22. The God who dragged His feet

To be an atheist, as he felt he was, and hold the space in himself to acknowledge the pale goddess humans wrote on that slippery circle. To say goddess meant so much more than that. 

You are the polarized light that guides earth’s animals to mate, to hunt, to cycle in time.

                                      You are the calendar that brought us time and thus put science more firmly in our grasp.

                                                                           You are the far horizon of thought and the concept of distance and relationship to the sun.

You are the undiscovered country we can see and not touch.

You come by the cell window and through the palace door.

And I could give you names, my lady Moon, for all of time and in all the human languages, and still I would not have given you your due, for all you’ve meant to humankind, and how very inadequate and strange it is that I would even gender you.

That is how I experience you.

He recognized in himself a desire to please Lark, in how he was stopping to make space and get closer to her mindset. Even though she was crazy.  He didn’t like thinking the word, but the word demanded to be thought. He thought: The trick was not speaking it.  Yeah, that was the real trick. Crazy infests English like an earworm or a badly-remembered dream.

So many triggers were waiting for him in that room, her shrine / playroom, triggers forever associated with her building’s stairwells, and attached with neural glue to those strangely malodorous elevators, even though the building was less than two years old.

As he stood looking at the moon, a white guy about his age, with a laughing buddy trailing after him, walked up and said all snotty, “Fuck you looking at, asshole?”

I’m worshipping a goddess and you’re pissing in my ear. Okay —technically I was worrying about my PTSD, but I don’t think she’d mind.

He could think it; he felt no wish to say it.  Keeping his mouth shut was a habit, and George probably liked him that way; he certainly shut down questions with a smooth combination of misdirection, honest answers you didn’t want to hear, and still-bleeding hunks of snark.

He quickly walked away from the two men, wishing he had George’s confidence.  If George was here, he’d trip those fuckers and hog-tie them, but now ’tis time to deke into an alley and gain access to Lark’s building with the side door key.

As he slowly climbed the stairs, he tried to calm down by telling himself a funny story.

Lark had been appalled when it was learned the smelly elevators had been recycled from a bankrupt condo building. While Jesse was trying to figure out how they got the elevators out without destroying the building, Lark sounded off.  Her narrow face, with its mask-like wrinkles, seemed to pounce on her own words, something she only did when she was pontificating. How could, she had said, chewing on the words like a diva, such a direly incompetent thing as a bankrupt condo building happen in the Unreal City that is the Vancouver housing market? It seems beyond reason!

After that Jesse spun himself a tale about how the elevators got so smelly – well he did sometimes, you know, spin a tale to explain the elevators being smelly, or he’d tell himself a story that his dad was going to get him out of that goddamned house, or think his mother might just drop dead from being so sour and so sere, and god, she was like an emotional desiccant sitting in your face and climbing down your fucking lungs all the time, but really this tale he spun was a bit much, because he talked himself into believing there’d been not one but two mob hits in both elevators and there were little pieces of corpse tucked into various unseen crevices, slowly rotting and mouldering. 

Then you ass, he thought with mocking self-admonishment, you complete and total ass, Lark tells you that one of the other strata owners had illegally but effectively put up webcams, and soon viewed with horror that yet a third strata owner was releasing the contents of what was soon identified as a modified marijuana vapour bag into the elevator, although the contents did not appear to be pot. Jesse had six kinds of pot at home, and was confident he could distinguish whatever this smell was from any skunkweed on the market.

Oh no! said the unified voice of the strata council during a secret meeting that would have made a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, had one been in the room, self-animate and flap out the door.  But wasn’t it possible, dreadful thought, that a noxious and potentially harmful gas had been released in a confined space? And while our feckless band of parsimonious asshats debated this, losing track for the duration of the whole ‘elevators-have-doors’ concept, no-one thought to check the footage if the man was still using the elevator, which would argue against it being worse than an annoyance.

Lark noted that the council found out later that he did, so whatever-it-was could hardly be toxic. The strata council, easily one of the weirdest and least effective she’d ever heard of, could have stopped the insanity right there. But no. It would be too easy to tell him they knew what was going on and ask him politely to stop.  

Lark made a siren noise.

So the cops got involved, and Lark considered this in poor taste. Jesse’s opinion was somewhat stronger.

Jesse, being big, muscular and ethnically opaque due to the mask, at least in daylight hours (although he’d not likely be mistaken for an Inuit man) had likely drawn more police attention since he’d lived in Vancouver than the equally white Lark had met with in her whole life, with her kids’ lives thrown in for laughs. Jesse had seen cops do right and had seen them do wrong, but good behaviour and clear speech or unnecessary roughness and profanity all made no difference in the end. It had always been in a situation when they were armed and he was not.

Cops were always creeped out by how his mask had to cover his mouth too, so he was swaddled like the Invisible Man.  His tongue and lips got welts just like everything else, and had to be protected. There’d been some talk of custom-making something just for his mouth that would signal he had a mouth, but the mockup made Jesse look ludicrous and the price was like the whistle of Viking broadswords. After discussion and out of necessity, the biomedical tech folks modified a custom order bondage hood by putting specially tinted and coated lenses in it. He’d really not wanted to order a beige mask, but he knew a brighter colour would pull in the Five-O like a burning cop car.  Black would make him look like a gimp escaped from a dungeon.

He was at the top of the stairs.  He had to use another key to gain access to the top floor apartments. He paused for a minute, telling himself the end of the story was worth it.

So a couple of days later two cops, both white, one apparently a woman, knocked on his door — the poor guy lived just down the hall from Lark — and while the down-the-hall neighbour was letting the cops in, her across-the-hall neighbour opened her door a crack and when the far door closed, took a drinking glass down the hall and put it on the door to eavesdrop, like something out of Fifties TV.

With embarrassment verging on terror, the ‘accused’ admitted to the police to having invented a device which captures all of his flatus so that he can squeeze it all out of the bag into the elevator, for that is how people will get to know him.  The cops, giving evidence they were some form of superhuman, maybe supernatural beings, did not laugh, but the across-the-hall neighbour did. She dropped the glass, which miraculously didn’t break, and scurried back to her apartment before one of the cops, hearing the commotion, whipped the door open.

Lark of course heard this breathlessly recounted the next morning over coffee with the neighbour.

The cops, with more respect for their duty to the public than one often credits them for, promptly left, and no further action was taken, except that everybody now wanted the Man who Bags his Farts out of the building except Lark, who said given a choice between living in the same building as an international banker and a guy with poor communication skills and a weird fetish, she’d take the farts every time.

Well, and why not.

Lark was waiting for him and likely starting to worry, since he’d already texted her.

He unlocked and pulled open the stairwell door.

For a moment he stood outside her door, but she’d heard the outer doorway make a scraping noise as it closed, and she welcomed him in.

He immediately took off his mask and shook out his hair, sighing with relief.

“I welcome you as an avatar of Cernunnos. Come share a Mabon feast,” Lark said.

“I could eat,” Jesse said.