Chapter 7: Dilemma

 

“Those guys were clearly misogynist racists” said Rita.  She and another girl named Abby had joined Michelle and the others in the common lounge area of the Boatyard.  It was a vast open space in the commune, complete with old couches, an open floor big enough for a grand ball, and an old foosball table no one ever used.

“Come on, you weren’t there” Foresman said to the others. He was still feeling very put out by the whole incident; emasculated and frustrated — while Jamie and Lorraine had started spilling out the ‘bro incident’ to the new girls.

“Yeah but just listen to what they were saying” Rita considered as she heard the details. “These fools are what is wrong with every conservative or neo-conservative I ever met.”

“I’ll throw in some more” Jamie added. She too was still charged up. “You talk about the flaws of conservative people.  Let me tell you this: they don’t even know why they believe what they believe.  Well, maybe not all of them, I don’t want to be like that” she added hastily.  She still didn’t want to disappoint Michelle. “Half of them, most of them; hell I don’t know.”  As Michelle tried to analyze the situation and pick apart every bit that had happened, some more residents of the Boatyard poured into the common lounge, and both Harry and Lorraine tried to add in details about the encounter to their new audience.  Jamie kept comparing some of the bro’s ideologies to that of the conservative families in her neighborhood that she had grown up with down south.  After a while, Michelle called to all of them.

“I’m just thinking:  I think you’re all wasting your time.  All right; I should better say ‘we’:  generalizing is the biggest toxicity of human kind.  Every group generalizes every other group, and hence, all this confusion. Just simply say ‘most’ or ‘many’.. if you forget to use that word, you’re…we’re all part of the damn problem.”

“Eh, look who sounds self-righteous now” said Foresman.

“Anyway, Jamie’s right” Michelle added in an effort to support her friend.  “I’ve got a lot of conservative friends and family back home like that: they will stick to defending their values, even though so few actually practice them, but deep down if you were to ask them, they don’t know why they believe what they believe.  I once had a boyfriend that used to bring me to bible studies.  He would abhor me for having any kind of human feelings,  he and his shitty family would vilify me to the degree I would start to feel inadequate and terrible now about my own original ideas I was forming in my head.”

“What?  Andrew?” asked Lorraine.

“No, that was another one” Michelle replied. “He was the complete opposite problem.  This other guy liked to think he was somehow  morally superior to everyone else because he had grown up learning about this mystical faith his parents taught him, but ironically, he was afraid of getting deep.” Jamie looked at her  and smiled.  If this was true, Jamie couldn’t help but love this girl: she was so pragmatically  savvy.  She seemed to effortlessly come up with all these answers.

Meanwhile, Michelle reclined on a couch and closed her eyes.   As she relaxed, she could feel her body twich a little bit:  she realized how tired she was.  The voices of the others started to dim in the background and she let her mind trail off with any image her subconscious let her daydream.

“What do you mean ‘they orchastrated all this?’ she could hear one of the New Wavers saying to her friends. She almost wanted to sleep but she just couldn’t.  Wisps of random imagines in her minds eye appeared: recent memories, songs playing in the back of her head, and soon more interruption as the sounds of waking life overpowered her meditation.  Now she could hear some of the people in the room arguing, and Jamie ‘s voice trailing off in frustration at them.

“Will you people just stop once in a while?” she said.  “Does it really matter?  You can’t do anything anyway.”

As Michelle continued to zone out, she had the weirdest image appear in her minds eye:  it was her seeing herself in third person: she was sitting cross-legged in a lush garden meadow somewhere that looked more exotic and beautiful than anything she could imagine in waking memory.  Fruits of different shapes of enormous size were hanging off of large vines encircling all around her as she sat on some sort of stone platform.  Most of the fruits did not resemble anything she had ever seen before, but some of them were enormous and almost glowing in their brightness and various colors. Behind her were enormous looking deciduous trees  and alien looking plant forms and other bushes. There were vines growing all over the platform, and behind the image she could see of herself were two small twin statues of some intimidating humanoid figure sitting in a meditative pose as well: robed with a muscular body and a curious looking iron mask with round holes for eyes that concealed a head full of long wavy hair.

Michelle could see herself talking to a lanky young woman with poorly braided pig tails and disheveled bright clothes.   She could hear herself telling the woman something incomprehensible but profound: something about not giving up and having faith to continue with a purpose — something about continuing to look for her friend.   She couldn’t understand what her third person self was telling the woman, but it was  very audible:  ‘The last grasps of remnants of order, that’s how civilization finally was decaying even without the time cycles.  It would have happened anyway — until all finally realized none of this is real:  all wealth was built under a value that does not exist. And the sincerity behind all transactions and interactions has dried up.  Ground to a halt.  All false politeness built on a lie.’

