Chapter Twenty Nine I
Think of how stupid the average person is,
and realize half the population is stupider than that.
Not everyone is at a point where Janah’s ministrations will do them any good. The people who reveal themselves to her are longing to be heard. Janah is attentive, always willing to listen, never in a hurry. Others, still cocky, full of themselves put on a display of bravado to mask their fear. Adolescent boys are particularly obtuse. Three of these poster boys overwhelmed by testosterone had discovered us in Washington Square Park a week earlier. They made the arrogant mistake of assuming their irresistability. Janah and I had no trouble resisting them. Ignoring them was a different matter.
We are on a bench, enjoying the morning when Huey, Dewy and Louie show up, tags I had given them earlier in the week.
Huey is the lead dog, a tall, slim boy of fifteen, Dewey is a little chunk, short and overweight and Louie a skinny kid, shorter than Huey, taller than the chunk.
Huey, “Say babies, I see you back waiting for us. See, I told you they be back, didn’t I?”
Louie, “They act like they all stuck up, but here they are, just hoping we come by. Like you said, homes.”
“Move along boys, you’re cluttering up the view.”
Huey, “Free park, stand where I want. Theys plenty parks, you come to mine to see me, ain’t that right?’
“It’s either a free park, or your park, it can’t be both, dingdong. It is unpleasant with you in it though.”
Huey, “You some smartass little bitch, you think you too good for us?”
I look him in the eye, try to find my patience, it’s vacated the premises, “I’m considering options that might be good enough for you, Huey.”
Janah rises with me, Janah carries our purse, we each have a paper cup of tea.
Huey makes a day ruining mistake, he touches Janah’s arm, that’s not allowed, “Hey baby, you ain’t leavin’ now, we got business to discuss, you know, about how you gonna be my bi....”
He doesn’t finish. The heel of my shoe is deep in his mouth. Huey sails backwards, falls hard, Dewey and Louie stand staring, the speed with which it happened paralyzes them. We turn to leave, the two boys start after us. Mysteriously, neither can move. Mini is behind them, one massive hand on each neck, the boys begin to get dizzy from severely constricted blood flow.
Mini drags them over to Huey, still on the ground. He stomps his size 16 down on Huey’s leg and leaves it there. Huey screeches like ten year old on a roller coaster.
Mini, “If youse come here again, if youse ever even think about dese girls again, it’s the last thing you ever gonna think.”
Most of his three hundred plus pounds presses down on Huey’s leg while he digs his thumbs hard behind the ears of the other two. When they had screamed enough to satisfy him, he loosens his grip.
“Don’t come around here no more….if you do, I’m gonna make you very dead.”
Chuck, who had been standing unseen behind them says, “Let’s do ‘em right now, nobody’s gonna miss this scum.”
Huey can’t talk, his mouth drips blood, Louie says, “We made a big mistake, we was just...., we made a big mistake. Let us go, we won’t come to this park again. We don’t know these girls mister. We’re history, okay?”
Dewey looks plaintively at Chuck, “Please, mister.”
Mini, “You two mutts scrape up this turd off my shoe and disappear before I change my mind.”
Dewey and Louie pick up Huey, his lip is split, a tooth dangles, falls out. They evaporate.
Back in the diner, Mini, “That guy is missing a coupla teeth, Daph. Nice shot. Real nice shot. Let me make you something to eat, you gotta keep up your strength, giving out shots like that. Chuck, you saw the shot Daphne gave that moron? He’s going to the dentist.”
Chuck glances over at me, chatting away with a regular as if nothing had happened. He’d seen me kick the guy. He knows I take taekwondo.
He tells Mini, “What fascinates me is, not only did she catch him perfectly, she didn’t spill a drop of her drink doing it. Then she stood there and sipped it calmly while you explained the rules, her dark eyes blank, like a snake. I wonder what she would have done to them if we hadn’t shown up.”
Chapter Thirty I
Usually I am on a work for a long stretch, until a moment arrives when the air of the arbitrary vanishes, and the paint falls into positions that feel destined.
Kara is beginning a painting. When she started not showing up for lunch, Susan went to the studio with a tray of finger sandwiches, chips, pickles and a pitcher of tea.
