The Graces – Part II

8

Anava had never interacted with another entity or another person in dreamtime, besides the spoken guidance of Rana or her teachers. Until now, she had not interacted with another consciousness here.

Or at least an interaction that included eye contact.

She instinctively replayed her inner directives to herself:
Stay confidant. Stay strong. Stay here.

Stay here.
Stay here.

Her heart pounded as it never had before, her dreamtime world playing and unfurling in front of her very eyes. The strings of life. Songs of reality.

Stay here.
Stay here.

He looked as surprised as she was. His face wet, and anguished. As she suspected, it appeared he had been mourning here.

“H – How did you find me out here?” his throat crackled, and it was clear to her that the scream she had heard was his.

Before she could fathom an answer to his question, Anava suddenly felt herself talking. It was as if another power was speaking for her. Through her.

“It wasn’t any trouble. I just found you a moment ago.”

The feeling was so foreign, and she didn’t recognize her voice.

Do I know him?

Anava felt a recognition, but couldn’t place his face. He was somber, and his features handsome. Dark hair cut short, rather than grown out and braided as she was used to seeing among initiates.

Do I know him?

“Oh.” He answered back, as he cleared his throat again and averted his eyes. He was clearly grappling with something that was weighing him down. He ran his hands along his temples and damp cheeks as he sat up against the tree. Again, she heard herself speaking – as if from thin air and of no volition of her own.

“Z, I’m worried about you. Why did you run off?”

His name is ‘Z’ – I don’t know anyone by that name?

Anava observed him, trying to note everything about him. Her eyes obeyed, but her body still resisted movement, as she remained kneeling. She was a visitor in this experience.

Maybe I do know him?

This man – “Z” – suddenly guffawed, stretched his neck, and tensed to her question.

“I’m fine,”  he mumbled. “I’m – It’s just – I’m not – You didn’t have to. Really, I’m just –”  He rubbed his eyes, and his words trailed off. Anava stayed still, and waited for herself to answer him. She was not in control.

Sure enough, she felt herself lean towards him – her heart racing in time with this submersion of reality, a submission to something immensely greater than herself. She felt a singing of potential in witnessing it act from within her.  She heard herself speak.

“This is not how the story begins, and it is not how it ends, either.”

Then she felt herself place a hand on his heart. Her eyes widened with puzzlement at the meaning of those words and what was to come. And just as easily as the dreamtime scene had invited her in and had enfolded her in a place so vividly and viscerally hers, the moment disintegrated and faded out of existence without any trace, leaving her in darkness.

Her eyes shot open in a heaving breath. Her brow caked in sweat, her heart cracked open and silent. The same rawness and exhilaration pulsed through her veins as her first dreamtime walk, but now it had amplified tenfold.

What just happened?

*

Anava was shaking and shuddering and orienting herself to the time; dusk had just landed, and the cool night air had arrived for her just in time. It seemed that she had been in dreamtime for a few hours.

She wiped her forehead with the ends of her sleeves. She was still in the pavilion of stones, but no one else was around. The older gentleman had gone, and the bells and chimes in the trees around her jangled gently with the night breeze.

After another deep breath, the enormity of her dreamtime walk sunk in. Her questions, her pleading, her desire to heal and sort things out with Rana and Ren. And then him.

Him.

His name was ‘Z.’

What just happened?

Anava sat in silence for a long while, not sure how to process her venture into dreamtime by herself. It was silly to seek these questions without a guide. How would she explain this to anyone? No one had witnessed anything but herself. There would be no way to sort fact from fiction – and no way she would remember all that had happened. Ephemeral dreamtime was, in a sense, very real, but once exited, the details from your time there tended to blur and coincide and recede and combine with current realities. It would intertwine with waking life, and the true root of the experience would be lost.

Memories of dreamtime did not seem to stick very well to physical reality.

Anava took out some pages from her books and furiously started to write everything she could remember in as much detail as she could manage with a thin, penciled piece of charcoal. She would have to re-imprint on this later. Her pulse was still racing, and sweat dripped from her chin. It dropped on the pages and smeared the furious scribbling. Her hand could not move fast enough to keep up with her thoughts.

She wrote of her questions, and the note of the scream. She jotted down the name of the man in anguish under the tree – his look, hair, clothes, his jagged pearly aura that gave her pause.

She noted their conversation and how she had heard her own voice talking through her, acting the scene out – and how it seemed like he recognized her immediately. His intensity had softened when she had spoken, as if she had a comforting presence to him.

Who are you, Z?

Why did the Graces bring me to you?

How do you relate to my questions about Ren and Rana?

Then the clarion bell sounded from beyond the hill: ceremonies at the temple were in session.

Anava slammed shut the thin pages of her book and threw it in her bag. She sprinted down the hill, almost sliding on the dusky, slippery grasses.

She was late, unimaginably confused, and incongruently happier than she had ever felt.

*

Rana was not at ceremonies that evening, and leader Soan did not seem to acknowledge Anava entering late and sitting down at the back of the room, as quiet as she could be. A few other initiates shot her disdainful glances, but she did not notice them. She looked around for Ren. He was not present.

Her thoughts accelerated, and the worry started to creak.

Frowning, she took out her notes and her own copy of the sacred text for the ceremony lesson, but it was impossible to concentrate. Pages of black, smeared scribbling fell open onto her lap and the lessons going on around her faded into distraction.

If Anava continued her lessons with Rana, she would have to tell her about her dreamtime adventure, and subsequently, her desire of healing. Of the man and the grief that she encountered after asking a question of the Graces. A question that directly involved herself and Ren.

Or would she?

 

….

If you wish to read the story in order, use the following links to go back to previous posts:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava
Part 5 – The Promise
Part 6 – The Readers
Part 7 – The Graces – Part I

The Graces – Part I

7

Anava followed the drysmus line to the small, cobbled dormitory where she lived while studying at the temple. She was distracted and disjointed from her encounters with Ren and Rana. Her skin prickled with confusion.

Why not give guidance to your own son?

Why me?

The questions were plaguing and stung with betrayal. Ren was the entire reason she knew Rana. How gleefully they played as youngsters, imagining this and that and chasing each other about the main courtyard; how Rana would come out in her colored robes and talk to them, enchanting them with stories as they played amongst the fragrant blooms and shrubbery.

How she envied those robes as a girl, how she dreamed of wearing them one day. The robes she never thought she would ever have. They made a strong, gallant impression. They signified respect. They signified knowledge. They signified the Graces.