Despite the heavy talk, Michelle thought she could hear a pleasant pan flute music playing and multiple fires crackling comfortably all around her third person self.  Suddenly she could see herself tip over to her left side as if about to fall over.  But instead of falling onto the floor, Michelle’s image of herself started to float and spin in a smooth clockwise fashion in mid air, as if mimicking the second hand of a clock.  As she kept tilting sideways, she could see her long hair and the strange shawl wrapped around her body gravitate towards the floor,  but the look on her own face was of pure peace and relaxation.

Michelle’s rapid eye movement took it all in when suddenly the voices of her housemates came in and  broke the focus: fading in and out until some wavelength of audible sound made the vision more and more blurry.  Even though she was still passed out, Michelle could hear her friends lucidly.

“The shit job problem? It’s so obvious” she could hear Shemar saying.  “I may be crazy now… I may be clinically insane because I finally have decided to agree with Peter.  I think he’s right.”

“That fool is not right about anything.”

Michelle could feel her subconscious get frustrated, and wished her friends would shut up so she could focus on the dream, but the Boatyarders were loud: “Guys just relax.  For God’s sake” someone was saying.  “No, it…it actually does make perfect sense” Shemar was saying. “I don’t believe in now ‘Domodods or whatever he calls them. But the rich oligarch’s… yeah. And the way they won?  Forcing automation on everyone and then forcing socialism having to take over because nobody can really work anymore.  But that’s how they won, see?”

As the cluster of arguing voices became a constant  mesh that sounded like a turbulent stream, Michelle’s mind relaxed and went into another dream, if dream it was.  Now she could see herself in third person fighting a group of fierce blue humanoid beasts attacking her.  They were large humanoid monsters, huge in height and bright blue in color with two rows of fangs and bright red eyes.  They almost looked like fluorescent werewovles that were trying to flank her from all sides.  They kept trying to swat her with their horrible limbs, but she was too fast for them.   As they attempted to maul her, Michelle could see herself laughing and evading them: calmly rolling around on the ground with the most acrobatic maneuvering.  It felt so empowering.  Suddenly she started to turn into some strange aqua blue liquid form that formed into a pillar.  As it stretched higher and higher, it pulsated out like fireworks all over her enemies, and as each drop of her liquid self poured down all over them, the beasts started to incinerate and roll over in pain upon contact.

“They secretly turned it the other way: they made everyone distrust the word socialism so much” she could hear Shemar’s voice suddenly breaking into the scene from out of nowhere.  Her mind must have been fading in and out of the vision. “And all these people were  uneducated to understand” Shemar continued even louder.  “They just heard the word ‘socialism’ and shut down.  Hence all these needed universal stipend programs were voted down and here we are.”

Suddenly she could see a quick vision of a city covered in multiple clouds of a bright green fog.  There were people screaming everywhere; cut up with scrapes everywhere and burns that were still smoking on their clothes. Everywhere, strange looking translucent beings were chasing scores of them.  The fog clouds all over the place looked dangerous: every time someone would run into one of the clouds, they would get into a catatonic state. It was horrible to watch: the  limbs of people everywhere would go numb and gnarl up as if in a convulsion, leaving them invalid, but their eyes looked like they were fully aware they had no control and awaited in horror as the translucent beings would suddenly overtake them.  Michelle could feel herself break into panic mode.

“The fuck are people thinking?”  she could hear someone’s voice from the Boatyard saying.  The loud arguing was infiltrating into her dream again, but it was just as well. She woke up and jerked most violently.  The ‘dream’, or whatever she experienced felt just a little too intense.  As she gasped for air, several of the Boatyarders, including Jamie, were looking at her.

“You alright?” one of them asked her with concern.    Michelle did not know what to say.  Everybody was now looking at her.  But worse, that dream felt too real for comfort and she was struggling to process what she just experienced.

“Bad.. I don’t even know: bad dream!” she said softly with anxiety.

“Get her a drink.  Wow!”

“No, get her water!” Jamie corrected them.   “I’m..I’m ok” Michelle insisted.  But the PTSD look on her face said otherwise.

“Probably just tired. I’ve been known to freak out when I’m tired” said one of the Boatyarders.

