The Boatyard

Chapter 16: Thursday

“Where is Peter?” Harry asked.  He had wanted to see if Peter wanted to join for a late breakfast; Peter had mentioned something about getting taking the day off that day.  It rare he could do it, but Peter’s lab, the Dillugen Brothers and Astrophysics Corp, were going through software maintenance checks that day, so they gave half of his calculations department the day off.   Unfortunately,  Peter forgot to inform Harry he wasn’t going to be around.  Poor Harry.  He was such a great guy; always learning, always inviting.  He sensed the pressure of this ‘trial’ in the Boatyard, and figured Peter could use some good company today.    When he couldn’t reach Peter on his cell phone, he called up Cheryl.  As it turned out, Peter wasn’t coming back until that evening.  Actually, Cheryl and Tim had also invited  Peter to breakfast that day too, but he was too frustrated to join them, so they ended up inviting Harry instead.

“He just wanted to take the day off and go for a long walk by the beach, and then possibly escape up to Central Massachusetts for some hiking” Cheryl told Harry over pancakes. “I don’t blame him for leaving this world for a while.  The kid has got enough on his mind; I want to leave this world for a while too; today feels more asphyxiating than ever, I don’t know why.”

“Peter’s really just participating in this ‘trial’ meeting tomorrow as a favor for us and Michelle” Tim explained to Harry.

“Michelle!  Is she still on board?” asked Harry.  “I keep hearing rumors.  I should have just called her myself; I really want things to change at the Boatyard.  I don’t know why I thought she would bail.  Stupid rumors; so confused.

“I think we’re all confused” said Tim. “Who started that anyway?”

“It’s as she always says” said Harry, “we simply are not willing to acknowledge one another here: one giant miscommunication.   I know the new wavers are coming up with a battle strategy to make Peter look like an aggressive misogynistic idiot.  I’m glad she’s still in, because our side would need her; guaranteed.”

Tim had to agree. “Call up Michelle today; just in case” he suggested to Cheryl. She was more friendly with her than the rest of them.  “Make sure she is not skipping this thing.  I wouldn’t blame her if she did, but this is like a trial; if anybody can organize a good counter-case against their illogical rules they want to impose on everyone, it’s her.”

“Her and Peter” Harry corrected.

“Don’t worry!” said Cheryl.  She knew Michelle well enough to know she wouldn’t abandon them during something like this.  It wasn’t in her character.  Soon that evening, a small gathering was assembled at Peter’s beach house.  Cheryl had a key to the place. Michelle, Jamie, and even their friend Samantha had been invited as well.  Luckily, absolutely none of them, including Michelle at her residency at the hospital had any shifts for work.  As for Samantha, she had been in and out of Michelle’s circle of friends for the last two days – occasionally going out with some other friends here and there. Originally, she was going to go drive to Dartmouth that afternoon and visit some friends.  But after Jamie confessed to her how strange this ‘trial’ with the new wavers was becoming, Samantha cancelled her plans.

“This I think I got to see through in its entirety” she told Jamie.   She found this a fascinating case study of linguistics gone wrong and miscommunication destroying everything.  And after her previous encounter with Peter, she was determined to witness seeing him get caught in the web of his own contradictions – but she did not tell Michelle that.   After ordering a few large mushroom pizzas and some beers, the group finally forced themselves to think of a battle plan for tomorrows debate.

“I’ve got to confess; I don’t know about you, but I  really don’t know how this is going to work for you” Samantha had to finally confess. “Peter’s too much of a loose cannon.  That’s like letting a tiger be your trial lawyer.”

“Don’t worry” said Cheryl.  “He’s legit.  He won’t crack under pressure.”

