He turned and put the tip of his forefinger against the wrist. The scars were there, all right, but they were smooth. It must have been long ago. It could have been a car accident or some other trauma, of course, but something told him it wasn't. It seemed like more evidence of some past internal war with the thing that had brought her here tonight - some enormous battle between the intelligence of her mind and the intelligence of her cells.
If that's what it was, the cells had won. Probably they had bled enough to throw off infection, then swelled to slow down the bleeding, clotted, and then slowly, with the special intelligence of their own that had nothing to do with Lila's mind, they remembered how they had been before she had cut them apart and they carefully joined themselves back together again. They had a mind and will of their own. The mental Lila had tried to die but the cellular Lila had wanted to live.
That's the way it always is. The intelligence of the mind can't think of any reason to live, but it goes on anyway because the intelligence of the cells can't think of any reason to die.
That explained what had happened tonight. The first intelligence out there in the cabin disliked him and still did. It was this second intelligence that had come in and made love. The first Lila had nothing to do with it.
These cellular patterns have been lovers for millions of years and they aren't about to be put off by these recent little intellectual patterns that know almost nothing about what is going on. The cells want immortality. They know their days are numbered. That is why they make such a commotion.
They're so old. They began to distinguish this body on the left from this body on the right more than a billion years ago. Beyond comprehension. Of course they pay no attention to mind patterns. In their scale of time, mind is just some ephemera that arrived a few moments ago, and will probably pass away in a few moments more.
That was what he had seen that he was trying to hang on to now, this confluence where mental and the biological patterns are both awake and aware of each other and in conflict.
The ebb-tide feeling. At ebb tide this cellular sexual activity is all so intellectually vulgar and shunnable, but when the flood tide returns the vulgarity magically turns into a high-quality attraction and there's a deflection of mind by something that isn't mind at all and there's some feeling of awe in this. The mind sitting detached, aloof and discerning is suddenly rudely shoved aside by this other intelligence which is stronger than its own. Then strange things happen that the mind sees as vulgar and shunnable when the tides are out again.
He listened to the even breathing of this body next to him. That twilight zone was gone now. His mind was getting the upper hand, getting more and more awake, thinking about what he'd seen.
It fitted into the independence and opposition of levels of evolution that was emphasized in the Metaphysics of Quality. The language of mental intelligence has nothing to say to the cells directly. They don't understand it. The language of the cells has nothing to say to the mind directly. It doesn't speak that language either. They are completely separate patterns. At this moment, asleep, 'Lila' doesn't exist any more than a program exists when a computer is switched off. The intelligence of her cells had switched Lila off for the night, exactly the way a hardware switch turns off a computer program.
The language we've inherited confuses this. We say 'my' body and 'your' body and 'his' body and 'her' body, but it isn't that way. That's like a FORTRAN program saying, 'This is my computer.' 'This body on the left,' and This body on the right.' That's the way to say it. This Cartesian 'Me,' this autonomous little homunculus who sits behind our eyeballs looking out through them in order to pass judgment on the affairs of the world, is just completely ridiculous. This self-appointed little editor of reality is just an impossible fiction that collapses the moment one examines it. This Cartesian 'Me' is a software reality, not a hardware reality. This body on the left and this body on the right are running variations of the same program, the same 'Me,' which doesn't belong to either of them. The 'Me's' are simply a program format.
Talk about aliens from another planet. This program based on 'Me's' and 'We's' is the alien. 'We' has only been here for a few thousand years or so. But these bodies that 'We' has taken over were around for ten times that long before 'We' came along. And the cells - my God, the cells have been around for thousands of times that long.
These poor stupid bodies that 'We' has invaded, he thought. Every once in a while, like tonight and last night, they overthrow the program and go about their ways leaving 'We' mystified about how all this could have happened. That's what happened just now.
Mystified, and somewhat horrified too at the things bodies do without its permission. All of this sexual morality of Rigel's - it wasn't just social codes. It was also part of this sense of horror at these cells 'We' has invaded and the strange patterns of Quality that existed before 'We' arrived.
