I'll be your mirror
Lou Reed, "I'll Be Your Mirror," The Velvet Underground and Nico, aka the banana album, 1966
"You had to kill him, though, didn't you?" said Annie. She had to say something.
"Him? Fuck him," retorted Whitey.
"Yeah, me neither."
"Doesn't bother you, then?"
"Yeah, I guess it wouldn't."
"He topped me mate, and he'da done me and all."
"Yeah, I guess he would."
She smiled in the darkness.
"Not exactly nonviolent was it."
"Feel bad about that?"
"No. Yeah. Sometimes."
"Hurts, doesn't it."
"You talked to anyone? Professional, I mean? A therapist?"
"You're talking to me. Well, somewhat. A bit."
"Fuck knows why."
He smiled in turn. She could hear it in his voice and see a glint of tooth in the reflected moonlight. It was late in the evening, or perhaps the middle of the night, it was hard to tell. The moon was probably high but they couldn't see it directly. They were sitting on the stairs inside, shoulder to shoulder, no one else in soft earshot, and Annie had been learning the petty details behind the serious stuff she had tapped into twenty years before. Pulling teeth, it was, but rotten ones from the abscessed flesh; they began to come easier as she gentled them away.
Her own, of course, well they were different. Yet somehow by sitting there in acceptance he made her present them too.
"You know I'm not like ... I never was, not then either."
"Well, the way I ... it's not how ... I mean ... I don't know why ..."
"You know what I'm ..."
"Yes, that's it. Women don't, much, you know, like them. I mean, it's just ... I don't know, really I hate them."
"I mean it's so, I don't know, depersonalized."
"Did you know that? I mean then? Was that something that helped to put you over the edge? Did you start understanding something? Did you see something? I don't know, I bet you had lots didn't you? Did you ever remember me?"
"Yeah. You were ... different. Wasn't, wasn't sex was it?"
"Not for me."
"I knew I'd never forget. I don't actually think about it, not often, never did really, but it was there. Maybe I was trying to prove something. Maybe I wanted to feel worthless. I felt so good, so good, maybe I didn't trust the way I felt and I wanted to be fucked over. Maybe I wanted you to prove I was just a waste of time."
"But you didn't. You were a person, not some kind of, I don't know, asshole with a cock."
"Yeah, but you didn't enjoy it did you."
Probably she could only have talked about it in the dark. They sat together for several long seconds, neither touching but both being touched, until Annie broke the silence again.
"It was perfect, you know."
"When you left. When you went to fix the wiring or whatever it was. You just went, and you didn't look back."
"But you know I didn't want you to stay, not really. I just, I don't know, I just wanted to know I existed, and you existed. I mean, I couldn't have stayed either, I couldn't have, you know, lived with you or something, that wasn't what it was about, was it?"
"You mean no."
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. His was a smooth cheek, rarely shaven and barely needing it, with prominent bones and a strong profile she could almost see in silhouette.
"Tell me what you did when you left me."
"Fixed the wiring."
"I know that. You know what I mean."
There was a long pause. She let him have the space, hoping knowing that he would finally tell her more. Obviously it was hard for him, but she trusted him. She didn't know why. Why wasn't where it was at. When, maybe. How. What. And definitely where. She waited.
"Annie," he said, and stopped.
It was the first time she had heard him say her name. It was her name, she knew, not really knowing why, but as surely as his was secret, so hers was hidden in the open like the purloined letter. Common and simple, it was so important that most people didn't understand how essential to her it was, and she liked that, she liked that twinge of vitality hidden. It was the difference between, for any child of the sixties, 'beetle' and 'Beatle' or 'beet' and 'Beat' for followers of the Fifties Vegetable Movement all in the meaning and none in the sound. When Whitey said 'Annie,' he meant it. His voice was like a prophet's eyes, it bore into her soul.
She waited, thrilling.
"You changed my life."
"No," she contradicted, "You did."
She waited again. It would come.
"Cried for Blackie. Let go. Of everything, really. Nearly took sannyas. Fucked off to Nepal instead. Ladakh. Fuckin' amazing it was."
"So what happened?"
"Nothing. Everything. Thought about you. Magic woman. Guru said you carried my satori."
