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Echoes Of The Future

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My circumstances had once again acquired a peculiar airlessness as the holiday celebrating broken treaties and broken turkeys drew near.

Daya would be off on a marathon bicycle trip into the mountains for the long weekend. I was somewhere around half-way through my stint at the parking lot, and even if it had been possible to take a day off, the mere contemplation of borrowing any more bicycles sent me into a paroxysm of guilt and self-doubt.

To complicate matters, Gene would be out of town all week as well, and apparently felt uneasy having me stay in their apartment while they were both gone. Allegedly, this concern sprung from any indignation the landlord or neighbors might summon over the technical violation of the lease I represented. Having seen twelve milkmaids and a partridge in a pear tree shoe-horned into one-bedroom apartments for semesters on end in Ann Arbor, I found it difficult to interpret this stance as anything but highly insulting, or at the very best indicating that the vast majority of the world's inhabitants were even crazier than I was, but in the completely opposite direction.

I darkly muttered to Daya, half-joking, 'Well, perhaps I'll just find a squat to stay in for Thanksgiving.'

He raised his eyebrows in genuine surprise. "Oh, well I think we can line up something a little bit more comfortable than that for you."

Much earlier, even before I arrived in town, I had asked Daya, the only person I knew who'd ever sneaked through muddy fields and ducked barbed wire to attend a rave, to point me in the direction of a proper dance party. And as the long weekend approached, that Wednesday afternoon Daya told me two of his friends knew of a club night I'd probably like.

Sometime after dark, the doorbell rang and Daya introduced me to Lucien and Emma. Daya had decided to stay in, so after several minutes chatting pleasantly, the three of us drove off to the city.

As the lights of Oakland ticked by through the slats of the bridge, I asked, 'So what club is this we're going to?'

Emma turned over her shoulder. "It's not really the club that matters-- it's the theme for the night. This time it's 'PLURification.'"

'Cute. But isn't it hard to have a party aboveground, in a club like this? Don't the cops care? And doesn't the whole alcohol vibe get in the way?'

"You'll see," grinned Lucien from the rear-view mirror.

Once inside, we eventually found a small opening, and slipped into the crowd. Lucien laughed as he saw me staring in amazement at the long line of sweaty heads against the bar, each returning to the heat of the dance floor clutching a dripping bottle of water. The surge of dancing bodies swayed around me, wafting an impossible scent of deja vu into the air. I had never been around this many people dancing at once, in a space lit too brightly to be an abandoned crack-house basement in the depths of Detroit, too full of life and energy to be anywhere but next to an ocean, but still it seemed oddly familiar, filled by an endless throb carrying itself forward and backward in time.

An hour later, Emma found me resting against a wall, and asked, "Is it true you have some E?"

'Yeah, but I don't think I'm going to do any tonight. The music ends at two, right?'

"Yes, but one of our friends wants to do some."


Emma nodded her friend over and I traded the tablet for what I'd paid for it. Her friend bopped off to find her water bottle.

'Cool, that pays for my night out.'

"And I think you made her very happy."

'Happy to help. Out of curiosity, what are you and Lucien doing this weekend?'

"Oh, we'll be away."

'Ah, right. Well, please let me know when you hear about an all-night party.'


The next night, Daya invited me to come have dinner at his friend Awen's. I still felt happily danced out, and enjoyed the quiet west coast atmosphere that pervaded Awen's kitchen. As I peeled carrots, Awen tried to explain the finer points of a macrobiotic diet-- I wasn't quite sure I had it.

'So you try to eat whatever's in season, whatever's grown locally?'


I thought, now this is a plan thought up by someone who thinks of winter as a rainy season.

'Where I'm from, I think that would be acorns about three months out of the year.'

"Well, you can still try."

'As long as I'm out here, anyway,' I said with a lopsided grin.

Awen gave me a sweet, odd little smile in return. "Indeed. So, if you like you can stay here in my apartment this weekend while I'm away."

I felt an overpowering surge of unworthiness.

'Wow, are you serious? That would be great.'

"Definitely, no problem." And she turned back to the soup pot. I finished peeling, and then started chopping the carrots, rapidly finding myself examining this activity from the point of view of a carrot. It came on through a prickle of stasis, morphing into the sensations of a butterfly as pins slid through into the block of styrofoam.

Friday arrived full of temporal disconnection and spatial distortion. I already had Awen's spare key, which I patted through my pocket like a talisman, and I'd packed enough clothes for the weekend into the smaller of my two bags, which sat with me in the parking lot booth, a tangible reminder of unfinished business.

By noon, the lunchtime car-poolers had just cleared the gate on their way out. I stared into space, as worn as if I had traveled to Saturday and back again. A man I didn't recognize approached the booth, on foot, and I became instantly alert. For one thing, people never walked down this street unless they were collecting a car. For another, the booth only took in a handful of dollars each day, due to long- term contracts and so on, but that didn't mean anyone else knew that.

However, this man had the open face of unhappiness, so I relaxed again as he came to the window.

'Can I help you?' I asked.

"Yeah, I hope so. Do you have a set of tow-truck tools, something you can open a window with?"

I switched back to alert. 'Sorry, no. And even if I did, I can't help you break into someone's car. If it's really your car, call a tow truck.'

"No, really, I just locked myself out of my car. It's really my car, I'll show you. And I don't have triple-A or anything. If you can't help me, I'm going to have to break a window."

'Okay,' I said, grabbing a coat hanger from the debris along the wall of the booth, 'I'll take a look.'

His car was a worn import, decades old, and the suspicion began to drain out of me. As a further confirmation, his keys lay sprawled in demonic glee across the surface of the driver's seat.

'Okay, okay, I believe you. Here you go,' I said, handing him the coat hanger.

I coached him while he unbent the hanger, then made a tiny curl at one end, and fitted it down into the depths of the window seal. It became clear after fifteen minutes or so that he was not going to find anything as simple as a lever to lift.

"Looks like I'd better find a rock," he said, now really beginning to look depressed, "unless you have a hammer."

'No hammer. But look, I want to try something. I figure, worst case scenario, you have to break the window anyway.'

"Be my guest."

I felt the spirits of persistence and invention possess me, and I bent and re-bent the hanger, then instead of sliding it down into the door itself, slid it through the top of the window, then bent it again.

I quietly adjusted the bends in the hanger until it fit the knob at the end of the arm which moved the window. I looked up to see a little light dawning in the eyes watching me.

'Now we will see what we will see,' I said theatrically, and gently pushed the hanger down. It seemed more due to will or telekinesis than sensible physics, but the crank handle moved steadily until it pointed almost straight down.

'This will be a bit tricky.' I withdrew and re-bent the hanger into a right angle. Once I hooked the knob again, I was able to drag it past the center point. Another re-bend, and it was pointing straight up. Another to get it past center. It took less than an hour, as we could just fit an arm down to the door lock before the lunch crowd returned.

"I can't thank you enough," he said, his face plowed into soft gratitude. "I'm late already today, but let me buy you lunch another day."

'Okay, it's a deal,' I said, not really caring whether it happened or not.

And some trace of that good deed held me, in empty arms, as I stepped through Awen's door into a long hollow weekend.

I thought of where I would be that night in my hypothetical search for an abandoned building or unheated warehouse, and I tasted a synaesthesia of relief at my luck, guilt at my privilege, and doubt about my resourcefulness.

I veered unsteadily from room to room, shuffling in stocking feet, dancing alone as Robert Smith sang his lullaby to me. 'The spiderman is having me for dinner tonight,' I told the cans in the pantry, spinning on one foot.

I woke before noon, and the day stretched ahead of me like a taunt. I couldn't think of a single pastime that wouldn't erase my meager progress toward financial equilibrium, and the notion of constructing a feast by and for myself made me dizzy.

Awen had made it clear that I could make anything in the house, but despite my loathing for this particular holiday, I felt my isolation like an inquisitor's punishment for the heretic. I wandered out into the campus from Awen's apartment as a hermit descending the mountain.

Early afternoon brought gray clouds, as though a silent whirling storm had scoured the surfaces of Telegraph Avenue, uprooting students and visitors, leaving only the tenacious black jeans of restless nomads and sullen gutterpunks resting where brick storefront met sidewalk concrete.

For the first time, I felt alone in the city, all reminders of establishment education or employment miles over the horizon, and I found I naturally sat with the nearest group of grimy gutterpunks.

'So, what's it like squatting here?'

"Not bad, some people won't call the cops on you here, even if they see you going in. You need, we can see if there's another space for you."

A sliver of guilt slipped between my ribs. 'I think I've got a place lined up for tonight--' I warded off the question before it arrived '--but it's really a friend of a friend deal, so I can't push that any further. I kind of wanted to know for later on.'

"Yeah, it's all right here. It can be all right anywhere, if you set your mind to it. You going to Mardi Gras?"

'Thinking about it.'

"Yeah, you should go. Hey, Food Not Bombs is about to set up. Come around the corner and get something hot."

'Okay, thanks.'

I turned as we walked, to see where we'd been sitting, and the sidewalk seemed as empty as it had ever been.

...what just happened again?...
...section six...
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