And now, thanks to Rana herself, she had them within grasp. But without Ren as an equal, it felt like a hollow victory. A chasm had appeared, and although she continually tried to brush her errant, betrayed thoughts aside, they would not leave.

Anava felt herself stray from the narrow path within the tall grass now and again, and focused on letting the magnetic currents push her back. They were especially strong at the drysmus line, and this soft, light push was comforting. Consoling. When she walked the lines she felt a closeness to the world that nothing could compare to.

As she saw the onyx precipice of the dormitory tower come into view through the top of the grass, Anava decided to go to the pavilion and explore her misaligned thoughts further rather than study for ceremonies.

She deviated left and up the hill to a small grove of trees. Within them was a small outcropping of rock with stone pillars to surround it. Bells and other chimes were hung around in the tree branches, marking this as a holy place. A sanctuary.

She entered the circle of pillars and seated herself. The rock was mossy in spots, but still firm. There was an older gentleman bowed in prayer at the other side, so she made pains to hush any noises of her arrival.

She held her fingers together, and moved them through the courses that now came second nature through her many years of study. She focused on breath: in and out, in and out, in and out. She let her emotions come through with no judgement. She observed each one, looked for attachments, and let them fall in the dark, swirling space of her mind. It was a familiar, dancing rhythm. Rise and fall, rise and fall.

Finally, smooth and unfiltered thoughts started to flow. Flowers; small pushes from the drysmus; Rana’s wide and warm smile; cool breezes and the exhilaration of her dreamtime forest.

Anava’s temple was calling her. The forest was waiting.

This time she did not have to find dreamtime and create her temple – it had found her. All she had to do was slide into the space, and it opened for her as if by request. She was keenly aware of the silence and opening drift of reality that was both crystal clear and murky. She was amazed, but quite shaken, at the relative ease and effortlessness of the action.

With a small thrill, and her heart racing, she smiled, and felt the moment blossom.

*

She walked along the same moss and glittering tree canopy as she had before. She stroked the ferns and felt the warm sunlight welcoming her, and she them. She greeted the wind and listened to the chirping chorus of the birds flittering faraway.

As she walked, a stone path appeared through the undergrowth and rotting logs. The ease of this place – responding to her, calling to her – expunged any hesitancy she might have hidden within. She knew she would seek her questions here. This was the place, the only place that mattered. A devout warmth filled her chest, and suddenly every question she had at the forefront of her mind rushed forward in a flurry, simultaneous and all-encompassing:

Why would Rana do this to her son?

She is not that kind of person… Is she?

Am I more talented then Ren?

I didn’t think I was.

Rana loves her son, she would never do anything to hurt him.

Why train me alone, and not others?

Were there others?

Why am I so distraught?

What should I do?

I do not wish to do initiations without Ren by my side.

Should I discuss with Rana?

Should I drop it?

I don’t want to cause a rift – their familial relationship is theirs, and not mine.

But they are family to me.

Why doesn’t this feel right?

 

Her stream of thoughts started to slow, and Anava felt her questions come to a nexus:

 

Please.

Show me what I need to do for healing.

For me. For them.

For Us.

I request Your love and Graces.

 

She continued walking in relative silence. The rocks and trees more familiar now, but still the same forest. There was no destination in her sight, other than the questions. She stayed open and confidant and kept walking.

Nothing different appeared. No new shapes or sounds.

Anava listened and closed her eyes, imagining the drysmus line guiding her and comforting her. In time with her footsteps, she repeated and repeated:

 

Show me what I need to do for healing.

For me. For them.

For Us.

I request Your love and Graces.

 

Please.

 

 

Please.

 

 

Please.

 

 

Please…

 

 

And suddenly in her reverie, a scream reverberated through the trees, and the birds and trees grew silent.

Her heart jolted. She swiveled herself to the origin of the sound, and the forest moved around her in a blur of color and sound and feeling.

She was transported to a small clearing, and before her was a man, slumped in the dewy plants. He appeared to be distraught, but his arms obscured his face. He radiated agitation, infuriation… and Anava felt the deepest wave of sadness. A wall of grief overcame her.

She gaped for a moment, not sure how to proceed. Maybe he would reveal something to her. Clues, information. The graces were answering her!  She reigned in the triumph and reinstated her stoic front. She approached him slowly. He seemed to be asleep.

He was wearing nothing of note from which she could discern his identity – no robes from the temple, no marks of the graces, no clarions. But he had a pearly auric shimmer about him that gave her pause. It was beautiful, but jagged.

Anava kneeled beside him. Sweat had gathered along his shoulders, and he was breathing rapidly in his so-called sleep. She thought of a breeze to help cool him down, and the wind obeyed, ruffling his light linen overcoat. He was not enjoying his slumber, and she wished to see his face… do I know him? Is he a clue to my questions?

Abruptly, he lifted his head in a gasp and made eye contact. They stared for an endless moment.

He could see her.

She froze.

 

….

Continue on to Part 8 – The Graces – Part II

 

If you wish to read this ongoing story project in order, use the following links to go back to previous posts:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava
Part 5 – The Promise
Part 6 – The Readers

The Readers

6

“Who is this young cadfly? Shoo! You are shutting out the light!!”

As soon as he entered the threshold of the small and cramped gallery space, an old woman seated near the entry started yelling at him.

“Out, I say! Out!” She was the oldest woman Zerian had ever seen, and he gave pause – her eyes were almost non-existent, swallowed with leathery tanned skin.

“Oh stop, Jahsha, stop!” Another not-quite-as-old woman came out to meet Zerian as he stood on the rug, gaping at the elderly heckler. “Sorry, Sir, don’t mind Jahsha. She is waiting for her escort.”

This other not-as-old woman was tall and on eye-level with Zerian. She had black hair striped with silver, braided carefully down her back, and wore a deep blue robe with black stitching – one of the many colors and styles of robes that were representative of the disciplines studied at the Temple of the Graces.

Zerian knew that the Body Readers were well educated on the nuances of health and how this translated to your field and other bodily systems. Beyond that, nothing else – except that his mother distrusted their practice and did not want him to engage with it. He knew she was somewhat of a traditionalist, and that she had once forayed into discipleship at the temple, but he had never pressed her for more stories. She never seemed to enjoy discussing it.

But suddenly, standing here now in a small dusty gallery with a Body Reader before him, Zerian felt the curiosity of his mother’s past start to rise.

“What is the occasion today, young Sir?”

“I – I came for some consult on my sleep. If you might be able to help and advise?” Zerian kept his voice low as he did not wish to have the unruly elder woman seated nearby hear his personal business.