“I think Samantha may be right: it’s not cracking I’m worried about” added Michelle.   Cheryl tried to share with everyone the multiple times Peter had never let her down since she had known him, and soon, she was able to satisfy everyone’s worries.   But despite their optimism about Peter’s ability to put up a good debate, they started to have reservations about what they had agreed to for this debate in the first place.  Now that they had time to reflect, what in the world were they thinking?  Why did they agree to raise the stakes so high for this meeting?  And if they were successful in proposing any changes, why, as Tim pointed out, did they ever agree to a majority vote to decide on any new rules to be instated? Truthfully, there were more of the ‘new wavers’ living there now than their little company of tenants holding residence in the Boatyard, so who cares if they could actuality win this debate.  Peter and his friends may be able to hold their own in the debate.  They may even be able to outwit every one of those new wavers with any irrefutable facts they’d bring up, but none of the stipulations that Cheryl and her friends proposed tomorrow on could be ratified without a vote.  This reminder of this flaw in their plan put the entire company of this pizza party in a sour mood.

“Do you believe in karma?  Order?  Justice? Reason prevailing out of confusion?” Michelle suggested to the others after a while.  “I don’t know; all this week, I’ve been feeling something in nature has been seriously out of whack.  Maybe my brain is too focused on the metaphysical implications of this meeting tomorrow.”

“You think too much” Tim interrupted.

“Maybe, but I feel like these issues we keep stubbornly pitting each other against need to be understood, if no one in the community wants to end up truly insane for the rest of their lives.”

“What do you mean?  And what are you talking about?” asked Harry and Samantha at the same time.

Michelle felt really uncomfortable.  She was tired and groggy, and to try to extrapolate this feeling that was coming onto her in words was a wrench in her mind. “I don’t know” she said finally. “Debate aside, I feel like this whole bullshit we argue for here represents a microcosm of a bigger dilemma in society”  But even she didn’t fully know exactly what she was talking about.  She remembered she not slept well for the last few days, yet she felt she could sense what was going on inside of her: for some reason, whenever she would get stressed and tired, she would take it upon herself and amplify her misery by thinking about tough existential issues that were draining in the first place: contemporary problems, the true rooted applications for social justice, the meaning of life – the kind of emotionally draining things that needed to be tackled with care; certainly not the kind of things she should be thinking about while she was tired. It was somewhat masochistic. Michelle knew this, but she could never overcome this bad habit of hers.

“I don’t follow” everyone said at last with some reservation after a while.

Michelle rubbed her face a few times and tried to articulate her thoughts better.  “Maybe it’s just the weather outside” she mumbled to herself.  “I just feel like a lot is riding on this meeting” she replied to everyone.  “Every one of us, I think, have some deep questions about what we think it means to have true equality and harmony around here.  I think we do a terrible job expressing this towards each other half the time, but ultimately, I think we all want the same thing.   The point is, I personally feel there have to be some universal truths that we can all agree on.  And, well, supposing we end up instating the wrong ideologies – set of rules, I mean, to follow at the Boatyard – we could really screw it up for everyone. It’s a real responsibility to make the right choices here if we don’t take care of what we have –like what would happen to society if we all royally fuck with how we choose to live on this planet.”

“You’re getting all esoteric again” said Cheryl with some impatience. “What exactly are you getting at?”

“You know, suppose we all do something or live a way of life that hurts the environment.  It’s the old cliché, but it’s so fitting.  There are some things that may seem right to how we all live life on this planet– but ultimately if it’s complete insanity, nature won’t allow it.

“Nature won’t allow it?” Asked Samantha.

“You know; health-wise, environment, hell; I don’t know.  Maybe I’m being overdramatic.”

“You are being over dramatic, and we’re not following” said Cheryl.  Everyone nodded in agreement.

“What I’m trying to say is, whether we win in our debate, or whether the new wavers are right, I think time will tell and either prove one theory over another to be functional.  Anything else, in time, the idea or lifestyle we choose at the Boatyard, if it really is self-destructive, nature won’t allow it to last forever. Any dysfunctional rules we follow will end up imploding on themselves.”

The group looked at Michelle with some curiosity.  She certainly seemed tired, but they finally understood what she was getting at.  Why worry that bad?  There was always a chance to fix things. Samantha smiled at her friend.  “Many words, and few to the point.”

“I suppose you’re right” Cheryl said with some open mindedness. “At least I think I know what you’re getting at. If something truly is dysfunctional about how we live in our community, nature wouldn’t allow it to continue like that forever.”

