It must have been only yesterday that I thought that the cold ocean would never leave my life. I believed it would hold my heart and soul in its frozen grip forever, and I didn’t know what I could do about it. However today I realized that the huge refrigerator had stopped working. In the short time I spent sitting with Jack, the ocean became warm, filling my soul with joy and happiness. I I have only experienced such happiness a few times, in my childhood. Jack. How wonderful it is that he’s here by my side: Jack, the same guy I knew from school! Of course, I never thought that he could ever become so significant to me. I had a strange feeling: as though I had drunk some dry wine, though I had never drunk alcohol in my life.
We are sitting comfortably on the sofa, chatting about sports, drinking Coca-Cola, and it’s not at all important that I don’t understand half of what he’s saying. What is important is that for some reason I’m clearly coming to realize that all this time while my soul has been free of care, Jack has been somewhere nearby, supporting me.
“This was Bill,” says Jack. “As a youth he began playing American football like all the other boys. Bill was an extremely stylish guy. Every day that summer he trained for the game with the champions of California. When he began to have some success it seemed to him that it made him even more attractive and handsome. Bill managed to get the whole team going. His adrenaline was at peak level and he had strength to spare. Many people hated him, but many loved him too. Such energy was supposed never to end. And here I stand in front of him by his hospital bed and he tells me in a weak voice, almost crying, “I was trying to preserve my energy, but failed. I thought it would last me for a long time. I never thought I’d die, much less become an invalid. I don’t know what happened, Jack. I was absolutely sure we’d win. I had everything worked out. First I charged the first offense. I hit the left side of his body with my left elbow and with my right elbow hit down at him. It was dead easy to do that. After my hit he fell immediately. I knew it was illegal, it wasn’t ethical, but that’s the game. I hit another player the same way. But then a third player came after me, the huge black captain, and anxiety of some kind played a dirty trick on me. I tried the same approach with my left elbow against this black machine, and felt that it had worked… But then suddenly he hit the bottom of my helmet with his left hand, and it knocked me into a coma.”
Jack was telling me the story, and I knew that my hands were very close to touching his knee. He seemed to notice them and he quickly moved them away. That was the first time I had done anything like that! I was overcome by some strange feeling of stupor and I guessed it didn’t make me look too good. I apologized and went to the bathroom. Maybe I was like that football player who had that split second of uncertainty. When it came down to it I should have just sat there quietly and listened. I rooted in my bag, and for some reason came across my lipstick and mascara. Our meeting had been too unexpected for me. But he is just the man I want to be with. And it had come to pass: I’m with Jack in his house! I thought that the longer I stayed here, the worse it would look to him. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to meet him?
I glanced at my eyes and nails and thought that I would actually scare people if I went out on the street like this. And tears, my God. With me they were always appearing at the worst possible moment for reasons unknown to me. If I stay here another five minutes, I’m just not going out at all. I quickly fixed my make-up, smiled at the reflection in the mirror and went back to Jack.
“Sorry, Jack. Your story had a strong impact on me.” My voice sounded somehow strange.
“Would you like to lie down on the couch?” Jack asked. “I’ll bring you a cup of tea.”
On the couch? Great! That’s fine by me. When Jack went for the tea, I stood up like a little girl in the middle of the sun-filled room, but could hardly move my legs. To my delight, Jack was soon back. He came up close to me – brazenly close – took me by the waist and sat me down on the couch.
“Now I’ll bring you some honey,” he said confidently, and left the room.
I was again alone for several minutes, now with my tea. I was off course grateful that he had given me these few minutes. My heart was overflowing with emotions. I had never experienced such uncertainty. I had never been treated so considerately before. In the first place I had never experienced such an emotional load in such a short period of time, and everything was spinning around in my head: me, Jack, this room, the bathroom, my purse and his hand on my waist. Secondly, I simply could not answer the question of whether I should stay or go. My mind and my heart were engaged in a little war with each other over a foolish question. But that question in itself was extremely strange. I sat there with the feeling that I was already living with this man. But I hadn’t even seen him for ten years! To be sure these ten years had been empty ones for me, and some mysterious characters had appeared, but Jack had not been one of them! My monologue of reason was swamped again by feelings and sensations. Jack’s voice, his smell,even the way he made pauses in the conversation to show how he cared (for example, bringing the honey)… It was as though it had already happened before.
Suddenly I had the feeling that I had been to bed with Jack! But I knew perfectly well that, despite being already twenty-five, I had never slept with a man! Then why did it seem that a long time ago Jack and I had been so close? It was my memory playing tricks with me. Or was it hope creating a mental trap so that I felt like I’d been with this man all my life? Next to me there was not my father, my sister, or her two children. Just HIM and ME.
My self-appraisal had suddenly sunk through the floor. One thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t like my designer jeans any more, and it wasn’t long since I had really loved them. And I’m pretty short, much shorter than I had imagined I was all these years. Well, I look how I look. I somehow need to keep the conversation up; if he talks about sport then I should recall something on that theme too. But I can’t think of anything! Our school stadium where Jack and all the others used to play football doesn’t have anything in common with sports.
I wanted to discuss his hands and how great it was to feel them around my waist. Yes, that would sound really interesting coming from me: “Jack, let’s talk about your hands.” It would be awkward if he puts his hand on my waist again.
And so I spent a few minutes in this strange agitated state, until I realized that my nose was bleeding. Just at the moment that Jack came back with a cup of honey. Without a word, he quickly rolled up a piece of serviette and plugged my nose with it. How simple! I was once again convinced that my memory was not betraying me; it seemed to me that he had definitely done that to me before. I remember, he had done it!
But what was embarrassing me more than anything was the fact that he did not stand on ceremony, he was just continually doing something with me! And without my participation! As if I was his house cat and couldn’t speak. But that was exactly how I wanted him to act. And I also realized that I wanted to hear his voice over and over again, and it was all the same to me what he talked about: about sport, or about himself. Like a little girl I muttered, almost in a whisper:
“Tell me something else.”
And he began to talk and again I distinctively felt on my skin the cold ocean and the old sensations that were attached to that ocean. The large iceberg floated further and further from me. With each word he spoke I felt warmer. This was surely my confidence, which had come to me so quickly that day.
“Jack, you have very strong hands,” I said. “Did you used to play football or some other sport?”
“No,” he replied. “I don’t like sports. I think war is a completely foolish endeavour. Many sports people seek help from me. Sometimes I help them, and sometimes I don’t. They all want to be the victors. Many athletes confuse aggression with energy. Bill became disabled because in one second he lost all his energy. They tell me, ‘Give me energy,’ and they certainly do need energy. They‘re willing to give me their most precious possessions, but I rarely accept any gifts from them.”
“And why do they have aggression and not just athletic excitement?” I asked.
“They come to me from various families, and each family has its own type of aggression. It builds and builds from childhood, from grade school. As a result, one of them might jump out of a window, or begins playing sport. Another might become aggressive behind the wheel and get into a car accident. Another still might beat his wife and children. They don’t have any mental choice, and they respond to evil with evil. Sometimes I simply help them out.”
I remembered how my father lost an eye during a game of American football, and his aggression hasn’t gone away, even today. So many years have passed, but his anger still hasn’t subsided, and it frightens me. And I understood that he was a part of the cold ocean that had frozen me up. Suddenly I felt that Jack could help my father. But no, I didn’t want Jack to help him; for me he was some puzzling piece of my childhood nightmare. I didn’t want to hear possible answers as to why he became the way he did and why he has held this aggression inside for so many years. Once I had thought that he might physically kill me, the way he killed the dog my relatives had given me as a child.
It was important for me to hear Jack’s voice and to get confidence from this voice, and perhaps the energy that he was talking about. The whole of my short life passed before me in my memory in just a few seconds, but it didn’t make me feel anxious. I had a gulp of the tea, which was already cold, and found it to be very fragrant. The tea cheered me. I felt it in my stomach, and it melted any remaining ice inside of me. Never before had I drunk such delicious tea. Everything seemed to start over with Jack! How wonderful it was that everything was starting anew!
When I was a little girl, I once got to hold a rabbit at the zoo. I felt that its body was like a fireball, and its heart was thumping. I was now like this rabbit, and in Jack’s arms my heart beat as if it was pounding on his door, begging for energy. As I looked at it, his shirt with its light blue and white stripes pulled me in, and I wanted to touch the skin under his shirt and feel the rhythm of his heart. There was undoubtedly something animal-like about this desire.
My father never allowed me to take anything from strangers. I never took a drink from people I didn’t know or, even more, never drank tea in unfamiliar places. For some reason my father always worried that he would be poisoned. Today everything was happening for the first time. The tea that Jack had made was so sweet and I wanted to drink and drink forever.
“What do you have to say about this?” Jack quietly asked.
“What?” I asked. He caught me off-guard in my thoughts.
“Aren’t you listening to me?”
“No,” I confessed. Jack was very handsome, and I was admiring him.
“Lola, is everything okay? I was telling you about this sportsman…”
“Jack, I’ve just got a bit hot from the tea. Everything’s fine with me, just I wasn’t listening attentively. I really like to hear your voice, and I have somehow become so relaxed with you.” Maybe it sounds strange, but I truly needed to continually hear his voice.
“So do you agree or not?”
“Yes, I agree.”
“Excellent. Then we can go. Right now.”
“Where are we going? I don’t understand.”
“I just asked you whether you wanted to go to Phoenix to help that sportsman I was talking about.”
“Yes, Jack, we can go. I just need to know some things. Like where and how are we going to be living?”
“In Phoenix we can stay in a very comfortable hotel, I think you’ll like it. How long, I can’t say. I never really look beyond today. Maybe for just one day, maybe for twenty years,” answered Jack.
“I probably need to go home and tell my father about the trip. But thereagain maybe I shouldn’t tell him about this?!”
“Why would you not tell him” Jack looked at me in puzzlement.
“Don’t you realize that he won’t let me go? I’m thinking, I’m thinking. I’m just thinking… Okay, I can tell father. But my things? I need to pack some things, and I only have one credit card on me. I don’t know whether I’ll have enough money.”