“Ah yes, sleep diagnostics – you have come to the right place!” She lit up in a warm smile and shook his hand with both of hers. “I can see you right away, if you’d like? Jahsha was my last appointment. What is your name, young Sir?”

“Zerian Ref-Vera. And you, Sira?”

“Please, you can call me Tulla.” Her omittance of her last names immediately made him regret revealing his own.

“Ref-Vera, did you say? You are certainly not from around here! I am not sure I have met anyone from Vera. Do you like Atuva?”

“Yeah, I do. It’s a change of pace, but lots to see for someone like me, I guess.” Zerian managed an awkward smile as Tulla gestured for him to follow her through a back hallway. He hated to give his full name, disclosing his origins and taking him off the table of regular citizen talk. From here on out, everything discussed would be compared in reference to his country roots and Atuva-centric topics avoided.

“Please stand here, on the round rug.” Tulla pointed to the small black and white round rug at the center of the side room she had just led him to. The room was dark, with only two small, narrow windows, shrouded in gauzy midnight-blue curtains that filtered the sunlight. She pulled out a small metal object from a tall stand of drawers once they entered.

“Sorry – I’ve never been to any Reader before. Don’t mind me if I make a mess of it.” Zerian stood on the small rug and made excuses.

“Oh, no issue at all. I’ll talk you through it. We see many levels here – those who have been coming for years, and many more who come only when they need to, when met with dire circumstances,” she glanced up at him with a wink, as she fiddled with the small cylinder in the palm of her hands. She held it up for him to see.

“This is a spinner. It will read your field and take some measurements – then I’ll run the program and get some answers for you – no need to be nervous. With sleep diagnostics, readings usually manifest inside the field itself – no need for direct body readings.” She looked up at Zerian again, who was listening intently. She surveyed his face and space around it. “Your aura appears to be fairly consistent – no visible marks of weakness that I see. What is the sleep issue you are having trouble with specifically? Trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep? Sleep walking?”

“Dreams.” Zerian almost didn’t say it. He almost made up a story about exhaustion and anxiety and working too much, but he blurted it out too quickly.

“Ah – and these are bad dreams I take it?” Tulla didn’t seem fazed.

“Yes, but not really the subject of them.”

“So it’s not about bad dreams?” Tulla paused with adjusting the spinner contraption and searched Zerian with confusion.

“It is. It’s just that – there are none. It’s like…. Nothing. Nothing is there.”

Tulla looked concerned, and furrowed her brow the same as Bess had done earlier that day. “Nothing?” she repeated back.

“Nothing. But it feels like I’m getting pulled around. Or shuffled around. I don’t know how to describe it… I can’t seem to get any rest. I always wake feeling tired. Never rested. But grateful that I’m not sleeping anymore. Does that make sense?”

“Hrmmmmm…” Tulla made a long and low murmur, with no official recognition that she knew what was happening. “How long has this ‘restless’ sleep been occurring?”

“For maybe half of a year. Since coming to the city, actually. At first it was just annoying – every few days. But now it’s every night for the last month. I’m at my wits end.” Zerian gave a half-hearted laugh, as if it was a joke. But it wasn’t.

“And you dreamed plenty back home, in Vera? Did you ever have the same bad dreams there?”

“Yes. Well, no. I mean, I’ve never really dreamed vividly. If I did, I never remembered them fully. They’ve always been vague. But it was never an issue before now. Never like this, where I wake up exhausted.” Zerian recalled Bess telling him about a dream that she had recently during the full moon. He couldn’t believe the monsters she could conjure in her sleep – he had never had such an experience. That he could remember, anyway.

“Well this should set us right,” Tulla said assuredly. “Now, stand straight and hold still.” She adjusted his shoulders a bit, pushing down on one and then the other, and Zerian straightened his neck and looked forward at the masonry wall in front of him, strewn with manuscript shelves and hung with odd instruments. Tulla stood a small distance away, just inside his outer periphery.

“Yes. Just like that. You might sense some uncomfortable buzzing while the spinner takes measurements. It will only take a few seconds.” Tulla clicked the small cylinder in her palm, and threw it up in the air towards Zerian. He winced, but the small device spun to life in a blue glow, and started darting around his auric field like it was connected to it – this way and that, almost too fast for him to track with his eyes.

There was a buzzing he could sense – but very faint. Or maybe it was just the sound vibrations of the machine he was sensing?

Just as the small spinner dashed past his head, it zipped up the crown and flew towards Tulla again. She held out a small metal plate, and the spinner returned to it like a cocoon. She then inserted it upright into the reader on her desk, and a screen of data was projected out from it.

“All done – simple and painless, right?” She smiled and ushered him away from the black and white rug. “Take a seat, I’ll look this over for you.” She motioned to a wooden chair near her small desk and immediately started tilting dials and information on the holographic screen that was waiting for her there. Zerian uneasily sat down.

“Well… the readings look very normal. Robust, actually. And from what I’ve observed, your field isn’t showing the weaknesses that a field would regularly display with the lack of sleep that you’re describing. Usually sleep problems like yours can be seen visually – it is very obvious to the eye, but yours is not… Is this making your everyday routine difficult? Are you falling asleep in the middle of the day?”

“Yes. Well, I am grateful to not be sleeping, really. But I am not feeling myself. I am happy to be awake, though. I feel intoxicated sometimes, or not myself lately – clumsier, not as sharp. But mostly I am just happy to not be asleep.”

Tulla looked quizzical. The data screen in front of her whirred and moved around, apparently betraying the real issue at hand. Zerian didn’t know what else to say. Just make it go away. Please?

“Well, young Zerian Ref-Vera, I think I recommend heading home for a bit. To Vera, in the countryside. See if this episodic dream variance resolves itself. Here,” she collapsed the screen onto a piece of paper and handed it to Zerian. “Take this with you when you go. If there is another Reader in Vera, you can re-test your results and compare. I would be very interested in seeing a comparison.”

Zerian’s heart sank with all his hopes. Running back home was not what he had in mind. He wouldn’t be able to tell his mother about any of this, and especially not this meticulous sheet of magnetic resonance statistics.

“Nothing else?” He managed to request as he stood. “You can’t think of anything else?”

She sighed heavily. “Sorry, no. All the readings looked absolutely normal. Not a strand out of place. Amazing, really. I see a healthy young man before me.” She patted his shoulder and guided him back out to the gallery.

Zerian was in a daze. He was sure this was the solution, he knew it. But nothing. A dead end.

“Is this paid for with your shares then?” Tulla tapped into a holographic screen again when they were in the main gallery.