Susan, curious about the painting process, felt a strong urge to observe. She grabs her laptop, returns to the studio, sits in the back and works quietly. When Kara begins a painting, she sits in front of her canvas for hours visualizing the work, completely absorbed. As the days go by, Susan continues to bring in a light lunch and sets it on the small table next to Kara. Susan taps away on the laptop. Kara stares, nibbles a sandwich, oblivious. She sees what only she can see on the blank canvas.
Kara is emotionally deep water. She’s a mentally methodical artist. Susan figured out the general idea, then got Janah to explain the rest.
“Your mother has her own style of painting. Not like I’m any expert.”
Janah, “What did you see?”
Susan thinks, “Well, I’ll need you to fill in, here’s what I’ve noticed. It seems she got an idea for a painting a few weeks ago. She started missing lunch. At first I thought she simply wasn’t hungry or had plans and was out. Then at dinner, she would apologize for not being around, that she had been working on an idea and lost track of time. I’ve done the same thing when I’m involved in an interesting or difficult program.”
I ask, “So what’s she painting?’
Susan, “Nothing, at least nothing you can see. I went to the condo a couple of weeks ago to see if she wanted lunch. Kara was in her studio sitting, staring at a blank canvas. She was motionless. I had picked up sandwiches from the deli earlier. I put the food out and waited. About a half hour later, she turned to me and said, ‘I think this one will work out.’ That was it. We had lunch, talked of other things. Since then, I bring something to the studio, she eats, I leave, she isn’t doing anything to watch.”
“You weren’t curious?”
Susan, “Of course I’m curious. When she wants to tell me she’ll tell me. I think she was relieved I didn’t ask.”
Janah, “She appreciated it.”
I am eloquent in my assessment, “Dang, K-mom gets in the zone with her art.”
We have taken to calling the moms Sis for Susan, C-mom for Chris and K-mom for Kara. Collectively, ‘the moms.’
“What’s she painting?”
Susan, “That’s just it. No paint has hit the canvas.”
“She’s still at the think it over part?”
Susan, “I guess. I would have thought she’d have sketches, an outline on the canvas, but nothing’s penciled in. She has no notes of any kind. She has other easels that look like color samples, not painting. Clearly, she’s painting it in her head.”
“What do you think will happen?”
Susan, “That’s what I’m waiting to see. If Janah wants to give us a clue, it might help so I don’t interrupt Kara when the actual painting starts.”
Janah, “You won’t interrupt. I’ve sat with her through lots of paintings. She doesn’t know you’re there. Well, she knows, it will seem like she doesn’t.”
Susan, “So she’ll start outlining something on the canvas at some point?”
Janah, “No, it’s all drawn freehand.”
Susan, “But her work is so meticulous, everything fits exactly. Straight lines are straight, one color ends, another begins, there’s no overlap or bleeding. When she gets going, should I stay out? What’s best for her?”
Janah, “Sit with her, she’ll forget to eat otherwise, probably not show up for dinner either. Being there with her won’t affect the work. When she starts painting, she’ll just paint. It looks like she’s tracing something.”
Susan, “That’s what all the preliminary nothing is about then. When she starts putting paint on canvas, the painting is actually finished as far as she’s concerned.”
Janah, “The paint on canvas is just mechanical, the art has happened for weeks before the first tube is opened. It’s how she’s always done it. The other easels are just for trying a color or a technique. Dad says she painted and repainted the picture a thousand times before she paints it. Every color, every millimeter of the canvas is clear in her mind. She’s actually putting paint on paint she already sees.”
Chapter Thirty One I
My favorite movie is Payback.
The more they beat up Porter,
the worse he makes it for them.
Lucy Liu is my favorite dominatrix.
One mid-summer night, we are watching one of the zillion cop shows that seem to be on every third channel. Every second channel is some beyond airhead reality program. The rest alternate between shopping, food and Jesus. I thought about creating a channel that sold the food Jesus would have eaten, the clothes he would have worn, maybe some Jesus jewelry. I would call it The Jesus Shopping Network, JSN, maybe the Christ Channel. I even have a motto, WWJB, what would Jesus buy? I briefly wonder if Jesus was a vegetarian, or at least kept kosher.
Janah is seated against the sofa leaning on Kara’s leg, and I’m laying on the floor with my head in Janah’s lap.
