(Continued from part fourteen)
As we were finishing our dinner, and knowing that I’d have access to Robert for only a few more minutes, I asked, “Robert, they way you act… the way you live in the outward sense… and especially the way your friends Jens and Lara acted… it’s cleaner… less clunky, to use an odd word… than how we do the same things…”
“You act that way too,” he said. “At least from time to time.”
“How do you mean? There’s definitely a difference between how I move through the world and how they did.”
“Yes, but you’ve had experiences where you were especially clear in your consciousness… where your body followed that mental clarity and you acted not unlike Lara and Jens.”
As he spoke, several short episodes came to mind. I nodded my head.
“We call them peak experiences and flow states,” I said.
“Good terms,” he said. “And as you go forward, those will become more and more common to you, until they’re your norm.”
“Wow,” was all I could say, and we went back to finishing our meal in silence. And again I could feel pieces sorting themselves in the back of my mind.
The bill came and I paid it, feeling almost ready to speak again.
“We should probably get on with our plan,” he said. “You ask them to call a taxi and I’ll have a walk, ending at the police station. I’ll find the best situation I can and expire.”
I waved to the waiter, asked him to call a taxi, and then resigned myself to him leaving again. But then I saw that he had paused collecting his garments and was looking straight at me.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Anything,” I said.
“It seems to me that Lara and Jens left a sort of impression with you. I know you’ve been overwhelmed, but have you noticed anything rising in your mind… in your expectations… since you sent them off?”
I knew what he meant, though I hadn’t grasped it terribly well in the midst of the tumult.
“Yeah, I have, kind of… It’s an association, I suppose.”
He remained still and waited for me to translate my impressions into words.
“We have a health condition here, called high blood pressure.” The pieces were coming together.
“I know of that,” he said.
“And I’m wondering whether high emotional pressure is somehow an analog to high blood pressure. In my time, we have so much fear, so many impositions falling upon us every day… that I think it pushes our emotional systems to the point of breakdown, a lot like blood pressure over-stresses our cardiovascular systems.”
He smiled and said, “I think that’s an excellent line of inquiry.” And then, as he was standing to leave and buttoning his coat, he said, “Do try to get some relaxation, I have a feeling it will prove useful soon enough.”
“You have something in mind?”
He smiled. “I do, but it’s far from certain and I don’t want to burden you with details just now.”
Again I laughed, remembering an incident from when I was young. “My young self wouldn’t let you get away with that,” I said as I rose and put on my coat, “but I will.”
We hugged, I told him how much I appreciated my time with him, and then he walked off to die again. I went to the men’s room then waited for my cab.
* * * * *
The wake was as I expected, a mix of family members and people from Hosanna Tab, plus a few others. I spent more of my time with the family because it seemed better for bridging between them and the more religious people.
The family had seen Dorthea and Micah’s hopes rise and crash so many times that they were half cynical of anything they believed. I tried to soften that, explaining that they had a taste of transcendence in their youths, and that they kept trying to find more of it, even though what was advertised as transcendence usually wasn’t. I wanted to help them sympathize with the Corwins, and I think I had some success with it.
The people from Hosanna Tab were a different type of challenge: They spoke with me carefully, as if they feared my rejection. To address that I smiled at them, shook their hands especially warmly or put my arm around their shoulders. Anything to help them feel accepted.
After that, however, they wanted me to say something amazing to them. And I couldn’t be too unhappy about it. After all, if my young self had been at this wake, and if he came to the situation the same way these people did… he’d be acting the same way.
And so I did my best to show them love and to comment in ways that might clarify something to them, or plant something useful in them. And I think I had some success with it. Not only that, but I felt sort of a half-way flow state through much of it.
But after an hour I was getting tired and the flow had ceased. It was time to make my exit. I cleared my thoughts for one more burst of high function on my way out. Then I pulled my coat from the place it hung and walked around the room saying my goodbyes.
I tried simply to love them all, which seemed to pull a few useful comments out of me. I promised to come again to Hosanna Tabernacle at some unspecified time, thanked Walter for his help, then made my way out the door.
I had planned on calling a taxi, but events had moved too quickly and I simply found myself on Foster Avenue walking east. I started looking for the Foster Avenue bus, and soon enough one appeared. I took it down to Clark Street, where I changed to the Number 22 and went downtown.
On my bus rides I could feel my energy declining. The rides were uneventful and my mind went into an idle as I watched 1978 go past my windows with relatively little internal commentary.
As we reached the Loop I found myself hungry again. And so I got off at Randolph and staggered to Ronny’s, an all-night, quick-service steak house1. I got an order to go and walked back to my room. I could have forced myself to be alert during this passage, and would have if necessary, but I was very glad I didn’t have to. There was a lot roiling around in me, and I wanted to let it.
Within an hour I had eaten, prepared myself for bed, and had spent an uncertain period looking out my windows at downtown Chicago, again with almost no internal dialog. Then I rolled into bed and slept.
* * * * *
1 Ronny’s was next to the Oriental Theater in those days. Now it’s in the State of Illinois building.