“Yes, sorry. 0945T,” he recited almost absent-mindedly, and pushed his fingerprint into the screen she presented, which made a blip of recognition.

Tulla seemed to sense his brewing frustration. “You could always try the famous ‘Atuva-tera Tonic.’ Take with honey – you’ll need it! Right before bed. It’s known for it’s soothing properties. Might knock down whatever’s bothering you. You could also try the Luli Chants. I have a dear friend who swears by them, but I’ve never needed to try, you know.”

Zerian sensed her attempt at sympathy. “Thanks. That helps. I’ll try to see about the tonic. Thank you for the recommendation.” He bowed deeply, and she in return.

As he made his way back to the shop, he picked up some of the famous tonic from the apothecary by the canal where it was known to be the best. He walked slowly. He thought of his mother’s promise and wondered what the fuss was all about. A bunch of sophisticated little machines and data lists that were of no help whatsoever.

Maybe this was what she wished to spare him.

Continue to Part 7…

Go back to previous:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava
Part 5 – The Promise

The ‘Oasis’ of Self-Inquiry

Whose stories are you telling? And why?

Self-inquiry is so much more important now than I ever could have imagined. I take it so dead-seriously these days that I catch myself off guard.

I used to hear the term ‘journaling’ and scoff a little bit. Mostly because I didn’t have the time to do it (or so I told myself), but also because I was a bit jealous of these people who did have time and did take it so seriously.

Earlier in my life, I latched onto the idea and image of journaling steadfastly – I wanted so to be a writer, and how else would I get there then diligently writing the accounts of one’s own life, every day without fail? Duty bound to the written word, and eventually left with a large stack of journals and pen scratches as evidence. Credentials.

Yet inevitably, those old journals of mine from middle school and high school didn’t quite stick as a habit. I became bored with them and barely ever wrote in them regularly. But I was living in the outside world then – I was scribing my daily traverses, but of course it was boring: I was not turning my attention as inward as I should have.

The inward motion makes a difference; it moves mountains and carves universes. It is fluid and ever-changing. Reflecting on the outward side of things, without the inward motion, only reinforces tropes and boxes of cultural and personal constructs that are already evident.

Once I was in college and testing the waters of asking myself deeper questions through writing, journaling – or as I have come to call it, ‘personal essaying’ – finally found its proper niche in my life.

Writing in self-inquiry has taken its place as the rightful oasis it always was and could be. It is NOT the “palace of intellect” or “shrine to craft” like I assumed it was in my youth. No… it is much more modest than that, as it humbles yet enriches me every time I do it. To dip my pen in and drink deep of the waters I find, thirst quenched in surprise and awe, as I hadn’t realized I was parched in the first place.

In this way, self-inquiry is really, really important. And I want to stress that to all people I know and all people I don’t.

As you write, or think, or meditate, or talk your way through hard, tough questions, take care to not repeat the stories you’ve been told previously. Don’t regurgitate. Don’t just reflect back what the world wants and what culture has told you is important. Take the world and bend it through your most important lens – that of your heart.

Whose stories are you telling? And why? 

In a way, I think this sums up my budding interest in Buddhism, and how I feel about it a nutshell.

To me, it is applying self-inquiry to your life to root out those voices that are telling your story for you. That are whispering in your ear the script of what’s already been written; thoughts already outlined and feelings already validated.

Self-inquiry is a path, a road, to understanding and recognizing the true You that exists regardless. The true You that has always been there, the shining kernel at the center of your outward persona and self-constructs.

I want myself and my loved ones to ask these questions of themselves and look deeper, to know that luminous self underneath all the horrible muck that we tell ourselves. The muck that society / family / culture / friends / gender roles / media / and even their own inner critic (the most formidable voice among these) spews at them every day and in every moment. To see and recognize each of these voices and see how they influence our lives and our decisions. To see how these voices are not them. They are not You.

Whose stories are you telling? And why?

“Tell them stories” has always been one of my favorite  “this is the meaning of life” quips from a fiction book series that I’ve ever read, from the third book in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Phillip Pullman. This quote jumped out at me when I read it.  It was one of those truth-y moments that lies with you for the rest of your life.

Stories are a mainstay in our culture and they define us as humans; a unique attribute of our consciousness. And we have the power to harness and tell the stories that we want to tell.

So in a way, Buddhism to me is a vehicle of self-inquiry from which we gather and amass tools and skills to hear and tell the stories of our true self – to hear and tell the stories of the heart.

An oasis that lies within.

A Rejection of the ‘Reactionary Self’

Uncertain and quiet, I still just don’t know.

Lately I feel like I have no authority to be espousing my opinion on the internet, to post blogs, or even to write privately because I feel contaminated.

A deep-seated feeling of perpetuating something that’s not genuine. Of creating something that’s not bore of myself but merely a reaction of external and incongruous things. Something that in the end is just word garbage.

(And as I pointed out in my first blog post here, this was one of my prominent reservations that held me back when I started blogging.)

We all know that pure and unadulterated “reactions” are not always virtuous or the right idea/thought/feeling to hold onto or to emulate.

Perhaps this explains my relative lack of blogging and writing, perhaps not. But it does explain why I have started and stopped MANY different essays, none of which are posted here, and helps to explain why I never felt comfortable doing so.

A lot of my thoughts lately have resembled ‘rants’ of some kind and have been rather depressing and deflating to re-read (even to myself).

In a large sense, they are pure reactions to the pain and grief and anxiety and frustration of the people and situations that surround me and share this life. I’m mixed up in them and these myriad worlds of feeling right now, and therefore do not feel a ‘divinity’ or true connection to my writing space as of late.

The other ‘Me’ that catches words – not creates them.

When I’m writing for myself, I’m elated – because this means I have no agenda but to push my own buttons. But when the world is constantly pushing my buttons for me, I am stuck reacting to them and not my own. I have no thought energy or emotion left for the good stuff: The personal and inner journey.

This one takes effort, too. Much more effort than off-the-cuff reactionary thought.

And after crying and fretting at the news all day, sometimes I don’t want to delve down to the inner recesses of my being. I don’t relish opening up a crisp notebook with empty, white pages staring back at me.

Instead I just want distraction.

I think many of us are feeling this right now. Like a suffocation under chaotic clouds. Disbelief and bewilderment of the swirling, vaudevillian world we are suddenly witness to, manifesting before our eyes and before our children’s eyes.

But my inner voice keeps telling me that my reaction to all this is my choice – and that it is so, so, so important. I’m not sure how, but it is.