“That’s not a problem. It’s not as expensive in Phoenix as it is in California. I have enough.”
He walked silently around the room and after a minute asked whether I was ready to leave.
“But your friends… you said that they were going to arrive any minute?”
“When I was making you tea they called and said they’re not coming. That means we can leave right now.”
“I need to think for a few minutes. I’m going outside.”
“Okay. Are you going to be all right?”
“Everything will be all right,” I smiled and went outside.
On the sidewalk I was greeted with bushes of autumn roses. I felt that the roses approved of my unexpected trip. However, everything was happening too fast. At least everything that had happened to me up to now entailed some sort of ongoing preparation: In order to get behind the wheel of a car, I had to study for several months. In order to celebrate Christmas I needed to spend an entire month shopping for gifts. In order to attend a party I had to spend half the day getting ready for it. In order to! In order to! And that’s how it always had been. And after all the preparation, the boring event would leave you with no satisfaction, no delight. And now Jack wasn’t giving me the chance to entertain any second thoughts, as if I was supposed to immediately jump out of an airplane with a parachute. And I’d never jumped with a parachute before. Yet these roses evidently approved of my trip, or my leap into the unknown, which for me was one and the same thing. I used to think that this would happen to me at the age of fifteen. I had waited for such spontaneous invitations. They should have happened, but they didn’t. My God, this was happening only now. Now I felt that I was fifteen again and had lost my mind. I didn’t know where or why I was going. I just felt that I had to go, or run away. Perhaps that was the way thousands of girls feel when they are led astray. Perhaps Jack would cheat me too. But my heart didn’t want to listen to these thoughts. I was running along a road where people usually would usually just walk.
After this trip with Jack, if it was a long one, I would be fired from my job at the post office. I would lose the job I needed just in order to be in work, like everyone else. No, I didn’t like the job and I was tired of envelopes and filling out forms. My father would not only shout at me, he would also leave me without any money. Now all of my acquaintances from my former life came before my eyes and looked at me questioningly. That former life was drawing to a close. I needed to call my father but I was scared of him. I knew that if I didn’t take go forward with Jack, even if he did deceive me, I would remain living where living was not worth it: by the side of the cold ocean. And if I take one more step the cold ocean will freeze me up forever. I ran quickly back to Jack.
“What’s happened?” he asked in a worried voice. “Your cheeks are red. You’re very beautiful.”
“Jack did you lie to me when you spoke about this trip?”
“I hardly ever lie. I can only only sometimes make mistakes.”
“Forgive me. It’s just my former life. I’m saying goodbye to it. I don’t care whether you think I’m empty-headed or not. I feel that I should go with you and help this sportsman.”
He took me by the hand and smiled handsomely:
“You have warm hands. You’re so nice. You make me happy.”
Listening to him, I realized that my hands, which were always cold, had now become warm. I had done it! Today I had finally moved away from the ocean, or I was going to move away from it, I wasn’t sure. I could hear myself now and I heard an inner voice. My time had come, and I stood before Jack in a state of complete confidence in my own powers, in an uplifted mood and heightened feeling that my life was filling with purpose. Every year at Christmas I had waited for gifts, and every year had been disappointed. Where then, I thought, was the Christmas tree? The tree was there every year, but it just hadn’t been mine.
We walked five meters and Jack opened the car door.
“It’s a good car,” he said.
“A ‘Lexus’, like my father’s…” I quickly shut up.
“You’ll like it in there. If you feel sick in the front, the back is comfortable.”
We set off, and all of my anxieties were left behind, or at least I really wanted them to stay behind. Some time was needed for that, however. But I was no longer thinking about anything, and didn’t have any doubts either.
“Can we stop at a store, Jack?”
“There’s no hurry. We’ll have enough time to do that. And we’ll have a lot of nice surprises and stores along the way. But if you want we can go to a store right now. But if everything is okay, then let’s go, we’ll enjoy the ride. Lola, I want to tell you again that as soon as you feel any discomfort, or if you have any problems or doubts… In short, if something doesn’t feel right then tell me and I’ll try to help.”
“No, Jack. We’ll just go where you want to go.”
We were driving past the ocean, and for the first time I wasn’t afraid of it. I saw surfers slipping across the cold waves. But these cold people don’t bother me in the least. Thanks to you, Jack! I had become warm. I felt so good, better than I had in all these years. I just leaned back in my seat and was enveloped in bright, peaceful thoughts. I knew: this was my only happy path. I didn’t know what would happen on this path, but I knew very well that there was no way back.
“Lola, what music would you like to listen to?”
“Nothing in particular, Jack. I listen to my own music. But you can put on whatever you want.”
Jack turned on a familiar melody from childhood and I felt that I had once lived, and it was as though I had lived for a long period, but at the same time I wasn’t sure that I had lived. I couldn’t recall any sharp emotions that should have been there in my previous life. Before my eyes was rolling a black and white movie of the past, and Jack and I were moving further and further away from it. I came to realize that from that moment I was playing a new role here on this earth. Like someone from the moon, I needed to know all the rules that people here lived by. I mulled the plan over in my head and promised myself that I would learn. And like a genuine alien I was sure that things here would be fun and interesting.
“Lola, what have you been doing all these years?”
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
“Tell me, I’ve heard a lot of improbable stories before.”
“I studied and worked, but I have no recollection of what I actually studied. I think I just worked to get money for my life, for food…”
“Simply in order to live?” Jack asked.
It was a simple question but I had no idea how to answer it. I worked at the post office. But I was waiting for you, Jack, and I should say that now. Of course I’ll tell him when the time comes. I’ll tell him sooner or later.
“What relationship do you have with you sister, Lola?”
“She’s older than me and has her own interests. We lived near to each other for quite some time but we didn’t become very close. She visits us once in a while. Everything’s fine with her on the whole.”
“Does she help your father in his business?”
“I don’t know what kind of business my father has. I never asked because I didn’t think he had a business.” I couldn’t imagine a more closed and dangerous person than my father. It was good that Jack would never discover this.
“Isn’t he still working on his diamond deposits?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re probably mixing him up with someone else. A long time ago I saw a few stones on his desk. Maybe there were a lot of them, but I was only little and didn’t pay them much attention. They were more likely imitation jewelry than real diamonds.”
“No, I’m not mistaken and I’m not confusing him with someone else.”
I fell silent. We drove for five minutes in silence. Suddenly Jack asked if he could take my hand.
“What warm hands you have.”
And that was the truth. I had become used to the fact that my hands were warm. But perhaps that wasn’t such a good thing: in the morning they might be icy cold again.
One of Jack’s friends phoned. We had to stop somewhere in Hollywood and meet him. We arrived at a hotel. There were quite a few people at the tables talking with European accents.
“The conversation will take fifteen minutes,” said Jack.
The heavy he guy was called Bob. He too was interested in sports people, but some kind of audio recording technology interested him more. Jack spoke about some people from Houston; they knew someone who potentially had direct ties to the technology’s owners. The technology interested Bob so much that I decided to ask what was so special about it.
“The technology returns life to music. It forces you to listen to a song over and over again. It is just like love, you see, and you want to repeat it without end. Like hot and cold water. Or perhaps this water can be living and dead.”
“Or like the cold ocean can ice over souls,” I muttered, not expecting that someone could hear me.
“Exactly. That’s exactly right. A perfect example. Everything that’s been on the market – that represents the frozen souls. I’ve never come across a better image. Jack, where did you get her?”
“Bob, this is Lola, an amazing, smart girl,” Jack proudly proclaimed.
“Can you imagine being a singer, how you sing a song that millions of people will hear? They’ll love your emotions in the song. They’ll want to listen to you again and again. Do you love emotions?”
Since the question was addressed to me I began thinking about what emotions really were and what they meant in our lives.
“I love them. Our lives consist of them. They’re the reason we are alive.” I burst out after a little thought. “Most of our childhood memories are emotions, and they are the most vivid ones.”
“You’re a genius! In that short time you classified emotions as life and as childhood. What do you think, what would someone pay more for, a song with emotions or without?” Bob smiled with a strange kind of grin.
“Of course people need songs with emotion,” I said.
“Don’t you want to earn some money, Lola? I’ve never met such a smart girl. Jack, you have to tell me about her,” chuckled Bob.
“Of course I’ll tell you about her. Lola is a marvelous person, and right now we’re on our way to Phoenix.”
“Why to Phoenix?”
“To help a sportsman. He’s another interesting young person you should get to know. That guy has some connection to A. But right now we need to go.”
Bob decided to follow us to the car and began asking Jack something about A and about the sports guy, but I couldn’t hear what exactly as I was some distance in front of them.
When we got into the car Jack said that we’d be in Phoenix late that evening.
“Why do you think that the ocean is cold?” asked Jack.
“Because I’ve felt it within me allmy life, and I associated it with a refrigerator.”
“That’s interesting. I’ll let you into a secret. Bob wants A technology for the girl of his dreams. His girlfriend desperately wants to become famous, and she’s spent many years trying to make good music recordings. She sings well, dances, and dresses well. She has a number of Internet sites and good advertising. There’s only one ‘but,’ a really small ‘but’: people don’t want to listen to her because they don’t want to listen to anyone. They’re tired of music altogether. They’re tired of any kind of music, even the most talented. The reason people don’t want to listen to music at all can be found in the music itself. Actually, the reason can be found in the method of recording the music. But you probably think that it’s better to give a woman a diamond, right?”
“I don’t think that. Diamonds don’t attract me. I liked Bob. He wants to act generously. Any gift is generous, but a gift that gives his girlfriend freedom is twice as generous.”
“But diamonds are also a good gift.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“They must be, since your father works with them.”
“I already told you that he doesn’t deal with them, or at least I don’t know anything about it.”
“I have a banker friend who knows your father.”
“Really? And you want to work with diamonds?”
“I would want to work with them only because they give a person the feeling of extraordinary power and joy. I mean I could be working with them if I didn’t have any other projects going on.”