These cells make sweat and snot and phlegm. They belch and bleed and fuck and fart and piss and shit and vomit and squeeze out more bodies just like themselves all covered with blood and placental slime that grow and squeeze out more bodies, on and on.
'We,' the software reality, finds these hardware facts so distressing that it covers them with euphemisms and clothes and toilets and medical secrecy. But what 'We' is covering up is pure quality for the cells. The cells have gotten to their advanced state of evolution through all this fucking and farting and pissing and shitting. That's quality! Particularly the sexual functions. From the cells' point of view sex is pure Dynamic Quality, the highest Good of all.
So when Phaedrus told Rigel that Lila had Quality he was telling the truth. She does. This same attraction which is now so morally condemned is what created the condemners.
Talk about ingratitude. These bodies would still be a bunch of dumb bacteria if it hadn't been for sexual quality. When mutation was the only means of genetic change, life sat around for three billion years, doing almost no changing at all. It was sexual selection that shot it forward into the animals and plants we have today. A bacterium gets no choice in what its progeny are going to be, but a queen bee gets to select from thousands of drones. That selection is Dynamic. In all sexual selection, Lila chooses, Dynamically, the individual she wants to project into the future. If he excites her sense of Quality she joins him to perpetuate him into another generation, and he lives on. But if he's unable to convince her of his Quality - if he's sick or deformed or unable to satisfy her in some way - she refuses to join him and his deformity is not carried on.
Now Phaedrus was really awake. Now he felt he was at some sort of source. Was this thing that he had seen tonight the same thing that he had glimpsed in the streetcar, the thing that had been bothering him all these years? He thought about it for a long time and slowly decided that it probably was.
Lila is a judge. That's who lay here beside him tonight: a judge of hundreds of millions of years' standing, and in the eyes of this judge he was nobody very important. Almost anyone would do, and most would do better than he.
After a while he thought, maybe that's why the famous 'Gioconda Smile' in the Louvre, like Lila's smile in the streetcar, has troubled viewers for so many years. It's the secret smile of a judge who has been overthrown and suppressed for the good of social progress, but who, silently and privately, still judges.
'Sad Sack.' That was the term she used. It had no intellectual meaning, but it had plenty of meaning nevertheless. It meant that in the eyes of this biological judge all his intelligence was some kind of deformity. She rejected it. It wasn't what she wanted. Just as the patterns of intelligence have a sense of disgust about the body functions, the patterns of biology, so do Lila's patterns of biology have a disgust about the patterns of intelligence. They don't like it. It turns them off.
Phaedrus thought about William James Sidis, the prodigy who could read five languages when he was five years old. After discovering what Sidis had said about Indians, Phaedrus had read a full biography of him and found that when Sidis was a teenager he announced he would refuse to have anything to do with sex for the rest of his life. It seemed as though in order to sustain a satisfactory intellectual life he felt he had to cut himself off from social and biological domination except where they were absolutely necessary. This vow of ancient priests and ascetics was once considered a high form of morality, but in the 'Roaring Twenties' of the twentieth century a new standard of morals had arrived, and when journalists found out about this vow they ridiculed Sidis mercilessly. That coincided with the beginning of a pattern of seclusion that lasted the rest of his life.
'Is it better to have wisdom or is it better to be attractive to the ladies?' That was a question debated by Provengal poets way back in the thirteenth century. Sidis opted for wisdom, but it seemed to Phaedrus there ought to be some way you could have both.
The question seemed to imply the stupidity of women but a feminist could turn it around and ask, 'Is it better to have wisdom or be attractive to men!' That's practically the theme song of the whole feminist movement. Although the feminists and the male Provengal poets would appear to be condemning the opposite sex, they are, in fact, both actually condemning the same thing: not men, not women, but static biological antagonism to social and intellectual Quality.
Phaedrus began to feel a slow rock of the boat.