I editorialize, “What’s up with these cop programs? They always have a guy and a girl who hate each other when they meet, have a bunch of arguments, then one saves the other and they hop into the sack. Like that happens every day.”
Susan, “You don’t watch movies to see what happens every day.”
“There’s a point.”
Susan, “It’s a formula. They probably have the template in a word processor. Young guy, young woman can be changed to old guy, young woman, you know, like Sean Connery and some girl 30 years younger. Mysteriously, it’s never the other way round. The car chase can be changed to motorcycle chase, to horse, train or airplane chase, or if the budget’s big enough, all that stuff chase. Bad guy is either, Asian, Hispanic or lately, Slavic or Middle Eastern. Good guys are American, unless it’s a political movie, then there are sleazy American political types. Lately there are Asian good guys, the British wind up half and half. You can tell the bad ones from the cigarettes and black leather coats, unless the good guy is an introspective troubled bad boy, sometimes he smokes too. Press a button, script pops out.”
“Exactly, Sis. Where’s the creativity? How come there’s no gay action heroes? It would be so cool to see a black belt hairdresser named Mr. Princess who is a hard case private eye on his days off.”
Chris, “Mr. Princess?”
I ignore them, “Work with me here. Here’s a title, Rise, Dry...Die,” my hand waving out each word for emphasis.
Kara snips with her fingers, “Mr. Princess, Cuts for Keeps.”
Susan throws in, “Stylist of Death.”
I jump up, “Now we’re getting somewhere. Try to keep up. Mr. Princess has a very exclusive salon here in Manhattan. It’s so exclusive, he turns down the First Lady for a perm. His assistant, Twyla, former dancer with the Rockettes, gave it up to get into the private eye business with Prince.”
Susan, “Now it’s just Prince?”
“It’s his P.I. name. He thinks it would be harder to strike fear into the hearts of Colombian drug lords and Russian assassins if he was known as Mr. Princess. You’re distracting me.”
“So sorry Ms. Scorsese,” Susan apologizes dramatically.
“You’re forgiven. OK, so it’s virtually impossible to get an appointment with Mr. Princess. It’s a ruse so he can charge five hundred dollars for a style. Nobody pays that for a haircut if they think the guy is sitting around in his barber’s chair looking at gay porn.”
Chris, “I wouldn’t.”
“He has Twyla make everyone wait at least three weeks before they can have an appointment, then she calls half of them and cancels, saying that Mr. Princess has been called to Geneva to cut hair at a Group of 20 meeting on the world economy. I like to bring in current events, educate my audience.”
“Pearls before swine,” Kara observes.
“That’s our hook, we tell a more interesting story with subtle educational content. Everyone goes away entertained and smarter. That’s what happens when people listen to me, they’re happier and more intelligent. My humble contribution to the world.”
Chris wonders aloud, “Where was the humble part?”
“So when’s production start?” asks Susan.
“I’m in rewrites, when I get things fleshed out, I’ll have my people call their people and take a meeting.”
Susan turns up the volume on the TV, “The movie is starting up again.”
“This is the good part, the hero gets his clock cleaned by yakuza scum and miraculously emerges from a major pounding with only a small cut over his eye. If C-mom clocked him, he wouldn’t get up.”
Chapter Thirty Two I
And nothing could be more basic than to
simply question the phrase, ‘I know.’
Dr. Robert Burton, On Being Certain
The moms and James are at the dining table in the Svensson’s condo, having coffee, eating my flourless chocolate cookies.
James, “These things are heaven. When I bring a dozen to work, they’re gone in minutes.”
Susan sips her coffee, then, “The girls can read each other minds, have mental conversations. It’s exciting, it’s also scary. Is it healthy for them to be so bound together? How will it affect them?”
Chris, “It’s not that the girls can do what they do, that’s kind of fun, but like Susan says, what’s in store? I suppose it’s an impossible question. Do you have even a guess?”
James, “None of this is covered by any research, there’s no Harvard or Stanford studies. We certainly haven’t spent any time discussing telepathy around the psychiatric water cooler. Telepathy seems like child’s play compared to what’s happening with them. I have some questions as well. Since we don’t know squat, why don’t we ask them?”
