The Interview

“How are you feeling? Do you remember anything?” An aging hand slides a glass of water across the end table. “Here, in case you’re thirsty.”

Jack’s head wobbles as if spun too fast on a merry-go-round. The outline of a figure behind a blinding light Is barely distinguishable. Large cushions have sucked him into a chair. This is one strange day and another shrink trying to induce characters to come forth and validate them. His memory is spent on many things, but split personality is not one of them. He knows there is only one Jack, that much he is certain. Of course, that doesn’t explain the voices in his mind – those extra thoughts that could easily be someone else’s.

“So, you simply left? Where is it you say, The Inner Garden? Are you saying the planet is hollow with a garden in the middle?” Dr. Worskovey doesn’t believe a word of it and appears to look up from scribbling some notes. “What do you think it means?” The doctor sat there on the dark side of the light, waiting. Jack imagines broad-brimmed black glasses and pens in a shirt pocket with a balding head and shaggy gray hair. That’s the image of him.

After a long silence, “I can tell you what I think. Do you want to hear what I think?” He is more direct where Jack is restless and fumbling for words.

“I’m sure it’s riveting. Look, I was expelled from hell, and…, and sent here…, to this place, which isn’t much of an improvement. I was puked onto the surface no longer in this sanctuary…, or ah…, inner garden, or whatever it is. I don’t understand any more than you so stop asking me. This migraine is killing me though!”

“OK, fine. This is an interesting story, but I think you need more time to process it. You have certainly been consistent; I’ll give you that.” The doctor seems genuine and scribbles more notes. Even though the light is blinding, Jack can still make out some details: the shape of his posture, the sound of his pen on the paper, and when he put his fist to his mouth to catch his cough, things like that. 

“I have no idea where I was or what it means. I only know that I sense things as if my mind is crowded with the thoughts of everyone else around me.”

“Can you hear my thoughts now?” Jack can tell that Dr. Worskovey leans forward in his chair, expectedly.

“No. But when I’m in public it’s a different story, I think.”

“Hmmm, ok. For now, then, I am more interested in what you remember from your guided dream. Do you recall where it was you emerged from?”

“I don’t know. What does that matter? This is my reality, now, in this moment, not when I am checked out under your spells. How should I know what the hell these dreams mean – if they have any meaning at all?” A light turns on somewhere down a hall that casts the slightest illumination, giving some sense and a realization of a long open room.

“Please, what do you remember?”

“Fine, just gimme a minute.”

“Take your time, I’ll be right back.” The doctor’s shape mystically rises and strolls off toward the small light. He is speaking to someone until suddenly, the door slams shut and the room floods back to black. The sphere of burning light returns, intensified. The theatrics of interrogation are harsh though the doctor insists they are useful. Maybe for a sadomasochist! Jack can’t think of what to say. Dr. Worskovey knows more about the story than he does. In fact, he probably sat there and wrote it all down while Jack was out – or recorded it or something. Yea, of course, it was recorded. Jack remembers he signed something about that when he got there.

“How are we doing, Jack? Do you need more time, or do you want to talk about it?” His shadowy shape slowly sharpens into view again. With the door abruptly shut, it is only Jack alone in a sphere of light, again.

“No, that’s fine. I think I remember a vast open space…, and cold. I was exposed, curled beneath the only tree in as far as I could see in any direction. It was barren, beautiful…, and chaotic – you know, an untamed desolate landscape.” Jack’s mind drifts into the blackness surrounding the bubble of light. Traces of whatever the doctor gave him are still working, causing a heavy fog to weigh down on him.

 “OK, we can come back to that later.” Dr. Worskovey tries his best to make him feel comfortable. “While on the other side, you mention a woman – someone you loved. Who is that? Is that person no longer with you? Was it Mary, your wife?”

Dr Worskovey thinks: “He seems to be experiencing a convergence of one reality skipping over another. It may become unclear very soon how to distinguish them. Who is your true self? Ironically, most humans are asking that very question.”  The doctor chuckles, making light of something before his tone sharpens. “I do not think it is in the same context for your particular experience but there does seem to be a correlation with the underlying question and so perhaps, at the end of the day, you may simply not know.”

 “What the hell are you talking about?” Jack loses his patience. “Maybe this is not a good idea.”