His own cells were sick of all this intellectualizing. They'd had enough for one day. They'd had way too much, in fact, and were starting to switch him off. Tomorrow they'd need him when they got hungry, and they would turn him on again to find them some food, but for now they were rubbing him out. He felt like Hal, the computer in 2001, as its internal patterns slowed down. 'Daisy . . . Daisy . . . give me your . . . answer . . . true.'
Lila, Lila, what is your answer true?
What a strange, strange day this had been.
Phsdrus became aware again of Lila's body next to him, and again the gentle rocking of the boat. That was
the only good thing that had happened all day, the way their bodies paid no attention to all their social and intellectual differences and had gone on in as if these 'people' that 'owned' them didn't exist at all. They had been at this business of life for so long.
Now that he was quiet he noticed that the boat's motion wasn't so much a rocking as a surge, a very faint, very slow, lift and drop accompanying the waves. He wondered if that could be a surge coming in from the ocean. Probably not, he thought. They were still way too far up river from the ocean. Still it could be, he thought. If the tides get up to Troy maybe the surge could get this far.
It could be ...
He waited for each next faint lift and fall to come, thinking about it, and then after a while didn't think any more.
Fatso thought that was pretty funny the way Lila come in. He said she come in 'like the Queen of Diamonds' and 'wished to know where Mr Jamison could be found.' Fatso can imitate anybody, perfect.
Fatso said he didn't tell her nothing but he just listened. She said she's 'on her way to Florida for the season.' She was 'on a yacht with a gentleman and she wished to stop by and renew old acquaintances.'
When Fatso said that Jamie broke up laughing.
'If she's with a gentleman what does she want to see me for?' Jamie said.
'I guess she misses you.'
'She wants something.'
'One way to find out,' Fatso said.
So the next day they went to where she told Fatso she would be. She wasn't there so they sat down. Then she come in the door. Sad. She was really looking old. She used to be a real looker. Getting fat too. Drinking too much beer. She always did like her beer. She better take care of herself. Lila saw them and come over to the table where they was sitting. Jamie got up and opened up his arms for a big hug. He said, 'You really came all the way here just to see me? That's too much. Too much!'
Then he saw the man coming in behind her was with her. He caught one look in that man's eyes and his muscles went tight... He hugged Lila but he watched that man. His hair was all white . . . like snow, and his eyes was cold real cold ... Like looking in a refrigerator ... at the morgue . . . Bad vibes all over him . . . All the time he was holding Lila that man was watching them . . .
What the hell'd she bring him here for? Fatso didn't say nothing about that. He told her a hundred times not to bring the clientele around. That was the rule. What was the trouble now?
The man put out his hand to shake.
Jamie shook it.
He put out his for Fatso to shake.
Fatso shook it.
'This is the Captain,' Lila says.
'Pleased to meet you, Cap'n,' Jamie says.
The Cap'n looks like he wants to sit down.
He sits down.
The Captain is full of smiles like he's the nicest man ever lived. Nobody fooled. He wants to buy drinks for everybody. Everybody drinking. Everybody smiling. Everybody just sits around and talks nice now till their teeth drop out, if that's what they want. But that isn't what they want.
Jamie had nothing to tell. They all looked at him like he was supposed to say something but he didn't.
Fatso started asking questions then. He asked the Captain where he was from and where they're going and all about that. He asked about what kind of boat they had and how big it was and how fast it went. Jamie never heard Fatso ask so many questions.
The Captain just sat there with the cold eyes and answered everything just exactly right. Like some kind of detective, maybe. Watch out, Fats, don't tell him nothing, Jamie thought.
Lila kept looking over like she wanted Jamie to do some talking. Then she said, 'What are you doing these days, Jamison?'
Jamison!?? She never called him that before. What kind of air was that? He thought about it. Then he said, 'I don't know, Mizz Lila.' He said it that way to mock her a little. 'Not much of anything, I guess.' He made it sound like he just up from Alabama.
'Nothing at all?'