He continues, “Before we do, I don’t want to plant the idea that we spend all our time in a state of anxiety. They have to deal with what they are. They’re still exploring it, finding their limits, or expanding them. It would be wrong for us to throw our personal concerns on top of it.”
Susan, “You’re saying don’t go all mommy on them.”
James, “Or daddy either,” he doesn’t want to explain that the process is frequently painful. He had been told in confidence, if we wanted the moms to know we would have to tell them.
Kara comes to our room and asks us to join them, we appear and sit down.
James, “From what we’ve seen, the moms and I, you’re coming together has been good, very positive. It’s certainly interesting. On a lighter note, at least you can only read each other’s minds, not ours.”
I raise an eyebrow, “You sure of that?”
Susan, “Don’t even think about it.”
I laugh, “Relax, it’s just between us. Besides, I have no interest in what’s going on in someone else’s head. Janah’s brain is already too busy.”
Janah sips tea, mildly amused. She's taken in the expressions and body language of the parents. I was only partially kidding, Janah can read much of anyone’s mood by simple observation. Often it's a short step to what they were thinking. I see no reason to go into that.
She flashes her thought me, “They have some concerns, but mostly they’re simply interested. For the most part they’re having fun with the whole thing. We don’t need to provide elaborate reassurances.”
I nod, Susan asks, “Isn’t it freaky? I mean, to never have a private thought?”
I grin, “No, it’s better. Instead of paranoia, it’s more of a feeling of comfort knowing that I can feel or think anything and that Janah gets it. Or the other way, I feel it like Janah feels it, not just how she said it.”
James, “You don’t just hear the words in your head, you feel the emotion as well?”
“Yes. It’s like being one person.”
James, always attentive, gets more attentive, “What do you mean?”
“When we first started, it was slow, so it was strange but it wasn’t scary. It might have been if it had been dumped on us all at once. Janah didn’t just jump into my head in the middle of the night. She became more and more real, bit by bit. We had time to adjust. Because of the time it took, what we are doesn’t feel unusual to us. Like Janah’s memory isn’t unusual to her. It’s just how it is.”
James, “Janah told me, during the time before you’d physically met, that it was a fuzzy connection. Broken up, then clearer over time. How is it now?”
I skip over the early part, where Janah could catch more of me than I of her. It would create questions for which we could provide no clear answer, we aren't done marinating yet.
“The more we do it the faster it is. It’s like learning a taekwondo form. It’s slow at first, not too elegant, because I’m thinking about what comes next. Then it becomes part of me. In Janah-speak, it moves from working memory to long term memory. I can do it with greater subtlety and texture. After a while the movement simply flows. That’s what’s happening with us. At first, we had to concentrate. We were trying to separate my thoughts from hers. We would have to stop and start again. Then Janah realized what was happening. She explained that we were seeing ourselves as two people intermingling their individual thoughts. When we started seeing ourselves as one mind we were more in synch. By not trying to make it happen it’s not confusing at all. What used to be a five minute thought conversation is now essentially instantaneous.”
Janah, “We are two people, but not two selves.”
Chris, “Isn’t it strange?”
“We can't imagine why we would want to be any other way.”
Kara looks at her daughter, then the others, the parents just catching up. There is the sense they would always be catching up.
Susan, “Is it confusing, being two bodies and one mind?”
“There’s still separation. Personality differences. We really like the instant communication. We also like the differences. I’m more angles, Janah’s more curves.”
Chris, “So there are two girls, but one brain?”
Janah, “Two brains, one mind. Don’t let me confuse you. Mind is a product of brain, not something separate. Our mind has two squishy grey processors, that’s all. Daphne’s brain operates Daphne’s body, as mine does for me. My brain doesn’t regulate Daphne’s body temperature.”
She didn’t say it was something we talked over as possible. That would require years of work, and may not happen. Keep it simple for now.
James, “That would complicate things. So if Daphne stubs her toe, do you feel pain?”
Janah, “No, I know she’s in pain, even if I’m someplace else. I know her foot itches, that doesn’t make mine itch.”
James, “So what’s merged, joined, is thought and emotion, not physical sensation?”