"Yeah. Nirvana on Anjuna beach. Beautiful. Not sad. Didn't smoke for a week. Slept fifteen, eighteen hours. Woke up, everything still bright and shiny and new, and like perfect. Yeah. Everything perfect."
"Thought I was soft."
"Guru said no."
"Was that Bhagwan?"
Whitey shook his head. Annie could feel it without touching.
"French dude, half-French. Pondicherry. Rajneesh was just getting big then, too big for me. OK though."
"You told him about me? What did you tell him?"
Annie was intrigued. And flattered. She liked to be remembered, and somewhere in her skull she had put herself down big-time for acting like a little idiot, a tame grope, an easy piece, a quick lay, a thousand little insults that denied responsibility for anything except weakness. She vacillated. For also of course she saw herself as having forced her attentions on this fragile icon, witch that she was of enormous power and strength, a vessel for forces to shatter his complaisance with his own lack of authenticity, the patchwork that shielded him from a reality he needed to construct.
"Oh come on."
"You can tell me, it's OK."
"He just knew."
"What do you mean?"
"Annie, he was there."
"No one ... what ... that is ... I mean ..."
"Don't fucking ask me. He was there. He was just there. He just knew. I don't know. He just told me all my life, everything, he told me you too."
"Well what did he tell you?"
"He said, he said there was someone and I had met them, he said that I didn't carry my own satori in this world ..."
"Satori's not Hindu though, is it? Isn't that Zen?"
"Yeah, Guru said ..."
"What was his name?"
"Yeah. Really. Different name for everyone. Cottoned on, just called him Guru. Dug it."
"So was he Hindu?"
"Mostly. Shaman, y'know. Everything. Peyote man too."
"Like the Native Americans?"
"Sorry, he said you didn't carry your own satori in the world."
"Yeah, but someone did and it was you."
"How do you know?"
"Why did you cry this time, Whitey? Why did you cry when I asked you who you were? What was it, Whitey?"
"Guru told. I forgot."
"What did he tell you?"
"He told me when I saw it again I could find a rest."
"What do you mean? What do you mean 'a rest'? To sleep?"
"No. To stop."
"Running. Thirty years running. Sometimes moving, sometimes stopping, always going. Home, Annie. Never had no home. Guru said I'd see two satoris, one to cut me loose and one to let me stop. Want to stop, Annie. Want to stop. Time to stop. You let me stop."
He relaxed against the wall but she stiffened slightly. He noticed of course and wondered.
"You mean with me?"
"What do you mean then?"
"Not like that, love, not that."
"Me, y'see. Me."
"Mirror, really, isn't it."
"You mean you see yourself in me, or when I'm here or something."
"You too, love. You too."
"I see me in me ... oh ... you mean, I see myself in you, or with you or something."
"Yeah, Guru said."
"Said you hold mine 'cause I've got yours."
She didn't quite know what to say. She didn't exactly know what level to take all this stuff on. Metaphor, right? But of what? Or was it a glimpse of something different? She was very clear. She was very confused. She was very clear that she was very confused. Or perhaps the other way round.
All day, she thought, I've been here all day. Everything sharp and precise and absolutely definite and definitely absolute and sometimes blurring like an amateur photographer trying to keep up with a moving target. It can't be him, it was here from the beginning, back when the car nearly crashed back when she recovered from that idiot nearly hitting her, that is the whole day had been filled with wonder.
"... But it can't be you, I've been here all day."
"Yeah, you knew."
"What do you mean? What do you mean 'I knew'?"
"You knew ages ago."
"You brought me here."
"Yeah. Sunday. Lunchtime."
This was getting strange. Annie thought back to Sunday lunchtime. She damn sure hadn't had any contact with Whitey. What was lunchtime? Oh. That was when she had told, or rather not-told, Brendan what she was going to do. When they were eating peanut butter and blackberry jam on toast and talking about Christina and whether Magdalena had had the baby. Yes. She had in some sense decided before then that she was going to the demo she was pretty sure she had told Sebastian over coffee but in some important way it hadn't been real until she told Brendan, or at least established that plausibly deniable well-I-warned-you cover story. That was when she knew she was going, whatever she had told to or hidden from anyone else. Before that, all was tentative, as the sheikh said of the discovery of oil, as Brendan always said. Why was he creeping back into her thoughts?
"It was Sunday lunchtime I finally decided I was coming."
"What does that mean? Where were you?"
