It was Wednesday afternoon, and Peter had just gotten out of work. He was still resolute he wouldn’t get involved with the debate on Friday. What was more, the last thing he wanted to do that afternoon was talk about anything related to the Boatyard with his friends. But Cheryl insisted that she meet with him before his afternoon jog. She had tricked him; she had insinuated that this was going to be a private meeting, but soon Peter found himself facing her along with Tim, Jamie, Foresman, Michelle, and a girl he couldn’t stand named Samantha; they all waiting for him in his living room.
“Dammit, if any of you worked full-time, you’d know how wrong it feels to have the few hours of your free time wasted on bullshit!” He had a point. Everyone else in the room worked part time, except for Tim.
“Anyway, Michelle, I’m talking to you: I think you understand why I’m not going.” He apologized to her for being so evasive lately. He really respected her and had felt bad about it, but as he explained that he just needed to clear his head and one distraction away from the Boatyard drove in another, there really had been no time for them to organically get together and catch up — but he still wasn’t going to show up to this disaster.
“But here’s my point” he told her. “If someone feels sad, I want to help them. But when I do, I get vilified for it. That is in essence, the logic of Delia’s narrow view of the world.”
“You don’t understand women…” said Samantha. She was friends with Michelle and Jamie, and she was a linguistics student from Orange University. She had come over to visit Jamie for the weekend, but she had arrived early. Once she heard about the drama of identity politics spinning out of control in the Boatyard, she had found the whole thing fascinating. Tim was sitting comfortably on a couch; zoning off into empty space, and Jamie had become exhausted by all this talk as well. She sat there reading a magazine.
“You guys are all letting the semantics of how you want to interpret each others words steer you from seeing reason” Samantha warned.
“Yeah” Peter said sarcastically as he looked at Cheryl and Michelle for approval. “You seem too obsessed with wanting things worded nicely to give you pleasant feelings, but not looking at the facts.” He did not seem particularly impressed by this young woman they had invited to his place.
“No that’s not what I mean” said Samantha. “Especially you: you’re not taking into account the other person’s feelings when you word something offensively.”
“Actually, I think the theme behind what a person is trying to say, rather than the letter of the word is more important in understanding one another” Michelle countered in disagreement. But Peter was not in the mood for a linguistics discussion.
“Excuse me, but going back to your last accusation” he said as he nodded towards Samantha. “You are assuming I don’t understand women because by your play on words, women can’t process things unless they are worded a certain way. By your logic, you are actually admitting women are irrational: isn’t that statement right there misogynistic? Isn’t that the very thing you and the New Wavers keep championing against? Doesn’t anyone find that ironic?”
“Relax, will you?” Cheryl suggested, and Jamie sat up and put down her magazine. “Nobody is accusing you here of anything. We’re in your own damn apartment, for God’s sake.” Peter picked up a cushion that had fallen to the floor and tossed it aggressively on the couch.
“I’m done with reasoning their stupid views on social issues” said Peter. “These New Wavers, not women” he added hastily. “See? This kind of bullshit talk makes people paranoid by default! Cheryl’s right though: this is fucking me up in my own house! All I’m saying is, I was originally trying to be nice.” Peter had a right to be upset: despite his mood right now, Jamie had callously explained to him ten minutes ago that in the aftermath of him walking out of Rasperber’s Restaurant, the two New Wavers there had accused him of ‘mansplaining’.
“So let me get this straight” he asked Jamie once again. “I have this whole argument with Cassandra and Delia at Raspberber’s, and they assumed that I was mansplaining?”
“I don’t remember hearing that” said Michelle. “When did that happen?”
“When you must have left to the bathroom, right before I left. I wanted to leave earlier, but Cassandra had kept talking to me, remember?”
“Anyway, they said they want to work things out with you” Jamie replied while trying not to stir any more trouble. “They said they’re sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” Peter asked. “Sorry for being pretentious?”
“No, they said they were sorry that everybody couldn’t come to a mutual agreement. Sorry that…”
“Well that’s not cool: did they apologize for being pretentious?” Michelle interrupted. “They don’t know what’s going on in his head. They can’t search his thoughts: not to sound so overdramatic.”
“Wait, why is that such as stretch if they could?” reasoned Samantha. “You always claim to have some sort of clairvoyance yourself.” She was friends with Michelle enough to be able to speak her mind comfortably.
