Quantum Voices, p.1Sam Savage
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Mother of the unfathomable world!
Favor my solemn song, for I have loved
Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched
Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps,
And my heart ever gazes on the depth
Of thy deep mysteries . . .
I once met a woman in London who told me I was a shaman. Her name was Madame Sosostris. She wore a rainbow-colored skirt and a cotton shirt that was unbuttoned and tied at the waist. Her face was exceedingly beautiful and her age . . . indistinguishable.
She said we were fortunate to meet because she was usually feeding baby gorillas at this time each day. What does one say to a woman named Madame Sosostris who corners unsuspecting foreigners in the streets of the unreal city and tells them about her practice of slopping baby gorillas? I hadn’t a clue. All I wanted to do was read the book I’d just bought: The Post-Modern Weltanschauung.
She insisted, however, I join her for tea at her flat. Well, I was a bit lonely and in need of a little excitement; I mean, anyone who can’t wait to read The Postmodern Weltanschauung has fallen on some hard times. So I reluctantly accepted Madame Sosostris’ invitation and we walked seven blocks to her flat.
The door of her home gently opened and we passed from the street to the interior of her dwelling. She said she would be vacating the premises shortly and wanted to know if I would be joining her. I was in a state of disbelief. Well, I said, I’m not sure. She asked me to make myself comfortable. I relaxed, figuring I hadn’t much to lose. After all, I was a teacher who had been made redundant some months ago and she was the most attractive person I’d ever met.
As I was sinking into a pillow chair, a cobra coiled around my feet. I froze in fear.
Oh, don’t mind him, she said, He’s harmless.
She excused herself and left me alone with the snake. What’s next, I thought: shamanism, baby gorillas and now what appears to be an innocuous cobra. I took a deep breath when he uncoiled and slithered away.
The beautiful Madame returned wearing a kimono decorated, to my surprise, with a cobra. I couldn’t tell if he was embroidered on the silk or if he was alive. I decided not to ask her the name of this culebra enigmatica.
This is Leon. I don’t believe you were properly introduced. He is pleased to meet you, she said, as she placed a silver tea service on the table.
I thought the tea service very tasteful and elegant.
Thank you, replied Madame Sosostris.
That’s when I first realized she knew everything I was thinking. Her cognizance of my mind was a bit perplexing, at first. But I felt so comfortable I actually wanted her to know everything I was thinking, everything I had ever thought. Firm and soft with just enough give and support, the pillow chair struck a balance that made me rest.
I then heard music coming from I-don’t-know-where. It sounded like an Aeolian Lire and wind chimes.
Clio loves music. I hope it doesn’t disturb you.
I like it. Who’s Clio?
I was getting the impression Madame Sosostris had a house full of fun.
Clio is a musical androgyne. You will forgive Clio if Clio does not come out to meet you. Clio is a bit self-conscious and shy.
Cream and sugar?
I then commented on the elegance of the jade cups and saucers.
Thank you. They are from the Shang Dynasty.
Now, I was no genius but I doubted seriously whether the Shang drank tea from jade cups.
Do you know much about the Shang?
No Madame, I stuttered, I don’t.
Leon shot me a smug smile.
The tea was delicious, sating; it was like a twelve course meal followed by Sambvca, espresso and two desserts, but it didn’t fill me up. I felt light, comfortable and nearly sated when I heard Leon say that I hadn’t a clue as to what was going on and that he would rather not remain on the kimono, even if it was the gift of Matisuru the non-conformist contemplative. He then pranced away, standing tall on his belly, wagging is tongue and pouting under his breath.
Without skipping a beat, my hostess said: Please excuse Leon. It takes him a while to warm up to new guests. I assured the good Madame I took no umbrage at his comments but she knew I really did.
The tea is excellent.
Thank you. It is cultivated by the esteemed Dogon of Burkina Faso.
I didn’t even think about it this time. If Madame Sosostris said her tea was grown by the Dogon, then that was good enough for me. I thought I heard Leon hiss in the other room. I wondered how he and Clio got along.
My gracious hostess then offered me what was like a wine cake. It felt like cake in my mouth, changed to wine on my tongue, disappeared in my stomach and left no aftertaste. I felt like I was breathing in some extraordinary air that changed my way of looking at the world. For a moment I flashed to the Temple at Delphi.
So what do you do in London?
I was made redundant some months ago. I walk along the Thames mostly.
I see, she said.
I was speechless. And I had to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, I was a bit wary of what I’d find in the lavatory. She told me where it was, so I excused myself and got up. I crossed into another room. Excuse me, Leon, I said as I walked by. He flung his head back and slide under a Persian Rug.