Janah, “Yes and no, I see what she sees, hear what she hears, which is physical. Why pain doesn’t transfer is part mystery and part intention. I concluded that our brain has determined on its own that there is no benefit from feeling physical pain in the other. We intentionally don’t try to feel it because it would be distracting, even dangerous.”
James, “You can will yourself not to feel it?”
Janah, “Of course not, there is no free will dad, you know that.”
Chris, “What the hell does that mean?”
Janah, “Your brain is your operating system and there is no ‘you’ inside your skull directing it. Unlike a computer, the operating system directs you, there is no separate you directing it.”
Chris, “My not my head hurts.”
James, “What happens to your ‘self’? I see a Daphne and a Janah, so am I seeing one person or two”
Susan, “Two and one? Like one plus one equals one?”
Janah, “Again, yes and no. It might help to think of us as two overlapping circles, the Daphne circle, the Janah circle, and the D-J where they overlap.”
Kara stood, “Ooooh, I just got that brain twitch that means a painting. Apologies, I need to be in front of a canvas.”
She kisses us, “Thank you both not both.”
She leaves for her studio.
James, “This will be a good one. When she’s struck like that, out of the blue, it’s always a remarkable work.”
Susan, “Goody, I’ll get to watch. This time, I’m not going in until she’s ready to paint though. I’m enthralled by that level of precision.”
Chris, “Recognize yourself?”
Susan, “Yeah, takes one to know one I guess. So, we’re no closer to any explanation of you two are we? Kind of silly of us, looking to explain the unexplainable.”
“There’s tons of unexplained fun stuff in the universe. For instance, there are phenomena that seem to be affected by things you wouldn’t think as capable of affecting them. Like Foucault’s Pendulum.”
Chris, “Who’s Foucault and what does his pendulum have to do with it?”
“Janah explained it to me. It’s a pendulum like a plumb bob, a string with an upside down cone on the end, except really big. If you hang one from a swivel hook in a room in different parts of the world and swing it, it swings the same, very slowly back and forth, but it appears to swing differently depending on the latitude…because of the earth’s rotation. If you put a big box of sand underneath the pendulum, it would draw different lines and swirls in the sand even though the pendulum itself was swinging straight back and forth. At the North Pole the pendulum’s lines in the sand would show a rotation of 360 degrees, a full circle filled in one line at a time in the course of a day. The rotation would decrease down the latitudes until you got to the equator where there is no rotation at all from the pendulum’s perspective. The pendulum would carve the same line in the sand over and over. Now here’s the tricky part.”
Susan, “It gets trickier?”
“Oh yeah Sis, this is really neat. One time they were measuring the rotation during a solar eclipse. The pendulum swung differently during the eclipse than it normally did, even though the thing is hung in a room unaffected by the sun. Physically, as far as science can see, there is no explanation for this. Janah thinks the moon over the sun must have affected the curve of the earth or the speed of its rotation or both. Like the moon and the sun together changed the gravitational pull slightly.”
Chris, “Now my head is beginning to rotate.”
“Janah says there are lots of unexplainable physical phenomena, particularly at the quantum level, where stuff is so small it’s impossible to distinguish whether it’s a wave or a particle. The world is made up of “quanta,” little pieces of energy combining to form bigger things and those combining to form bigger things until you get to rocks and trees and people. Underneath it all, everything is just packets of energy. If that’s true, then what are the particles we measure that are bonded together by nuclear or electromagnetic force? Are they matter or energy, or both? At those infinitely small levels, there are other mysteries for which science cannot account.”
Susan, “It gets worse?”
“More interesting. Tiny energy packets of light, photons, that travel in streams can be forced through a hole so that the light wave can be seen on a collector behind the hole. If they deflect the photons so one goes left and one right, the light waves show up at the appropriate point on the collector. If, instead, they just put one photon through at a time, the wave shows up on both sides, one photon, two waves. It shouldn’t, at least in standard Newtonian physics, but it does. One thing appears to be in two places, like Janah and I.”
Chris raises her hand, “Hol’ up swol’ up. You have to talk slower. I’m trying to follow this, and my brain can’t run that fast.”
“Sorry. I got all excited when Janah was going though this with me. It’s really neat.”
Chris, “Okay, I don’t get it, or all of it. But I can see you’re buzzed. I’ll try to pay attention, I just needed a brain break. Keep going.”
