Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Flash fiction: Sine qua non

If there's anything at all I need, it's a cell phone.

Really, I don't think it's an unreasonable request. But so far no one who's arrived here has one -- apparently it's one of many things you can't bring with you -- and there aren't any phones available here. At the very least it'd be worth knowing whether this place has any phone coverage. The beauty of the country has been indescribable, and its few buildings have been exquisite, but I have yet to see a cell phone tower.

I've been meaning to ask my envoy about it for a while now, but she always seems so... well... busy. Does make you wonder why, doesn't it? It's not as though she's on the clock. They give you free run of the place -- rest when you like, socialize when you like, play, perform, learn, create, travel anywhere you want at any hour of the day or night -- and she's still on a self-imposed schedule. I suppose it's just the way she was before. Habits are difficult to break.

Me, I miss chocolate. That was my particular habit. But I could go without chocolate forever as long as I had a cell phone.

It's not as though I'm asking for Internet access. Frankly, I haven't missed the Internet, which surprises me. Maybe it's because I remember everything so clearly here. The pain's gone, too, so I don't need to fill the 2 a.m. hour with searches for the complete filmography of Bill Irwin. There are so many better things to do.

For example, the time Catherina and I climbed to the top of Mt. Tamalpais in the middle of the night. At the summit we just leaned back and drank in the stars. There are more millions of stars than I ever dreamed, and they seem so much closer and brighter here that it never really gets dark, at least to my eyes. And then there was the time Tua taught me cliff-diving, and I stood at the top of the cliff and realized that there was nothing to fear, and let go, hooting with joy as I fell hundreds of feet down and into the water. I never would have dared do that before; I was afraid of so many things before I came here.

But that's why I need a cell phone. I need to talk to Jack. I promised him I'd get in touch with him when I got here, and I'm sure he's been anxious to hear from me.

Jack is... skeptical. He always has been. Then too, I think the idea of coming here frightens him. But that's only because he doesn't know what it's like. If I could just have a five-minute conversation with him, I'm sure I could make him understand. He wouldn't worry about me any more. He'd be able to sleep nights. (Oh, I know how he gets when I'm not there. Forty-seven years of marriage creates plenty of habits.) And when the time was right, he wouldn't be afraid to come here.

I've already tried to talk to him. I went to the place where our house should be. The trees are there, and the river a few blocks away, and the field of high grass that used to be there before the housing development went in -- but our house isn't there. And yet I know, I can just feel, that it's the right place. I can't see Jack, and I'm certain he can't see me, but I know he's around there somewhere. There have been times I've sat for the better part of the day and just called out to him, hoping that even if he couldn't hear me, maybe he'd get the tiniest glimmer of feeling that I was there. That might be enough for him.

But I just don't know if I'm getting through. I promised him before that if this place were real, I'd make every effort to contact him and tell him so. Couldn't you help me keep a promise? That wouldn't be wrong, would it? Just to let him know there's something else after, that it's a place without pain, without fear, without doctors or drugs or hospital beds, and that it's not very far away? He'd want to know.

Didn't you want to know, before?

Thank you. Oh, and if you don't mind, I'd like an Ella Fitzgerald ringtone. That woman's voice is pure heaven.

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