“Excuse me? All I asked was ‘who do you love’? When you were having your dream, you were carrying on about someone you love. I feel a presence in the room.”

“Yeah, doc, that’s me!”

“No, the love you expressed breathed life where none existed, and I could almost feel her presence here in the room with us.”

“Why do you ask me the same questions over, and over, and over again, and we go nowhere? Are you aware of that? Have you not heard a thing I’ve been trying to explain?”

“Jack, you’re not being very cooperative.” The doctor is cool, and the sound of his voice makes Jack’s ears bleed. “Tell me, who is this love – this other that you dream of? Are you having an affair?”

“What? No! It’s not like that! I have no idea who this person might be – it’s not supposed to be real. I’m trying to figure this out and you’re not helping. I keep having these dreams – except I am not asleep, and they feel more like memories of things I have no recollection of. The insomnia is killing me, doc! What’s going on with me?”

“I understand. Sometimes, our personal lives – the ‘real’ reality have a way of projecting in curious ways. I just wonder, have you discussed this with Mary?”

“How do you know Mary? You say that as if you know her.”

“Well, according to your chart, she is listed as an emergency contact and she did sign you in earlier. Are you feeling, ok?”

“What medication? What’s wrong with the medication?” The bright light was no longer so blinding, but Jack didn’t notice when it changed. Dr. Worskovey was almost visible now but something was different from what Jack remembered of him.

“Medication, I am not sure I understand?” Dr. Worskovey was looking at his chart again.

“Then why did you ask me about my medication?” He knew the doctor hadn’t asked about his medications but for some reason, Jack asked the question as if something else was controlling his speech from a dark corner of his mind.

“I’m sorry, Jack, but I didn’t ask about your medication. Speaking of it though, how do you think it’s working for you?” Dr. Worskovey is tapping on the inner flap of his notebook. “Let’s try something different. I mean, it’s not like you’re going anywhere and so what do you lose? Do you want to hear what I think?”

“What do you mean I am not going anywhere?” Jack is agitated and disorientated – he imagines falling for his own story if it weren’t so fantastic and out of the world. Yet, he can’t escape it. Some days are like a constant loudspeaker with that nagging voice feeding him fragments of things he does not understand. His mind rips through scenes from his life but also some other life, some other world with unknown faces and feelings.

“You just got here, Jack. By the sounds of it, your wife made a good decision. Perhaps, this is a good place to stop for today. We can finish your intake tomorrow after you’ve had some rest. Breakfast is served at 7 AM. I will have the Nursebot check on you and we can try again tomorrow.”

“I need something for this migraine, please.” He needs validation – to think straight. Jack needs a drink.

“Oh, don’t worry; the Nursebot will take care of you and that migraine.” With that, the lights were up to full strength and he can see he is sitting in a long room like a cafeteria with a counter along one wall and two doors at the end. It all seems oddly familiar. The back of Dr. Worskovey is leaving and all he can think is to get out of there. Jack can’t believe he let Mary talk him into this!

“Good evening, sir. Would you please open your mouth wide?” It takes hold of Jack’s wrist to check his pulse and he can’t pull his arm away. “I understand it can be uncomfortable, but I can be very efficient with your cooperation.” Jack cannot break away from the Nursebot.

“Hey, I don’t need a medical exam!”

“Ruby, go to Level 2, please,” Dr. Worskovey instructs over his shoulder as he walks away. He named the nursebot, Ruby. It immediately drops Jack’s arm and stands there motionless, resetting to his voice command. “Ruby is an advanced caregiver, and she won’t hurt you. She is an earlier version of the S-7, which is better because her code is not blocked like the newer versions and is more… ‘customizable’. Get some rest, Jack. Ruby will show you to your room and I think you will approve of the accommodations. These things usually take a few days to sort out. Don’t worry.”

“I don’t want a room.”

“I understand,” Dr. Worskovey calls back as he turns a corner.

“Come, please.” Ruby is so life-like except her mannerism is more than human, a reminder of the necessary separation from AI systems. This is where they should be utilized – in medicine, not like some of those pairing services for domestic partnerships. The dating apps were flooded with ads making it hard to find a real human these days. Ruby leads them through the double doors at the other end and into a long hallway with rooms that look more like prison cells.

“You are here.” Ruby sweeps her arm in the direction of his room. In the long empty hall, there is no distinction like a room number to know one room from the other. For his room, a small communal space was nearby with a circle of chairs that faced outward. 