“That’s the greatest thing I learned in biology in terms of maintaining health and wellness” Michelle mumbled.   Everyone seemed comforted by her existential pep-talk, but upon realizing they were no closer to coming up with a  good strategy for how to approach this debate, if there was one.  After another few minutes of getting nowhere, most of the group stepped out to the deck for some smokes.  Michelle and Harry stayed behind.   Harry could tell something else was bugging Michelle.

“You don’t have to stick around” Michelle said.  She didn’t want to give him the wrong impression.

“I know, you look tired.  But I can sense something is bugging you” said Harry.  “I figured Jamie would have picked up on it, but…”

“She’s not – as perceptive, as I think she would like to be” said Michelle. “Truthfully, sometimes I think she just likes me so much as friend because, ultimately, she thinks I’m cool.” She sighed.  “If I’m in a slump, I noticed it turns her off and scares her  away.  She’s probably not aware of it.  It’s all good.”

“I don’t profess to be any different” said Harry. “But I just…had to make that observation.  I’m here if you need anything.”

Michelle smiled.  “You’re a sweetheart. You are perceptive. That’s what I like about you; you’ve got that sixth sense, I guess.”

“You taught me about that idea” Harry replied with some admiration. “You can sense that, no, really; I’m not trying to…”

“Yeah, I know” Michelle interrupted with a dismissive wave of her arm.  “You’re really just curious what I’m sensing.  You don’t think I’m insane when I talk like this.  You always were curious, after what I shared with you about sensing the patterns in the air.”

“Do you feel it too?” Harry confessed with some anxiety.

“Yeah” Michelle replied. “Actually, that’s the thing that really troubles me.  That’s why I haven’t been able to sleep well.  I can’t explain how.  I think the root of this tension in the air is what’s causing added tension in our community. And it runs deeper than the stress we’re all feeling about the meeting.”

“How so?” asked Harry. Michelle tried to remind him her theory about how bad energy people brought upon each other somehow was connected with these sensations in the air. But she was so tired, she felt that in a way, she couldn’t exactly trust herself to describe what she was feeling.  “I know it’s not scientific at all!” she said. “And it would sound absurd to me too; if it wasn’t for the fact this feeling has intensified and  been more frequent.”

“The spots?”

“Yes, the spots, but also something else.  Like sometimes in my peripheral vision there are things next to me that aren’t really there.”

“That’s creeping weird” said Harry with some concern.

“Yeah, I know.  I’ve even used the scientific method on myself to see if I’m just going crazy: perhaps something I ate, mood swings, lack of sleep, cyclical moodiness — but nothing matches.  This is a repeated pattern that has just been escalating every passing week.”  Harry did not flinch.  He took Michelle’s observations in stride.  He had tremendous respect for her.  He had heard many of her esoteric theories before, and he could always go up to her and ask her for advice.

“So you think — that actually, all this bickering is somehow effecting not your moods, but the real physical environment.”

“Yes” Michelle said finally. “I know: that certainly would sound new-age-y.  You’d think the ‘new wavers’ would appreciate that idea; with their love for yoga and all.” Michelle grinned.

“Yeah, you’d think the rest of the new wavers would appreciate that idea” Harry agreed.

“You’d think.  I don’t know: nobody is ever willing to listen to each other without getting into shouting matches.  How could we ever share these odd ideas.”

“Bring back the Thursday night lecture meetings!” Harry replied. “I think we should!”
“I don’t know” said Michelle.  “But I swear, something weird really is in the air.  I even spoke to Peter about it before.  He had no explanation either—at least not according to the laws of physics.  Actually, I don’t think he fully believed me, or could appreciate what I was saying.  He still thinks too rational.”  They decided to join the others out on the deck.  “Yeah” said Michelle as she opened up the sliding door. “I know this is irrational:  I feel like maybe I’m just charged up for this coming meeting tomorrow.”

“It’s almost like watching a prize fight.”  Harry chuckled darkly.

“What are you guys talking about?” asked Samantha.  She was standing alone near the stairs that led to the fire pit while Jamie, Cheryl and Tim were on the other side cracking jokes.

“I have a bad feeling that it’s going to be all or nothing in this debate” said Harry.  “The other new residents – aside from you guys or a few others, of course – are either going to acknowledge the gaping holes in their logic – or everybody else is just going to move out – or maybe they’re going to move out; I don’t know.”

