HFH: Meet Me in the Gallery

I got a call from Elder. My knees went weak. His voice!

“Baby, what do you look like?” I asked him. I just wanted him to tell me that he looked the same because when I closed my eyes I could only see fragments–that slant of grin, that floppy hair. “How are you wearing your hair?” I asked.

He just laughed at me.

“I miss you,” he said. “Look. I’m in the gallery. Time has stopped. Come meet me there.”

So much has happened since I last wrote. Free went to summer camp, Emelia joined him there, using the space-time thingy to become a kid again, then, when Free was supposed to head back with his cousin Amina to spend some time with the Wolffs, Emelia, Free, and Amina slipped off… somewhere… some when. Elder has been traveling hard-drives all over, while Aya, Tani, and I have been maintaining command central here at home to monitor the news.

Elder’s kept us posted on his whereabouts and whenabouts, and we’ve had a few spottings of Free, Em, and Amina. They seem like they’re doing fine–we’re just not exactly sure of their location in time and space.

Whenever I start to freak out from missing Elder and worrying about Free, I call Curmudgeon CT, who’s one of the counselors at Animal Hat Summer Camp.

“Don’t worry,” she tells me. “Emelia is awesome, and I trust her completely. Plus, I trust what I feel, which is that they’re completely, totally safe. They’re certainly on an adventure–but think about it. Your life has been a complete adventure, right? And Elder’s, too. It’s only natural that your son would have adventures. He’ll come home, and it will be like he never left, only different.”

She never makes sense, but the funny thing is, I always understand her.

“So will you meet me?” Elder asked on the phone.

“In an instant,” I replied.

And without even wondering about how I’d get there, there I am.

Elder

“You’re here!”

And there he is.

Cathy Tea

“Hey, you! You’re even cuter than I remembered!”

I never knew I could love so much.

Cathy Tea

“I’ve missed you more than peanut butter.”

“We’ve got all the time in the world,” he said, “because here, there’s no such thing as time. Let’s just hang out and relax for a while.”

I didn’t even ask what “a while” means in a place with no time because the present moment felt so delicious that all I could think of was to breathe.

“Where is this place?” I asked.

“It’s something that’s available on the Gallery,” he said. “As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to get it for you. You’ll never guess what it’s called. Cathy Teahouse & Gardens.”

“I’ve heard of it!” I replied. “It’s one of Miss Penguin’s famous creations. She made it for the old doppelganger.”

“That may be,” Elder replied, “but it looks like it suits you to a Tea!”

Cathy Tea

The couple that gardens together…

While we watered the rooftop garden together, we fell right back into our own quiet, happy, relaxed rhythm. There’s something about tending a garden in silence, without the need for words.

“You know this place was set up as a community lot,” Elder said. “I had to make a few modifications for it to be a residence. Put in a kitchen sink and oven, add a master bed. It’s a Princess Cordelia bed, of course.”

Cathy Tea

“What do you say we check out those modifications?”

He’d been gone so long, and already, he’s traveled so far–more than I can ever imagine. And yet, together again, we felt that no distance, no time mattered.

Elder

How can it feel the same and different simultaneously?

We had so much to catch up on.

“There was this clown,” he said, “Always sad. Yet somehow, I just know you’d love him. Even his sadness–it’s so pure, it would make you happy!”

Elder

“I think I sort of freaked out the Tragic Clown by talking about game-aware stuff.”

“What’s it like to know that, even now, you’ve got instances of yourself roaming around different hard-drives?” I asked him.

“I could ask you the same,” he said. “You’re still at the keynote on CasusBella2, right?”

“Oh, you’re right! And last I saw, you were, too! Which was sort of weird, because I thought you left after the Perilous Dance Party.”

“I’ve long ago given up trying to make sense of it all,” he said. “And I don’t mean the happenings at CasusBella2. I mean all of it. I’ve abandoned all hope of sense. I think I like it better that way.”

Cathy Tea

“There is something liberating about not insisting that things make logical sense!”

I suppose when one’s experiences of existence are surreal, that will show up in one’s art. We didn’t really talk about what Elder’s green fish painting meant. Sometimes art, like dreams, works best when we simply look at it, rather than try to analyze it.

Fish

What does that mean? And why does that fish look like Free-Jon to me?

We settled into yoga practice, both of us feeling appreciation for expansion packs that bring new opportunities to develop new skills. I appreciated the new clothes, too, looking across at Elder in his yoga pants.

Elder

I’ve missed this.

Before long, we felt like we’d never even been apart. We talked about normal stuff. Except everything seemed funny.

We were talking about the figs I’d added to the sandwich, and I couldn’t stop laughing. What’s funny about figs?

Cathy Tea

“Guh! Are figs normal ingredients for sandwiches?”

Elder didn’t eat. He just sat there, smiling.

“You hungry, babe?” I asked. He’s a foodie.

Elder

“Dive in! It’s best while the toast is warm!”

He finally started eating while I was washing up the dishes and cleaning the counter.

“Yoom!” he said, and I cracked up, looking at him doing his foodie-geek thing over the Monte Cristo. Dang, I’ve missed that!

Elder

“The figs! You’re right!”

“What do you think Free-Jon is doing at this exact second?” I asked Elder after breakfast.

“First, I think Free-Jon is fine, and second, I’m not sure that this exact second exists because there’s no time in the Gallery!”

“This moment?”

“Isn’t a moment made of time?”

“Well, at any rate, now exists, right? What do you think Free-Jon is doing now?”

“Right now,” said Elder, “I think that Free-Jon is enjoying being with one of the people who is most important to him in the world. Just like we are.”

“I don’t miss him so much when I think of it that way. When do you think he’ll come home?”

“When it’s time,” Elder said. “And until then, until I head back out to look for him again, there’s nothing much for us to do except enjoy this moment that exists somewhere outside of the land of the linear.”

“I like it when you talk like a geek,” I said.

“I’ve got more geekiness, in that case,” he said. And I won’t bore you with the robot stuff he said next.

Elder

He’s so cute when he’s a total geek.

We kept cracking each other up, just talking about silly stuff–the plantain tree, video games, the smell of paint, that little chimey sound our computers make when we fire them up. Pretty soon, every silly little life detail just got us feeling inspired and excited. I don’t know. Life doesn’t feel quite this exciting when I’m not with him.

Elder

“Gryffindor or Ravenclaw?”

“This was great,” Elder said, and even though I was still happy, I got that sinking feeling. You know, whenever a really great time is getting ready to end, right before somebody takes off, they’ll say, “This was great. We should do this again.”

Don’t say it, I thought. Is not was, I thought.

Elder

We just looked at each other. 

I know we can’t stay here forever.

Or wait.

Isn’t forever that place where time doesn’t exist?

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits. — Ludwig Wittgenstein

If so… and if time really doesn’t exist here, then maybe we can stay here in the present forever. Just the two of us. In this dream home that our friend made for us.

I think we’ve discovered the secret to happiness.

Cathy Tea

We’re here now.

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