His words made me feel jealous, because he was not thinking about me. I hoped that Jack would start talking about Bob, after all Bob had said nice things about me.
“Why do you like diamonds so much?”
“I love to travel, and I associate diamonds with journeys. It might be any type of journey, and in any place. I love to arrange stories that give some good adrenaline. Look at our story. You must agree that there’s a story beginning between us. We’ve just headed into the unknown. Where are we going and why? We don’t know what awaits us. And that’s wonderful and interesting, you must agree.”
“I don’t completely understand what you’re talking about, Jack. I associate a journey with events. I can‘t think of that many people who I would like to go traveling with. Maybe I never really thought about it, or else I just don’t know what I want. Right now I couldn’t care less where we’re heading, whether it’s for diamonds, or to see your friend. For me what’s important is the relationship between me and the person I’m traveling with. I can’t say that you are that person, but I am very comfortable with you. I know that I shouldn’t tell you this to you and and that what I’m saying is not true. I decided to come with you and that’s that. A voice inside told me.”
My father always told me not to show emotions, but I couldn’t help it. I felt peaceful. I didn’t care where we were going now. Maybe some kind of hypnosis in Jack’s voice was working on me, I don’t know. I looked at myself from the outside and saw a different person. I was sitting comfortably in a stranger’s car, but not breaking into pieces like I would do in my own bedroom. And my knees were not clamped together as they usually were. Maybe it was bad that no one could give me any advice now, even if I really wanted it. And so we were driving, and everything was fine.
“Are you afraid of the dark?” asked Jack.
“I’m not thinking about that. I feel safe here and comfortable enough.”
“How are you feeling being with a man?”
“You’re not a man, you’re a friend. I mean, of course you’re a man, but still just a friend. In any case, that’s how I feel.”
“Diamonds interest me very little in and of themselves. The power that they give though, that to me is interesting,” Jack brought the conversation back to this topic again.
“Do you want power?”
“I don’t really know what power is. I think that athletes or soldiers need power. I’m speaking of inner power. Everyone needs inner power. We just met Bob in the hotel, and he really wants to have inner power. He really wants to get it and he’ll go wherever he has to to do so, even to the moon or to Mars. I think when your father went to Africa he went to find this inner power, or confidence,” Jack said, deep in thought.
“Do you think you came with me for that same reason?”
“No, I don’t.”
Maybe Jack was right. Maybe I had come to get power, or maybe to experience some new sensations that will make me feel good? Maybe these sensations are connected with Jack? That’s the simplest explanation. In that case, according to his logic, Jack is my goal. What do I need from him? Perhaps what I want is simply to be with a man? I’m a little frightened by such a train of thought, but it’s possible that Jack is the fundamental reason why I came. For so many years I have waited for a friend that would appear on the horizon of the blue sky, and here he was, sitting right next to me. The only question that remained was what did I want from him?
“Jack, have you had girls before?”
“I’m not married,” answered Jack.
“I meant girls that were friends.”
“Of course, and they still are my friends. Even if I don’t see them for five years, my warm feelings for them still remain.
“Do you evaluate girls like you do diamonds?”
“Do I think like your father? Am I going to Africa after them?” Jack looked me in the eyes.
“Yes, I’m asking whether you had a girl for whom you’d go to the edge of the earth.”
“I’ve never had a girl like that, but I don’t consider myself too old to find one.”
That was probably what I wanted to hear, and I felt a great deal of comfort.
“Well, now we’re going to get diamonds.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. We’re going to Phoenix to help an injured athlete,” I said.
“You’re right. We’re going to see him, but for us he is the diamond, since he’s the objective of our trip.”
“He’s not a diamond.”
“But you have to concede that there’s a similarity between an sportsman and a diamond. The likeness is obvious. I think a sportsman and a diamond are like a cat and the moon. Two completely incompatible things, but they do have much in common if you want to see it. Anyway two incompatible subjects are leading us on through one common element. One road binds us together, and we are on that road.”
I began to feel somewhat irritated. I really didn’t see what an sportsman and a diamond had in common, and I nearly yelled:
“Lola,” said Jack gently. “I know that I’m speaking nonsense, but please don’t get angry with me. You’re a really delicate girl and getting irritated doesn’t suit your face well. But soon I’ll move on to a simpler topic, one that you will really like. Be patient a while.”
I was so happy at that moment. No one had ever been so sweet and tactful with me. Jack lovingly took my hand and kissed it.
“I invited you to go on this trip because I knew that you’d enjoy it! Do you understand? People are usually quite malicious by nature and live like the cat and the moon, on their own. Do you think a cat can understand the moon? No! But I understand you! It’s my understanding that you’ll come to like. But I’ll be quite proper, I promise!”
I liked the fact that Jack spoke to me like this way, and I began to understand what he was talking about. I was again just enjoying listening to his voice, which changed so unexpectedly. He still had not let go of my hand.
“Do you agree that a cat can’t understand the moon?” asked Jack.
Just then a wave of laughter rolled over me. I imagined how a cat would speak with the moon.
“When you say that I get this picture in my head of a cat chatting with the moon,” I laughed, with a bit of a quiver in my voice.
“Yes exactly. People live in one family like the cat and the moon. It’s really funny. They’re far away from each other, but can nevertheless still see one another. Every day they drink coffee and eat together,” and he provided me with some examples.
“Do you want these people to understand one another?”
“Yes I do, but I don’t think it’s possible. I think you can provide them with some good emotions, and as a result of those emotions maybe they can build an affectionate relationship.”
I wanted to add that this reminded me of my relationship with him, but I kept quiet.
“Now we’re going to see that sportsman, but we’re actually going to be doing something else. Have you ever felt the joy that comes from getting touch with yourself? You’ll feel that joy today. It will come from within you, and it will bring you positive emotions.”
I didn’t really know what he was talking about. Did he want me to tell him that I loved him? I had a strange sensation, as though I really was filling with love for him.
“Imagine a traveler heading to Africa for diamonds. The person should feel joy. He wants to see these diamonds, kiss them, touch them and put them in his pocket. That’s what I feel now. I feel that way because I’m traveling with a person who attracts me like a diamond. Imagine, I’m getting that same degree of joy from speaking with you. It unites us. People want to experience joy. That’s what the secret is. It’s not drugs or diamonds, it’s just human joy.”
I suddenly felt that I understood Jack, despite the fact that he didn’t say anything that I could really understand.
“It’s our secret now,” Jack said.
I felt a tremble run right through me. Jack drove into a truck parking lot.
“Imagine that you and I are like the cat and moon. Until now our paths haven’t crossed. Now we’re stopping the car and are about to get to know one another better. I really want to examine you closely.”
“Jack, I’m twenty-five, but I’ve never been with a man,” I said, just in case.
“And I’m in no hurry. It won’t be a hysterical vampire bite, because today we’re just going to get energy from one another. The difference between primitive vampires and us is huge. The difference is that they swiftly attack, bite, and then get tired. They battle for ten minutes, including undressing, and all the rest of the time they moan and pretend that they are enjoying it. Actually, they make one another sick.”
As Jack was saying this he brought the car to a stop, driving it amongst thick bushes. It was very interesting to observe him. He had transformed into some kind of mysterious being. In appearance he was the usual Jack, but the power of his passion was so strong that I tensed a little, in expectation of something unexpected .
“Our secret,” continued Jack, “lies in the fact that we correctly use colors and sounds, including when we’re in the kind of intimate situation we’re having now. People are usually looking for meaningful love, but instead of that they waste a lot of time babbling, and spend little time on the person they love or on their body. And they somehow cannot combine sex and lengthy small talk, and this should be love. All subjects of the land of A use colorful pictures and music. Music protects us from errors of thought and gives us a lot of emotions. We are not vampires: instead of primitive blood we drink the energy that comes from pictures or music.”
My God, what is he talking about? What vampires? What energy? What sex? On the other hand, energy certainly was a part of our relationship, but I thought that this energy emanated from our sudden attraction to one another. I restrained myself from throwing myself upon Jack first. I desperately wanted to rub up against his cheek. But how was I supposed to do it, I didn’t have much experience communicating with men. I began to feel like I was becoming an enormous river that was flooding and overflowing.
“You understand, Lola. You’re feeling so strange now, because for the first time you’re receiving the energy of miss A. You might think that it came to you of its own accord or because a man is near you. You really want this man, but you want him so badly, so strongly, because A is telling you so. Today you’ll fly to the very brightest stars and experience an unearthly state of joy. You’ll be so satisfied.”
Jack was right. I didn’t know how to conduct myself in what for me was such a new and unfamiliar state. I didn’t know what to do with Jack and what’s more with myself. My hands were shaking, and the muscles in my legs were somehow dancing their own dance, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it.
“Please don’t blame me for putting on A music without warning you when we were still at my place. Just think about it, you were still in the house when you began to quickly make some smart decisions, which is so untypical of you. Today you’ve reviewed your entire life in the space of just one hour. You’re a very intelligent girl. This music provides such power. Now don’t be scared of me. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. Let’s sit in the backseat and you’ll feel even more relaxed.”
Jack got out of the car and helped me into the backseat. My arms and legs were still gripped by the weird trembling. Jack sat close by and placed a hand on my neck.
“You’re extremely beautiful. And what’s more, now you’re a different girl. Usually people only get into such a state once or twice in their entire lives, usually when they are teenagers. Yes, I’m not mistaken because it is genuine happiness to experience positive emotions, and now they’ll come to you very often. You just have to be sure not to destroy the emotions through fear or alarm. You’re not scared?”
Jack moved his seat forward and I began to understand that something very nice was happening to me, a happy story was unfolding. And even nicer was the realization that this story would ever end. But it was all very strange. Jack wasn’t tearing my jeans off, or even hinting at anything vulgar. Nothing physical was happening at all. But at the same time he was plunging the whole of me into a state of full, bright happiness, and my rivers kept rising and rising. I felt like a small wet kitten warming itself in the sunshine.