My heart swells and whispers to stop reacting and start Being. To stop getting caught in the swirl around me, and to create my own swirl. My own message. My own energy.

To connect to the message and energy that reside at the heart.

This or that tragedy. This or that anarchy. This or that doomsday proclamation of pressure and sadness. This is not you. It is not me. It is not Us.

This isn’t what we truly want. It’s energy gone wild. And I’m reminding myself – and maybe you – not to fall into it.

Be the rock in the swirl. The loving rock that observes and sees all things, accepts them as they are, and lifts them up to know the love that you feel so deeply. The love that exists so infinitely and without condition or borders or feelings or thought.

We are all so cataclysmically loved that we feel torn apart sometimes. But maybe that is ok.

The seams are coming undone. Power for power’s sake is getting ripped with cracks and slivers of truth, and is buckling under the weight.

We crave honesty. We crave connection and spirit. No more fakery. No more facades.

Feel the seams rip and love them all the same. Whether apart in pieces or together as a whole, we need to cover it all in love and fly.

The Promise

5

Zerian slipped out the back alley and into the throngs of mercantile shoppers and shopkeeps, many of whom were milling about during midday meals. He was nervous, but it didn’t deter him. It needed to be done, no matter what his mother had warned him.

Stay away from the Body Readers. They will not help you, only confuse you. They discarded the old ways in favor of the new. They will misdirect and mislead, and plant ideas that will not bear fruit. This is my only wish.  Promise me, Zerian? Please?

Zerian kept walking, playing their conversation over and over again in his mind. With a determined frown he justified himself to her.

“Mom, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. They can’t pull the lights out of my eyes. I will be vigilant – please trust me. I need help, I need second opinions…. and you’re not here.”

He shook off the last phrase. It wasn’t her fault she wasn’t here. He was here in Atuva-tera of his own accord.

She was the one who didn’t want him to leave.

*

“I need to do this, Mom, I know this is right.” They were on the side terrace of the small farm house where they lived. Zerian had been apprenticing with Sol for almost five years and had mastered everything he needed to know about the terrain, soil conditions, horticultural varieties and breeding the fruit varietals that enjoyed the sloping hills of Verasco. He needed another challenge – and Sol had presented him with a job opportunity.

It was sunset, and late summer. The air was thick and jeweled, and the sunlight held a deeper resonance than it did in springtime. A weightier glow.

A presence of possibility.

“Sol wants me to open a shop in Atuva-tera.” His smile and enthusiasm were not returned, and her eyes had widened.

He would continue on: “He knows someone who excels at sales, who has worked with him before. We can run it ourselves and stock with Sol’s goods. Isn’t this amazing?! This is just what I was talking to you about the other night! A new challenge – taking things up a notch. This isn’t what I was thinking it would be – but I’m going to do it.”

His mother had worn no expression. She had looked shocked and belied, for whatever reason. He remembers feeling disbelief. What mother would not want her son to be an enterprising business owner? To make a name for himself in a great city-state like Atuva-tera? Was it fear of his wellbeing? Fear of loneliness if he went away?

Sure, they lived alone on the small farm, but she wouldn’t be lonely – she had Peri and Dorvi nearby, and not to mention Lufan from the neighboring farm. Oh, how he would miss Lufan.

The minutes had marched by. She wasn’t responding. She had sat down at the garden knee wall, staring at the distant tree line. He remembered the sunlight haloing her shoulders, her green and gold aura swirling and catching its glimmer.

He remembers coming up behind her and giving her a warm embrace, and how she sobbed into his arms as soon as he did.

“I’m not dying Mom – please don’t act like I am.”  She sighed and laughed lightly, and set her hand on the side of his face.

“Right you are, dear Zerian. I’m just surprised. The day has come. I always knew you would never be happy staying here. I think I had convinced myself that this decision was not expedient.” She sniffled and laughed, hugged him tightly, and sobbed quietly into his arm again.

“Just promise me one thing. Please?”

“Anything Mom, anything.”

*

The canal and adjacent thoroughfares leading to the city center were bright and bustling with activity. He smelled the sting of salt water and sweat in the air as he walked. His shop was in the main shopping veranda – the market place proper, with the most competitive prices and best products from around the known world. A very desirable site, indeed – Sol had an excellent relationship with the city proprietor.

Out of the main business district, here by the sunny canal and green grasses full of horses grazing, there were smaller carts and merchants; restaurant stands were numerous, and offered soups and terrines and skewers of meat and greens galore. All of them competing for the mid-day shopper’s attention, kicking up a lot of noise and selling as hard as they could.

Zerian slipped by them without making eye contact. He walked along the canal for a bit before turning into an older and tighter part of the city, closer to the city center and closer to the temple and citadel. Here were the richer residents of the city, many of them a part of the governing body overseeing day to day operations of the city-state, and many of them also disciples, initiates, and students of the temple on high, the Temple of the Graces.

Zerian wasn’t in the mood to ruminate or sightsee in this part of the city that he had rarely ventured. He turned down a smaller alley, only wide enough for pedestrian traffic, and looked for the small gallery with red marble pillars and the distinctive banner on the outside. He had seen it once before, when delivering goods to one of Sol’s smaller subsidiaries.

The noonday sun was hot and heavy, and tugged his eyelids down. He was growing weary when he caught a glimpse of it: a white cloth with a sun, superimposed on the four cardinal directions and surrounded with an aura. The sign and banner symbol of the Readers.

His heart quickened as he started up the steps, drew a sharp breath, and silenced the promise to his mother.

Continue to Part 6 

Go back to:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava

Q+A: A Conversation with the Scales

Where am I?  I whisper into the night. Why am I here, in this place, at this time?

I wring my hands and crack my neck and stay worried all the same. Nothing feels grounded, nothing feels right about this place, this ephemera – this ME.

The constant swirl of dogma. The constant berating threads from social media and how EVERY fucking person needs to express to the world their feelings, and have them legitimized in some fashion.

And, of course, every single fucking person is RIGHT about what they feel because, well, it’s what THEY feel. WE don’t feel it, so how in the world are we supposed to tell them how NOT to feel it. Insensitive, right?

“Ugh.” Inner critic chimes in and scoffs at this thought. “These people are just expressing themselves. The problem is that every expression gets amplified and routed around like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. People will have opinions – this is fucking normal! – what is NOT normal is how we are bombarded with every single one at one time and then expected to nod our heads and tell everyone ‘I respect your viewpoint.’ Because we don’t, really. Not our inner selves. Not our heart.”

{ Inner critic has a point. }  Yes. I see it. So what about these other people’s opinions that we don’t respect? What’s going on there?