'No ma'am. Every year I'se just a little lazier. Don't want to do nothing I don't have to. All wore out with things I don't have to do.'
He watched the Captain when he said this. The Captain just smiled. That made Jamie feel better. If he was a detective he gonna know what that's about.
'We have an opportunity for you,' Lila said, 'which we hope might interest you.'
'Oh, you do?' Jamie said. 'Let's hear it.'
Lila looked at him funny like she saw how it was going. She said, 'The Captain has been advised that he needs another crew member for his ocean voyage and we have been hoping that you might consider an offer. I've told him you are an excellent person,' she said.
Jamie caught her wink. He smiled a little. Then he had to laugh.
'What are you laughing at?' Lila said.
'You sure haven't changed. Crazy Lila! Always thinking something crazy. That's why you came all the way here just to talk to me? Just for that?'
'Yes,' she said, and looked at him. She turned her mouth down like he busted every nice feeling she ever had. 'What's wrong with that?'
'Oh, Lila,' he said. 'You sure come a long way.'
He looked at both of them for a while. He wondered what kind of place they come from that they could come here and talk to him like that.
He said, 'You mean you and the Captain here want to sit on your luxury yacht, sippin' Juleps and watchin' the sunset go down, while I stand there and say "Yessah, yessah"?'
'Not like that,' Lila said.
'What the hell do you think I am?' Jamie said. It really made him mad, coming all the way down here just to hear this. And they thought they were being nice to him.
He turned to the Captain. 'Is that all you came here for? To find yourself a cheap nigger to work on your boat?'
The Captain looked like he never heard it. Like what he said to him just bounced off some stone wall. 'It's not my idea,' he said.
Then what did you come here for?'
'I don't know,' the Captain said. 'That's what I was trying to find out.'
The Captain got up. 'I've got an appointment now.' He picked up his coat. 'I'll take care of the bill on the way out,' he said. He looked at Lila real pissed. 'See you later,' he said. Then he went.
Lila looked scared.
'What the hell you up to, Lila?' Jamie said.
'You said you weren't doing anything,' she said. 'Why did you put him down like that? He didn't do anything to you.'
'You know what he's thinking,' Jamie said.
'You don't know anything about him,' Lila said. 'He's just a nice man and a real gentleman.'
'Well, if you're making it with this nice gentleman, what are you bringing him here for? If you're making it with this nice old cracker you better keep right on making it with him, Lila, because you sure ain't making it anywhere else.'
'I was just trying to do you a favor,' Lila said.
'What kind of favor is that?'
'Well, think about it,' Lila said. 'What do you think is going to happen if we go sailing down to Florida with him? Do you think he's going to live forever?'
Jamie looked at Fatso to see if he heard what she was saying. Fats looked back at him the same way.
'You mean you want me to be there to help in case he accidentally happens to fall overboard, or something?' Jamie asked.
Jamie looked at Fatso again and then looked down. He shook his head and laughed. Then he thought about it some more.
Then he looked up at her, 'Sometimes I think I 'm bad, Lila, and then someone like you comes along and shows me how.'
They talked about old times. Millie's gone. Nobody knows where. Mindy got married, he told her. It's no good any more, he told her. You don't know how bad it's got.
She didn't listen. All she wanted to do was talk about Florida.
After she left Fatso asked, 'How long did you know her?'
'Long time,' Jamie said. 'She used to be good. But she always talked back. That old fart she was with, that's what she's good for now. That's her speed. With him. She walked out on me and I never did nothing to her. Now she should stay the hell away.
'I'm so tired of them,' Jamie said. 'Long time ago I used to think they was everything. You know, all the money and the big cars and the big smiles and the big-looking clothes. You know? Padded shoulders. I thought that was really it. Then I got to see what really went on with them and why they have to have all that - that money and boats and furs and padded shoulders and everything.'
'Why? Because if they ever lose that big money they got nothing. Under all that big money there is nothing there! Nobody! Nobody home.