“Let’s see. In other more bizarre cases, two particles that always spin in the same direction can be sent far apart from each other, then they can knock one of the particles in such a way that it starts to spin in the opposite direction. The other particle, a zillion miles away also changes its spin. It changes it instantly, faster than the speed of light. It’s called non-locality. Janah and I can know what the other is doing, feeling and thinking without even being in the same building. We’re non-local! Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance’.”
Susan, “If you’re not spooky, nothing is.”
I beam, “Is that cool or what?”
James, “So you guys are one more unexplainable phenomenon in a vast universe of unexplainable phenomena.”
“Exactly. We can’t say why this happened at all and certainly not why it happened to us. My theory is that the universe picked us because we’re cute.”
Susan, “It sure wasn’t modesty.”
I hop up, “The kid needs some tea. Can I get anyone anything?”
Chris helps get cookies and an assortment of drinks. The kitchen-dining room is one big room. The dining table is the family gathering area. The table seats eight comfortably and there were six, five right now, K-mom in her studio.
Janah, “We think we’re very lucky. We’re only interested in learning more. We don’t want other people to know about us, about what we can do.”
Chris says from the kitchen, “That’s good. I expect you to be cautious out there. Sis, Kara and I just finished a discussion about the possibility of someone wanting to use you to their advantage.”
James, “If it gets beyond this group, envision the TV cameras at the door within a few days. They’d be sought after by every group in the world…then there’s the government.”
My demeanor changes, “We won’t work for any government.”
There is a long silence; it was plain this had been a matter of discussion between us.
Susan, “Apparently you have gone over scenarios about what you will and won’t do. Care to share?”
“It’s not a secret. Janah and I will not work for causes, not governments, not religions, not the right wing or the left, or the center or the nearly center but not too far either way…nothing. We will help individuals when we can.”
Chris, “Glad to hear it. From a mom’s point of view, it means you won’t get caught up in some fight that the government thinks is good for itself.”
“No, we’ll pick our own fights.”
Kara reappears, James asked, “That was quick, you didn’t paint it already did you?”
Kara, “I sat for a minute, literally, then whole thing appeared on the canvas, just like that,” she snaps her fingers, “It’s never happened before. I amazed myself. It’s perfectly clear. Tomorrow I’ll start slapping paint. I can’t imagine it taking more than two weeks. There are a lot of colors.”
James, “She’s never had the inspiration this quickly, must be the influence of her two muses, or would it be one muse?”
Kara, “Two as one muse.”
Daphne, “Wow, I’m going to be immortalized. I wonder what color I’ll be?”
Kara gets the giggles, she sounds like Janah, “I’m creating colors I’ve never used, no more talk of art now. I’ve seen it clearly on the canvas, tomorrow I’ll begin. Maybe I won’t like it and the whole thing will go in the dumpster.”
“Excuse me,” I do a nose in the air thing, “One is not a dumpster diva. With Janah as a muse, and me as a musette, it will be flawless perfection. That is the last word on the subject.”
James, “The pressure’s on, Kara, you’ll just have to live up to your billing.”
Chris brings more coffee and cookies while I make tea for Janah. While it steeps, I clean and cut strawberries into flat slices, carefully arranging them on the plate in a spiral, with a small cup of vanilla yogurt in the middle. When everything is satisfactory, I pour the tea and take the plate of fruit and yogurt to her. Janah feeds me alternate bites of fruit and shares the yogurt. Chris and I clear up. We hug everyone in turn and go off to our bedroom.
The adults relax quietly, Kara says, “Did anyone notice Daphne?”
James smiles, Kara says, “You saw it too, the care and attention to the preparation. It’s really quite remarkable. Everything had to be just right. Only when she was satisfied did she bring it to the table. The whole thing, Daphne’s preparation to the final presentation was sheer artistry.”
Susan, “Well, she is very meticulous.”
Chris takes Susan’s hand, “I think it was more than that. What do you think, James?”
James, “Oh yes, much more.”
Susan, “More what?”
‘We’ve just been given a demonstration of real relationship, perfect communion.”
“My God,” says Susan. “They make it so simple. I thought we were supposed to teach them.”
Chris, “I’m thinking the lessons have only begun.”