Then Jack unexpectedly invited me to go on a journey with him through the copper caves. I didn’t understand what he meant, but he promised that these caves would make me feel very comfortable. He changed the music and said that this music was the trip through the copper caves. At first I thought he meant caves somewhere in Phoenix, but it turned out that there was no need to go anywhere: he would create the effect of a trip through the copper caves right here in the car. Once again I was thinking of something rather vulgar, but Jack told me that everything would be extremely beautiful and that I should concentrate on the music and forget about him. And so that’s what I did. I was probably tired of this unusual trip with Jack. I wasn’t listening particularly closely to his voice. It seemed to me that Jack’s voice was my own. This voice was saying something to me, and I obeyed it without question as it was so comforting.
“Now our journey is beginning. You shouldn’t be afraid.” That’s what I told myself. Or maybe it was Jack who said this. I no longer made a distinction. From inside of me there welled up an enormous warm stream and I saw the foot of a mountain, towards which Jack and I seemed to be more swimming than walking. I felt the slow water drawing me towards it and I tried to sit down on the edge of the shore. It turned out to be soft and warm, and I could not feel the usual hard sand beneath my feet.
“All it is is music. You don’t have to go crazy, you don’t have to rock. Now for the first time you find yourself in this stream and so you need simply to accept it for what it is. It isn’t a physical journey, and it isn’t drugs. I’ve spent a good part of my life in this state. For me it’s quite usual. Not everyone gets to experience this state in their life. Only those who were lucky enough to have had a really good mother who loved her child in her womb, and then continued to love it after the birth. When a mother like this sings a lullaby to her child with love in her heart, it feels such tremendous joy! This feeling is only there as long as its mother is singing. As soon as she stops it is gone again. So there are few people who get to know this state in real life. If it’s something new to you it means that your mother never sang you lullabies with love in her heart. There’s no use blaming anyone if that’s the case. It’s simply that there is such a combination of circumstances that young girls have to cope with when they suddenly become mothers.”
I felt the warm beach I was sitting on start to embrace me, to kiss me, and I had no wish to resist. It wasn’t something bizarre or frightening. The beach was just present in my sensations, but in front of me I saw Jack, who was talking to me with great tenderness.
“Now do you understand what Bob was trying to get for his girlfriend?”
“Yes, now I know what he was talking about. He also wants love, like everyone else. I think Bob has some problem with his feelings. Does he have a cold heart? What do you think?”
“By profession Bob is a bodyguard and does special assignments for his clients. I think he has some sins connected with his work. And he tries to smooth these sins away by giving his girlfriend what she really wants. She seeks popularity and wants people to listen to her and admire her. She wants all of her fans to love her like children love their mother, but she sings songs with words that are just full of aggression. I don’t think that Bob knows what love is, and his girlfriend isn’t able to love either. And the love you got to know just a few hours ago at my place, isn’t it beautiful? Did you like it?”
“Yes, Jack. Very much so. I felt so wonderful.”
Now I had become part of the warm and affectionate shore. I even pinched myself just to confirm that it wasn’t a dream. Meanwhile my legs were still shaking pleasantly. I felt slightly feverish, and the shaking moved to around my navel and then left of there. But I wanted this fever. A very pleasant pressure, unknown to me before, came up from below, strongly arousing me and making me forget my thoughts. I wanted to go further into this copper cave. It’s sweet air enticed me. My arteries felt like the strings of a musical instrument in the hands of a gifted musician. I felt that for the first time they were experiencing a long-awaited relaxation and delight.
“Don’t be afraid of emotions. If you want to scream, then scream. Don’t be embarrassed. There’s also no need to spare emotions just like there’s no need to hold back love. We won’t hold back emotions, right? Scream! Scream!”
I began to slide down the soft, warm shore and caught myself almost screaming. But I stopped. And it was divine.
“Jack, maybe it sounds funny, but it seems that I can really feel this river that I see in front of me.”
“The main thing is to not be afraid and to not move too quickly. You need to do everything slowly and with taste. This state of being is so pleasant. Imagine how many people there are who want to experience it? And all they have to do is believe in it. It’s just a question of mentality.”
I wanted to yell that Jack should hug me tighter in his embrace, and it seemed to me that he did just that. He stood before me and then turned into an enormous beautiful butterfly that flew around right next to my nose. I felt a pleasant sense of suffocation and started shouting again. Then he again whispered to me: “If you want to weep or sob, then do it. There is no more iceberg for you. Now you will always be able to feel how you want to feel.”
It was hard to orient myself in this wonderful new world. The copper cave completely engulfed me. I started to move around, balancing quite comfortably on my knees, and quickly went down to the water.
“Yes! That is really nice. You really have a very graceful arch to your back,” said Jack. “Are you going towards the smell of coffee? I can smell it too and am following behind. Keep your balance as you get closer to the coffee smell. I’m near you and will catch you if you slip. You smell so very sweet.”
Jack again appeared close by in the form of a large butterfly and began to rub against me in a very accurate way. It felt ticklish. I unexpectedly took hold of something soft, but couldn’t figure it out what it could be. Then I realized: it was my little handbag. I had found in the cave the old handbag I’d had as a child. I put the bag down on a small stone so that I’d remember the location and pick it up on the way back. Jack was nearby and I was feeling very calm. We were heading in the direction of somewhere that looked terribly familiar. No, it was impossible! This place, this cave was the one I had seen before as a teenager when I had gone on a trip to the Dominican Republic with father. But I hadn’t known that it was a copper cave.
We were accompanied then by some young mule herders, since we rode the animals along the caves. As we were being transferred, I had lost my bag, and it took me a long time to forget it.
“Jack, I’ve found the child’s bag I lost ages ago.” I wanted to tell him about my find so much that I began to gesticulate to get his attention. He quickly appeared from behind my back and began hugging me like my favorite cat had hugged me in my childhood. There was something grown-up about this embrace, but it didn’t frighten me. I didn’t even remove his hand from my leg.
“Have you gone back to your youth? I’m so happy that you can travel in time so rapidly. Not even twenty-four hours have passed and you’re already moving toward living your youthful years all over again. I can sing a lullaby for you in place of your mother. Listen.”
Jack began to sing. But it was not with his voice, which was what I dreaded. He sang with his heart! Then he began stroking me as if he were playing a musical instrument. I really liked his song. I didn’t even think to stop Jack, although he was allowing himself some rather unnecessary motions. He turned again into a butterfly and began to stroke my cheeks and lips. I was enraptured, and this pleasant trip through the copper cave continued. We again found ourselves near the warm river that came out of the waterfall. It was somewhat humid and incredibly beautiful.
For the first time I accidentally touched the fluttering butterfly. As I didn’t feel the presence of anyone nearby, I realized that this butterfly was really Jack. He stroked me, and I gazed upon him with undisguised curiosity. He didn’t distract me and just sang the song that I had wanted to hear for a long time… I examined the minute, fuzzy hairs on his body and the unusual coloring of his wings. I wanted to stroke him too. As soon as I did, he nestled up to me more solidly. And we spent some time together like this in absolute silence, listening only to the beating of our hearts.
We had to cross a narrow stream, which in my youth one of the muleteers had carried me through. Jack picked me up in one arm and I was conscious of how strong his arms were. His form as a fluttering butterfly made him irresistibly attractive. I continued to stroke my butterfly. I wanted so terribly that Jack should fall on me and undress me, but somehow he wasn’t aware of this desire.
“Lola, this is really a time that we have to appreciate. A goal that’s attained quickly doesn’t bring much joy. So you should allow me to feel the time and make the decisions myself at this stage, since I have more experience in existing in this A time. Concentrate on your own desires and you will stay on the journey and at the same time remain in this pleasurable state. Usually after experiencing some little bit of pleasure people start on killing each other. They lack the strength needed to enjoy reality. They all just want to die as quickly as possible, quickly finish off any process they love. But for us everything is just beginning.”
After these words I began kissing Jack and I could not keep myself from the feelings of love that I had for him. For the first time I experienced the taste of his skin with my lips. It was so fantastic! And Jack kept flying around and around near to me. We slowly, and at the same time quickly, were moving in the direction of the source. He promised me a surprise when we got to the place, and asked that I should stop time for a little while. And I was already going crazy from the desire to join together with him as one being.
“If you’d like, I can tell you about the state you’re in?” Jack sang.
By way of a reply I sang back that I very much did. He began to say that people need love and that they do not see the present, therefore nothing works out for them in business other than war, nor in love other than lonely children. The result of living in the present, as a rule, leads to zero and people don’t learn anything. He said that I was a very rare case, that during a short period of time I had grasped my desire to break with the past and was not to hasty in quickly needing to satisfy my new desire.
“This new sweet desire of yours, the one that has come up just now, is driving you crazy. But I’m so pleased with you that you have been awaiting its fulfillment in such a tactful way. Your body had nearly became stone, and it seeks relaxation through sex, but you are getting the maximum pleasure from this condition. If you wanted sex now, then I would give it to you. Believe me, I would hear your decision and would do just as you wish. But this A allows us not to lose our wits, because after sex will come war. The A doesn’t want us to finish off in the usual, banal manner. It is A that gives us the chance to live for a long time in such a state of happiness.”
I desperately wanted to object to what Jack had said, but I listened to myself and realized that my body wants eternal pleasure, not short relationships. So what if people say they’ve gone and had sex? So what if they say that everything has now passed? I realized that it was also sweet for Jack now that he was experiencing the same pleasure as me – from the anticipation.
“It’s not the anticipation,” said Jack. “It is real happiness when you can speak directly with me on any topic, and I with you. But we aren’t just speaking, we’re living beautifully.”
I didn’t know what was happening, but Jack’s butterfly diving underneath me, and I flew on his back over the Dominican stream. I became small and very soft, like a piece of warm putty. Jack seemed to sculpt me with his hands. I felt like a parachute descending the waterfall and flying back upwards. And then I felt like I was spiraling down without a parachute on a long solid harness. I was so scared as i flew down that I shut my eyes, but when a little later I returned skyward I wanted to scream with pleasure. The speed increased and increased until it was extreme. I thought that I was losing consciousness.
