Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Apperception - Part 3 of 4


Continued from Part 2

Dr. Lumeise, thin, birdlike and wanting to chat about how lovely Canada was but explaining how she still missed her home in Bordeaux, assured me that my headaches were most likely referred pain from an incident a few months earlier (I had slipped on an icy patch of road and fallen jaw-first into a car’s bumper). Her exam revealed no signs of my having experienced a Transient Ischemic Attack. I was given the option of having an MRI to check things out thoroughly, but barring genuine signs of distress I would have to wait several weeks for an appointment.

I declined the opportunity, thanked her for her time and went about my business. I was far less concerned about chatting with the dead after receiving a clear bill of health (physically, at least) and was comfortable in chalking up the entire experience to an episode of something entirely explainable that I simply didn’t have the time or wherewithal to examine.

An hallucinatory response to mild food poisoning, perhaps.That was Scrooge’s first response to Jacob Marley’s ghost in Dickens’ chestnut. I might have stared Pleasance in his (non-existent, mostly) eye and quoted Dickens gleefully, shouting “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato… more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” and while it would have been melodramatic, it would have been no less insane than our chat about movies and what it was like to be dead/undead.

I tried (and failed) to disregard everything Pleasance had told me, assuming that the dead can’t be trusted and to try and establish what was valid or invalid in anything we discussed was pointless. I didn’t talk to my wife about it for fear of worrying her (and admitting to myself it had happened).

I fought off all impulses to speak to a psychiatrist. I leaned instead on my extensive knowledge of abnormal psychology (collected from two University courses and a lifetime of TV and movies) to determine that his 'I’m incidental' remark was a manifestation of my unconscious, a part of my brain that was unable to explain exactly why a long-deceased actor would materialize on the subway.

Thus, one part of my brain refused to provide answers (or conjecture) when a different part of my brain was compelled by malfunction to have conjured him up in the first place.

I also convinced myelf that If I was sane enough to determine that Pleasance’s presence was impossible, then I was therefore entirely sane because to accept it as possible in any meaningful would have been crazy.

I disliked the experience. More than that, I resented the experience. It was trivial. It ignored a wide variety of people I would have enjoyed having a few words with in place of Pleasance. My father, first and foremost, who I’m sure was too drugged and incoherent to have heard me whisper goodbye before dying from cancer a decade before.
Or a woman I'd grown up with, murdered by street thugs in Moscow during a robbery. I’d treasure anything she’d say about those who cut her throat, maybe she could explain the circumstances and give names the police never knew. I’d also tell her we missed her.

Other scenarios were far less appealing. A distant relative, known for his bitterness and a cruel streak, might have arrived with a few hurtful words about somebody close to me. And I’d been to the funerals of two suicides, what could I possibly say to them? Why did you do it? Is it better where you are now?

None of these parties were forthcoming. But Pleasance reappeared on an unlikely day when I wasn't even commuting, per ce; I had only jumped on the subway to head two stations north from my office to pick up my newly renewed passport at a government building.

I could have walked in the time it took the train to arrive (afternoon schedules are slow) so I was mildly annoyed when I boarded the train to see him again, in the same shirt and pants as our last encounter but wearing with a rather dated wool jacket (I believe it would be called a 'sportcoat' based on its cut) and a displeased demeanor.

I hadn't time to be surprised before he said "It's me again, don't stare like you did last time. It would just be annoying. You've been well, have you Michael?"

He looked at me impatiently for a response. I disobeyed his edict and stared at him again, for not nearly as long a time as our first meeting. Once is an aberration. Twice veers uncomfortably close to a condition and I was regretting not making that MRI appointment.

I answered sharply, saying "I've been wonderful, lately. Of course I saw a dead man a few weeks back, but otherwise fine. And you?"

He matched me in disdain. "Don't blame the messenger, mate. This time's not a treat for me either."

I was parsing that last sentence when he softened, slightly. "And don't panic. That 'messenger' bit's a figure of speech. I'm still not the angel of death, alright?"

"Just it's customer?" I asked.

He glared at me. "Today I don't bloody know what I'm doing, if you must know. And I don't want to be on this train with you, no offence."

"None taken," I said. "My doctor said I was fine, you know."

Unimpressed, he said "Congratulations. Have an extra glass of wine at dinner. And while we're at it, why are you following me?"

Shocked, I said "I have nothing..."

He cut me off. "Not you. Not conscious you. But you. I'm asking the world, what the bloody hell do I have to do with you? The rest of this train doesn't care but you...you. Not what you're doing, meaning to do, but what's happening from you. Have you any idea?"

His last few words were almost desperate.

He seethed in my direction, quietly, for a few seconds before resolving to a calmer state. There was a one-quarter smirk on his fact when he "Enough to kill a man, this."

Quietly, I said "You'd mentioned you were incidental. That's me as well, I suppose."

We both stopped talking for a long time. Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes.  Near-empty subway platforms flew past us. I was going to be late for work.

"How did you know my name?" I asked. "That's how I know you're an invention. I know my name. That's must be how you know my name. I don't know why I'm inventing anything else you're doing but if this is something..."

"Serious?" he said, lifting an eyebrow.

"...something else, then throw me a bone. How did you know my name."

"It's rather banal," he said. "It's the least of your concern. Most everything I know, you wouldn't accept. But your name was easy."

More quiet. His breathing slowed and he appeared to be relaxing. A few minutes later, I said "You've stopped gritting your teeth,"

"Resignation," he said with a chuckle. "I might not need to be hurrying as much as I thought."

I said "You won't tell me where, of course?"

He shook his head. "Ask me something you think I actually could answer and I might surprise you."

I took a few seconds, considered how foolish my next step would be and decided I didn't care. "My father's dead. Are you aware of him?"

Pleasance's head fell to the left in a mimic of exasperation. "Michael, I knew a Canadian during the war," he deadpanned, "That world war. In the 40s. He told me he lived in Saskatchewan. Name was Jim, I believe. A fine man. And you're Canadian. You've met him, yes?"

Point taken. I shrugged. "I had to try."

"Everyone does," he said rolling his eyes, offering no further details. "And if it's all the same to you, this next stop's mine. I'm making it mine. Yours is elsewhere, I recommend humbly. Get me?"

This didn't come out as unpleasant, but with a finality that didn't come with our first meeting. The dead, that day at least, were depressed and mopey.

I stayed seated on the train as he walked to the door. As it opened, I said "You never explained how you knew my name,"

He turned around and pointed at my torso, saying "You might want to watch your waistline. Cheerio."

I thought The dead have just called me fat...?

I had another headache, recognizing it this time as the fading adrenaline rush. I was shaking by the time I got back to my office and was just letting myself in past the locked doors when I realized what he meant. My security pass, featuring a drab photo and my name in bold type, hung off my belt as it always did.

Lessons learned; the dead have bad days. The dead don't always know why things happen.

And existent or not, the dead know how to read names.








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