“I don’t know if Michelle told you, but I’m almost morbidly curious to see how this fiasco pans out tomorrow” Samantha explained to Harry.  “That’s why I am sticking around here tonight, and tomorrow too,  I’ll admit it.  I never pictured things around here come to this level.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s so much drama going on” Samantha explained. “And yet I feel like this is a microcosm of the greater social problems in terms of identity politics.  You know: the ones that have bugged people for years now. My field is linguistics. And since communication is so important in the idea of identity politics, I’m sure you can understand why I take special interest in this.”

“That’s kind of what Michelle was saying” Harry said.

“No, not exactly what I was saying” Michelle corrected him. “I’m not sure it’s worth sticking around for this” she told Samantha.  “If I were you, I’d rather just hit the beach by the cape tomorrow. By the way: please avoid trying to get into further argumentative debate with Peter.  He’s got enough on his mind.”  Michelle looked wistfully at the dark blob of ocean beyond the beach. She felt like a high tide was coming, but the beach had not receded as much as she expected.  “Seriously; this world offers no time for anyone to sit and think” she told the others after a while.  The waves seemed totally different this evening.  As if they wanted to experience high tide for no reason.  “I mean, really think” she continued.  “Not just having to get educated-‘think’ in order to be an in order just to be marketable in the work force.”

“I agree” said Cheryl.  “Time is a currency, and I swear, we’re robbed of it;  always trying to work tons of hours just to pay off insane student debts.  At least that’s everybody I know.  It doesn’t give anyone any time to reflect on what is really a sensible way to exist.  Otherwise, I don’t think we would even be having these problems at the Boatyard. The new wavers would probably have had time to reflect on some of the holes in their way of thinking.  Then you start to believe any stupid belief system without thinking it through.”

Harry smiled. “You kind of sound like Michelle.” But Tim and Samantha were confused.  “That’s a little vague” Tim noted.  “I’m not sure what you’re saying.”

“Yeah, what does that have to do with anything?” asked Samantha.

“I think what Cheryl is saying is, when you’re spoon-fed ideas coming from any movement without there being a rational foundation behind what they’re thinking, you only think you know what you’re talking about” Michelle attempted to elaborate.

“That’s not what I was really saying at all” countered Cheryl.  “But you’re right.  I think that in the spirit of that, the big problem in this community is that the new wavers bring about a dogma that has nothing to do with the original mission goal of the Boatyard. We should bring that up tomorrow.  Is anyone writing this down?”

Harry was gracious enough to run inside for a notepad and a pen. When he returned, Michelle helped him reminisce all the key points they had made.  “Great. This is starting to look more like an organized legal team than what we were working with” Cheryl said.  Encouraged, they continued brainstorming for ideas that they could bring up against the new wavers.  For the next ten minutes, the group excitedly threw out whatever ideas came out of their heads.

“This should be another point:” Cheryl brought up.  “Valentino and the others have good intentions, but they haven’t lived long enough at the Boatyard to prove they even believe what they are saying. Therefore, I feel like there are ideas that can be askew when you follow any kind of trendy ideology.”

“Unless it’s a more logical ideology” said Michelle.  “I feel, actually, that is the greatest strength we have for tomorrow.  But in any case, these ideologies the new wavers want do not compliment the original rules we originally followed at the Boatyard.  They have nothing to do with the original set of rules we were supposed to follow.  When someone like Peter starts getting threatened to get kicked out of the Boatyard, just because some members find him offensive, but he hasn’t even really broken protocol or any rules of common sense…well, that should be our biggest argument.”

As if on cue, Peter himself waltzed right into the deck.  After sharing how therapeutic it was to get out of the Providence area for a while, he asked them what the hell they were all doing on his deck.   But after Cheryl started to explain what was going on, he got almost giddy.

“See, this is exactly the kind of organizational strategy that I was thinking about on the way home that the new wavers lack.  We are far more pro-active than some of these dim bulbs.  The new wavers are probably too damn lazy to organize their thoughts.  I doubt they have any original thoughts of their own that wasn’t spoon fed to them by some disgruntled forty-year old social justice warrior from some cult somewhere.”  After Cheryl warned Peter to stop with the condescending remarks, Michelle was allowed to continue.