"What were you doing?"
"Fighting the BIA. Helping out."
"So why did you come here?"
"You didn't know me. I mean, how did you even hear about this?"
"Mate from Santa Cruz brought supplies."
"And he was coming back here?"
"So he gave you a ride?"
"Why did you take it?"
He wouldn't be budged.
She waited, not wanting to accept. He sat there calmly, waiting for her to believe. Finally he nudged:
"Guru said time isn't always one way."
"Sometimes it's two-way, like effect and cause."
"I don't get it."
"Maybe you felt right 'cause you were about to be right and you were right 'cause you felt right and you brought me here 'cause you needed to, only you just didn't know it."
This was, by a fair length, the longest and least comprehensible speech she had ever heard him make she had become expert at lifting information out of him but he rarely volunteered. It did make a kind of sense though.
"Yeah?" she postulated.
"I dunno," he backtracked.
"It's like ... You're here, aren't you?"
"Yes. Of course."
It was some kind of a meditation move, something not quite there, yet so right it couldn't be denied. What was he doing to her? What had she been feeling all day?
Who was she?
She was Annie.
She clung to that, for a long moment, half an eternity in half a second, it grounded her and told her where and how and what and when and who she was, and then suddenly all of them fell away and it was immediately certain and obvious and true and definite just who (yes, and when and what and how and where, though none of them mattered much), who she was.
She was Annie.
The difference was absolutely clear.
There was no difference, and not much similarity either.
"No," she admitted, "Not of course."
"But you knew you were going to be here."
"Yes. No. Not on top."
"Under told me."
"Like, force field, coming. You, me, we had to be here. We weren't here, no force field. 'Cause there is, we had to. Had to come. No sweat."
Now she had tears in her eyes. No one could see but her and so probably him. They sat together in silence, rubbing shoulders, well, her shoulder, his arm. He gave off a warm and comforting vibe. I never say things like that, she thought. Vibe, what a thought. Oh stop thinking, she thought. This kind of circle was sucking her in when he broke it.
"What'd you do after Anjuna?"
"Grew my life."
What? Where did that come from? What did she mean? Yes, that was right. How could she be right?
"Yes, I did. Never quite ... looked at it like that. I went back to Cedar did I tell you about Cedar?"
"Well, his real name's Jake anyway. He's the guy I was traveling with then but he wasn't a traveler, he's a shrink in New York, and what happened actually was I went back and he was asleep and I was very awake and I never told anyone ever what happened but I sat there and I danced and I think I danced all night, I mean the acid was something..."
"No but enough to keep me going, you know. And I figured out that I wanted to do that, to travel but not to, you know, smuggle or do business much or stuff, just to go and be in wonderful places and, in the winter especially, and so I'd get some kind of a job, you know, something that would pay good and I could always get one and just leave when I wanted to, and I worked it out."
"Yeah, I got back, and, you know, Jake went back East, and I got my PT qualification."
"Physical therapy. It's, you know, medicine so there's always work, and the pay's good. Anyway, the point is, that's what I did after Anjuna, you know, I worked it out, I just did it all step by step, and there it is, that's what I did."
"I just haven't, you know, thought about it."
"It's like, I've been playing the part of me."
"Right. Right. I've been pretending to be me. Only right now it doesn't seem like that. Have you been pretending to be you?"
"That's what you were doing at Big Mountain, wasn't it? You were, you were pretending to be an Indian."
"Oh sure, but you're not, are you? I mean, that's only a little bit of who you are. Isn't it? You were there because they accepted you because you were one of them, weren't you? You were! And that's why you want a rest, 'cause you want to be accepted for being you, not for being one of anyone else, even anyone you really really like."
How on earth ...?
It all came from outside her. She thought she had nothing to do with it, but she did of course, and it was her, wasn't it, and it was her who wanted to be accepted loved, she couldn't say loved, like died it was one of those magic words you dare not speak and so she knew him, because she loved him, because she loved herself.
And he for her.
Suddenly they were both crying.
Quietly they reached for each other.
There was a little hall, a floorway not much more than a couple of yards long, but they weren't even that long themselves, and they lay together and rose in passion and gentleness, for each other or themselves or something between and beyond.
"I know where you can stay," she whispered, much much later into the darkness left as the moon began to sink in the sky.
"I'll make a call later."