Much to my delight, the bathroom smelled of roses and did not seem anomalous – that is, until I sat down. Hanging right in front of me was what looked like a Renaissance painting. It couldn’t be, I thought, as I sat. Then it struck me. This was The Birth of Venus. Wind blew a beautiful, fair-haired woman to shore on a clam shell as roses wafted through the air. The rose scent I smelled was actually coming from the painting.
Was my gracious benefactor, Madame Sosostris, the proud owner of a priceless Botticelli? And, even more perplexing, was she using this Renaissance masterpiece as an air freshener in her bathroom? Then it hit me: this homage to Aphrodite resides at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I cleared my mind and picked a grape from the towel rack.
As I was peeling the grape, something strange happened.
When I returned to the living room, I embraced the radiant Madame Sosostris with the heart of a child who has missed its parents.
A noise disturbed our embrace. I turned, shocked.
Don’t be alarmed, she advised, it’s just Boris.
Boris was, well, I don’t know how to describe him. Boris was kind of like, he was . . .
Boris thinks he’s greater than any thought he can think, she said.
Mesmerized, I watched Boris fly away.
It was then that the good Madame told me that DNA, among other things, is a library containing the recorded history of each individual. It is canvass and parchment, papyrus and clay. It is an archive of moments.
I loved her so much. All I wanted was to listen. She guided me down a long corridor until we came upon a hall of records. Floor to ceiling albums filled the room. No dust, no age. Everything smelled fresh. Then Boris flew into a high corner, selected one of the albums and presented it to the gracious Madame Sosostris. She slipped the vinyl disc from a square sleeve and spun it on her finger like a basketball. I listened:
Marcel was a being who had lost his way. He wandered from place to place, growing outraged at his lack of direction. Among his few accolades, he was founder and only member of the Psychological Extinction Society. Within his tiny body, Marcel had a heart full of feelings and an intellect full of ideas. He neither reaped nor sowed nor work
But that dreaded Psychology, that pseudo-scientific prosthesis designed to keep people in therapy; that blunt, subjective tool used to dissect denial and determine false positives had become a monolith and Marcel did not like it. In order to distract himself from Psychology, he made a commitment to observation. He soon realized, however, that he could not observe without judgment.
One of his first observations, some would call it voyeurism, occurred during his formative years: Max and Laroy were twin tunas. They were pitted nose to nose in a composition writing contest – Why the World is a Cesspool of Indecency- in five hundred words or less.
Well, their compositions had no depth; they were cords of words without meaning. The mistress tuna was in a quandary because both works exhibited a singular approach to the topic. The very shallowness of the writing enthralled her; no depth, none whatsoever. Neither compact argument nor organized structure, these essays were void of both complexity and simplicity. They said absolutely nothing in many more than five hundred words. In a word, they were brilliant, and she had to choose between the two. The night before the official winner was announced, she had a stroke. Her recovered notes indicated the brilliance of both works.
The mistress’ frail husband presented both Max and Laroy with trophies and said that the compositions were without equal. It was too much for the assembled Tuna. In awe of the talented brothers, they all fainted, including Max and Laroy and floated unconsciously until they washed up on a beach. Fortunately, a group of concerned citizens thrust them back into the sea.
Marcel could not believe his eyes; this ridiculous, rhetorical farce caused him to flashback:
You bastard, you poor degenerate bastard. That was all the headmaster said before expelling the rebellious, young aesthete. His mother was waiting for him when he returned home. She was An Activist and her husband, his father, was The System. Marcel could not deal with the pressures of his home life, his mother spending her time making tacky billboards with trite sayings, his father making shady deals with foreign nationals.
Marcel had been convinced, while subjected to enhanced interrogation, that his father was a scrotum. The HM was a parasite who had taken his degree in Counter-Intelligence , Magna Cum Laude, from the university of: if you have a pulse you can be admitted and awarded a master’s degree without having to know anything -so you can announce to the world that you have an education- when you really don’t.
The HM was relentless as he finally made Marcel confess in a signed admission of guilt.
Okay, yes, I think my father’s a scrotum. I’ll sign anything, just please quit asking me how I feel.
The HM had done his job thoroughly and his last insult, before dismissing the disillusioned young Marcel, was: You poor, degenerate bastard.
His mother was hysterical when he returned home. She was listening to a recording of the words: one, two, three, four – trying to think of something to rhyme with four when her husband entered the room. He was incognito, disguised as a pin-striped double-breasted suit. The dolorous scene worsened as he told his family that he had been convicted on trumped up charges of sodomy.