It did not seem like the best time to press her, and Michelle looked like she wanted to just ignore what just happened.  Upon Jamie’s convincing, both she and Michelle decided to take a walk to the dock again.    Another sunset too good to miss wasting in this musty warehouse.  Jamie led the way to the waterfront, and added some music with her trusty turtle flute that she had purchased when she had visited the Aztec Pyramids a few summers ago.

 

* * *

As much as she wanted to ask Michelle what just happened back there, Jamie did her best to let her feel relaxed.  She kept making jokes and playing with her turtle-flute,  and the therapy seemed to be working.  Soon Michelle’s conversation turned lighter, and she let herself enjoy the lilac smell and the greenery all around this trail to the Marina.

“So has anybody heard from Peter?” Michelle asked after a while.  “I mean, in general.”   Jamie shared what little she had learned from Cheryl.

“I just… I just think it’s messed up.  Why is he doing this?  We were always pretty cool, and now he’s not returning my calls.  I’m telling you, I think this is it.  They really provoked him this time.  I figured he would eventually calm down and visit just a little bit… and just ignore the New Wavers.”

“I don’t know” said Jamie.  “Cheryl mentioned he needed his space.”

“So, so, so… stupid: all of this” Michelle muttered in frustration.  “Pigeonholing someone infairly until they understandably don’t want anything to do with people.”

“Yeah, I guess generalizing leads to generalizations.”

“Good point” Michelle agreed.  She found a pebble on the gravel road that was calling to her.  Now it was her turn to kick something around like a little kid.

“What if I was born a man?” she asked Jamie after a while.

“Excuse me?”

“I mean…what if I was born a man?” Michelle reasoned.  “I don’t know; it’s just a stupid thought.”

“Nothing is a stupid thought” Jamie answered back as they walked down the gravel trail towards the dock.  “But I’m not following you; please explain.”

“I guess I’m saying that I just wished we really had a rational conversation about how maybe we should have punished the guy – before the other’s passed judgement.”

“For who?  Peter?”

“No, for Lionel, actually, I was thinking.  But the New Wavers took over the meeting and just like that, axed him.”  “Wow, you really jump back into things!” Jamie remarked with some veneration. “Stop thinking about these things.  Don’t worry abou—”

“Lionel and Kirsten were  freaking married!” Michelle interrupted.  Despite what just happened, she seemed obsessed with trying to make sense of the drama going on at the Boatyard.  “I mean, who the hell knows what this is doing to them.  Have any one of us been in a long enough relationship to know what’s it like to live long enough with someone without a major fight or two breaking out?”

“I don’t know” Jamie replied. “If someone is just treating me bad, I just leave them.”

“That’s what I’m saying!” said Michelle.  “I mean, that makes sense, but I feel like everyone I know is too brittle.  Like they don’t have enough resilience to endure adversity.  I fear that’s what scares me so much.  How will I ever start my own family if I’m that brittle?”

“I guess” said Jamie.  “I mean, my own family fights all the time but we don’t just drop each other.”  Michelle smiled at her.  Points.

“Yes, that’s kind of what I mean.  I mean — it worries me.  This kind of thinking somehow isn’t helping my confusion. Right now, I feel like if I keep thinking about this, I don’t think I could ever be in a real relationship again.  I don’t think I know anyone our age who has the resilience to even know what the fuck that must be like.”

Once again, Jamie didn’t know what to say. Michelle was often so articulate, that she couldn’t keep up with her.  All she could hope for was listen, and cling on for the ride.

“Lionel knew he fucked up and deserved to be punished” Michelle continued. “But Kirsten was his wife.  Nobody even knows what the conversation was about.  The wavers just called it out as domestic abuse.  Kirsten didn’t press charges and even said he was being dick but that she’s done the same thing to him sometimes.”   They sat there by the edge of the dock, just staring at the water. “I wish I could see where they were coming from.  I mean, my family is just crazy anyway” Jamie said finally.  “I don’t have a reference frame to compare.”

“I just hate how some of this is just because of unspoken hate” added Michelle. “Some of the New Wavers–  I guess it boils down to this: I’m struggling; part of me doesn’t want to be associated with them anymore, if so many of them are going to act like this. I’m pretty sure Lionel wasn’t happy with how he acted, but from what I was hearing from Colleen and Todd, nobody gives a shit whatever conflict he feels because…’cause…”

’’Cause he’s a white male” put in Jamie.  “That’s what you were about to say.”

