I was in a dream state, my two new truths had so affected the way the world looked to me -- was it there or not there? Who cared, since I didn't belong anyway? Could it ever again have a hold on me, cause me stress or worry? I didn't think it could, since reality was just what one chose it to be, and since I wasn't supposed to be part of it in the first place, how could I be anything but happily unconnected ever again?
I sat on a bench just to contemplate and to enjoy my accidental being, and was so taken with my truthless truth that I barely noticed the strange little man who walked a zigzag pattern along the walkway and stopped at the bench. He wore a bowler hat and pleated wool trousers that were much too short for him. He had on a tee shirt and suspenders and a bathrobe, its cincture trailing behind him. He held an electronic instrument of some sort -- I took it for a GPS device -- that he consulted often and closely.
"Ah," he said, "I seem to be at the right spot." He indicated the bench. "Do you mind?"
"Go right ahead," I said, and I believe I was beaming in my joy. The prospect of having another person so close was vaguely exciting. "Please sit."
"Am I dressed terribly?" he said, tucking the device into a bathrobe pocket and sitting next to me. He appeared quite concerned. The thing is, he was dressed as if he didn't quite belong either, as if he had more important things to do than to dress.
"Why, yes," I answered, quite delighted, "I guess you are dressed funny at that. Not that I mind, of course."
"I thought so. Had to leave in such a hurry, and it's been so long since I've needed these accouterments, you know. Had no idea what was appropriate any more. Well I may as well introduce myself, I suppose. Mr. Garloo is how I'm known."
And at that he touched the side of his face with his right hand, then touched the side of my face with his right hand, and leaned a little forward as if he expected me to kiss his cheek. I was just surprised enough to sit there holding my hand out to shake, blinking with puzzlement at the same time. He looked down and saw my hand.
"Ah, of course," he said, and shook hands with me. "You'll have to pardon me. Just spent eight months with the Begzuku of the Upper Amazon. Can't quite keep the greetings straight." This little man seemed to be demonstrating the very truthlessness that truly was (or wasn't) that I had just discovered. I laughed with delight.
"Well, you're a bright soul," he said, "Just sitting here in this sea of distress. What, pray tell, is causing all this absurd happiness?"
"Because it doen't matter," I said, "Nothing matters unless you choose it to matter. And it wouldn't matter to me anyway, because I discovered that I'm really not supposed to be here."
"Indeed? Well, where are you supposed to be? Perhaps I can hail you a cab."
"No, I'm not supposed to be born. It was an accident, my being born. Slipped right in before some other soul, I think. Anyhow, I'm unconnected. I'm not really a part of now or maybe a part of here or maybe both, so none of this matters." I indicated the world around me. "None of this is mine. Never will be. I'm drifting free."
The man looked at me with great interest, as if he had made an important discovery. "Why, I knew it was no accident, my meeting you," he said, "You're one of us, then. One of very few, I might add."
I was startled by his response. He actually knew what I was talking about. "There are others?"
"Oh, yes. About one in every million or so. Oh, this is quite amazing!"
"One in a million..."
"Throughout history. Once in a while you get a clue. Are you familiar with St Augustine?"
And suddenly a familiar quote took on a completely different meaning. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, oh Lord..."
"Exactly. You are one of the 'Our.' He wasn't referring to the human race, just the few he knew to have truly restless hearts, just to the few who really and truly did not belong -- no metaphore, just reality."
"St. Augustine had met others?"
The man shrugged. "That's the assumption. Some of us speculate that St. Albert the Great was also displaced, but that's controversial at best."
"Displaced. I like that."
"We take the word from Flannery O'Connor. Definitely one of us. She used refugee immagrants metaphorically for our situation."
We sat there in silence for some minutes, as I adjusted to my surprising new truth.
"Your being here," I said.
"Could not have been coincidence. Not at one in a million, not at this particular moment of my insight. What's going on? Who are you? Where did you come from?"
The man cleared his throat, thrust his hands into the pockets of his dirty bathrobe, and leaned back onto the bench. "Well," he said, "You're right, of course." And he began to push the dirt and gravel around with his right toes.
"There is just a bit of science involved. Don't understand it myself, but it's easy to use. People of our ilk -- displaced persons we call ourselves -- we give off a certain signal, a type of brainwave I believe it is, that cannot theoretically exist on planet earth or indeed within this magnificent universe. Fabulous universe, the best one I've visited by far, in all my travels."
"Go on, a brainwave."
"A brainwave. At least, I think that's what it is. Anyhow, it's prevalent enough that at any given moment we perhaps know the whereabouts of forty to fifty percent of us on the planet..."
"Who is 'we,' who is 'we.'"
"Oh, of course. Well, naturally, we're organized. Nothing insidious about that. Get into that later, we shall.
"We've known about you almost since you were born. It's just easier in first-world nations, easier to detect and keep track. We watch and wait. Most never become aware of their, er, condition, I guess you'd call it. They never give the time and effort to meditate about it. You, you're about as precocious as they come. Believe me, you're very young to have arrived at the proper conclusion, very young indeed. Surprised the heck out of folks when your thoughts began to turn that way. About three weeks ago, it was, right after that disastrous date you went on, when you wondered why everyone you met seemed so inadequate. We don't interfere, but we keep pretty close track, and when you arrive at truth, we know it. Then we're not going to let you out there on your own. Too many suicides."
"What happens now? What are the ramifications of our condition?"
"Ah, funny you should ask," he said, and he turned toward me. I looked at the man's face, which suddenly lost it's somewhat buck-toothed smile. His round eyes lost their light and sagged into dark circles. His skin went from the cleanest amber to the stinking gray of the bottom of an ash tray. But I could not look away -- the world became dark and windy and slowed to a standstill and whirled about the man's face as if he were looking at me through a tunnel. I was startled and frightened and the fact of my freedom from the universe suddenly became a liability rather than an asset.
"Yes," he said, "You are precocious. But we got your signal," he patted his bathrobe pocket where he had put the GPS device, "And we've only been waiting for you for three and a half septims."
I tried to look away, tried to force myself back to the world I had known for all my lifetime years, yet I could feel the lack of connection working against me, as if I were floating away from it farther and farther.
"So we'll be going," he said, and his voice had transformed into something deep and dreary and foreboding, "You are correct that you belong to no time and space, there is not a when or a where to which you belong, but there is a 'to whom' that you belong. Your master is already very angry at your tardiness, very angry indeed. It's not likely to be pleasant for you there and then..."
There was a sensation of my being drawn, of my becoming misshapen, elongated, pulled toward a fate that ought to have been mine all along. "No, stop," I said, "I don't know who or what you are, but I'm still a free being, and I..."
"And you'll what, free being? Don't you realize that's what makes you so valuable? So wanted?" The thing laughed a horrible crackling laugh, and I could feel myself being irresistably drawn toward the thing's horrible round mouth.
I began to search my mind and my pockets for something, anything that might help me. In my right front pocket I came accross a small plastic bottle of water my mother had given me yestarday. "From your aunt Gracie," she had said, "From the spring at Lourdes. Maybe it will make you feel better."
"You can be traded, free being," the thing bellowed, "Sold to this time or that universe, peddled around existence for any purpose the masters can find."
I had put the Lourdes water into my pocket without even thinking about it, another crazy religious superstition that I could certainly do without. Now, all I could think of to do was to tear off the top and squeeze it, squirt it toward the face that was sucking me out of this existence, and maye, just maybe...