“Peter may be dick sometimes” she said, half-jokingly and half serious as she looked at him, “but he does have a point: aside from their cliché rhetoric about how white males are the root to everybody’s problems, I don’t know if that’s truly a rational argument that could hold up in a court.  We almost interplay this as if this was a trial being held in a court.  I know it technically isn’t, but that was how you originally spun how we should approach this Cheryl.  But anyway, the point is, you’re right: I’ve yet to see any of these people produce a real artistic contribution to the community. That was the original purpose for the Boatyard:  a place of higher learning and enlightenment.  Enlightenment is not gained by coddling to the idiosyncrasies of various people.  If we scold each other for stupid things people do from time to time, well that’s fine, but to go to extremes so that the slightest infarctions motivate people to leave, well, that’s bullshit.”

“Yeah” Tim agreed. “Now the finest artists and craftspeople have left.  If this was a business, we would be screwed: we would have lost most of our gross national product in one year because of this nonsense.  Lionel had more skill than half the people here. Now he leaves, granted he was a bit of dick, fine. But I don’t agree with the accusations that got him kicked out.  And if the rest of us artists leave, who honest to God is going to be left?    It’s just going to be a bunch of recycled generational social justice warriors with no skills to account for.”

“Therein lies the tragedy.”

“Well so what?” countered Peter after some consideration. “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Worse-case scenario, keep all the dipshits in one area of the city; if you drive all the real people out of a community, it’s reverse gentrification.”

“Yeah, but then we got to look for new homes!”

“Hey, I’m only doing this for your sakes” Peter said.  “I moved, didn’t I?  Let these boneheads squat there until the landlord kicks them out.  They’re not under contract and he could do it any time he wants; he just likes to make the extra money, the sketch-ball.  By the way, that’s another thing” he added. “If they provoke me tomorrow, I’m going to remind exactly that to their face; I don’t care if it’s rude.  And if the rest of you all end up leaving this place because you finally get sick of this drama, I’ll fully tell them the irony to it all: the patriarchy they hate will still hold power over them.  Chet the landlord is still a white male, no matter how much they want to delude themselves from that fact.”

“Leaving” Michelle muttered.  “I hope it doesn’t come to that.  I hate moving. But where could I go to not deal with this anymore?” She looked at the others with frustration.  “You know, all this shit could easily have been avoided.”

“You mean, with the other new wavers?” Harry asked.

“No, I mean in life in general” said Michelle.  “I see it everywhere around me these days.  Everyone distracted; just sitting around wasting away on their Gyrotaur phones, messaging each other while this economic shit gets worse and worse.”

“Oh come on, don’t get philosophical like that now” Cheryl told her.  But Peter was loving it.

“Preach it!” he cried.

“If only people weren’t so intellectually lazy” Michelle continued. “It’s always the people who are followers and don’t think critically for themselves, I swear.  That’s why so few people are truly unique.  And then they wonder why life gets so boring for them.  They don’t explore their own potentiality to think for themselves or seek truth.”

“God Michelle” said Samantha. “You’re bringing it to the deep end again.  Come back down to the immediate issues.”  This called for another break.  Everyone but Michelle and Harry went inside to raid Peter’s fridge, who, despite joining them indoors, was not too happy about all the mooching.

“Shit, you come into my place and don’t even leave a slice of mushroom pizza for me?” they could hear him cry through the glass doors. “What’s wrong with you people?”

Meanwhile, Michelle stood still, staring at the dark water in the distance.  There was no moon tonight, but she felt like an intense lunar tide was taking place.  Her body really was that sensitive.  The hairs on her arm were standing on end again– they way she would get goosebumps sometimes when there was a full moon, and some sort of dielectric response would ensue within her.  Harry could tell something was wrong with Michelle, but at first she seemed to do a good job hiding it.

“You know, the other night I was at a coffee shop on Thayer street; watching people there.  The table next to me:  four people for one whole hour; sitting around and playing dumb camera apps on their Gyrotaur phones.  Not once did they say anything significant to each other.”

“Well, what’s so wrong about that?”