“I’ve never claimed anything” Michelle insisted with irritation. “I’m not clairvoyant. My family has this weird sixth sense about things once in a while, but that does not mean nothing.”
“Actually, that’s not what you said earlier this afternoon” Cheryl joked. “You kept saying something about how you feel like the world feels like it’s going to end for us if we don’t see things in a deeper ‘plane’.”
“You’re twisting my words” Michelle replied.
“She keeps talking about it too” Cheryl said to the others. “No offense Michelle, but it is a little freaky — like something weird going on around here.”
“Will you just shut up?” Michelle said. “How did we get into this discussion?”
“Because you bring it up so often, we’ve just gotten used to hearing that from your mouth all the time” Foresman joked back.”
“Anyway” Jamie turned to Peter as she tried to change the subject. “Cassandra said that it was unfortunate you misunderstood what they were trying to…that you keep misunderstanding what’s going on here.”
Peter put both hands on his temples with disbelief. “I can’t believe they’re taking that stance” he said. “And you still want me to show up? There’s no fucking way I’m wasting my time on this ‘trial’ Friday. I don’t have the patience for this anymore. They are obviously not concerned for my emotional well-being. They think I can just go in there and be cannon fodder for their stupid accusations.”
“But come on: you have to do something. Cheryl’s right: things are just going to get worse” Jamie pleaded. She thought about how hard it would be to find a new place to live – and move: she hated moving. “I’m sorry I shared that; I think people need to communicate and heal through this.”
“Look! You’re the one that told me these things!” Peter said to Jamie. “You shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Listen Jamie, what you’re saying sounds noble” Tim told her. “But in fairness to Peter, you’ve never been on the receiving end of getting accusation by one of these people. They will argue to the very end and hate you if you don’t agree with any ideas they come up with, no matter how askew some of them get.”
“Hey, if we lose the debate you’re going to be the one who’s suffering too!” Jamie replied.
“Peter, if my words mean anything, I think you need to go to this thing” Michelle said to Peter as plopped herself on the couch. “I’ll go to this stupid thing and back you up; I promise. All I know is that this attitude going on the Boatyard is vindictive. It just promotes disharmony; nothing good can come out of this if they can’t at least be reasonable.”
“Yeah man; they’re going to keep spouting out stuff and make the place stiffer than ever if we don’t stop them” Foresman agreed.
“Yeah, but some things I would think do need to change on Peter’s part” said Samantha.
“You’re not helping!” cried Tim. But surprisingly, Peter was curious.
“Like what?” he asked.
“Hey man, you may not believe this, but I really am on your side” Samantha told him. “I really do want to see the community get past this bullshit. I love going to the Boatyard, and if you guys destroy it with your bickering, I’ll have nothing to look forward to around here! I’m just being honest. I have some ideas. I want to help.”
Peter looked at Samantha: there was something about the way she was saying that. He walked to the patio and beckoned Samantha to join him. The others could hear them talking softly to each other as they engaged in what appeared to be a civil discussion. That astonished everyone, seeing how they had a past and didn’t really respect each other. Soon everybody but Michelle gravitated towards the patio to hear what they were talking about.
Michelle made a move to get up, but suddenly she realized how tired she was. She closed her eyes and thought about the burden of preparing for the big debate in the next forty eight hours. Besides, it was late, and two days of terrible sleep and being afraid of her own thoughts was starting to take a toll on her: her ‘hallucinations’ and the fact that she felt mostly misunderstood about her sensations had wearied her spirit. Despite all these concerns, Michelle passed out like a rock on the couch.
Suddenly she was having a fantastical dream — at least if it was a dream it must have been a lucid one because only in a dream could the inexplicable feel normal without question. Michelle was completely conscious of the fact she could reason and think aloud as she saw things happen all around her. She found herself in the middle of a battle alongside a crew of people she had never met before in her life. They were in a strange land with ivory green clouded skies, and were standing on what appeared to be some sort of white sandy beach. There was a bright aqua foaming sea towards their left and strange looking ruins resembling Aztec pyramids in the background. There were also a few tropical looking trees scattered all around the beach of some alien form of which she could not fully register why they moved back and forth like they were immersed in water.