8 Months In

Big plans came to rest on the porch, more like a perch, that overlooks a barren garden. When the reality of the cost came to mind, the setting seemed apropos. That is as far as anything went that year. It is hard to say if it would ever be any different from here to the end. A side-effect of a strong imagination is over-shooting the moon and drifting out into space. Gotta have a tether, somehow, lest you be homeless.

It smelled like snow when the geese flew overhead, just then, slicing across that last thought, silhouettes against time. They instinctively know when something is coming and adjust to it. Normally, it is my favorite season, which isn’t to say that it is anything but, even in this moment. Truly, it is just another thought strung up from yet another that gets left hanging out on the line, for a bit, while others hit unexpectedly – thoughts, that is. Eventually, I find my way back but that does seem to come slower these days with a heavy mind.

I hear the world is devolving though, I knew there was potential for it given the severity of how our politics have interacted with the disease that undermined the economy and brought race out onto the table to be examined while being blindsided by severe food shortages and homelessness as a result of joblessness. I hear things have not improved from when we first shut down, about eight months ago; that the toxic affair with cult-minded politicians is intensified on a wave of death through denial. The alternate dimension, having unfolded right before our eyes, is a place where reality is challenged through profound apophenia and dots are connected that are not meant to be connected. Is this an unintended consequence of the super highway?

I reel with slight vertigo and move away from the edge of the concrete stair. My balance is one thing I’ve noticed as being off-kilter. Maybe it’s the time of the season? Admittedly, I love this song.

The routine I’ve adapted to is ever evolving the definition of normal. 2020 catapulted our society. flailing in so many directions, yet landing, ultimately, back to a couple of basic camps or divisions of ideology. Seeing this play out hits on so many levels it takes a long period of quiet to get a proper grip on it.

Words occupy confined spaces attempting reason with the mind.

It is has been about eight months and I am still alive. I know I referenced that timeline already, but the context is important. This pandemic, they say, kills. My interactions have become agoraphobic – limited to social media where connectivity is like water that keeps us alive. I think most of any ailments I have feared to have had during this time are derived more from my own psychosis and nervous uncertainty.

Standing there, I take stock and know I am lucky to have transitioned to working from home full time for a company that is supportive, so far. Our entire professional work flow took a giant leap forward with technology. We can almost think it and it happens. At the same time, millions are without income now and food scarcity in the heartland is real. People are dying, yet, remain skeptical.

Since the general recommendation is to limit social interactions, I found it the perfect premise to give myself permission to write. After many years, a manuscript has come to fruition that might be worthy of publishing. We shall see, perhaps. There are so many options now with digital technology. Time will tell, unless I run out of patience. But somehow, as I close on the last couple of chapters, I am relieved and if I’ve learned nothing else during this change, patience is a virtue for our survival.

Sunrays break through snow clouds that gathered together over the course of the morning like purple wigs – the finest a lady might wear to tea or Sunday brunch. The geese are gone now to some low lying lake where they will break for the storm. But the sun does find its way and warms one side of the face that smiles at it. It doesn’t stay long in the breeze that picks up with frozen fog that fills the air but I felt it. I can still see the snowline across the way, for now, and spot several perfect lines that are so good it is hard to imagine that some old farmer hasn’t already taken it for a run or two. Like maybe after a late fall hunt into the highlands only to pull out the sticks and grab some wild stash. It would be an annual tradition riding knee-deep powder down to the waterline before heading back to the homestead for holiday.

The world bends with fear, I am reminded, as I snap back from my moment of nostalgia. A large truck rumbles by waving every flag but the American flag and yelling that civil war is imminent. I know a lot of people are scared. I can’t help but reject that this is a reality that can actually unfold – though in the deeper reaches of my psyche, I know we are not above this outcome and that things can change quickly and suddenly. I believe we have been witnessing the attempt to undo our society based on far-fetched conspiracies and ill-founded fears. But then, how would it be if I were one of those unfortunates whose life turned away from the ability to see the good any longer? What if I needed to kill in order to protect my family and the enemy became my neighbor? What if nothing happens and I am simply left with whatever revelations I have come to during this period of unrest? What should any of us do as a result of this? What has it shown us personally about our needs and living to our fullest where we can see the good again?