It was too much for the Activist to handle; she could not bear to watch her mate rot away in a five by nine cell with a headmaster convicted of impersonating a human being. She lost control and now attends a twelve step program for people who think they’re Viktor Frankl.
Her home seemed quiet now as if the Good Madame and I were all alone.
Do you entertain often?
Yes, she said, and it seemed like the word resonated in every language ever spoken. Since I fancied myself a linguist, I said: Your Greek is impeccable, Madame.
Thank you, she replied, then added: You have much to learn about Greek and Latin, Sanskrit and Sage. I hope my candor doesn’t offend you.
No, not at all. I’m not offended.
She cleared her throat and offered more tea.
Marcel could not accept the inevitable, so he returned to his childhood home. He peered through the windows and sheer draperies. Empty. The staircase spiraled upward; paintings hung like dead men from nooses. The elegant house still had a pest control problem. Marcel was outraged by the emptiness and insects and his lack of parental guidance.
So he disguised himself as a letter and infiltrated the maximum security facility where his father served time. Sentenced to life in a shithouse. If this was not cruel and unusual punishment, nothing was. The aberrant conditions of that prison outraged Marcel; the sheer tastelessness of décor appalled him greatly. Adding insult to injury, The System had been sentenced to playing Trivial Pursuit with the headmaster for the rest of his natural life.
Discarded as a crumpled piece of rubbish, Marcel found himself in a trash receptacle contemplating his next move. Thus he found himself at a support group for people who think they’re Viktor Frankl. He could not believe his eyes as he gazed through the window. Smoke billowed round the sealed room. Urns percolated - heavenly juice. People sat silently, smoking ravenously, consuming the brewed contents of the urn. The tiny phenomenologist could barely distinguish his mother through the thick, white fog. She was walking toward the podium.
Hi. My name is Viktor Frankl and . . .
The group formed a collective grimace. The Activist was struggling, but solidarity strengthened her.
This is very hard for me.
Heads shook up and down; they all blew a message of comfort in her direction.
Okay. I’m going to try this again. Hi. I don’t know who I am, but I think I’m Viktor Frankl.
Thirty-two morose faces burst wide with smiles: HI VIKTOR!
Marcel trembled. The poor being was dumbfounded. His own mother had rejected the laudable task of thinking up trite slogans for this? It was unthinkable and Marcel was outraged. As he was about to break the glass and save his mother, large drops of cheap coffee began to drip from the ceiling. Everyone in the room leaned back, maws wide, taking in copious quantities of the vile liquid. It was an omen and Marcel knew it. He wept, realizing his nuclear family had exploded.
Now, a most unique characteristic of Madame Sosostris’ home is that you can be in multiple places at once, having tea in the living room while listening to records down the hall.
Marcel gave up on understanding his parents; instead, he searched for Imported Extravergine Olive Oil. Almost immediately, he happened upon a small man in a white coat, who wore black glasses and resembled a referee of Australian Rules Football. Dr. Steadman Sophie, director of the Spread Eagle Recovery Center, was a sex addition expert and a certified life coach. Among his other distinctions, he had graduated Cum Cum Laude from This Is Not My First Rodeo University, and was known to use ferret as a verb.
So, tell me how you feel young man?
Marcel controlled his desire to laugh. I don’t feel anything.
Well, what I’m hearing you say is that you were deprived as a child. Lucky for you, I’ve just written a book; it’s called Life Coach and it’s about insecure narcissism.
Not interested said Marcel.
I have you know, said Dr. Sophie, that I am a trained Forensic Psychologist. Do you know what that means?
It means that whatever I say, no matter how ridiculous, must be accepted without question.
Outstanding! Marcel said sarcastically.
Listen, said the sex addiction expert, I would normally refer you to Dr. Benway, but he’s in Tangiers this week. There is, however, one other person you may want to consult. She’s a mandated reporter.
A mandated reporter is someone trained to determine the sincerity of others. They are then mandated by a court of law to report their findings.
You must be kidding?
No, I’m serious, affirmed the director of the Spread Eagle Recovery Center as he exited the space.
A woman, who bore a striking resemblance to Dr. Sophie, ente
Let what go?
Dr. Byrd grabbed Marcel by the shoulders, shook him and said: Let it go.
Marcel stared at her incredulously then asked: Do you think I have Munchausen-by-Proxy?
Look, said the traffic psychologist, it could be Munchausen or some rare form of enabling. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been there.
Quantum Voices by Sam Savage / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes