Jeremy was a red head, with golden hairy chest and arms visible from his open buttoned pink shirt. A heavy gold necklace swung below a full golden beard. He was just under 2 metres tall, a big boy of 38 years. Incongruously he drove up in a tiny pink car, the retro version of the four door Fiat Bambino. He had to ooze out of it and when he reached the ground, the suspension made a palpable sigh as it released him. I imagined the car groaned when it saw him coming for a test drive in the car yard, ‘what is it with these people’ it thought. He probably smiled and thought ‘my new best friend.’ Love at first sight.
He took a cushion from the arm chair, sat on the floor, actually more like floated onto the floor weightlessly, and then rested his back against the chair. I was assailed by so many contrasting impressions. I half expected him to be wearing a corset and pink underwear.
Instead he pulled out a copy of “Killing Comandetore” by Murakami.
‘What’s this?’ I said pointing at the book.
‘It has my answer to your first question, Peterman.’
‘Okay, try me.’ I said intrigued.
‘“What brings you here?” you will ask me.’
‘That’s the one, and your answer?’
Jeremy opened the book at the end of chapter 1 and read,
‘“I should have washed my hands of that person I’d become. I should have stood up and done something about it. But I kept putting it off. And before I got around to it, the one who gave up on it all was my wife. I was 36 at the time.”’
‘How long ago did this happen?’
‘Two years but I still have no answer as to why and neither did she. Then this page fell open in the bookshop last week, and bam! It was me. That’s why I’m here.’
‘So let me know if I’ve got this right, two years ago your partner of … how many years?’
‘Six, just like in the book.’
‘Of six years,’ I continued, ‘decided one day it was over.’
‘Well after she had a dream telling her it was over, or at least that’s how she interpreted it, just like in the book.’
‘And just like in the book she couldn’t give you a reason?’
Jeremy nodded assent.
‘And for the last two years you’ve been on a journey of self discovery trying out all kinds of new experiences to try and get an answer until a page from that book opened and a pebble dropped in a still pond….’
‘And the ripples are still fanning out. How did you know about the new experiences?’
‘Guessed it from the car and the pinks and sitting on the floor, your seeking my assistance. I am sure some of those would have been outside your comfort zone three years ago?’
Jeremy re-crossed his legs and looked at me as if he were wondering what else I knew. Like maybe I was an oracle. I couldn’t help but smile. His face beamed child like wonder. I replayed in my mind the effortless almost seamless way he went from standing to sitting and I had a crazy memory from decades ago. One of my lovers was a transcendental meditator. She used to bounce on the floor as she sat. She claimed that she was able to levitate. The videos of yogic flying clearly show muscular butt hopping but I remembered that she too could float from standing to sitting as if on a cushion of air.
So I asked him, ‘have you been following Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teachings?’
‘Never heard of him Peterman.’ But he had a wicked grin and that face of wonder shifted into a knowing look that asked, ‘what else, come on tell me what else have you worked out?’
‘Let me make a wild guess,’ I said. He nodded. ‘Maybe you and your wife didn’t experiment, just the missionary position, and so sex died, she found a lover that convinced her she wasn’t frigid as she had feared but she couldn’t bear to tell you she thought you might be queer since she had learnt you tended to be homophobic. You began to question your sexuality.’
Now for me this was a fairly trite conclusion from some obvious signs but to Jeremy it seemed miraculous. I began to realise this huge man was frighteningly naive. His partner must have loved him for this and protected him from people who might have exploited it.
‘Ten out of ten, Peterman. Was this the reason she left me? Am I gay?’
‘No Jeremy I don’t think that was the reason she left you. I think what you read from Murakami is nearer the truth. You hadn’t been living a life true to your self.’
He looked at me aghast, as if I had pulled the carpet from under his feet. He had come thinking the answer was his sexuality even though the book’s answer had knocked him over. I began to wonder where to go with this guy. He seemed to have taken on an ill fitting persona much like his car. As if choosing a fake answer to a question he couldn’t sit with alone. I sensed if I said anything that shaped his question he would try it on like a chameleon. Then the real question would slip through his fingers. He was a living metaphor of the spectacle that people made of their lives in social media, a life of transitory facebook posts and saved for ever. His was another case of alienation that is the stuff of Murakami’s fiction. In an uncomfortable way he was also a mirror of my own alienation. I shook my head, probably a sign of despair, which he read as I couldn’t help him.
He said, ‘what’s the matter Peterman. Am I too tough a case for you?’
‘Yes and no,’ I replied playing for time and taking a few deep breaths. ‘I just felt for a moment the emptiness in all of us, inside of you, and it reminded me of the place inside me where I feel disorientated, lost. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling. I want to always know where I am going and often I don’t have a clue. I visited a christian revival service a while back and it struck me how safe it might feel to believe that god has prepared a way for me into my future and protected me from my past. I only have to take Jesus into my heart and believe. But that’s no answer for me, even while I imagine how enchanting and calming it could be for them. I imagine there could be no emptiness or anxiety if it were possible to hand my life over to a higher power. That could be an answer for my alienation – it’s a seductive illusion that I don’t buy.’
‘You just reminded me of a time when I felt a huge chasm open beneath me. Maybe it was a dream but I think it was after a big night drinking with mates.’
‘Do you feel a bit of that now?’
‘A little and I don’t like it.’
‘Do you want to pull away from the feeling?’
‘Well, let’s do a little experiment. Just sit with that feeling for a minute. I’ll start my stop watch, I’ll help you into the feeling and I will help you out of it. Just for a minute. Willing?’
Jeremy nodded and then shook his head and then rolled it around like he was having an internal struggle of will I or won’t I. He re-crossed his legs again, shifted on the floor, threw his hands up in the air and down in an exaggerated camp flop, which said I give up, and finally said,
‘Okay let’s do this.’
The journey was always going to be two steps forward and one back. And as ever it wasn’t the destination of an answer to why his wife left him, but a journey to “I-am”. I am enough just as I am.