The fuzzy back of the butterfly rubbed gently against my legs. When I was enjoying the amazing flights through the air, its wings decorated my sensations with its sculptured ornaments. Jack’s back was so soft, but at the same time also firm. Coming out of his back was a sculpted structure which formed a tiny, shapeless thimble the size of a one-cent piece. This object, unnoticeable in a normal state of being, and which I had been sitting on throughout the flight, turned out to be in the most sensual part of my body. Maybe this “cent” fulfilled some role that Jack had planned, but during my flight upwards I had experienced additional emotions when I came into contact with it. It was so nice that it made me laugh like crazy, and the cent felt it. It would begin to draw in my skin, like a baby’s dummy, and then let it out again. However as soon as I forgot about its presence, even for a second, it began to fight again and gave me another fit of laughter. I felt uncomfortable that in Jack’s presence I’d laugh uncontrollably then be moaning and screaming with delight.
But when I tried once again to lose consciousness from the truly wonderful flights on Jack’s back, the cent wouldn’t let me go. It quite gently, but unyieldingly, held me with its tiny body. And when I wanted to crawl away, with some kind of inhuman love it began to drive me to ecstasy. At that moment the cent gave me my life’s first plunge into a genuine orgasm.
The muscles under my belly transformed themselves into one whole and began to pulse together. Before my eyes swam bouquets of red roses and bright sparks, which flared up and died again before the next volley. The pulse was increasing higher and higher, causing the muscles to tense up in the solar plexus area. It felt like I was a taut string trembling at the touch of an experienced musician. I was sounding for the first time in my life! I realized that I didn’t belong to myself at all, that some force was controlling me and was stubbornly showing me what my destiny was as a woman, what my essence was. True, I still didn’t understand what kind of destiny it was to be and it what it wanted to say to me further. My thoughts were confused. It wasn’t quite what I had expected. This wasn’t clothes torn to pieces, or love bites on the neck. This was a man’s real love and perseverance. It seemed that at the top of my weakly-comprehending head was beating a flow of energy, directed out somewhere into the depths of the cosmos. I caught myself thinking that I would catch the air with my lips and I thirsted for kisses. I must admit that I didn’t feel a single ounce of embarrassment. I didn’t mind whether I yelled or not. A feeling of security and insecurity at the same time!
Within seconds Jack stopped his swinging, and I fell into a happy dream.
I don’t know how much time had passed, but when I awoke on Jack’s back I could see through the windows of the car an unbelievably beautiful sunset. The first thing I felt were my hands. My fingers had become so sensitive, the pads on them so moist, that I wanted to touch Jack with them. I was somewhat frightened by my open gesture, but Jack stroked me in return in a friendly fashion. Then I began to knead myself with my fingers, in the way you have to knead drying honey into ice cream just before it is served. This action was so new and exciting for me that I would first stroke myself, then Jack. The result was a marvelous and fragrant dish. I could not control time. It seemed to me that an immeasurably long period of time had passed. My sensitivity became extreme: I could even feel every movement of air. Jack’s skin smelled of aromatic coffee, and the smell reminded me of the distant childhood dream which I never wanted to wake up from. A little later I squeezed Jack’s hair with my fingers and rubbed my head against it.
All of my attention would be attracted to whichever part of my body Jack was touching, and it seemed to be the only important part. I don’t know where he learned this, but he had remarkable control over time, squeezing the maximum possible out of it, as one would squeeze a ripe orange. There was no rush. He chose a very peaceful, methodical rhythm for our communication.
I turned my head and saw next me a new, shining one-cent piece. It seemed to be smiling at me and begged to be put in my pocket. I picked it up at once and again recalled our amazing story. This cent had certainly been a part of Jack, or the butterfly, which was one and the same. I kissed Jack on the shoulder.
“This A has arranged such bright colors for us. You get used to them, but then you think that without them you wouldn’t want to go on living,” said Jack.
But it was all the same to me. I was getting incomparable pleasure just from the fact that he was next to me.
We started to move further towards the source, along the same lovely banks of the beautiful river, and then I suddenly realized that now nature had become more colorful. When I was traveling with my father I looked on nature as a digital color picture in a magazine. This bright nature had not been part of me. But now I felt that I was a part of it.
Previously landscapes and people had held no interest for me because I had been a completely frozen creature. But now every moment brought with it unique smells, sounds, colours. I wanted something, but I couldn’t understand precisely what that something was. But one thing was clear: I longed to feel it, that something that was unknown to me, but which I desired so much in life. I stretched my back on the leather seat of the car and realised that I wanted once again to plunge into the world of pleasure, though my back and legs were still nicely moaning after the flights with the “cent”. It seemed that I would not be able to get enough of these experiences. I could no longer live without genuine expression of feelings. I would thirst to experience them again, or I would burst into tears, God dammit.
My eyes grew instantly wet. I wanted the fun to never end. Why are girls brought up according to strict unwritten rules, why are they forbidden to take the initiative, why is this idea hammered so hard into a woman’s head that it is impossible to overcome even if a man himself asks for it? And why did Jack not ask for it? Was it because he didn’t like me enough? Was it because I’d done something wrong? But it was as though he read my thoughts:
“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. You’re such an intelligent, sensitive girl. You’re the most outstanding girl, and your breasts are unbelievably beautiful,” he said tenderly.
When Jack mentioned my breasts it made me embarrassed for ever doubting him. Of course, my breasts weren’t the most beautiful ever, but I had no plans to fill them with silicone, put it that way. It was possible that Jack didn’t feel an attraction to “silicone valleys”.
“I’m sorry, Jack. Being with you today I was happy like never before in my whole life! And it’s better to spend one day burning brightly than a whole life without any kind of mutual understanding. All these years I’ve seen so many men who have no solid core. You know, they’re kind of weak and they don’t know what they really want. They aren’t as active as you. They always have the same excuses.” For the first time I caught myself thinking that I was being sly with Jack and trying to provoke him.
Somehow I recalled how I had once sat watching a film in the living room, sipping tea. The main character in the movie decided to make her boring life more interesting by inventing all kinds of sexual fantasies, which gradually began to be translated into her real life. Images of violence which she had unconsciously been seeking flashed in my head. First she was harassed in an elevator and then raped by a taxi driver. But she immensely enjoyed every such intercourse. For some reason I now wanted Jack to be that taxi driver. I began to beat my fists against his chest and curse with the most disgusting words I knew (I wonder — where did I know them from?). I didn’t realise that I had such a large vocabulary. I hated myself, but asked and demanded that he should beat me and then do with me whatever he wanted. No such things had ever entered my head before, but now I so badly wanted them to happen. I began to scream, my face filled with blood, and I went on beating Jack with my fists. And at the same time I was feeling unimaginable pleasure as though I was getting revenge on the taxi driver for not letting me have the toy I wanted.
“Keep screaming, good job!” Jack said. “It’s happening — you’re relaxing. It’s wonderful that you are becoming free so quickly. And please don’t stop, I beg you. If you want to you can give me a hug and lay your head on my chest. Or you can scream and swear and don’t even worry what words you use. Curse me! Everything is my fault! I’m the most disgusting guy you ever knew. I didn’t let you sleep in the morning and kept waking you up. I couldn’t go down on you and play with you just when you wanted it so badly. Every night before bed time I left you and went to sleep in another room while you were burning with desire,” Jack was shouting. Jack asked me for some unknown forgiveness and my hands moved towards his stomach and then lower down. He went on. I suddenly wanted to jump on him and scratch him.
I began to be angry with him in a non-childish way. My hands boldly, determinedly, undid his belt that blocked the way to my object of desire, and I was about to unbutton his neatly-creased pants. But then he suddenly announced in a completely calm voice:
“Your urge to experience violence will take some time to disappear. It comes from a long waiting and anticipation of love.”
His calm voice and educational manner angered me even more. The beast in me had been awakened and Jack was clearly teasing it. No, Jack, even if you beat me and raped me, that still wouldn’t help to release me from these obsessive thoughts. Indeed it might have quite the opposite effect. He promised to arrange some kind of a show for me to solve the problem, but I wasn’t listening to him.
With one movement I tore off my top (I should really have done that to Jack’s shirt!), hugged him tightly and began to play aggressively like a kitten. I had no idea how to begin this most primitive intimacy with a man and was just doing everything by instinct. Jack didn’t push me away or say bad words. My attack continued and I was no longer aware of what I was doing, but Jack remained patient and tactful. Not once in my life had I openly admitted to myself what it was I really wanted. Not once had I provoked someone into violence. It means that secretly I always wanted it and now this desire broke through. I screamed for him to do it and could no longer even recognize myself. I was like a raging animal that just wanted its own way.
“Ok,” said Jack. “I planned to make this journey much later, but we will do it now. I’ll change the music and we will set off right away.”
Outside the car it was already dark. It was quiet too and my heart was the only thing beating in the whole universe. Jack put on a new tune and, as always, said with a knowing look that this music would do its job — we only had to believe that it would work. The music was supposed to deal with my past indecisiveness and my present aggression. I felt like I was having a session with a psychoanalyst. But I looked at Jack and somehow grew warmer. He said that many people experience indecision in their real lives, and so in their fantasies arrange the most real and shameless orgy scenes, which often contain some violence.
As he talked, the desire began to grow in me again. I tried to restrain myself as best I could. But it didn’t last long and I was running out of patience. I was irritated that he was wasting time and talking about these trifles. I wanted to scream that he should do “that” again! I wanted him to satisfy my uncontrolled desire to love! To love without words, to love like wild animals.
“This music will set us on a really good path, a fabulous journey — it will make you so happy! You’ll experience a reality that will please you so much and it won’t go against your fantasies. My sweet girl, it will be hard for you at first, but I think you’ll soon get to the point of it being pleasurable. You know, the main thing is that all the fantasies you’ve had will come true! And not just those you’re already aware of, but also others that you’re not aware of, and which could terrify you. These will be your own stories, and not someone else’s that you had to invent. Now you won’t have to do that because you’ll understand: the reality of life is much more beautiful than any fantasy could be. Thanks to ‘A’ you’ll soon be able to access both reality and beauty.”
