Terebess Asia Online (tao)

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and pointing another direction to go.

On a theater marquee, the title Rebel Without a Cause caught his attention in the same way. It pointed to the same low-quality thing that he saw everywhere but which couldn't be put into words.

You had to be a rebel without a cause. The intellectuals had preempted all the causes. Causes were to the twentieth-century intellectuals as manners had been to Victorians. There was no way you could beat a Victorian on manners and there was no way you could beat a twentieth-century intellectual on causes. They had everything figured out. That was part of the problem. That was what was being rebelled against. All that neat scientific knowledge that was supposed to guide the world.

Phaedrus had no 'cause' that he could explain to anybody. His cause was the Quality of his life, which could not be framed in the 'objective' language of the intellectuals and therefore in their eyes was not a cause at all. He knew that intellectually contrived technological devices had increased in number and complexity, but he didn't think the ability to enjoy these devices had increased in proportion. He didn't think you could say with certainty that people are any

happier than they were during the Victorian era. This 'pursuit of happiness' seemed to have become like the pursuit of some scientifically created, mechanical rabbit that moves ahead at whatever speed it is pursued. If you ever did catch it for a few moments it had a peculiar synthetic, technological taste that made the whole pursuit seem senseless.

Everyone seemed to be guided by an 'objective,' 'scientific' view of life that told each person that his essential self is his evolved material body. Ideas and societies are a component of brains, not the other way around. No two brains can merge physically, and therefore no two people can ever really communicate except in the mode of ship's radio operators sending messages back and forth in the night. A scientific, intellectual culture had become a culture of millions of isolated people living and dying in little cells of psychic solitary confinement, unable to talk to one another, really, and unable to judge one another because scientifically speaking it is impossible to do so. Each individual in his cell of isolation was told that no matter how hard he tried, no matter how hard he worked, his whole life is that of an animal that lives and dies like any other animal. He could invent moral goals for himself, but they are just artificial inventions. Scientifically speaking he has no goals.

Sometime after the twenties a secret loneliness, so penetrating and so encompassing that we are only beginning to realize the extent of it, descended upon the land. This scientific, psychiatric isolation and futility had become a far worse prison of the spirit than the old Victorian 'virtue' ever was. That streetcar ride with Lila so long ago. That was the feeling. There was no way he could ever get to Lila or understand her and no way she could ever understand him because all this intellect and its relationships and products and contrivances intervened. They had lost some of their realness. They were living in some kind of movie projected by this intellectual, electromechanical machine that had been created for their happiness, saying
but which had inadvertently shut them out from direct experience of life itself — and from each other.


It seemed to Lila that all this was some kind of a dream she was in. Where did it start? She couldn't remember. Her mind always went faster and faster like this when she got scared. Why did he have to take the pills out of her purse? The pills could have made it not so scary. He must have thought those pills were dope or something. That's why he took them. She could tell when she needed them by how scary everything got. Now she needed them bad.

She should have got her suitcase this afternoon like she said she was going to. Then she wouldn't have to go back to the boat like this. Now it was dark.

That damn waiter. He could have given her some money to help her out. Then she could have taken a cab. Now she didn't have anything. He was acting like she had lied to him. But she hadn't lied. And he knew she hadn't lied. He could tell. But that didn't matter. He had to make it look like she had done something wrong even when he knew she hadn't done anything wrong.

It was so cold now. The wind went right through this sweater. The streets were so dirty here. Everything was dirty here. Everything was worn out and cold.

It was starting to rain.

She didn't even know if this was the right way. It seemed like she must be getting close to the river.

When she looked down a street she could see a highway where cars were going fast. But the park wasn't where it was supposed to be. Maybe her directions got twisted and she was walking the wrong way. The rain was shining in their headlights. She remembered when she and the Captain had walked from the boat there was a park.

Maybe she could just take a taxi and not pay. She saw one coming with its light off. She thought about waving to it but she didn't do it. In the old days she could have done it. And spit in his face when he tried to collect. But she was so tired now. She didn't want to fight.

Maybe she should just ask somebody for some money. No, that wouldn't work. They wouldn't give it. Not here. It was dangerous going up to people in this city without any reason. They could do anything.

She could go to the cops or go to a shelter somewhere . . . But they'd find out about her. In this town once they know you've got a record you don't want to see them again.

She didn't want to walk along the river to get to the boat. She didn't think she'd like it down there. She'd just stay up until she saw where the marina might be. Then she'd cross down.

That man who looked at her through the restaurant window. That was bad. Ten or fifteen years ago he would have been in that door so fast they couldn't stop him. Now he just walked away. She remembered what Allie used to say: 'You never change, honey, but they do.' She used to say, 'When you don't need 'em they're all over the place. But when you want one you never find him.'