“If their opinions differ from yours, it will be a challenge – difficult even – to hear their side of things. You will have to exercise good listening skills and empathy –things that do not exist in great numbers! And are not supported or encouraged by social media and sound bite data streams. People these days listen to speak and react – not listen to learn. Listen to observe.

“But back to topic: you are certainly not going to agree with everyone – it will NEVER be Kumbaya and hugs all the time because there are billions of people with all shades and shadows of disagreement to what you think and what you believe. You will never find solace really.

“But somehow we convince ourselves that it is possible. That maybe – just maybe! – if we create a nice safe box to live in, where everyone looks and acts the same way, then we can finally be at peace. We can finally feel safe in our own skin and our own comfortable canon. But that’s just because people these days don’t know how to have disagreements with others and not feel existentially threatened. A shame really.”

Whoa, Inner critic. On a roll there!

“Yeah, well – needed to get that off my chest. Whew! Felt good. You’re not going to broadcast this on social media now, are you?”

What! And let this gem sit in a Word doc forever?

{ I am causing my Inner critic to deal with hypocrisy, and it makes me snicker so what the hell. }

*

{ But….. I linger on the conversation a bit. I can’t leave it alone. Picking the scab open further, I keep at it. }

So what was that part about not respecting people and that coming from the heart – what in the world does that mean? Because what I have been led to believe by my own heart-searching is that all people are of unfathomable worth and equal in the eyes of God. Why in the world would my heart not respect some of these people, brothers and sisters that share this planet?

“Oh I never said the heart does not respect the PEOPLE, I just said viewpoint.” Inner critic jumps back in with zealous rigor. “People don’t equal their viewpoint. Viewpoints change.

“But yet, to find a viewpoint that the heart truly and deeply disagrees with is a difficult one. I imagine the figure of Lady Justice inside of the heart, mother of the Fates, blindfolded and holding the scales and sword. That is her true home. If you weigh something against your heart and the scales don’t measure right, that is the sign that the heart will find it difficult to respect, because it will weigh against the heart of humanity. The wrongness will ring, and make it difficult to ignore.”

But….what? How do I know if this is the case? I am troubled by this train of thought, it sounds a little religious-right to me. Like, “I feel this is morally wrong because my heart/religion/God told me so, and so I cannot respect you.” A little bullshitty and hive-mind and not intellectually sound.

Inner critic pipes back, “Ah – but that is the hard part to discern. Was it truly the heart we are weighing against – or the words of man interpreted though another mouthpiece and mistaken as heart?

“If it is truly the heart, then you will know it as truth. If they are words you have heard or been reflected to from another source, then it’s not truly the heart. It might be something that aligns with your heart-logic, but it might also be something that aligns with your “safe little box” guidelines, and so they FEEL right. Heart-logic informed solely from mind-logic, which is easily influenced by “safe little box” logic. An erroneous place to start from. Remember that these visceral feelings are fleeting, and should not define a person.

“Also, you inferred that you cannot respect a person if their opinions offend your heart-logic; that is incorrect. They are still fallible human beings that are capable and deserving of love. Sometimes they know not of what they are doing. They just want to be safe in their boxes. And just because you don’t really respect their opinions doesn’t mean you can’t love them and hope they will find unconditional love for all beings.”

Yeah… sorry Inner critic, but I’m having trouble getting on board with radiating love to all people if they are spouting horrible hate-rhetoric, even if they “know not of what they do.” That sounds like it would feel weird and horrible.

“But it is not a silent love – it is a noisy love, a love in disagreement. Because you care. And it will feel weird and horrible maybe. But it will also weigh right against your heart and against humanity. “

OK, shit.

That is true. It feels true.

Thanks Inner critic for this dialogue. Didn’t know you were into love and stuff on top of questioning everything I do.

“Yes, I am 100% dialed in. And remember: if things are done in the name of good, but are detrimental or demeaning to others, then they are not wholly good. 100% goodness is a rarity. Just be comfortable with loving on your fellow people and doing it more noisily. Because you care. That is a wonderful goodness. Just be sure to self-examine once in a while to ensure you are not getting swallowed up in “safe little box” logic.”

Ok – but I’m an introvert sooooo…… can I love noisily on a blog?

“Oh absolutely.”

Wait – are you really my Inner critic, or are you a brand of heart logic that I wasn’t recognizing?

“You’ll have to weigh me against those scales and see where I fall.”
😉

 

Um seriously? A winky-face?

“I’m funny sometimes. Just you wait.”

Anava

“I’ve been here before,” she whispered under her breath. She stepped through the rocks and moss and cushiony undergrowth carefully. The trees were gallant and tall. Birds chirped from far away and sunlight glittered through canopy cracks, trickling down to reach the dead leaves and rotting trees below. Familiar and foreign, the landscape seemed to welcome her with outstretched boughs and tiny twig-like fingers; reaching to embrace her and lead her home. It was a happy, unsettling feeling. Butterflies in her stomach.

“Wonderful,” a warm women’s voice said over her. “Now touch, interact, this place is only as real as you make it!”

Anava reached out her hand to touch a small fern growing beside her. The deep green leaves were soft and variegated into thousands of tiny jagged lines. Up and down the spine of the fern she moved her fingertips, savoring the feathery lightness. The leaves then began to sway in a light breeze – she looked to where it was coming from, the Northeasterly direction, and closed her eyes to feel the tiny swirls on her cheeks. “The wind started to blow just now. It’s heavenly,” she whispered again softly, as if to herself.

“I feel it too. And your prickly skin – it’s quite cold here!” The voice laughed, and Anava did too – yes, it was cold. She was feeling hot, so the cooler air was refreshing and felt so great on her skin. She smiled and held her hand out to the sky and wind.

“Exhilarating,” the voice stated. Anava smiled wider and nodded her approval. She had been waiting to come here, she finally decided. Or perhaps, this place was waiting for her. Either way, the feeling was mutual. It was as if a dream had materialized before her, a dream that had no discernment or shape prior – only a feeling. A puff of air on a warm autumn day.

This was the embodiment of a homecoming. She let it sink in, and tried to memorize it all. She might not ever return. In the space of a moment, she suddenly fell full of doubt.

“No – Anava! Stay with it!”

It was too late. Anava felt the trees start to crumble like cake washed away with the rain. The sun light faded, and the birds silenced. She opened her eyes in a jolt.

Rana was seated before her, eyes full of sadness and forehead furrowed. Her warm voice had been guiding her throughout the journey, but now she looked cold as ice.