“Jack, what’s this soft little mouse on the dashboard?” I asked. But seeing my wild mood, Jack wasn’t particularly keen to answer.
“That’s ‘A-Mouse’.” As he finished speaking, Jack began to whistle with his butterfly wings. Again I found myself in that place where Jack and I had travelled together. But I was perturbed that he wasn’t there with me, and my animal desire to play was not yet over. I saw the same colours, the same landscape, but I couldn’t find Jack. I could feel a pleasant state of alarm rising within me. It was like how I felt a long time ago at a school party. I was looking around for my classmate and waiting for him to ask me to dance with him. I recall that I had been filled with agitation then, but this time the alarm was greater and much more pleasant. I began to move slowly in the direction of the hill so I could have a view of the whole place. For some reason I didn’t want to call Jack’s name and disturb the silence with my voice. I continued to walk and enjoy the nature, although my mind was still in such impatience.
I was filled with some feeling of discomfort. Now Jack knew my secrets. I wanted to change back to the grey invisible mouse I had been all these years. Jack did not take anything as a joke, he just acted: openly and decisively. Just think of his trick with the “cent”! I blushed with embarrassment. Jack knew the whole series of events between me and the “cent” from top to bottom. But somehow I still needed to continue this story! “This awful stubbornness is going to ruin me,” I thought.
I had never been with a man before, but now I got the feeling that I had been with a dozen men all at once! This terrible truth was now obvious. Was I really just like one of those ordinary air-headed thoughtless girls? Lust had got the better of me. What the hell would Jack think?
I did not notice that in this state of mild anxiety I came to some well-trodden paths, which bore the imprints of horseshoes. The bright colours of childhood came to me again. This time they were sharper and more realistic. Again I thought of Jack, about how I was trying in this wild and reckless manner to get from this man I hardly knew something that for a long time I hadn’t even been able to think about. How I wanted to hear his voice.
And Jack’s voice was there, as though he had been reading my thoughts. He called me over to the stream. As soon as I took the first step I realised that my feelings were like those of the recent flight. Again I was turning into a warm lump of putty in Jack’s hands. But now I was anxious not about the speed, as I was last time, but about the unusual sensations I was feeling inside me. I thought that Jack was arranging some kind of surprise for me and I was right. This time there was something pulling away inside me, as though that same playful ‘A-Mouse’ that I had seen in the car was now near my navel. He was making some pleasant attempts to crawl under my skin. But the unexpectedness of it made me object and shout that Jack shouldn’t be doing that. I wasn’t a lab rat, but a person, thank you very much! And at that moment Jack appeared in front of me in the form of a thin, extenuated balloon with a very strange shape, like a small copy of me.
What was he trying to say? That my own body will become as thin as that? That my skin and muscles will stretch from inside by this little mouse until they look like this? Jack, this is going too far! But just as I was about to object, Jack-the-balloon smiled sweetly and to my surprise I began to feel divinely good from the presence of the A-Mouse, who I now seemed to belong to, by all appearances, in line with Jack’s plan. The Mouse became a part of me and like any curious little animal was enjoying itself in a bustling, mindless way. Although he was sometimes causing a degree of pain, I wasn’t going to let it show. The energetic mood of the A-Mouse transmitted itself to me. I wanted to get on the dance floor and relieve my aggressive state through action. A plateau in the foothills could serve as a dance floor, so the mouse and I climbed up there with ease. I was struck by the music. It seemed to be coming out of every bush and even streaming down from the sky!
I really wanted to invite Jack to dance, just like all those years ago with my indecisive classmate. But Jack read my thoughts again. A brief idea flashed through my mind that I could invite lots of different people, but then I thought that this would just be a waste of time. No-one could understand me in the same way Jack did, anyway. At any rate, in the course of one day, which was not yet over, I had more surprises than any time in my life. And what’s more, unlike my former classmate, Jack showed initiative. This was so nice that I didn’t have to persuade or convince anyone. No sooner had I started to desire something really bad, than Jack turned it into reality.
As I thought about it I realised that the dance floor was very familiar. Of course, it was the same one as in the hotel where I’d often gone with my father! I listened to the sounds with delight and felt pleasant emotions building inside me. I wanted never to stop dancing, to move around and enjoy myself. But after a while I wanted to visit the ladies’ room. To get there I had to walk down a dark path, which had the smell of fear and was thickly overgrown with bushes and trees. “Obviously this path isn’t used very often,” was the thought that flashed through my mind. I nearly fell in surprise when I saw at my feet a cheap cigar decoration, the type that is normally hung up in stores as an advertisement.
Suddenly a door burst open next to me, a towel landed over my head, and a bony hand pulled me into a dark room. My mouth was blocked, first with a hand and then a piece of cloth. I tried to scream, but at once received a sharp blow to the face. This wasn’t one of Jack’s tricks. It was someone I didn’t know at all, who stank of cabbage. My face was burning from the impact of the blow, and my cheek was on fire. There was no sense in shouting and I was about to die of fright. Before me stood a young man of short stature — a typical native guy, with a non-sporty physique, the kind you might meet every day on the street. He was entirely naked, apart from a red bandana around his neck.
“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.” He shouted something in his own language, but I didn’t understand a word. Suddenly, he pounced on me and began stripping me off.
“First, as is only right, I’ll teach you to smoke cigars, and then you’ll be my prisoner for a number of years, and every day we’ll smoke together, just the two of us.” It was awful that someone had control over me and my freedom.
I knew that this was just how I had imagined him in my fantasies. But in real life this oaf only filled me with revulsion. He couldn’t treat me like this, just because I’d once fantasised about something! In real life these scenes were too unpleasant. I shouted out again. An incredible feeling of disgust ran through me when this stranger began to undress me. He laid me down on a mattress on the floor and threw himself on top of me. I tried to scream, but the gag stopped me from calling for help. The native carried an open case of cigars of enormous proportions on his neck. Perhaps, on the Internet the local cigars were only shown in photos that were reduced in size and gave an entirely false impression.
I tried to make for the door so I could bang on it and send a signal to Jack, but the savage stopped me and then began to look for something. He quickly ran out of the door, then back into the room, out through the door again and finally returned holding an old rope. When the oaf was tying me up to a mattress of palm leaves, I tried to kick at the dangling cigar case as my legs were still free. I gave it a kick, but the blow was too weak to have any effect on that enormous case.
The half-savage man sat down at his work table, on which lay tobacco leaves and tools. He was getting the leaves into alignment, bundling them up and then rolling them together. The smell of the leaves quickly spread through the room and was just as revolting as the smell of sour cabbage. I thought that this was punishment for my recent behaviour. What if this guy will make me roll his cigars every day, and enjoy my nakedness? No way!
I had made up this situation for myself in the long hours when I couldn’t get to sleep. In my fantasies I was terribly afraid of my pursuer, and it was as if he was expecting this. And what if I were to do the opposite? I purred something in a friendly way and even tried smiling at him. But he didn’t pay any attention to me and carried on with his work. The savage rolled up another cigar and suddenly began to fuss over something. He was like a primitive man, with enormous hands and the other parts of his body were disproportionately large too. My God, he was a real cannibal!
During the trips with my father, the local guide told us that when Columbus discovered the Dominican Republic he almost came to be eaten by the local cannibals. Several tribes of cannibals used to live here, but they either went away somewhere or were killed by the Europeans. That was not important, what mattered was that they had definitely been there, and their blood was still present in the local tribes. After hearing the guide’s explanation, I began to look at the smiling locals with different eyes.
The huge cannibal was running around to finally take care of me. What to do? After all this wasn’t some big-city pervert who was afraid of himself and would psyche himself out. This was a stupid uneducated man, carrying out some quite obscure actions.
The savage tied my legs to the mattress and began to examine me, pacing around with his cigar. Every now and then he would reach out his long tongue and lick the stinking cigar he had made. He suggested that I do the same, but I shook my head. He insisted, but again I refused. Then he began to jab the cigar into my belly, and kept doing it until it started to hurt. Seeing that I was drawing my stomach in, he smiled in a friendly way. Friendly as it seemed to him, that is. There was no pleasure in this primitive communication. Romantic games with savage men turned out to be just boring and stupid. This wild native didn’t hold any of the attraction that I yearned for. His vulgar tricks with the cigar were worse than the stories that girls write on the Internet. Maybe these stories seem romantic, but not when they are happening to you.
I tried to squeeze my legs together and mumbled into the gag that he should let me go. But again he laid the enormous stinking cigar on my stomach, although this time in a domestic, rather than an aggressive, way. I shuddered, more from the revolting smell than from his actions. As he continued his long drawn-out cooking preparations, for his as yet unknown designs, the A-Mouse woke up inside me and began to play with me again. It seemed as though the mouse had more connection to my secret fantasies than this savage. Again the mouse was moving carefully about inside me, gently touching the places where it was needed. And in my misery it got through to me and distracted me with its movements, almost relieving me from my state of fear. Now there were two of us, and it wasn’t quite so terrible to be in the company of this wild man.
The mouse moved in time with my internal rhythm and gave out unusual sounds, which clearly the savage didn’t like. He didn’t want to have a competitor, especially when it was an invisible one like this. He thumped his fist on the table and began to walk slowly about the room, listening to the noises. But the moment the savage stopped his pacing, my A-Mouse fell silent too.