I am on the top step which gives me a vantage of overseeing the whole garden – all the boxes, and beds, and piles of mulch laid out in a reasonable pattern cut with a small pathway, but still big enough for a wheel barrel to get around. Maybe, at the end of it all, that’s all we need, is a little room to clean things up and put them into some sort of order again. Not likely the same, but order, nevertheless.

Eight months in and I am not so sure. Hoping for calm as the electorates cast their final ballots.

Vote Beyond Greed

Vote. It matters. Don’t let the words: “Let your voices be heard” become a cliché, an empty meaningless idea suited for another age. We might all be heading down the same well, but let us at least go down with some dignity. Let us have empathy that we are all in this together, that we are not a mere plutocracy, but an American people that value our history and each other in the present. I know this is ‘Idealism’, but I have heard it said, too often, that one side or the other will destroy us. In my view, while we might be tempted to reason the idea of unity, as if , therefore, the vote doesn’t matter, we still have a choice on how we want to take it. If anything, we will destroy ourselves when we put money above our humanity.

What we have seen for the past several years and longer in our country is a complex web of deceit. Maybe both parties are in on it? Maybe Putin really is (among others) the puppet masters that have let the American experiment run its course and they can claim rights on an ego bet? Either way, a divided country results only in chaos and no hope of breaking the invisible bonds of slavery. In our country, the United States of America, our imperfect system allowed for a criminal to take the reigns of power and dupe our closest friends and family members causing deeper division in our homes, work place, and society. This only leads to the power of a dictator who sways enough support to prop up against – not a majority. Whether part of a grand plan or not, it only works when we are divided.

Religion has become the whore of Babylon. False prophets with guilt and shame have manipulated the consciousness of the American people. It has been used as the go to tool to move humans in profound ways – including war and the killing of neighbors – essentially contradicting everything it is supposed to represent. But make no mistake, religion is NOT the same as spirituality. The religious pawns of our current administration whisper in the ears of vanity and prey on the stupid. A good sign of it is seen in the pulpit of the prolific lie. Our current President doesn’t even bother anymore and lies profusely on just about every topic – even trivial matters. Meanwhile, religion follows waving a banner of hypocrisy for its followers. What we have seen is a joint of messaging, whether spoken or condoned, where deep conspiracies are become normal and lies are pushed until they become truth.

Swept up with it all is Race, which has been transformed – nudged by greed to modernize with the times. Alongside race is poverty and economic inequality – each byproducts of a corrupt system where endless questions of what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right have given way to the blatant corruption that have gained power. The rhetoric ‘drain the swamp’ is a ploy. The idea of smaller government is only a convenient idea to cause division. Race is important not because we talk about it – but because it is one of the important consequences of our system which has relied on slavery. This was probably a natural migration of thought from a Feudal system and serfdom as a necessary requirement for an economic model of a new free country. Over time, we all became slaves as Capitalism evolved and civil rights and other social justice issues emerged and came into conversation. Unfortunately, it did not go away – just changed to enslave all people under the maturation of a system that cares more for monetary status than the common rights of a humanitarian system. Race gets lost in the mix as another contributing factor, which is why just enough has been done since the Civil Rights Movement to make it socially more palatable. Unfortunately, if you are a person of color, you know it is a deeply systemic issue and is embedded. This is where the powerful white man has taken us.

These issues are complex and deep seeded and I believe are to a great extent why why our politics have become so visceral, so polarizing. It is where the elite control and manipulate and is by design. However, within this field of disparity and party politics remains hope for decency. We are a pinnacle need for a cultural shift in terms of what we value. Money and wealth capital should not dictate decisions nor should it limit people from pursuing the best of themselves that contribute to society. I believe this is where some fundamental doses of socialism have value in that it raises the bar from the bottom which in turn strengthens our consumers if one were looking at it purely through the optics of capitalism. As one professor of Economics I know have described it, “A top down system doesn’t work because eventually wealth is consolidated and the consumer base is eroded and so, therefore, is not sustainable. A bottom up model is important for because it inherently protects and feeds the consumer that puts back into the system. It is reciprocal.”

As long as we must choose sides, as an Independent, I prefer a smarter fresh way of looking at our culture and the economic options that feed a different set of principles. Based on this paradigm, it does come back to our vote and the image we hold for our country and the ideals of our humanity.