“I’m sorry Rana, I  – I suddenly felt like I would never see this place again. I began to mourn it in my heart as soon as I thought it. I’m sorry for letting that overtake me so quickly.” Anava wrung her hands and clasped them in her lap, nodding her head down in apology. Ah – she had never made it so far before! And she ruined it with a moment of self-doubt.

“Anava, no – that was wonderful! I have no doubt you will be there again. You will see – have faith in your agency. You are quite gifted. Know it in your heart,” Rana reached over and took her hands in hers and kissed her on her crown. Ana lifted a little, knowing Rana had such faith in her. But it was still unnerving. They had been working through this for a year – and how suddenly it had dematerialized in front of her eyes. How one rogue feeling could swing in and unseat so much hard work.

Rana seemed to feel this same thought coursing through her. She pulled back and put her hands on Anava’s shoulders. “Feelings are powerful, Ana – and you mustn’t let them run the show. YOU run the show, and YOU choose the feelings with which to run it. That doubt is powerful – and although it is fine to feel it, and be with it, and comfort it and let it run its course, while you are in dreamtime you have to guard the gates. Be vigilant. You cannot let that doubt in, or it will take over. In dreamtime, you must imbibe pure confidence. Do you understand?”

Anava looked deep into her eyes. They were hazel, and blue at the center. She suspected they had seen so much in her lifetime, and had traveled far and wide and back again. She felt empowered and comforted by Rana’s guidance and eyes and reassurance. It was as if she was her own mother.

“Yes,” Anava squeaked softly. She cleared her throat – “Yes!” she said again emphatically. No better time to start practicing this confidence and swagger she would need.

Rana smiled. “Alright my girl – that’s it for today.” She rose from the rug where they were seated and stretched her hands high. Her gold bangles tinkling as she moved her limbs – bracelets, ear charms and ankle charms. Rana always sounded like a music composition as she reached this way and that, and walked across the room. Like bells calling from another world.

“Thank you Rana,” Anava rose also, and held her hands at her heart and bowed in thanks. Rana bowed in return and left the room, her gown flowing behind her in a glowy daze. It was a misty blue color today, with some intricate knotting and lattice-work. Anava suspected she handmade all her gowns, as she never saw anything like it in the market or in any nearby city.

Anava turned and grabbed her study book and side satchel from the chair at the other side of the room. They met weekly at Rana’s home – a large manor house that was painted in white and constructed from marble, stone, and mason’s mud. It was always cool, but today the meditation room was hot for some reason. Ana suspected it was due to the depth of their session. She had overhead others discussing how difficult it is to keep people cool while they are in dreamtime – this was why they desired to conduct sessions at dusk.

She started out of the porch and into the gallery, where she ran into Rana’s son Ren.

“Hi Ren, good day?”

“Yeah. Great.” They clasped hands lightly in greeting. Ren looked distracted.

“Are you coming to ceremonies tonight? I heard the others discussing leader Soan’s desire to start initiations – isn’t that exciting?!” Ana tried to override Ren’s distraction. He didn’t seem fazed.

“Yeah. I heard. Not sure if everyone’s ready – but should make it interesting. Maybe I’ll just watch, I don’t know if I’m there yet.” He smiled and shrugged and started to turn away.

“What! No, that’s not true Ren – you are being ridiculous. You are ready.” Ana reached out and gave him a reassuring smile.

“Maybe. But not ready enough for private lessons.” He cocked an eyebrow and kept walking.

Anava stopped in her tracks and watched him walk away. So that was it. Her coming here for lessons. She knew something was bothering him lately. But that would mean… Rana wasn’t giving Ren lessons? Her own son?

Ana suddenly felt incredulous. She had assumed this whole time that Rana would have been coaching them both. Ren was a great student, why in the world would she invite Ana for lessons at her own home and not to her own flesh and blood who lived under her roof?

She frowned as she stalked out and onto the winding path back home. This was not a good feeling. This was not how a wonderful session with her beloved mentor was supposed to end. This wasn’t right.

Did she even know Rana?

You don’t, she answered herself.

You don’t.

Keep going to Part 5

Z+B – Part II

3

“There was a story I heard one time,” Bess began, “about a grey-haloed woman who should’ve but shan’t.”

Bess’s favorite story. Again. Bess had some favorite sayings and creative stories, but none as strange and nonsensical as the story of the ‘Doorway Witch.’ She recounted it a lot, and always took the performance very seriously.

“She shat where she shouldn’t, and she ate and she stank. And she pittered and pattered and crook’ed and cranked. She belted and bungled, she jambled and jangled, she shambled and tangled and strangled and sank.” Bess was sing-song with the random tale, and she touched the stone walls and weaver’s goods, and held her hand out to any windchimes on strings as she passed them.

“That grey-haloed woman met the old-dark man, with nothing about him but silence began. They roamed and they wandered, and somewhere strange traveled, across the Medovian land. They wove and they whistled, they picked and they thistled, across the people they met. And the grey-haloed woman would tap each bristle, singing a song until set.”

“Set?”

“Yeah. Set.” Bess glanced back at him over her shoulder. “Like, created? Formed? I think that’s your closest word for it. Ssthet.” She said it slower, fully emphasizing her slight lisp. The story of the grey-haloed woman was a Medoin story, and in the Medov language, so Bess was recounting the translated version.

“Z, it’s too bad you don’t know Medov, you would love it. Isphair fye, Eihler lye,” she smiled back at him. They were descending down the stone staircase to the main fishing port, where they were sure to find some fish monger breakfast.

Whatever it was she had just said, she was probably poking fun at him. “I told you before, I tried years ago,” Zerian shot back. “It’s too ‘jambled.’ It didn’t stick.” He smirked at her, as she glanced behind her.

“Because there’s more meaning to it than you’re used to. The double meaning. It gets lost quite a bit when translated. I bet you would get the tongue if you tried harder. Your name comes from Medov – I would think that counts for something!” Bess took the stairs two at a time. Zerian followed as best he could, trying to keep up. Bess was an infuriatingly energetic morning person.

Then he finally caught and processed the last part of what she said.

“Wait – Bess, what do you mean my name is Medov? Hold up!” He panted a little when they landed at the bottom of the stairs. It was a good distance down to the port from the main city walls. In some areas it was vertical ladders built into the cliffs. Luckily, this stairway didn’t have any. “Bess, you never told me that before!”

“Yeah. ‘Zerian’ – Zeriphyn. Means prophet. Or wait, maybe it’s shitface…” She looked into the sky thinking hard.

Zerian glowered and made to punch her shoulder a bit too hard, but she turned away in time to dodge it and kept walking.