She wondered where Allie was now. She must be about fifty by now. She was probably some old bag lady like the ones she saw yesterday. That's what Lila was going to be. A bag lady. Sitting on a grate somewhere trying to keep warm with all those old clothes on . . .

. . . Like the witch in the store window. With a big nose with a wart on it hanging down over her chin . . .

She should touch up her hair. She was really looking ratty now. The rain was getting her hair so wet she must be looking like a witch too.

There was supposed to be a big castle with a high green steeple at the top sticking up in the air. That's what she remembered. When she got to the castle she should turn down to the river and that's where the boat should be. She remembered that from when they left.

Her shoes were getting all squishy. Like her clothes and this box of shirts. Maybe she should just stop walking and wait for the rain to stop. But then she wouldn't get to the castle. Until she got to the castle there was nowhere to stop.

Why didn't she ever learn not to get mad at people? You always think someone's going to come along and save you but this time it was too late. Some nice man's going to come along and save you. Like the Captain there. You always think that, don't you? But they're all gone now, Lila. The Captain was the last one. There won't be any more, Lila. He was the last one.

That's what the one in the window was telling her.

These shirts she bought for the Captain were getting all wet. He wouldn't even pay her for them now. Maybe if she could stand in a doorway or something until the rain stopped she could keep the shirts dry. She should have kept the bag they were in. That would have kept them dry. Then she could take the shirts back to the store and she could get some money for a taxi. But she needed a taxi to get back to the store. Besides the store was closed by this time.

The receipt was in the billfold. Maybe they would remember her. No they wouldn't . . .

. . . Maybe there'll be some money in the boat. She could just go in and look through all the drawers and places like that. But then she remembered she couldn't get in the boat. She didn't have the combination. She'd just have to wait until the Captain came to let her in. But then if he was there she couldn't look through all the drawers. Maybe he'd give her some money then. No, he was really mad. He wouldn't give her anything.

Maybe she would walk all night and not find the river. Probably she'd passed the castle. She'd walk and walk and never find it. She couldn't even ask where the boat was. She didn't remember the name of the place the boat was at. She just thought it was in this direction.

Maybe she would never find it and she would just walk and walk, on and on.

Then the Captain would just go and sail away and she would never see him again. With all her things! He was going to take her suitcase! All her things! Everything she owned was in there!

She didn't see any sign of the river. She should ask someone where the boat place on the river is but she didn't know what to ask for. The buildings changed slowly as she walked. She didn't know any of them.

Someone was coming on a bicycle. He went right by. It was getting quieter and quieter here now. It looked like a better neighborhood, but you never know. This is where they come.

She must have gone too far. She didn't remember this neighborhood. She should have stayed close to the river. Soon she'd be up in Harlem somewhere and she didn't want to be there. Not at night. Some of the windows had iron over them and barbed wire underneath.

There wasn't any castle. The castle would be skinny with a green pointed top that looked like a space ship, but there wasn't any.

Why did she have to go and call the Captain names and get him mad like that? Now she didn't know what she was going to do. If she'd just been mealy-mouthed with him instead of telling him off she'd be on her way to Florida now.

She shouldn't have tried to get him to take Jamie along. She could see how he got uptight the moment she said it. She should have kept her mouth shut.

She shouldn't have argued with him. If you don't sneak around and say mealy-mouthed things they'll get you for that. They'll make you pay. They've all got to show you how big and strong they are. If you ever dare breathe that you don't think they're as big and strong as they pretend, they hate you. They can't take that. That's what they've got to have. Jamie made him look weak. That's what he didn't like.

All she wanted to do was show the Captain what she was like really. He wanted to know all about her, he said. He wanted to see what she was really like. So she tried to show him and see what happened. Jamie saw what he was like too. He saw it right away.

You mustn't ever tell their secret about how weak they are. They think you don't see. If you tell them they get mad. Then they really hate you. Then they call you names. That's what they did in Rochester. But she was telling them the truth. That's why they said she was sick. They don't want to hear the truth. If you tell them, they'll try to do things to you.

Her feet were hurting bad. She should take her shoes off and walk barefoot. Even if it was cold. It would feel good to walk barefoot. She would walk for a while more. Then if she didn't see the river she should maybe take them off. Maybe she would take everything off.

She remembered when she walked home and it started to rain. It was her new dress. She tried to stand under trees and she felt terrible. She knew she would catch it at home and she did. Her clothes were so soaked it was like she'd been swimming in them. The shoes made squeeze sounds when she walked, and she sat down by the gutter with her new dress and cried and just let the water pour all around her. Then she felt better.