It was amusing to watch them and I even forgot my fear. I was especially amused that when the awful guy began to investigate my breasts, the A-Mouse touched some sort of a receptor and my chest sank down. But as soon as he looked away, my chest would rise up again. The stranger could see this out of the corner of his eye and it made him terribly angry. Perhaps he thought that I simply hated him and that was why I could so skilfully manage my body, using it to express my feelings towards him. The native was clearly fascinated by this. He thought to himself, and looked at his drooping cigar. He straightened himself up and the cigar straightened up too. As soon as he looked at me, however, his cigar slid down again. Convinced that this was no coincidence and that there was some relation between the two events, the savage began to pick at his cigar with his fingers. He was angry that now he didn’t have the same control over his body as before. Undoubtedly he wanted to take control of his small universe once more, and he started to read out some spell, drumming his fingers on the table. The duel between the mouse and the savage continued. Either the latter was having a bad day, or the mouse was playing an expert hand. For the cannibal everything was falling apart. He attempted to roll a new cigar, but it wasn’t a success. He tried to set fire to a cigar leaf, but it wouldn’t burn. Then he put the little god figures, which were on his desk, into the corners of the room, and, began to run howling from one corner to the other.
I now felt that I was safe. I could see that the savage was losing his strength and his confidence, and in my mind I grew more confident and powerful. I, the way I perceived myself now, should definitely win! The savage consulted with his deities, going up to each in turn, and then he span around and around in the centre of the room like a child’s spinning top. After this the stranger grabbed a big sturdy stick and, to my great surprise, smashed it down on the table where the leaves and cigars lay. The sound was so loud that I screamed into my gag, but the savage continued to smash everything in his path, fighting with some invisible being. He suddenly raised his stick over me, but unexpectedly stopped. I froze in horror. Surprisingly the savage lowered his stick and quickly restored the things he had destroyed.
I realized that the A-Mouse was Jack, and I felt easy again. The savage picked up a jar filled with some liquid, dipped his cigar in it and then began to dry it, rolling it on a dirty piece of cloth. Then he held the cigar between his legs and began to stroke it, as though it were something very dear and precious to him. It was like some kind of voodoo. While he did this, he made noises like a sea lion or some other mammal. Shortly after, sitting in this strange pose, the savage began to howl a fascinating prayer. It was full of masculine sounds, which were apparently supposed to make all members of the female sex come running to him, play an active role in satisfying all his desires and engage in some communal activity which was completely beyond my understanding. The sounds of the savage merged with the sounds of the mouse, forming a throbbing vortex with his cigar at its centre.
This was probably how tornadoes were formed, for every year they took many lives in these parts. I was overwhelmed with fear again, this time fear of the forces of nature. A wind began to rise in the room. It picked up the remnants of the tobacco leaves and fanned smoke from an extinguished cigar, one of a number that were sticking out of a metal bucket. The native shouted with joy. He touched the cigar clamped between his knees, and seemed first to die and then revive again. Small shudders were running over him, and, continuing to carry out these mysterious actions, he started to shake like a sick drug addict. The room was getting airless. The native was shouting louder and louder and then he threw himself on top of me again. I cried out from fear.
He was so heavy that I feared I would be crushed under his weight. The stench of his smoked body was revolting. That smell was everywhere. But worst of all was that right under my nose he had his cigar, which he was touching very tenderly. The native suggested that I do the same. I mumbled to him that he was insane and that I wasn’t going to learn to smoke with a gag in my mouth. He was having fun, and he kept on trembling and doing witchcraft over his cigar. The smell of his body made me feel sick, especially when he moved. I could no longer bear the stink of his emotional and physical assault, the stink of his touch, the stink of his breath, and the reek of this old smoker who ate awful food. I turned my face away and mumbled in disgust. Furthermore everything was wet with sweat. I was losing consciousness from the lack of air, and felt nothing but revulsion. If I was still alive, it was only because I was hoping for help from Jack. I was almost dying from the physical pressure and the pain.
After jumping on me like I was a trampoline, the native untied me and threw me to the ground, my hands still tied. I was deafened for some time by his screaming and the whistling of the wind. He continued to jump with the cigar in his hand and was excitedly repeating something familiar. My God, what he was saying over and over again was “A-Mouse”!
The native suddenly left the room, but soon returned with some of his tribesmen. There were three of them, all looking like him. The tribesmen had cigar cases which were just as big as his. But I was no longer scared of these cigars. I feared the smell, their podgy bodies and the aggression that accompanied their stupid dances and antics. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t bear the three of them. These savages could really start a tornado, or at least a fire. The airlessness of the room was intensifying. They began to move from one corner of the room to the other, continuing the dance with their small deities. Suddenly a wind arose in the room again, scattering the tobacco leaves in different directions. Out of these leaves and the remains of cigars a vortex was forming in the centre of the room. The natives stood in a circle and began to walk around the vortex.
They proceeded to dip their cigars in the liquid, as the first one had done before. After this, one of them jumped on top of me and began to prod me with his cigar. At that moment I suddenly remembered the melody that Jack had played for me in the car and began to hum it. In an instant my powers returned to me. The first native ordered his tribesmen to be silent, and hearing the tune made a loud cry. I didn’t understand anything that was going on. However, to my surprise, the guy who was holding me down quickly got up and gave me a respectful bow. Then each of them simultaneously stuck their cigars between their legs and together began to howl out the same song I was singing. I felt like I was the soloist in a male-voice choir composed of anxious savages.
To my surprise they knew my song well and, as they hummed it, they shouted out in joy. The savages bent over their cigars, as though they were trying to persuade them to do something. A tornado got up in the room again and was howling together with us. In a second the cigars were torn to shreds to the sound of their shrieks. These scoundrels lost all interest in me, after they exhaustedly breathed out the last sounds of the song in chorus. How banal! What a waste of energy! Was I really the same as they were, so wild and so dull-witted?
I was singing a song with the savages. Until then I had considered myself much more educated, much more modern, than they were. Was I really just wild and useless like them? I realized that I didn’t want to be an ordinary person out there with petty desires. Desires like these lose their value as soon as they are achieved. And everything had begun so well too! But these naked strangers with bandanas around their necks joined in and ruined everything.
And it could have worked out in a genuine way, an adult way: real feelings and emotions between a man and a woman. I wanted to go to Jack.
“Jack, where are you?”
“I’m here, Lola.” Jack was standing looking at me as though nothing had happened. I turned and pointed towards the savages, so that I could reproach Jack with them. But there was nobody there. Before me there was a workshop for producing cigars, but no savages. Though, on the floor there was a heap of tobacco leaves, which I had been lying on. But maybe I only imagined lying on them? It was funny that there were no bruises or scratches on my body either. I hung on Jack’s shoulder and burst into tears. I was completely naked, but not ashamed in the least.
“Now ‘A’ will always be with you,” said Jack and I wept with relief.
“It’s not ‘A’ that I need, Jack. It’s you!”
“And I’ll always be here with you too, my beautiful girl.”
“If you’re interested, Jack, I can tell you about my father and his big diamond business.”
“It’s not that I’m interested in diamonds or the money that they are worth. I’m interested in people and the motives which guide them in a business like that,” replied Jack.
“Fine, I’ll tell you about these people and if you like I could introduce you.”
We stood very close to each other. I felt tired and wanted a drink. Jack lay me down neatly on a sofa at the very end of the room, and went out. I got up and dressed, continuing to be tormented by thirst. When you want a drink, diamonds are no use at all. You begin to see moisture in all kinds of objects. If you see an apple, you think that that apple would be ideal for quenching your thirst. If there aren’t any apples, then any other fruit or berries will do just as well. But the best thing of all would simply be clear spring water! Only clear spring water could wash away all of today’s negative experiences. My body smelt like those stupid fantasies. How good it was that I had given up these stupid stories and would never go back to them. I remembered the smell of the wild men, the stench of their disgusting cigars, and I wanted to go out and wash myself in a stream or even a puddle as soon as I could. Moreover, because of my stubborn will and stupidity, I brought on myself a deal of mental trauma. After such ordeals a number of inferiority complexes could have developed in me. From one viewpoint you could say that I had been together with lots of men at the same time, but you could also say that I hadn’t been with anyone at all and was still an innocent girl. God, how I wanted to feel pure, in body and soul!
Pure fresh water would help me! That’s why I so urgently wanted to find water to wash away my painful mood and restore confidence in my powers.
I remembered how I had beaten Jack with my fists, demanding that he do violence against me. What a great guy he is for not taking advantage of my weakness and for not doing just whatever I say.
I smiled. But where could I get water?
“Lola, you might not believe me, but you won’t be able to drink your fill of this water as you want,” said Jack, handing me a bottle.
I grabbed it and began to drink greedily. After finishing the bottle I realized that I wanted more and asked Jack for another. I emptied the second one just as quickly. And I was still tormented by thirst.
“Jack darling,” I shuddered that I had called him this, but then calmed down. He was really a sweet and dear man to me, and what’s more I loved him. How lucky I was to have him! I could have come across a jerk. But, thank God (!), things were going so well, better than ever! I hugged him and stopped crying. Perhaps I was in a world that was quite new to me and far removed from real life. But I was together with him — this remarkable man! I needed to rely on him and trust in him since alien beings needed help.
“Jack darling! That’s true! I thought that I was quite cunning and shrewd before I came away with you. But now I feel as though I’m from the Moon and don’t understand a thing about this world. Please explain why I so badly need to drink?”
“As a matter of fact you don’t want to drink at all: your thirst is just a mirage. You simply want to cleanse yourself after that episode which your inexperience plunged you into. In normal life, people often get stuck in situations like that for years, sometimes practically their whole lives. You were lucky: thanks to ‘A’ you were quickly purged of it! I wasn’t worried about you. A-Mouse was there with you after all. However, you need a lot of water to completely clean away that awful episode of ‘violence’, so that it doesn’t leave behind any complexes or negative feeling. That’s why you want to drink so badly.”
He put on a new record, but my state didn’t seem to change at all.
“To get a stream of clean water we can turn to a source we know well: we should spend some time listening to the ‘tinkling’ so to say of the spring close by. But I can’t put on that song for you since I didn’t bring it with me. That’s why I didn’t want to give you the opportunity to go through this ‘violence’ just yet. Do you understand? The music of the spring would quickly transform all today’s negatives into positives. But for that music we should go to Phoenix. And on the way you can tell me about the people who are involved in the diamond business.
