me something to live for, after I felt I had failed at my whole purpose in being on this earth.”

I look up, and am cut to the quick by the pain in her face; though whether in sympathy or woundedness I know not. I hurry on.

“But that doesn’t matter. For whatever reason, the universe seems to be giving me a second chance. This announcement today from President Alex: this must be the answer I’ve been searching for. And you seem like exactly the right person to help explain it to the world. That has to be the reason we are here!”

I realize I am nearly shouting, as well as pounding the table. Fortunately, she seems more amused than offended. Which is more than I can say for the rest of the restaurant.

“Um, so anyway, that’s my theory,” I mumble lamely, looking down again, folding my hands on the table.

Two soft hands fold around mine. I dare to look up. Her face still contains traces of pain and sorrow, but she is grinning. “Works for me. I’m in.”

To be continued…


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