“Yup, definitely shitface,” she said, bouncing ahead.

Zerian exhaled and kept after her. She was too quick for him at this time of day. In the back of his mind, he wondered how he ended up here with her, of all people. Someone so enigmatic and… erratic for him to fully grasp. So unlike anyone else he had known. The wonders of life.

She was pulling a few rings off her belt in payment for some fish in a steamy broth, with something green slopped over the side of the bowl and a poached egg on top.

“So glad you agreed on getting fish, Z. And what a beautiful morning.” She handed him a bowl to sip, and they leaned against the ropes on the pier. The sun was just over the horizon, gleaming on the sea and sparkling on the small waves. Bright orange against the blue. It was heart medicine to be sure. Zerian decided to forget she had just called him shitface.

He mumbled agreement under his breath. The sea was so beautiful at this time of day, and he breathed in the calming salty air. They rarely had time to come down here. Zerian thanked his difficult sleep for the early sun rise view. He remembered vaguely something about falling in his dream. Or being yanked in the dark… Whatever it was, he didn’t feel like he slept at all.

“Mmmm, yes,” he agreed, the warm broth hitting his stomach like a torch. “Good call on the fish. Wish I had slept as well as you.”

“You’re still sleep stumbling?” Bess asked, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand, ignoring the linen cloth that was wrapped around the bowl.

“Yeah. Stumbling. I guess you can call it that. I just can’t stay rested lately. I keep getting yanked around.”

Bess frowned. “Hmm.” She looked out at the horizon and took a loud slurp of her broth.

“What, no wise saying or prescription of toad-sticks that I should be taking?” Zerian was joking, but he instantly regretted the bit about the toad-sticks.

“Sorry Z. Not this time. But it worries me.” She suddenly turned off her playful demeanor and put on her wiser-than-thou hat. “You should see a Reader.” She paused, and they listened to the hustle of the pier. The sea birds crying out above. The thrash of the waves against the jutting rocks.

“Maybe a Reader will give you the toad-sticks you need.” She slurped up the rest of her eggs and brought her bowl back to the merchant, bowing in thanks.

“Sorry about the toad-sticks Bess,” Zerian followed her, trying to finish his bowl while walking. “But do you really think I should seek a Body Reader? That serious?”

“Maybe. It’s been what, a few months now? Or maybe you just need a punch to the face. I can do that if you want.”

She flashed her smile again.

“No thanks,” he shook his head. “So, maybe after we close up today. Or maybe I could take an hour – would it be OK if stepped out midday? I think I know who I can see about it.” Zerian handed his bowl back to the kindly fish merchant, who was now icing some silvery, gigantic fillets while his fish broth bubbled around behind him.

“Sure, that should be fine,” Bess shrugged. They started up the steps back to the city walls. The air was cold and clear, and as he looked back up at the city the sky was still sparked by a few stars. Specks of glitter winking through the dome of blue.

“But I’m telling you Z, you might like the punch to the face better. A little taste of blood is good for you.”

He laughed, but she was probably serious.

Keep going to Part 4

 

Z + B – Part I

2
Zerian grumbled. The hot sunlight was creaking its way into his eyelids, and he couldn’t fight it anymore. He felt so sore and exhausted. He wasn’t sleeping well lately.

He rolled out of his lumpy bed and onto the rug to stretch. He glanced around at his little apartment above the shop. He stood and put his hands at his heart, as he was taught, and said his morning Grace of Thanks for all the living and all the dead.

He could hear Bess playing her flute on her balcony above his. Her apartment was directly above, and just a bit smaller. The tune she was playing was light and jaunty. Intriguing, as she didn’t usually play so happily.

“Good morning Bess,” he called as he pushed aside the woven doorway and onto the balcony.

She quickly stopped playing and he heard some heavy footsteps.

SWOOSH – she had swung herself from the railing above and tumbled onto his balcony, tucking into a roll and landing on her feet. A true nimble gymnast. “Thank goodness you never move your furniture, Z, or I’d be dead.” She was quite solemn – but Zerian had to laugh.

Bess was wearing a leather-tooled top with four strings that tied behind her neck and back. She was always exposing her midriff for all the universe to behold, before being interrupted by her tawny, gauzy leggings and heavy belt that supposedly kept them in place. She was quite a personality, but to Zerian she seemed like a typical portrait of her people, the Medoin, a primarily nomadic nation that took great pride in boldness and barbarity. She flashed him a challenging and charming smile.

Zerian thought he was in love with her once. It was shortly after they first started working together.

He remembered that golden afternoon when he thought he had said all the right witty things, and she smiled back at him. That same charming and challenging smile. He leaned a little closer – edging for a kiss, maybe – hopeful and optimistic as he was. But then time stood still and Bess busted out laughing at him. He was both confused and insulted, and Bess slapped him on the shoulder.

“Z, you had me going – you cannot be serious,” she almost bellowed.

“I – I am. I feel a connection with you Bess,” Zerian stated, almost pleadingly. Then he turned defensive.

“C’mon Bess – are my feelings lying to me? Are you telling me I’m completely wrong? I totally misinterpreted the intentions?” He bristled. He thought this was a sure thing. He felt attracted to her, and her to him – she couldn’t have ignored their chemistry!

“Zerian boy,” she wiped away a tear of laughter, “You are not in love with me.” She stared deep into him. “You are in love with the idea of me. Not the actual me – the idea of me. And you want that for yourself. If you strived to live like I do, and swagger like the Medoin, then you would have figured out that it was never ME. It was always about YOU.”

Zerian remembered that day clearly, and the way it stripped him. He had been incredulous. First of all – he had never wanted to be like Bess. It was arrogant of her to assume something like that.

Or did he?

Also, when did Bess start talking like a fortune-teller or some kind of know-it-all who could see into his soul?

She was always like that – you just refused to see her that way.

But she didn’t know him that well – only a few months. It was all just conjecture.

A few months is enough time, especially if you are a fortune-teller…

Gah! Zerian shook his head and admonished his ridiculous out-of-line thoughts. Back to the present moment. The one where Bess and him were not in love, the one where he definitely didn’t want to be like her, where she was certainly not some wise sage from the temple high, and the one where she was just a good friend.

A great friend, actually.

Bess was still standing before him, waiting patiently for him to gather his foggy morning thoughts (something she did a lot).

“So – ready to open the shop or you want to break your fast first? I’m in the mood for fish.”

She started towards the door without waiting for an answer. Zerian grabbed his shoes and they pounded down the stairs to the street.

Keep going to Part 3