“Exactly” said Michelle.  “You’re a white female, so you have just a less privilege than he does, and even though his parents raised him in a trailer park, and you grew up in Newton, by default you’re supposed to have less privilege than he did for all his fuck ups.”  Jamie had to grin at the truth of Michelle’s words.

“And I guess your father being the owner of a law firm in downtown Boston, you have the least privilege of all of us” Jamie shot back boldly.

“And even then, I can’t really find a proper job.”

“And that other lawyer uncle in Wisconsin.”

“Do you see what I’m saying?” Michelle answered back.  “Think about that for a second.  The other day, Abby literally threw that saucepan at Darrel, but she wasn’t kicked out for violence.  And all he wanted to say to her was that he was sick of her using his things.  I know he was being a dick, but she did keep borrowing his stuff all year.  I mean…”

“Well, be fair” threw in Jamie.  “People have been getting interrogated across the board for their opinions on all these stupid social issues.  What the hell is bringing all this shit up? It was never this bad before.”

“Yeah, but especially for the men” said Michelle.  “But even then, some of the New Wavers don’t even seem to want to talk to me now: there’s no grace for anybody.  And some of these guys are men too.   I don’t get it, I’m justice picturing this: if I was Peter — I would not necessarily fight against misogyny if someone could prove it outside of the accusations of a kangaroo court.  But I would sure as hell fight against the injustice of being called misogynistic if my accusers based on the nature of their accusations were proving to be misandrists.”

“What’s misandrist?”

“Man hater” Michelle replied. “Technically the same thing, only you hate men instead of women.” She laughed grimly as she stared at the water.  “I’m just surprised so many of our social justice friends don’t even know that’s a real term.  It’s just so frustrating, because I agree with so many things they’re trying to say; only something just doesn’t sit right and I can’t put my finger on it.” “I don’t know” put in Jamie.  “The more I think about all of this that you’re saying, the more I don’t like it.  Not what you’re saying, but something else…. it’s like… it kind of reminds me of my family back home.”

“How so?”

“Almost puritan” Jamie said hesitantly. “But like, different, you know? Conservatives. See, I’m not like the rest of my family…”  They could faintly hear the crickets chirping all around the reeds nearby the wetlands.  She really wished this wasn’t even an issue.  The moment was so nice.  “Never mind.” “No, really; explain” Michelle insisted. ”I grew up thinking know, I tried thinking my family was so convincing, that they could do no wrong. Mainly because our Christian beliefs told me we were always on the right side.  But then if they’re so righteous, how come the downplay all these issues on social justice?  It’s ironic.”

“That’s very interesting” Michelle mused. “Do go on.”

“Well, it’s just that, it’s just that I wish my family questioned the flaws in their own logic” Jamie replied.  “I guess I’m not blaming Christianity itself, I’m blaming people I know that don’t understand what they believe.  I mean, the New Wavers: are they crazy?  We can all agree that half the stuff they want is not unreasonable.  I’m torn too: for all their bible studies, my family would never understand where I’m coming from.  They’re good people, but half of them so oblivious to how cold they are about things.  I hate it: they claim to be these big born again Christians, but they hide about talking about the deep issues in their circles.  You know; the real meaning of helping the planet.  I just don’t know where to turn to. I’m sorry if I sound preachy.”

Michelle smiled. “No, it’s all right: sounds like my family.  I’ve come to realize I don’t think they even know why they believe what they believe.  Few people in that circle have actually thoroughly studied their bibles – it seems.”

“Well that’s just it” put in Jamie. She was getting more flustered as she thought about these issues.   “They claim to be patriots, but they do not really practice freedom of religion.  They don’t emphasize with how hard it is for a young adult to get a job these days; how competitive just trying to make ends meet has gotten because of the way life’s been ruined by the past – and yet we’re still being spoon fed this delusion of trying to chase this criteria that society defines as success: the American dream that eludes almost everyone I know, and just makes you feel like shit because you can’t achieve it just because the game’s rigged.”

“Preach” Michelle said with appreciation.  “You’re starting to sound like me – carried away in the zone –as you always tell me I sound.”

“Meh” Jamie continued.  “I’m just saying: my family, they claim all these virtues, but they don’t really help anyone but themselves.  They don’t really help the needy either, so they also suck at being these so called super Christians.  They’re hypocrites on all fronts. This is honestly why I hate patriotism, and Christianity; I guess stupid America” she concluded as she processed it all through. I’m sorry, I’m ruining this.”