I nodded with a feeling of tremendous gratitude and, throwing off my torn jacket, I wrapped myself in the soft blanket that Jack offered me. For some time we drove along in silence: me, Jack, A-Mouse, and the cent too of course. I had the feeling again that Jack was one of the family and that we had lived many years together.
“Jack, I don’t know what I can tell you about one of the most closed and secret businesses in the world,” I began. “If you are really interested in the people, I can tell you about the diamond exchange where all diamonds come in from the market.”
“Tell me about the ‘smells’. When people follow the smell of diamonds they must be able to track a scent like a dog.”
“You sound like my father. He has told me a lot about having a nose for diamonds, which also can let down a great deal of entrepreneurs. But I’ll let you into an important fact. My father doesn’t like our neighbours, who are always complaining to the police about us on account of the dogs. Father keeps dogs on the farm and sometimes he has them at the house too. He actually has a lot of dogs, and I know some of his favourite ones well. And these favourites scare our neighbours most of all, although they are really quite harmless. But people are afraid of the way the dogs look at you, and I used to be too. In fact the dogs look at everything in that way due to a special diet they have, but the neighbours are concerned that they could get bitten at any time.”
“And what’s so special about the way they look at people?”
“I don’t know. I only know that it’s the diet that’s the cause of it, and that their gaze isn’t the most important thing at all. The main thing is their sense of smell, which you mentioned already. That ability is very useful in the diamond business. In the past, diamond ore was dug up with shovels and sorted by hand. People would dig through over a million tonnes of earth to find it. And when they did, a terrible war would break out. So it was very dangerous to mine for ore in an open way. Nobody was supposed to know about it.”
“That’s right: the sparkle of diamonds is more dangerous than bullets. It acts directly on the human brain and people lose all reason. Please tell me about it. I know that your father is considered the most successful and prudent in this business. His cold heart and intellect excite my banker so much that he is prepared to learn at his feet day and night. But your father doesn’t train anyone.”
“And he’s right not to. As long as he doesn’t reveal the secret of the dogs’ special diet, he’s safe.”
“But why is the diet such a secret?”
“I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but father has trained the dogs to search for grey-blue clay, and that leads him straight to the ore. You know, Jack, this clay occurs wherever there are diamond deposits. There’s a lot of this clay, millions of tonnes of it, and it’s all there under our feet. You could be walking right over it every day, but nothing would come of it. Can you imagine how many people are interested in this? It is this outcome that interests everyone, not the millions of tonnes of dug-over clay.”
“I gather that his whole business is based on the keen sense of smell of his dogs?”
“You know, in the past people built houses out of dense constructions of this grey-blue clay. People took large lumps of clay and made walls out of them. They didn’t know that in these solid structures there could be found a great quantity of diamond ore! They knew nothing about geology. Can you imagine how much a small house like that can be worth? There can be ten to fifteen kilograms of top-quality ore! People go to work every day and never suspect that they don’t really have to — they are already very rich!”
As I told Jack about all of this I somehow felt safe. I remembered my childhood years. I yearned for parental warmth and love, but father was always preoccupied with his diamonds. He was strict with me, but didn’t devote enough time to me. I was angry about it and even thought that I would grow up and get my revenge on him. I didn’t understand why he needed money when he already had me.
“So your father would go on business trips with one of his dogs?” asked Jack.
“Yes. He would take one of his favourite dogs and go away for two weeks, sometime a month.”
“And come back with a bagful of diamonds?”
“No, there were always bankers who would accompany him on the trips. They knew that father never went anywhere without success. And they were surrounded by a lot of bodyguards.”
“I guess that on one trip your father would bring in ten kilos of diamonds? That’s a fortune!” Jack looked at me in wonder.
“Of course not. On one trip he could get a hundred kilos, or if he was lucky a hundred and fifty to two hundred kilos of diamond ore! That’s why the bankers love him so much. They love money. And I hate diamonds because due to them I didn’t see my father for weeks in my childhood.”
“I wonder what they do with such a large quantity of diamonds?”
“For each trip they work out an entire financial scheme. Each of them brings in stones of 5, 15 and 25 carats which are immediately put into use. For each of them they write out contracts, make agreements about processing and so on. He doesn’t have any kind of diamond deposit at all.”
My phone rang. I looked at the caller ID — it was my father.
“Jack, it’s father. What should I do?”
“I think you should answer it,” he said and immediately changed the music to another track. I picked up the receiver.
“How is it going?” asked father.
“Fine. I’m going away visiting with a friend for the day.” It was useless to lie to him, so I just told the truth.
“Please be careful not to tell anyone about my business,” father said sternly. “I know that you have just been talking about me. Tell me something about the person you’re travelling with.”
“He’s a good guy,” I answered uncertainly.
“Keep to the point. This escapade he’s getting you into, is it dangerous? Do you feel threatened?”
“He’s a good guy,” I said again.
“I have little interest in what kind of a man he is. Answer my question. Do you feel threatened with him?”
“No,” I answered.
“Okay. I’ll call you later,” said father, now more gently, and he ended the call.
“I wouldn’t like my father to interfere in our relations. And I don’t think that he’s going to do that. He has a very powerful intuition. And now he’s got from me the answer that he wanted to hear.”
“Are you worried?” asked Jack.
“Not any more. He heard my answer, otherwise it wouldn’t be so good.”
“And how do his dogs hunt for diamonds?” continued Jack.
“It’s very simple: beforehand he rents one of those houses for a certain period. The first thing he does is take the dog down to the basement and the dog starts sniffing the walls. It soon finds the right brick. Father marks the place with chalk and then leaves. After him there are workers who come to cut out the brick and put another in its place. If there are a lot of these bricks then they buy the whole house, work in it for 2-3 weeks, and then sell it again cheaply.”
“So the big companies have to dig through a lot of earth, but your father doesn’t have to do that?”
“Yes, that’s right. He asked me just now if I was telling you about his business.”
“And what did you answer?”
“I told him that you were a good guy.”
“Does he think that I might be dangerous?”
“He suspected you might be, but after the answer I gave he will calm down for a while.”
“And does he have many banker friends?” asked Jack.
“No, just a few. But they are very good and intelligent people, despite the fact that they are continually armed.”
“These people, including your father, get pleasure from the pursuit of intense sensation. And I can get these intense sensations without leaving the car. All of these feelings can be produced in a single file! That file might be acoustic, like the music you’re listening to now, or like the music that we’re on the way to get.” Jack set off again.
“Don’t worry about it, Jack. I believe you when you say that it is easier to deal with virtual emotions. I have felt myself how your music works. It works so well! But you yourself still want simple warmth! It is not virtual warmth that you want, but human warmth!” I was feeling a little sorry for myself.
“Virtual emotions, that’s the future. They cause no wars, no bloodshed. And all diamond hunters turn out to be just ordinary murderers.”
“A lot of people live for years on the hunt. They seek out weak people, who yesterday were still strong, and end up actually killing them. Compared to them, other people live like mice. I used to live like that too.”
“And did you enjoy your life without emotions?”
“I am not arguing with you or disputing anything. I realize that your music is better than diamond hunting. I know that in one day I felt more emotions than in the rest of my entire life.”
Jack suddenly asked me to tell where the diamonds were kept. I knew that he didn’t have any intentions to rob me or my father, but I was on my guard.
“You experienced for yourself how ‘A’ and the audio files work. It’s a big business, Lola. It’s better than diamonds! I invite you to be a partner with me. If we’re talking about business, we’ll make a lot of money! But I’m not doing this because of the money. I’m only doing it because it’s very useful and invaluable for ordinary young people who get disabled in sports or some other kind of warfare.”
“Can I ask you a concrete question?” I said. “How much money do you need to finance this project?”
Jack leant over from behind the wheel to kiss me, but I moved away and insisted on an answer.
“I don’t know how much money I need. What I do know is that people need this technology, and they will pay for the music and the sounds!”
“Yes, but still, how much money do you need? Have you never even thought about it?”
“That was always a secondary question for me. Off the top of my head I’d say I need around fifteen million dollars.”
“If you could get that money who would you pay in the first instance?”
“I want to produce some music discs for young people who play sports, and give those to them. The music will neutralize their aggression.”
“But then they won’t be able to play sport. To win, people need aggression. And they have to win, because that is what sport is all about.”
“Instead of arguing with you, I’ll just invite you to one very entertaining place. You will see everything with your own eyes. You know it’s very difficult for me to explain those things to you that at this stage you aren’t even able to imagine! I’ll arrange a present for you that you will be so delighted with. And then you’ll understand that this is just what young people need. They will dream of getting it even more because the price will be ludicrous. It will be cheaper than an ordinary music file.”
“I’ve already been in one ‘entertaining’ place. And since then I’ve been so thirsty. But seriously, it was quite scary. Now I’m fine, apart from the thirst.”
Jack offered me another bottle of water and I grabbed it eagerly. He went on talking excitedly about his idea.
“How much does a trip to the Dominican Republic cost? To feel comfortable in an average hotel you would have to pay about two to three thousand dollars for a family for ten days. With flights that would make it around six thousand dollars. But if you take the pleasure from the flights, the journey, and then adapting to being at home again, and compare it with meaninglessly listening to music at home, then the pleasure from my files will be much more effective. And emotionally they will feel much better too.”
“I believe you, Jack. Don’t get excited.”
“And then if you compare it with the people crippled from injuries they stupidly got in sport. They just wanted to have some fun, but ended up crippled. Or they might have become moral cripples on the roads and injure ordinary people. Instead they could just have sat at home and had a good time. Are you saying that I’m not right?”
“I don’t know about this issue in detail, so I can’t say with any certainty.”
“But you were just exposed to the virtual theatre a couple minutes ago.”
“I’m not arguing that it was great. But still I don’t know all there is to know about this question, so I couldn’t say for sure.”
He fell quiet. In the car there was silence. With hardly a word we drove to the desert of Phoenix.
to be continued…