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The man who lives by himself and for himself is likely to be corrupted by the company he keeps.

Charles H. Parkhurst, who probably meant women too though we can't be quite sure


Annie's day of rage passed with surprising speed and altogether too much good humor for her own comfort, more like an afternoon of mild annoyance, until she adjusted her concept of what she was doing. She realized, as the shadows began to seep over the grass, that she had taken on this thing under a bunch of misapprehensions, none of them fatal to the enterprise and most of them common to the community, pro and con.

For a start, she had thought it would be exciting. And here she was, spacing out at leisure in fair imitation of a statue (at her moments of self-confident vanity) or the scaffolding that supports a billboard (as she rose to self-effacement). It was interesting, like sitting cross-legged with a couple of hundred gurupies at the feet of some self-identified perfect master (how could you deny his claim without making your own?) and going through the changes that come from blankness and light ... but somehow she had expected externals, not opportunities for introspection. Adrenaline rushes and baton charges, being swept into action by the psychology of a crowd, overwhelmed into a preconscious response by fear and yelling and anger and pain – yes, she had thought it would hurt, had even wanted the bruises and blood (but not too much, of course, enough for scabs but not for scars) and the hatred that rises from violence, your own and anyone else's – white noise for the head and chances for chaos, explosions and reactions and anything out of the ordinary, that's what she had wanted.

She had looked for passion and what had she found?


Was that it? What kinda thing is that? If this was home, why didn't she want to leave? If this was just a moment, how come she was in it so firm, even as she floated around it so loose? She wasn't with Brendan, that was for sure, she wasn't with Sebastian in friendship, she wasn't with doctors and nurses and orderlies at work, she wasn't with anyone, no one, not at all, and they weren't with her, they were just holding the other end of her burden or perhaps she was holding theirs, is that what they thought, how could they know she was absent, but she wasn't was she, she was there for them as they needed her and maybe, just possibly, they were there for her in the self-same way. Who could tell?

Reality, what a concept. Who made up the rules of this game? And what position was she playing anyway? This was safe ground, turf she had wandered over for twenty-five years, rarely looking down to examine it because she knew what was there. The sense of connections, the infinite web of existence, the ritualized actions of being, the various rules for persons and rocks, the whole nexus of outlook that characterized, yes, she knew, the acidhead in her, the point of view that she found supported by psychedelics, all this she knew backwards. She knew also that it didn't come from drugs or practices or anything learned or taught, it was there first within her, and presumably was why she liked those things that seemed to draw it out. This for her was faith, something that therein was and best left alone, not much to talk and no point to think. Fun though, sometimes.

Cedar had been into that, she recalled, he liked to probe and discuss and analyze and she could keep up if she wanted but never really saw much point. It was funny she thought about him again, she pondered, that was twice in a week and it must have been years. He, too, was part of her being, that long four-dimensional (six? weren't they talking about ten?) worm stretching back to conception and on to death, the entity called Annie that floated in but out of space and time and whatever else there was around them. She was sure that if they met they'd connect, she had liked him a lot, enough probably that his wife would prevent the meeting, though nothing could take them out of each other.

Brendan would have kept up with Cedar, she thought, but mostly to prove that he could. Maybe that was it – he could, and she liked that in him, but he didn't always and even if she didn't want to she wanted him to. No, that didn't sound right.

Suddenly, as the Triple-A shadow brushed her feet and a white little car, a Nissan or Honda or something, she couldn't tell anything newer than a '69 Malibu anymore, puttered by with an acrid blast of exhaust, must be something wrong with it, and double-honked and one of the cops across the street frowned at it, and the woman off to her left was waving at a friend walking up, and someone way behind was shouting and a bird, she was sure there was a bird but she didn't know what it was saying, and the new coolness was on her ankle and she awoke to the grass tickling because she had shucked her shoes, and her back beginning to suggest it was time for a change : as all this was going on, and a hundred thousand million billion trillion other excitements no doubt, beyond the range of her senses but well within the grasp of her consciousness, she had an awful thought, a holy one that stopped her dead in her tracks. This game she watched, the one she played and stepped outside and mused about, she never thought she had made it up.

She was peripheral to her own reality.

And as she drifted out of the Annie persona, into some kind of meta-Annie, someone who knew she was her and knowing, the kind of Annie who could not only look at the reality patterns but place herself at their edge, aware all at the same time that doing that was not denying the other, that the woman at the edge was capable of centering and never losing the distance, of being and not-being all together and all in one, it changed. Nothing, everything, both and neither. Ah, Heisenberg, prophet of the psyche. She looked, she saw, she knew, she changed, and of course she stayed the same because she was already who she became.

I remember this, she thought. This is true. I have been here before.

And with great good sense she thought it was time to eat.