“It’s alright” Michelle insisted. “It’s my fault really: I’m the one moping.  I know not everything sucks.  It’s always extremists on either end that are the most oblivious.  I think in a way maybe that’s what’s hap—“

“And my mom is not hospitable; she’s a control freak” Jamie continued. Something apparently had really triggered inside her. “I don’t know how; I might as well have been adopted.  I don’t think like any of them. And they can’t even seem to relate to anything I say because there’s so many more of them:  I start to think there’s something wrong with me.  I’m sorry;  just so disgruntled, that’s all.” Michelle wrapped her arm around her friend for a moment.    Jamie closed her eyes and savored the moment. “It’s so hard going against the grain.”

Michelle whispered. “I found it happening in my family too, now I’m starting to find it here.   Is there something wrong with me?”    Jamie turned and looked at her.  “How so with your family?”

Michelle thought about it for a moment and sighed.  “Spirituality is the way.  But I don’t know how to reach something I yearn inside of me: joy; I don’t know peace.  Nearly everything I have been brought up believing has become muddled.”  A look of pain passed over her face “…I’m sorry.  I guess I’m feeling exhausted.  Not physically but mentally. You’re right.  You’re so right:  I think too much, and yeah, I just had the weirdest dream — only it was not just…” her voice trailed off and Jamie could see her friend was struggling with something.

“You don’t have to carry the world’s burdens you know” she reminded Michelle.

“I know” Michelle replied with a smile and she closed her eyes with relief.  “You’re right.  Hell, anybody with common sense would be SO right: enjoy the evening” she took a few breaths.  “I don’t want to ruin the night: it’s so nice out tonight.”  Jamie fidgeted, but said nothing and Michelle put her arm down and reached in her pocket for some gum. “Yeah, I feel like I have to fight an uphill battle with everything I do.”

“No, don’t worry about… let’s talk about…”

“Like I was saying about my family, like I told you before: practically every one of my goals or beliefs; they’ll challenge it. They make me feel like if my lifestyle doesn’t agree with their way of viewing the world, I’m making a huge mistake.  But what I’m doing or suggest to them for alternate ways of viewing the world — is not even immoral or anything!”

“Yeah, sounds like my kin: it’s like I can’t relate with them – hardly for anything” Jamie added.  “They may be religous, but there is something inherently spiritual I feel that is missing.  Nearly every family event I go to feels deadpan.  Is it that way for you?”

“Spiritual” Michelle mused to herself.  “Maybe that’s what it is.  If you could have experienced the dream I just had back at the Boatyard. Something very…I don’t even know how to describe all the feelings.  See, that to me feels more spiritual than anything that feels organized religion.  Not even sure how to describe it.”  Michelle kept kicking the pebble as they reached the dock.  She was doing her best from letting it accidently fall into the water,  and whenever it got too close to dropping, her reflexes would take over and steer it gently back onto the dock like a soccer ball.   Jamie noted something strange about her friend’s reflexes again: they were impressively fast — it was as if Michelle had untapped some reservoir of internal energy, but she ignored the compulsion to make the observation.   As Michelle approached the end of the dock and played with the rock, she started pondering about her families religious beliefs.

“Yeah; what the hell” Michelle continued. “I studied the bible. It’s like you said just now: most members in my family won’t help the needy or anyone if it’s out of their comfort zone.  And while I can’t totally blame them for sometimes getting tired of people that take advantage of them, it’s something else:  they don’t want to think of  the bigger issues if some pastor hasn’t assigned them to do so.  That takes effort.”

“In my family” Jamie added “some of them will sit around and even complain about their problems in their own lives but never do anything about it – never question if there’s holes in their logic. I swear that’s why our family gatherings suck.”

“See this is why I’m starting to distrust cultures… or subcultures” said Michelle “or any collective belief made up of a bunch of people on how they think everyone ought to live life – that may or may not actually hold people back if there are some delusions in those beliefs  at any rate.”

“What do you mean by delusions?”

“I guess I mean not things that can’t be proven – but things that are obviously starting to show the fruits of some dysfunctionality one way or another.”

“I see.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad” Michelle added.  Now it was her turn to vent out her feelings. “For all their conservative ideas they try to cram on me: if my family truly had found inner peace, I would envy them. Only they don’t have that despite all their proselytizing to everyone how life ought to be.”   Jamie looked at her friend.  It was funny how much confusion the had in common.

“Inner peace.  You think that’s ever possible?” “I just want to be free of the idiosyncrasies that make me self destruct into a slave.”  A weight seemed to be lifting away along with any trauma or confusion they were feeling.  Just talking about all this crap at the Boatyard was really helping.

 

 

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