Michelle was seeing herself in third person again: she was leading the battle and encouraging her companions to hold back scores of monsters that appeared botanical in their makeup — like living vines or some form of grotesque chlorophyll-laden species that came from a nightmare. Some of them were vines that looked like they had animated to life and assembled together to form various humanoid shapes: a few of the vines used their appendages both as both arms legs, moving monkey-like around the besieged humans that were with Michelle. Other monsters were even more terrifying in appearance: they were thick; like trees with full-sized wrinkled necks as big as enormous stumps. Giant lips leading into a black abyss rested on top of their stump-necks, and they had long tentacled whips residing as arms with withered fingers protruding out of the limbs. There were black cavities at the ends of their appendages that allowed the creatures to latch onto objects like large suction cups. But the most frightening features these monsters had had were various human looking mouths scattered all over their bodies that harbored rows of multiple sharp elongated teeth that were biting or screaming at their prey.
To her astonishment, Michelle could see her third person self encouraging the others in the group. “Do not believe these things have any power! That’s your weapon” she screamed to some of the more terrified people in the group.
Michelle was surprised at what she saw: there was the young woman with the pigtails again, and she could see herself saying something to the young woman — inspiring her while they both worked together to fend off the monsters.
As she looked up at the green-ivory sky again she noticed the clouds all over the atmosphere. Some of the clouds were thick cumulous ones that spiraled into funnel shapes — like white tornadoes way above the plains that had been frozen in the heavens. Others had a double-helix shape to them and were emulating lightening bolts coming out from between their fluffy threaded strands. And some other clouds were swirling around most like mini-hurricanes, and every time someone in her party would appear intimidated by relentless attack of the beasts all over the ground, the hurricane clouds would start taking monstrous shapes and other frightening predatory forms that looked like they were going to participate in the attack.
The most mesmerizing thing about what she was seeing was that despite the horrible danger, none of it felt frightening. It was as if this dream was a realm she could feel somehow where she had inexplicably she tapped into perfect peace. And as Michelle’s third person self started to move around in combat, she could see herself eluding the monsters as if it was sport. There was a complete bewildering look of amusement and confidence in her face. “They re only dangerous if you believe they are” she cheered to the other people. “Just believe. Tap into it: can you feel it? Belief is stronger than physical force for what you need to achieve here. Trust me!” she pleaded to the others
There was a young black woman with a red bandana on her head and wearing what resembled a pirate outfit from the future for lack of a better explanation. In the woman’s hands where two twin blades made of metal that appeared so heated that they were glowing to their melting temperatures. As the woman she hacked away at some of the anomalies surrounding her, she was screaming for help, and it appeared that every time she would get angry enough, the blades would heat into a plasma state and leavd a cloud of particles that ionized the air around her as she moved. There were also several other formidable looking warriors with them. One of them looked like a young asian man with his long hair tied back and wearing a sleeveless suit that looked like a cross between biker gear and battle armor. And there was another man in particular who had similar gear, but was wearing a strange tunic with colorful blue symbols strewn on it that looked like some sort of hieroglyphs on it. Both of these men were completely decimating the monsters all around them; slicing them effortlessly into dozens of little pieces. Michelle could see several of the horrible monstrosities fall apart and fade into the air.
As Michelle watched on completely spellbound, the most fascinating thing of all started to happen: her smug alter-ego self started to waver her arms rapidly, and without even using a weapon, superheated something in the air molecules all around her that seemed to have the same potent effect of the other’s firebrand weapons: without warning, two score of the creatures broke apart from the ionized air-weapon she had induced and faded into oblivion. Suddenly Michelle could hear a door slam from out of nowhere and jumping up, she found herself awake in Peter’s living room again. She did not even know how to respond to what she just experienced. Aside from the recent vision/hallucinations she had experienced, never in her life had a dream felt so real.
She actually went outside to the other side of the deck, away from the sound of her friends talking, to smoke a clove in silence. She had never been a regular smoker before, but the New Wavers skill for bringing about all this hypersensitive drama without any resolution in sight had discouraged her resilience quite a bit recently. “It figures that it was one of these new waver-hippies that got me into this habit” she thought to herself. “When was the last time one of them contributed something productive to that place, like fitness classes, or the art sessions?” At least she wasn’t jumping on the opiate bandwagon that was becoming a real epidemic in the area. With her recent dream trips, she didn’t need them! She wondered heavily about her dream and these other issues. “All because we want to escape; finding no answers.” she thought to herself.
As she smoked in silence, she could hear the others debating on the deck on the other side of the house.
“I believe life is about relationships” she heard Samantha saying.
“Here we go again: another one!” she could hear Peter shout.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
How did she go from this incredible dream to this? The theme of what she was hearing seemed to center on relationships (again), and something about how developing a perfect human language was the key to solving everything in relationships.
