24 Numinous laundry

The next move went by in a blur, and the next.  George was obsessively keeping track of pointless details, and Jesse didn’t try to stop him.

For a week after his brief dip in the imaginary ocean of theophany, Jesse had seen representations of Hornèd Gods and Green Men everywhere.

It was faintly outlined on the bicep of the dark brown guy in front of him in the coffee lineup. He shook his head and peered harder, since it was so hard to see, and the guy caught him looking.

Inwardly dying of embarrassment, outwardly smiling and apologetic, Jesse said, “I’m sorry man, didn’t mean to stare.”

Still smiling, the man put his thumb on the switch of a little ultraviolet LED hanging from a buttonhole on his vest. Jesse jumped a little, since it could make him quite sick, but saw the outline. Other figures from Celtic mythology danced down his arm.  This being Vancouver, there was only one possible response.

“Cool!” he said. “I’ve heard of UV tattoos, but I’d never seen one in real life.” They chatted about it while they waited for their orders.

He was crossing Nanaimo on foot (against the light, of course) and a car with a Green Man painted on the driver’s side door went by. He was almost run down by another car when he halted in the street to look at it.

George pointed one out to him, after Jesse had mentioned he was seeing them non-stop. It was Mod Podge®d on the side of a mini-library a few doors down from a job they did in Kerrisdale.

A Cernunnos wooden mask with goat eyes looked down on him from a balcony on Broadway, most of its paint destroyed by the weather; another deer antler peeped out from behind a bra-strap, with Kwan Yin’s hand (or so he presumed) appearing with a lotus on the other side.

He opened a copy of the Georgia Straight. The band of the week was a posed in front of a poster of Cernunnos.

“Aaaagh!” Jesse said, at that. He phoned Lark and told her about it.

“Frequency effect and clustering illusion,” she said.

“We had a close encounter with a god, for god’s sake, and you’re telling me  about my cognitive biases?” he said in disgust.

“Do you think that’s what happened?” Lark said, sounding genuinely amused. “Our gods are present all the time, just like our cares and our blood and our biases. We made an effort to see him, that’s all.  The effort isn’t always rewarded, but you can’t stay in the liminal state.  There’s always dirty socks and cat poop.” She made a thoughtful noise in her throat. “You’re going to see Cernunnos here and there for the rest of your life. He is life and green-ness, renewal, the springing, sudden force of masculinity, the sheltering tree for the other critters. Pay attention when you see him.  Choose the light.”

“This is going to sound stupid, but did he leave anything behind?” Jesse said.

Lark chuckled. “This is going to sound like a hackneyed answer, but did he find anything in you that wasn’t there already?”

She had him, since technically the whole thing had been a shared hallucination.

“Not really.”

“Don’t make too much of it.  You’ve had an unsettling experience. Wind blew through parts of you that you thought were wrapped up tight.”

“You seem fine with it.”

“Appearance, belief, credibility, doubt, ecstasy, fear, grounding,” she said, as if she were reading from a book. “You never know what order the experience will come in, but you need to get grounded at the end.”

“Nothing like hauling buckets of other people’s crap around to keep ya grounded,” Jesse said.

“Well there ya go,” she said, mimicking his tone. “I don’t mean to be mean, but perhaps we can take a break for a couple of weeks.”

“Not permanent.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it,” she said, with heartening emphasis.  “But if I tell you I need perhaps a month to let the energies settle….”

“It’s okay,” Jesse said. Being poly meant that conversations like this were way easier not to take personally.

“What happened to you?” George said when Jesse dragged himself into work the night after his encounter with Lark, and that other imaginary guy who’d come along for the ride. 

“None of your business,” Jesse said. He wasn’t going to breathe a word about it to George, the world’s harshest and most uncompromising atheist. (“My people have been atheists for generations.”)

“You’re different.”

“You, in your scorn for etiquette, are exactly the same.”

“That was uncivil.”

“I had a really, really good teacher,” Jesse said. He left it to George to figure out whether he was talking about his own mother – or George.

George sidestepped with ease. He came on very predatory at times, leaning in for the kill during conversations. “I’m serious.  What happened to you?”

“I don’t want to describe it, I can’t explain it, and it has something to do with Lark.”

“But it was good.  I can feel it. Something wonderful, surprising.”

“Excellent guesses, very accurate! – but it’s still none of your business.”

“Perhaps I should meet Lark,” George said thoughtfully.

“I was raised to have no hope of privacy, but there’s no fucking way I’m putting up with that from you,” Jesse said, and George sensibly abandoned the inquisition.