“I don’t know; I see it more and more; like people have lost the ability to even communicate meaningfully.  Like one giant sedation.”

“Why should that bug you so much?” Harry inquired. “Something bigger seems wrong.”  Michelle bowed her head and shrugged, as if she was carrying a greater weight on her than just some random observations.

“I don’t know; I just have this vision, nobody ever talks to each other about anything meaningful” she started.  “Just stupid conversation that’s beyond stupid – not even clever anymore.  Simple thrills; sitting around and wasting away as this world falls apart.  Do they even realize; do they even sense what’s going to happen?”

“What’s going to happen?” Harry had to ask her. “I don’t know why you feel this nervous” said Harry. “You almost make me nervous.  It’s just a stupid trial.”  Michelle said nothing. Her eyes were closed, as if trying to process the sensation she was feeling.

“I feel like the weight of everything is coming to full realization for me.  Maybe all of us in that community – are screwed.  Maybe it would be easier to be simply oblivious.”

“You just said, ‘They don’t explore their own potentiality to think for themselves or seek truth’. Truth?” Harry had to ask her.

“I mean, truth as in some universal fact about reality that explains a shit load of why everything is what it is, whether people like it or not” Michelle replied.  “I don’t know: me personally; I’ve never found it to be frustrating when I finally get brave enough venture deep down the rabbit hole – if even just out of desperation.  I’ve discovered something that any ideology that I know can’t make amends for.  Whatever people believe out there, the gaping holes in all popular logic needs to be refined. It ultimately doesn’t do anybody who follows it a real service.”

“What do you mean?”

“The things people choose to follow on an everyday basis, just so they don’t have to put any effort to think harder.  I’ve found that by doing that for myself; not questioning reality.  But if I don’t acknowledge what I’m really feeling here, I’m only delaying the inevitable: confusion.  Any other way to approach following any ideology will only delay the inevitable.”

Although Harry usually loved these talks with Michelle, he was concerned.  She really did seem troubled about something, but he couldn’t fully grasp what she was trying to say, and he really did want to help her.  Michelle opened her eyes and could tell he was really intent in hearing what she had to say.  She figured she might as well humor him.

“Doesn’t anyone else feel what I’m feeling in the environment here?” she smiled nervously.  Harry said nothing but kept returning her gaze with sympathetic eyes.  “Not facing reality sets you up for becoming brainwashed, you know” she tried to elaborate. “If a person just wants to go about their daily way of being, but it’s not based on some higher truth about life, they might as well be joining a cult; it doesn’t really matter what they become a member of:  some far liberal party, conservative party, a church, a mosque, a video game message board. If they’re not thinking deeper than what everyone seems to be doing on the surface here, I think they’re delaying the inevitable for themselves.”

“Which is…?” Harry asked her hesitantly.

“Which is: something bad feels like is going to come out of all of this — this lack of compassion for one another, respect, hell; I don’t know. I feel we’re contributing to it here at the Boatyard.  I think, in essence, this is what we need to stop.”

“And what is that then, exactly?”

“Insanity based on faulty ideologies” Michelle concluded. “Or something feels askew. Don’t do your own homework whenever you invest in an ideology, and you’re pretty much at the mercy of whatever circumstances inevitably screw you over.”  Soon, everyone returned outside, and overheard their talk.  So she wouldn’t get accused again of getting too abstract, Michelle tried to tie in this idea further with what she thought was wrong with the new wavers.

“Following something that sounds convenient but not hearing the other side of the issue sets up for failure” she went again.  “If that’s only way you sit and ponder existential ideas, well then maybe that’s what screws everything.  So few people actually think for themselves.  As for the other ‘new wavers’, well, there you go: they just regurgitate something they’re spoon-fed.  Still, there are too many of them now.  They outvote us.  They are taking over this stupid Boatyard, let’s admit it.  We may have to move” she concluded wearily.  Nobody really liked that prospect.

“What we really ought to do tomorrow is get a moderator lead the discussion” Michelle continued with some defiance, despite her mood.  “Someone impartial.  That way, we create a environment for a rational debate with rules.”

“That’s actually a good idea” said Cheryl.  “Do you think they’ll agree to that?”