“Oh yeah: sterilizing the language from it containing mean words is really going to solve everybody’s problems in life” she heard Peter shout sarcastically.
“Well, it’s a start!” This debate apparently was being led by Samantha, who unfortunately seemed all too ready to scowl at Peter if he didn’t agree with her. Despite her current mood. she, for the most part, felt that perhaps she was starting to become immune to all this bickering. She had bigger things on her mind now: these pseudo hallucinations of hers were starting to creep her out. The one she had suffered that afternoon made her stare at the sky for five minutes and keep blinking to see if she could make sense of the image her brain thought it was making out – just like when she would stare at the sun and see its image imprinted as an opaque purple blob underneath her eyelids. Or perhaps this was all a good thing: she hoped she wasn’t having cataract damage, but perhaps the cosmos was training her to develop a skin so thick that the ‘trivial’ would never trouble her again.
“But things become trivial — only when one has perspective, and realizes that the things most people whine about on a daily basis truly are trivial… wait a minute: maybe that’s it” she thought. She remembered her near death experiment in Cape Verde many years ago when she was vacationing there with her family. It brought her perspective. “When you realize how precious life really is, you don’t waste time focusing on the negative, because every second of that robs you of the ideal choices you could make that day” she reminded herself. It was something her aunt had always told her. “Otherwise, you can never materialize what it feels like to live in a dream.” Dream. What in the world was happening to her? These last several days in fact; the feeling in the air – and the drama from the Boatyard aside had felt so surreal.
Michelle threw away the rest of the cigarette and decided to go for a walk under the clear Summer dusk sky. To cancel out all the noise around her, she placed her hands over her ears until she reached the bike trails nearby. Once she reached the trails and started strolling through the trees her senses started to calm down again.
“Unbelievable people: what’s wrong with all of us?” Michelle wondered. She knew that if only she took the time every day to go for a stroll like this — the very thing that everything in this fast paced and pointless world told her was unproductive, she felt she could truly find her center once again. About twenty minutes later, she returned to Peter’s neighborhood in a lighter mood. She shook her head as she crossed the two blocks of residential houses that were between Peter’s house and the bike trails: every other house she could hear some stupid argument or another going on – or the news blaring through the open windows of every other residency she passed. As she walked up the steps onto the deck that led into Peter’s property, she could still hear her friends bickering inside.
“Dammit” she muttered as she continued to listen:
“You know what I think people are sick of?” she could now hear Peter saying to Samantha. “No, when people like you spew out your ideas with such conviction that you sound so convincing. But you’re too lazy to do research and see if there’s any gaping holes in your logic – you don’t have any the facts backing up what you’re trying to tell everyone about your theory on language.”
“The same thing could be said about your odd ideas.”
“I’ve got more facts backing me up when I talk about Astrophysics – or logical ideas for that matter” Peter replied. “You — people like you and the New Wavers, they take a bunch of ideas and you generalize people that disagree with you as being fanatical conservatives.”
“Don’t put me in a category! I’m nothing like that. You sound like an idiot when you generalize like that.”
“But you just said you hate conservatives. And then you started implying I am a conservative. That’s generalizing.”
“Hey, I didn’t say you were conservative” Samantha replied. “I said you sound like a conservative, and so you probably are one and won’t admit it.”
“That’s just it: you’re labeling me something that I’m not. Just because I’m using reason doesn’t make me a conservative.”
“Conservatives don’t use reason, you idiot!” Samantha yelled back.
“Haha; that’s generalizing.” This was getting personal.
“And you’re labeling me something that I’m not. Don’t do that. I’m not some new waver sounding liberal hippie from the Boatyard” Samantha added.
“I never said you lived in the Boatyard.”
“Semantics, remember? You didn’t say it, but you implied it like I was one of them. I’m not stupid and I’m not ignorant. And your biggest mistake with everybody is that you can’t generalize people just because you don’t understand what they are trying to educate you on.”
“Don’t you hate it when people make vague generalizations about you?” Peter asked her.
“You mean, just like all the people that you generalize? Yeah, I suppose. So stop doing it – it’s ignorant.”
Peter went in for the kill “Yeah; generalizing: that’s like blaming the white man for all your problems.”
Samantha had had enough. “You’re a dick!” she shouted. “I’ve known this since I met you last year, it’s that simple. Good luck finding people that respect you.”