Maybe she should sit down now. No, not here. Not yet.

She put one hand against a sign post and took off one shoe and then the other. That felt better. It felt good to walk on her bare feet.

She'd like to take everything off. Just take everything off. Then somebody'd stop and help her. It's the clothes that make them think you're not really there. If she took all her clothes off then they'd see she was really here.

'You'll never find happiness this way, Lila.' Her mother's face always came back at times like this. Her little pin-eyes. Her mother was always right. There were only two things that made her happy, being right and thinking about how much better she was than everybody else. If you did something good she didn't say anything. But if you did something bad, she told you about it, over and over again.

But you're not doing anything wrong, you know. You're not hurting anybody and you're not stealing anything, you know, and still people just hate you for it.

If you really love people they'll kill you for it. You have to hate them and then pretend you love them. Then they respect you. But what's the purpose of living if all you can do is hate people and have them hate you? She was so sick and tired of this world where everybody is supposed to hate everybody else.

How could they keep going day after day with all this hate? It never stopped. See, now she was getting into it too. Now they got her going too. That's how it works. Now they got her into it and she couldn't get out. She kept trying to get out but she couldn't get out. There's nothing left. They took it all away.

They just want to dirty you. That's what they want to do. Just dirty you so you'll be like them. Shooting their filth into you and then say, 'Look, Lila, you're a whore! You're a slut!'

They just hate it when people make love. And then they'll go to a fist fight where somebody's really hurt and all covered with blood and they'll just love that. Or a war and stuff like that. They're all mixed up and they're trying to take it out on you so you get mixed up too. They want to mix you up just like they are and then you'll be all mixed up too and then they'll like you. They'll say, 'Lila, you're really good.' They're the ones who're really crazy. They don't know you, Lila. Nobody knows you. They'll never know you! But boy oh boy, do you ever know them!

They're always so calm afterward. That's when they start thinking about how to leave you. The minute before they come you're the Queen of the World but the minute after you're just garbage.

Like the Captain there. Now he had his fun. Now he just wanted her to go. Now he's going to take his boat and his money and everything down to Florida and leave her here.

There was no one else on the street here but she had the feeling somebody was watching her. It seemed that if she turned her head suddenly she'd see somebody right behind her.

The dark buildings looked like some place she had never seen before. Some bad movie where people get killed.

What did she need to be so scared of? There was nothing to be afraid of. At least she wasn't going to get robbed. All they'd get would be these shirts. That would be a laugh. 'Here,' she'd say. 'Have some shirts.' They wouldn't know what to do.

She looked back suddenly to see what was following. There was nothing. Most of the windows were dark. In just a few there was some light behind some shades. There was an orange round little light in one window. It looked like a face.

Somebody had put a Jack O'Lantern in the window. Like the witch in the store window. Halloween.

Like that old bag lady yesterday who looked like a witch. She looked at Lila in a funny way. Like she recognized her. Maybe she was really a witch too! That's why she had looked at her that way.

She didn't want to be a witch. When she was little she wanted to wear the pirate costume but Em got to wear it instead. Lila had to wear the witch's costume. That's what the old bag lady looked like. Like the mask she wore on that witch's costume when she was little. She didn't want to wear it but her mother made her.

Her mother's face came back. 'Lila, why can't you be more like Emmaline?'

'I hate Emmaline!' Lila said.

'Em doesn't hate you.'

That's what you think,' Lila said. Lila knew what she really was like. Always getting what she wanted. Always playing up. That's what her mother wanted.

Lies. Em got all the new dresses. Lila got to be the witch.

At her grandfather's funeral her mother made her wear Em's old blue dress, and gave all the blue and white plates to Emmaline. She saw a bee this morning on top of a car and she thought about the island and her grandfather.

She wished she was at the island now. Her grandfather had bees and he used to make toast with the honey from the bees and give her some. She remembered he always used to put it on a blue and white plate. Then the funeral came and they sold his house and gave the blue and white plates to Emmaline and Lila never saw the bees again. She used to think the bees went over to the island with her grandfather. And then sometimes they'd fly back and she'd see them again and they always knew where her grandfather was. That's what she thought about this morning when she saw the bee on the car.

'I told you you'll never find happiness this way, Lila,' her mother said. Her face had that little smile she always got when she made somebody feel bad.

'I'm tired of hearing that, Mother,' Lila answered. 'What happiness did you find?'

Little pin-eyes, eyes, eyes . . .

Her mother thought Lila was going to hell because she was bad, but the island, when you went there, it didn't matter whether you were bad. You just went there. It was in the picture on her grandfather's wall.

The wind came around the corner and blew through her sweater and blew something into her eyes like sand or dirt or something so she couldn't see. She had to stop and stand close to a brick wall and blink to get it out.