“Hell no” answered Peter.  “These Jims don’t want to learn anything or expand their horizons. Besides, they’ll never agree to anything that will give them a disadvantage.” Now that everyone was  (somewhat) refreshed, Peter, along with Michelle and Cheryl continued to carve out the basic strategy for tomorrow’s debate.  Above all else, Cheryl implored to Peter to be nice.  The biggest problem with the other new wavers was that they were never humble when they presented their ideas.  They were arrogant, and Peter was just as bad in that respect.

“No sense being hypocritical” she warned him.  After a half hour of this wearying preparation, nearly everyone decided to join Samantha at Rasperber’s for some Polar Soda and Toasted Flour Tortillas.  It was a strange delicacy that the Siberian Restaurant was famous for late night snacks, and the value menu was dirt-cheap enough for any whimsical decisions by locals in the area to grab a night snack.

Michelle decided to stay behind.  She needed time to zone out.  Although Jamie wanted to stick around, Michelle told her she needed some alone time.  Harry was inclined to join the group as well, but he lingered a little longer to ask her something.

“Go on ahead without me” Michelle told him with some weariness in her face. “Can’t talk right now.”  She looked right in his eyes.  He was so innocent in a way, so clueless to social cues, but so kind-hearted and wanting to learn from her that she couldn’t resist for long.

“I’m not so kind hearted, actually, as you would perceive me to be” Harry said with a smile. “I drop F bombs and cuss and get angry, just not in front of you.  You really don’t want to be alone right now either.  You just don’t want to deal with thinking about any more  Boatyard bullshit.  You don’t want to be there tomorrow.  And by the way, I think it’s that book you’re reading: I think it’s got you obsessed with strange notions.  You need to put that thing down, I think. ”

“Very perceptive” Michelle replied. “Very insightful. That’s why we relate. Still, ‘bullshit’ is subjective.  Naw; I can handle tomorrow. I’m more physically tired right now than mentally.  I just need to sleep a bit.”

“Really?”

“Really.”   Harry looked at the night sky all around them.  Maybe he had been hanging out with Michelle too much: he swore he could feel the sky itself pulling him up.  He stared at his shoes.  His feet were still on the ground.  He shook his head and grinned.

“It could all be so much simpler. Why are some of the Boatyarders so angry?” he wondered out-loud. “What the hell is some of their problem?  I can never figure that out.  Nothing is physically attacking them,   So angry, such anxiety.  Why is that?  Stress?  Overwork?  What?”  Michelle did not say anything, but kept staring at the waterfront ahead.   Finally, she mumbled some in audible words.

“You know, these words are coming to my mind right now:  ‘I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires’” she said out loud.

“Wow” said Harry. “Who said that?”

“Susan B. Anthony.  I was sincerely thinking about every justifiable complaint Valentino and Kara have.  Their anger: maybe it’s because they have a similar upbringing that I have.”

“How so?”

“An ultra-conservative family; filled with a lot of irony and even some hypocrisy.”

“I don’t get it.”

“You don’t know their background?  Those two?  Maybe they come from an ultra-conservative family –that ultimately drove them nuts and made them hate anything that resembled their family.  It happened to me, it’s happened to Jamie, and even Peter.  If some of them would just take the time to expand their horizons – get to know some of us, maybe they would finally realize we are all not that unlike.  I mean, damn; that’s why we all migrated to the Boatyard in the first place.  We essentially wanted to believe in the same general values.  But  it’s that stupid ‘Jubilee’ rule they instated last spring. That twisted dogma is just so narrow minded.”

“You think?”

“I don’t know; or maybe Peter’s being right.  They’re just being ignorant.”   She went on to vent to Harry about the multiple times that, to Peter’s defense, Peter actually took the time to try to try to have a rational discussion with some of them.  They just simply didn’t like what they were hearing.

You guys are deluded’ Peter finally said to Rita the other day” Michelle continued. “I think that night, actually, was the catalyst that started all of this shit. ‘Just because you’ve traveled, you still don’t have a clue. You haven’t suffered the hardships as half of the rest of the world has, or my family has, and when you come around expressing your ideas, you come across as self-righteous.’”