'I mean it,' Jamie said. That's what drives them people day and night. Trying to cover that up. What we know. They think they fool you. They ain't foolin' nobody.
'They know we got something they haven't got. And they come here and they going to try to take it away from us. But they can't figure out what it is. It just drives them crazy. What is it we got they can't get away from us?'
Fatso wondered how far the boat can go.
'Did you hear what she said?' Fatso asked. 'That boat can go all the way to South America.'
Fatso said he heard about a man out on Long Island who buys boats, no questions.
'How much do you think that boat is worth?' Fatso said.
'Sure would be nice to have a big boat like that,' Fatso said. 'Go sailing down to Florida. Lots of nice stuff down there in Florida.
'All kinds of stuff,' Fatso said. 'You know Belford? He goes down to Andrews Island down there and gets all kind of good news. Can make a lot of money that way. If you was on a boat you might put some of that good news where nobody can find it and when you come back take it off again. Nobody know the difference.'
Fatso smiled. 'And if they find it that nice friend of Lila might have to go to jail.'
Jamie didn't say any more to Fatso. But he was thinking.
It was a long way to the hotel but Phaedrus felt like walking it. After that blow-up with Lila he needed to walk. This city always made him feel like walking. In the past whenever he'd come here he'd always walked everywhere. Tomorrow he'd be gone.
The skyscrapers rose up all around him now and the street was crowded with people and cars. About twenty or thirty blocks to go, he figured. But these were the short blocks going up and down the island, not the long blocks going across. He could feel himself speeding up.
The New York eyes were everywhere now. Quick, guarded, emotionless. Watch out, they said. Concentrate! Things happen fast around here . . . Don't miss those horn honks!
This city! He would never get used to it. He always wanted to fill up with tranquilizers before he arrived. Some day he'd come here without being manic and overwhelmed, but that day hadn't arrived. Always this wild crazy exhilarated feeling. Crowds, high speed, mental detachment.
It was these crazy skyscrapers. The 3-D. Not just in front of you and in back of you and right of you and left of you - above you and below you too. Thousands of people hundreds of feet up in the air talking on telephones and staring into computers and conferring with each other, as though it were normal. If you call that normal you call anything normal.
A light turned yellow. He hurried across . . . Drivers run you down and kill you here. That's why you don't take tranquilizers. Take tranquilizers and you just might get killed. This adrenalin is protection.
At the curb he hoisted his canvas bag full of mail on his shoulder so he could carry it better, then continued. There must be twenty pounds of mail in it, he thought, all the mail since Cleveland. He could spend the rest of the day reading it in his hotel room. He was so full from that lunch with his editor he could skip supper and just read until his famous visitor showed up.
The magazine interviews seemed to have gone well enough - predictable questions about what he was doing now (writing his next book); what his next book was about (Indians); and what changes had occurred since his first book was written. He knew what to tell them because he'd been a reporter himself once, but for some reason he didn't tell them about the boat. That was something he didn't want to share. He'd always heard celebrities led double lives. Here it was, happening.
. . . Junk in store windows . . . radios. Hand-calculators . . .
. . . A woman coming toward him hasn't clicked yet, that quick New York dart-of-the-eyes, but she will . . . Here it comes . . . Click! . . . Then looks away . . . She passes by . . . Like the click of a candid-camera shutter . . .
This was manic New York, now. Later would come depressive New York. Now everything's exciting because it's so different. As soon as the excitement wears off depression will come. It always does.
Culture shock. People who live here all their lives don't get that culture shock. They can't go around being overwhelmed all the time. So to cope they seem to pick some small part of it all and try to be on top of that. But they miss something.
. . . Someone practicing the piano upstairs . . . Eee-oh-eee-oh . . . police wagon . . . White flowers, chrysanthemums, 70 dollars . . . Guy in the street on a skateboard, Korean-looking, headed for Leo Vito's delicatessen. Transients, like himself, who are overwhelmed and get manic and depressive are maybe the ones who really understand the place, the only ones with the Zen shoshin, the 'beginner's mind' . . .