There! Around the corner of the building she saw it! It was following her! She concentrated on it and concentrated some more with all her might. She really was a witch because slowly the face started to appear. She could make things come to her.

But now she could see it wasn't a man at all that was following. It was just a dog.

As soon as the dog saw that she saw it, it disappeared back behind the building.

She concentrated some more. After a while, slowly, it started to come again. She didn't move but held her eyes on it and then slowly step by step it came toward her. By the time it was halfway across the street she saw who it was. It was Lucky! After all these years.

'Oh Lucky, you've come back,' she said. 'You're all whole again.'

She started to walk toward him. She wanted to reach down and pet him but Lucky backed away.

'Don't you know me, Lucky?' Lila asked. 'You're all whole again. Don't you remember me?'

It didn't show where he got hit by the car.

'How did you get back from the island, Lucky? Did you swim? Where is the island, Lucky? We must be getting close to it now. You show me the way.'

But as soon as Lila walked toward him Lucky walked ahead of her and as she followed him she saw that his feet hardly touched the ground, as though he didn't have any weight at all.

From the dark far down the street came a truck without any headlights on. It hardly made any sound either. Scary. When the truck got near a street light and she could see whose it was, her heart jumped. Now she was really scared. He was here! He'd found her.

The last time she saw that truck was when they towed it to the junk yard. All smashed up. Just like him. The blood was all over the door of the truck from where his head hung over it. In the morgue she never looked at him. They couldn't make her look at him.

Here he came now, in his pick-up truck, right down that street there, and he's going to open the door and say 'Get in!'

Then he'll know what to do. He'll find that goddamned bastard friend of Jamie that took her money and he'll make him give it back. Then he'll smash him to pieces. With one hand. He knew how to do that. He was always smashing up somebody. The son-of-a-bitch . . . You shouldn't say that about somebody when they're dead. As soon as she'd said it the truck steered to hit Lucky.

But Lucky stepped out of the way.

The truck went right by and she saw it was who she thought it was. He looked at her like she was somebody he didn't want to have anything to do with. But he knew who she was and she knew who he was and then he sped up and the truck was gone.

She remembered the blood. Everybody acted like they were so sorry for her. All the hypocrites said, 'Oh Lila, we're so sorry!' But they were just hypocrites. They hated him as much as she did. The bastard. You shouldn't say that about dead people but that's what he was. She said it to him when he was alive. No reason to change now. It was the truth.

When she got around the corner, there it was, the castle! Lucky found it! But it was off where she didn't think it would be. But she saw she could turn here and then down there was the park and the cement place and she thought that the boats were there too.

What a good dog! He was always so good. Someone must have sent him from the island to show her the way. Now she could go to the boat and wait for the Captain and he would take her down the river to the island.

She didn't remember the cement place very well. It was scary. It looked like something where the lions come out at you. And there were steps going out from the other side and you didn't know who might be there waiting. She walked slowly, step by step . . .

She didn't hear anything, but she was afraid . . .

She took another step closer. There was nothing else she could do. She had to go past it. She held her breath and looked around the corner . . .

There was the marina! And all the water of the river. It was all here! Oh, it felt so good to be back again.

She could hear the boat ropes going bing-bing-bing in the wind.

At the gate for the marina was a black man who said something to her but she couldn't understand what he was saying. He kept waving his hands and pointed to her but he didn't touch her when she walked past him to the boat.

She walked down the dock and there was the boat! Lucky had found the way.

Where was Lucky?

She looked for him and she didn't see him. She called, but he didn't come. She looked into the river to see if he had started to swim back to the island but all she could see was lights far away all blurred by the rain.

After she stepped over the railing onto the boat she sat down in the cockpit. Oh it felt so good to sit down again! Her teeth were chattering and her clothes were all soaked all the way through but it didn't matter now. All she had to do was wait for the Captain and they would go to the island.

A wake came across from somewhere out on the river. She could see it coming by the way the lights moved from on top of the waves. It lifted up and rocked the boat against the dock and then after a while it died down.

The water beside the boat was mucky-looking with a lot of junk in it. There were pieces of old plastic bottles, and dirty swirls of foam and a sponge and some branches and a dead fish caught on one of the branches. The fish was turned up on its side and was partly gone. Then the fish and the branch moved on by and she could smell the fish. Then the branch came back again and the whirlpool caught it and it went down into the center of the whirlpool and disappeared.

The junk went round and round in a whirlpool. It looked like the whirlpool was sucking all the junk to the bottom of the river. She remembered watching some fish once and how one of them kept turning on its side and the others tried to take bites out of it. Then

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