Harry took it all in.  “I could see how saying that to Rita would create a problem” he admitted.  “I see their points, but they go too far.”

“All they keep doing is pushing the envelope until somebody is going to fight back and bite” Michelle noted. “I’m telling you: watch.  That’s what’s going to take this place down.  Why can’t anybody in my network of people I know around here be moderate in their thinking?”  Shocking.  Harry didn’t know what to say to that.

“Yeah, hey; you know?”

“But that’s not why I’m still standing here outside” Michelle confessed. “Something else is at stake; I don’t know. You can feel it in the air now.  See?  I wonder if this is how my uncle felt that bizarre year of that previous presidential election.”

“I just call out the bullshit as I see it” Michelle went on to confess to Harry. Harry studied her face.  Despite her fatigue, she looked strong and as resilient as ever, sure.  That was one of the things he admired the most about her: a riot could happen right here and she would take it in stride. She had such a strong spirit. She would never freak out, no matter how bad things get.  She would just clear her mind and search for an explanation until she could see a problem through.  But studying her face closer, he could see the anguish hiding behind her eyes, it was clear she really did have some heavy things on her mind.  Harry wanted to say something comforting to her, but he had no words.   Michelle smiled sidelong at him as she kept concentrating on the waterfront in front of her.  She could sense his willingness to say nothing but just let her speak.

“Some would think me talking like this as self-righteous” she continued. “Me pointing out the idiosyncrasies in everything about the human condition all around me.  I can’t help it.  It’s been like this since the my accident.  I just want the quest for truth.  I don’t want – I’m going to pick sides as long as whatever is said is noble…whatever is true, I suppose.”  Harry looked at the young woman silhouetted against the night sky behind her on this open deck.   He could barely see her face, but she looked beautiful.  Amazing.  He had too much respect for her to view her in a sexual way.  He always had.  She was too noble for that:  the things that came out of her mouth – as if she wasn’t human when she spoke sometimes.

“Those are admirable traits” Harry reminded her.  “People would follow anyone with that kind of leadership.”

“Then why am I alone?” she wondered to herself out loud, before nodding grimly.

“You’re not alone” Harry pointed out. “You’ve got friends.  You’ve got people that admire you.”

“Admire, but can they really relate to me?”

“Jamie admires” he said wistfully. “You know that.  Hey, people admire.”

“I feel like I annoy them more than admire, half the time.  I can feel people shying away when we get too deep or too close.  They admire the ideas, but not the person.”

“What do you mean…admire?”

“Honestly?” Michelle replied.  “Dating.  Not generic status dating.  Serious relationship.  That’s what I really miss.”  She breathed a sigh of relief.  Interesting. Everyone expected her to be deep, but it felt good confessing to someone how vulnerable she really was. How she had felt for quite a while.  She wasn’t worried Harry would take it the wrong way either, but sadly, she realized the irony in it all.

Harry hesitated, but said nothing.  She could feel him recoiling in some frustrated form of intimidation, all the while, she could sense him wishing he could do more right now.

“It would be intimidating dating you, I think” Harry said facetiously after a while.  “People admire you too much, I think.  They would hate to ruin that; what you do for this community, and for everyone you come in contact with.  I would think you’d need a real partner worthy of complimenting you.”

Michelle laughed grimly while a tear started to form in her eyes.  “Yeah, I guess it’s my fault for trying to be somebody.”  They continued to stare towards the direction of the waterfront.  There were some gulls about which could be heard, but not a single boat in the horizon.  Suddenly Michelle could feel it again: something that wasn’t there to the side of her, and this time, gravity seemingly turning upside down; barely. But as she looked around, nothing looked any different.  Just Harry staring at the waterfront, seemingly deep in his own thoughts.  For a few minutes, she did the same thing.

“What do you ultimately wish for in life?” Harry finally asked her with innocent curiosity.  He could see her turning her head and looking right at him.

“I just want to wake up or one day and live that day as if it feels like a day completely full of opportunity.  I don’t know what that feels like around here.  But now, I feel like all this creates a heaviness in the air.  Tragedy polarizes your consciousness, I think.”

“Tragedy?”

“Yeah; can’t explain why I feel this, but I do.”

 

 

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